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Microsoft investigates 'critical' Windows 7 bug

Windows president tries to calm security fears

Microsoft's Windows Division president Steven Sinofsky has tried to tackle fears that Windows 7 RTM has a critical flaw that can shut down the OS by running a simple command.

"Sorry to get dragged into this," wrote Sinofsky, taking the unusual step of responding via the comments section of an industry blog called Chris123NT's blog, which on Monday posted a method to execute the crash Windows 7 and included a picture of the results

"Of course [we] always want to investigate each and every report of any unexpected behaviour," he wrote [Microsoft confirmed it was indeed him]. But Sinofsky, who is leading Windows 7 development, said Microsoft has not reproduced the crash, which is triggered by the Windows 'CHKDSK /r' command.

"We are certainly going to continue to look for, monitor, and address issues as they arise if required. So far this is not one of those issues," he wrote. "While we appreciate the drama of 'critical bug' and then the pickup of 'showstopper' that I've seen, we might take a step back and realise that this might not have that defcon level," Sinofsky wrote.

"Bugs that are so severe as to require immediate patches and attention would have to have no workarounds and would generally be such that a large set of people would run across them in the normal course of using their PC."

Reports of a potential critical bug come a day before Microsoft is set to make Windows 7 available to MSDN subscribers. General availability is scheduled for October 22.

Testers report that the bug only works on PCs that have a second hard disk or multiple hard disks. The bug, which gobbles up memory and leads to a 'blue screen' crash, does not affect the main drive where the OS is installed.

"We're not seeing any crashes with CHKDSK on the stack reported in any measurable number that we could find," Sinofsky wrote. "We had one beta report on the memory usage, but that was resolved by design since we actually did design it to use more memory."

The memory usage is intended to speed up checking the disk for damage and errors, but, Sinofsky said, memory usage was not intended to be "unbounded".

He said the command is intended to leave at least "50M of physical memory. Our assumption was that using /r means your disk is such that you would prefer to get the repair done and over with rather than keep working".

Users on blogs and discussion sites are reporting consistently that they see a jump in memory usage, but reports of outright crashes of the OS have been spotty.

One post on the Windows SevenForum from a user named 'Everlong18' said: "It's not *that* much of a concern for me. It's not like I'm going to be running chkdsk on my D drive every day, but it would be nice if it got sorted."

On the Chris123NT's blog, a user name FireRX, who appears to be a Microsoft MVP, said: "The chkdsk /r tool is not at fault here. It was simply a chipset controller issue. Please update [your] chipset drivers to the current driver from your motherboard manufacturer. I did mine, and this fixed the issue. Yes, it still uses a lot of physical memory, because [you're] checking for physical damage, and errors on the Harddrive [you're] testing… Again, there is no Bug." FireRX also said he was sure a hotfix would be issued today.

The Microsoft official acknowledged FireRX's post in his comments, and said "some have reported that this specific issue [reproduces] and then goes away with updated drivers. We haven't yet confirmed that either but continue to try".

Sinofsky did not say anything about a hotfix.

Sinofsky said Microsoft had started overnight stress testing of 40 machines of variants "as reported by FireRx".

Microsoft has not made public results of those tests.

The Microsoft official ended his post saying. "Let's see if we can work on this one and future issues together. Deep breath –Steven."

See also:

Windows 7 review

Windows 7 news

Network World


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