Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Don’t Wait for SP1? Mea Culpa!

Just when we thought it was safe to dismiss the conventional wisdom and recommend Windows 7 RTM for immediate deployment, along comes a last minute “showstopper” bug to make us look like fools. It appears that Microsoft missed a potentially critical flaw in its current NTFS driver stack, resulting in a massive memory leak when certain file access patterns – namely, those involved in the file data read portion of the chkdsk.exe disk check utility – are executed against a non-system NTFS partition.

The bug, which we have since confirmed in the lab, is potentially catastrophic in that it causes the offending executable – either chkdsk.exe, explorer.exe (in default Windows 7 UAC mode), or the DLL Host process (when UAC is locked down to Vista levels) - to consume all available memory and, in extreme cases, destabilize the system to the point where a “blue screen” kernel failure occurs.

Needless to say, this is a very serious bug, one that Microsoft would do well to correct ASAP via an emergency Windows Update hotfix. Regardless, the appearance of such a deep, fundamental flaw in what was supposed to be a ship-ready build of the Windows 7 code has shaken our confidence in the product. We are therefore recanting our previous recommendation that organizations skip the usual Service Pack 1 wait and instead suggest that they put all such plans on hold while we monitor this situation for a satisfactory conclusion.

As is often the case with Microsoft, prudence is still the best policy.

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