August 29, 2005 9:30 AM PDT

New Windows file system enters testing

Microsoft surprised developers on Monday by releasing a test version of a new Windows file system.

The company made the test version of the system, called WinFS, available to Microsoft Developer Network subscribers. The software giant had originally planned to release WinFS--which it said would make for better desktop file searching--as part of the next version of Windows, once called Longhorn but now known as Vista. However, roughly a year ago, Microsoft announced it was pulling WinFS out of Longhorn in order to let the OS ship in 2006. Of WinFS, the company said only that it would be in beta form by the time Longhorn shipped.

That left many with the impression that a test version of the file system would not come until next year. However, a WinFS developer said he would not consider the long-delayed system to be early.

"I would certainly not characterize WinFS as being ahead of schedule," said Quentin Clark, director of program management for the new file system.

Operating systems such as Windows, Unix, Linux and others, use file systems to organize and store information. File systems, such as Windows' current NTFS, make it possible for people and computer programs to find documents, photos and other data.

Originally touting WinFS as the means that would enable better desktop file searching in Longhorn, Microsoft is now focusing on the benefits of the file system as a means for desktop applications to harness information stored in a common repository. For example, rather than entering shipping information in an e-commerce application, with WinFS, someone could simply click on his or her own card in a central address book and the information would be transferred to the appropriate place, Clark said.

In a note to developers on MSDN, Microsoft called WinFS a tool that makes it easier to find information stored on both local PCs and across networks.

The test version is designed to let developers start getting a sense of how the file system will work and start thinking about ways they could use the common repository capability.

Multiple betas planned
"We really believe our audience is anyone that builds applications on the desktop," Clark said.

Clark did not say when a final version of the file system would ship but said "multiple betas" are planned. No additional releases are planned for this year, he said, but several are expected next year, possibly including a new beta version or another type of release, known as a Community Technology Preview.

When it does ship in final form, Clark said WinFS will likely be an add-on to Windows, much as Microsoft ships its .Net Framework today. Developers can write programs that require .Net, but either individual users have to download the necessary framework code or businesses can install it when they give their machines to workers. Clark also said that it is a possibility that some computer makers might decide to offer WinFS preinstalled on new PCs.

The beta version released on Monday works with Windows XP. Both Home and Professional editions are officially supported. It should also work on Tablet PC and Media Center editions of the OS, but Microsoft has done limited testing of WinFS with those flavors.

Clark said Microsoft chose to offer WinFS as an add-on to XP because that's the version of Windows used by most developers. One of the next goals, Clark said, is to get WinFS up and running on Vista, but he said the company did not want to hold back the beta just to add Vista support.

To support XP or not?
"We thought we were at a good point to take a snapshot, stabilize the bits and release a beta," Clark said, adding that the feedback to this test version will determine the next steps for WinFS.

However, he said it has yet to be decided what flavors of the OS will be supported by the time WinFS comes to market. At that point, Microsoft could decide to limit release to Windows Vista, if it decides that there are compelling technical reasons to require the new version or if there are enough Vista PCs on the market.

"By the time we (release WinFS), the market may have sufficiently gone onto Windows Vista that we may not need to support XP," Clark said.

Michael Cherry, an analyst at researcher Directions on Microsoft, said that it makes some sense for Microsoft to release a test version of WinFS, even if it is in far-from-final form.

"At some point they had to get code in the hands of developers," he said. "It kind of make sense that they would want to do that around this time frame," he added, noting that Microsoft has a major developer conference taking place next month in Los Angeles.

However, he said that the fact that it will likely debut as an add-on to Windows is somewhat disappointing, as it makes it harder to convince developers to write software. That's because they cannot count on users already having the required software.

"If you follow the .Net framework analogy, the fact that it requires you to deploy it separately just slows down the rate at which people will want to roll it out."

He also notes that the urgent need for a new file system seems less clear now that Microsoft's MSN unit has released a desktop searching tool and Vista already has a separate means for searching through a hard drive's data.

What is still needed, he said, is a broader tool that can sort through data wherever it lives, whether on a hard drive, a server or some other place. "It's becoming a smaller and smaller amount of my data that is only stored on my desktop," Cherry said.

That's true for businesses, he said, but also for consumers, who not only want to know their music is on their hard drives, but also whether a particular song is on their MP3 player or cell phone.

"Any full solution to this org my data problem has to be able to interact with all of the places where I leave my data," he said.

