Microsoft disputes claims of FrontPage bug

Microsoft has denied the existence of a bug in its FrontPage Web authoring product that can erase a user's hard drive. Microsoft was in react mode to an online posting on the BugNet Web site, which called a support posting it found in Microsoft's online Knowledge Base an acknowledgment that this bug exists. BugNet called the problem 'the most potentially destructive bug that BugNet has encountered in the last half decade.' The problem can exist when a user tells the software to use the root directory of a hard drive as its Web site directory, and then later tells the software to delete the Web site.

Microsoft has denied the existence of a bug in its FrontPage Web authoring product that can erase a user's hard drive.

Microsoft was in react mode to an online posting on the BugNet Web site, which called a support posting it found in Microsoft's online Knowledge Base an acknowledgment that this bug exists. BugNet called the problem "the most potentially destructive bug that BugNet has encountered in the last half decade."

The problem can exist when a user tells the software to use the root directory of a hard drive as its Web site directory, and then later tells the software to delete the Web site.

"FrontPage will mistake your hard drive for a FrontPage web, and delete the whole thing, leaving nothing but a smoking crater," BugNet wrote. "Talk about a disastrous case of mistaken identity!"

Microsoft disagreed.

"Despite what they have posted, this is not a bug and it's not a case of mistaken identity," said Pat Kirtland, group product manager for FrontPage.

To be clear, though, there is an existing circumstance under which this action can delete an entire hard drive, one which did claim the hard drive of one user who called Microsoft Support for help, which resulted in the addition to the online Knowledge Base because of the severe circumstances.

According to Microsoft, when FrontPage is initially installed, it creates a new directory in which to put a user's Web files. This user exited the program, deleted the entire directory for Web files that FrontPage created, and re-launched FrontPage.

Because the directory had been deleted, FrontPage prompted the user to create an area for his Web files, and suggested C:\MY_WEB. The user deleted the suggested subdirectory, and hit enter with only the C:\ prompt in the dialog box. FrontPage prompted the user that he might not want to do that, but he told the program it was what he wanted.

FrontPage then read the user's entire C:\ directory into the program as his Web site, and the user then went under the File menu and told FrontPage to delete his Web site, which FrontPage did, deleting the user's entire C:\ drive.

"FrontPage is not unique in its ability to delete a folder full of files," said Michael Angiulo, group program manager for FrontPage. "The scenario is not a glitch in the product, unless you want to remove the ability to delete a Web site."

The ability for this error to occur has existed since FrontPage 97, Microsoft said, noting that this is the only reported incident of someone doing this. As a result, though, the next version of FrontPage will list the directory in the dialog box to further give users information about what they are about to do, Angiulo said.

FrontPage currently displays the message that deleting a Web page is a "permanent action and cannot be undone."

"That's as scary a warning that we can put on a dialog without scaring away novice users," Angiulo said.

The product cannot also be changed as to disallow users from deleting a root directory, because many users create a separate partition on their hard drives for their Web sites, Angiulo said. If a user has an entire Web site stored in a special D:\ partition, for example, and asks FrontPage to delete the site, that is what they expect the software to do, he said.

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington, is at http://www.microsoft.com/. BugNet is at http://www.bugnet.com/.

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