36 comments

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interoptibility
i wonder why MS never release the specs for their filesystems. is it because they don't want to let them work happily with other OS's? it seems that they aren't even waiting for NTFS to be cracked and writing capability added before they create another cryptic FS.

something that bugs me: why does disk defragment and scandisk and formatting take so long? i use fdisk and create a reiserfs partition and it takes one minute for 40GB, windows 2000 takes one HOUR for NTFS (120GB but it's still out of proportion). fsck, again takes a minute - scandisk takes upto an hour. and reiserfs doesn't fragment. hmm, i remember MS hype about their "innovative" method of defrag on the fly.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Reply Link Flag
time of partition-creation
Windows 2000 setup by default checks for bad sectors - sector by sector when creating partitions during setup. Later on you have the choice of a quick format that takes seconds. In WinXP setup you have the option of quick format up front.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
interoptibility
i wonder why MS never release the specs for their filesystems. is it because they don't want to let them work happily with other OS's? it seems that they aren't even waiting for NTFS to be cracked and writing capability added before they create another cryptic FS.

something that bugs me: why does disk defragment and scandisk and formatting take so long? i use fdisk and create a reiserfs partition and it takes one minute for 40GB, windows 2000 takes one HOUR for NTFS (120GB but it's still out of proportion). fsck, again takes a minute - scandisk takes upto an hour. and reiserfs doesn't fragment. hmm, i remember MS hype about their "innovative" method of defrag on the fly.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
Reply Link Flag
time of partition-creation
Windows 2000 setup by default checks for bad sectors - sector by sector when creating partitions during setup. Later on you have the choice of a quick format that takes seconds. In WinXP setup you have the option of quick format up front.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
So is this gonna be in Vista or not?
Still seems unclear.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So is this gonna be in Vista or not?
Still seems unclear.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is this really necessary?
Is another FS really necessary? Or is this just another MS attempt to close out open source application compatibility? Quite possibly. But that's not what I'm going to argue. Honestly, is such a file system really necessary? What's wrong with NTFS anyway. I particularly like the user based security (though I can't find it in XP Home). If Microsoft wants to make searching for information easier, they should start by making ALL the information on a disk searchable by default. Forget about hidden folders and system files. Search in all by default, and even so, there are still some files which are never searched (Have you ever wondered what's inside that "System Volume Information" folder? Hint: apparently it's part of System Restore)

The network search feature is the only welcome addition, though how it works is beyond me. I smell security flaws here. I mean, if I am searching a machine over the network that means I have privileges on that machine. Unless I am searching an entire network of a few hundred machines, this feature will most likely be useless. I mean, if I access the hard drive of another machine, I usually have a pretty good idea what file I'm looking for. Doing a windows search on a remote machine is quite slow.

I have one more issue about this file system. How can it be an add-on to the OS? Unless what MS ships is a file conversion tool (like the convert command to turn FAT into NTFS), a file system cannot be added to the OS unless the drive is formatted (so much for add-on!). The only other possibility is that it is some indexing system, and then, it can't really be called a file system.

All things considered, I don't think the added features will be worth the wait or the effort. MS is probably making this new file system just get the name "WinFS" off the vaporware lists, which is also pretty much the reason they are making Vista.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think it is
WinFS sits on top of NTFS, which is why it is able to be an add on.

And think of it like the ipod or any other technology. This will enable more applications than anyone can dream of.
Posted by parcelbrat (6 comments )
Link Flag
MS forced to include WinFS
Microsoft was forced to include WinFS as Open Source already is shipping Beagle, an Index and desktop search application as part of the Linux desktop. The port to windows is already underway so MS must respond.

p.s. Beagle is not part of the operating system
Posted by (21 comments )
Link Flag
Is this really necessary?
Is another FS really necessary? Or is this just another MS attempt to close out open source application compatibility? Quite possibly. But that's not what I'm going to argue. Honestly, is such a file system really necessary? What's wrong with NTFS anyway. I particularly like the user based security (though I can't find it in XP Home). If Microsoft wants to make searching for information easier, they should start by making ALL the information on a disk searchable by default. Forget about hidden folders and system files. Search in all by default, and even so, there are still some files which are never searched (Have you ever wondered what's inside that "System Volume Information" folder? Hint: apparently it's part of System Restore)

The network search feature is the only welcome addition, though how it works is beyond me. I smell security flaws here. I mean, if I am searching a machine over the network that means I have privileges on that machine. Unless I am searching an entire network of a few hundred machines, this feature will most likely be useless. I mean, if I access the hard drive of another machine, I usually have a pretty good idea what file I'm looking for. Doing a windows search on a remote machine is quite slow.

I have one more issue about this file system. How can it be an add-on to the OS? Unless what MS ships is a file conversion tool (like the convert command to turn FAT into NTFS), a file system cannot be added to the OS unless the drive is formatted (so much for add-on!). The only other possibility is that it is some indexing system, and then, it can't really be called a file system.

All things considered, I don't think the added features will be worth the wait or the effort. MS is probably making this new file system just get the name "WinFS" off the vaporware lists, which is also pretty much the reason they are making Vista.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think it is
WinFS sits on top of NTFS, which is why it is able to be an add on.

And think of it like the ipod or any other technology. This will enable more applications than anyone can dream of.
Posted by parcelbrat (6 comments )
Link Flag
MS forced to include WinFS
Microsoft was forced to include WinFS as Open Source already is shipping Beagle, an Index and desktop search application as part of the Linux desktop. The port to windows is already underway so MS must respond.

p.s. Beagle is not part of the operating system
Posted by (21 comments )
Link Flag
How do they blend it into Vista in the future? http://aaron365.blogspot.com
since Vista is come out before WinFS, so how do they blend it smoothly into afterward?
Posted by toaaron (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How do they blend it into Vista in the future? http://aaron365.blogspot.com
since Vista is come out before WinFS, so how do they blend it smoothly into afterward?
Posted by toaaron (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where is Everyone?
It is amazing...Story after story that complained about the delay of WinFS and the hundreds of comments laughing at MS, calling it Vaporware, FUD, something that would never exist..etc. And now its (yes ever so slowly) coming to fruition and where is everyone? 4 comments? and 1 mentions why do we need a new FS? HA! Most of you really are hypocritical.

PS. My main system is a Powerbook, so dont flame at me. Read your own comments first.
Posted by BlinkMM182 (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vacation
It is August

(I'm a PB user too ;) )
Posted by iKenny (98 comments )
Link Flag
Just in shock
MS actually seems to have beaten a deadline.

PS. My main system is a Toshiba XPSP2. I moved off the Mac years ago, and have been happier since. I didn't have to wait to switch to Intel, or a multi-threaded OS, Protected Memory, Multi-user, and everything else NT4 had in '96 that Apple 'invented' with OSX. And a lot cheaper as well.

Yet even I am just amazed at this one. Never saw it comming...
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
About why don't need a new FS...
..."and where is everyone? 4 comments? and 1 mentions why do we need a new FS? HA! Most of you really are hypocritical."

I have read the news about WinFS, and the comments, too. But I have not commented on any of those stories. So calling me hypocrite is really uncalled for. A hypocrite person is one who says something but really means something else. Because I had never expressed myself about WinFS, I can't really be considered hypocritical on that matter.

On the other hand, where is everyone you ask? Guess they must have gotten tired of hearing Microsoft's empty promises. Like I said in my previous comment, I believe it is because it was becoming a vaporware list favorite that MS decided to develop this "file system". WinFS, is in reality, a solution looking for a problem to fix.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Link Flag
Where is Everyone?
It is amazing...Story after story that complained about the delay of WinFS and the hundreds of comments laughing at MS, calling it Vaporware, FUD, something that would never exist..etc. And now its (yes ever so slowly) coming to fruition and where is everyone? 4 comments? and 1 mentions why do we need a new FS? HA! Most of you really are hypocritical.

PS. My main system is a Powerbook, so dont flame at me. Read your own comments first.
Posted by BlinkMM182 (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vacation
It is August

(I'm a PB user too ;) )
Posted by iKenny (98 comments )
Link Flag
Just in shock
MS actually seems to have beaten a deadline.

PS. My main system is a Toshiba XPSP2. I moved off the Mac years ago, and have been happier since. I didn't have to wait to switch to Intel, or a multi-threaded OS, Protected Memory, Multi-user, and everything else NT4 had in '96 that Apple 'invented' with OSX. And a lot cheaper as well.

Yet even I am just amazed at this one. Never saw it comming...
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Link Flag
About why don't need a new FS...
..."and where is everyone? 4 comments? and 1 mentions why do we need a new FS? HA! Most of you really are hypocritical."

I have read the news about WinFS, and the comments, too. But I have not commented on any of those stories. So calling me hypocrite is really uncalled for. A hypocrite person is one who says something but really means something else. Because I had never expressed myself about WinFS, I can't really be considered hypocritical on that matter.

On the other hand, where is everyone you ask? Guess they must have gotten tired of hearing Microsoft's empty promises. Like I said in my previous comment, I believe it is because it was becoming a vaporware list favorite that MS decided to develop this "file system". WinFS, is in reality, a solution looking for a problem to fix.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Link Flag
Seems Like A Trojan Horse
When I hear comments from Microsoft about developers creating apps using the new file system, and comments about it only being supported on Vista, then I get the distinct feeling that this is really just an MS ploy to force customers to upgrade to Vista. What about corporations with a mixed user base of Win2K, XP, and later Vista? What about the server side? Say a company has all their employees data folders residing on a central file server running Win2K or 2003. Will they simply be unable to take advantage of the new search capability with an expensive migration and upgrade? If I were given this lack of choice, then I would opt for a 3rd part index/search engine that I could slipstream on top of my existing infrastructure.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really
no...this beta actually only works on WinXP. I have it...and it gives issues on Vista. How Ironic. So obviously it will work on XP points forward...youd be out of luck with 2000..but when think comes out in final in 07, 2000 will be 7 years old.
Posted by BlinkMM182 (63 comments )
Link Flag
Seems Like A Trojan Horse
When I hear comments from Microsoft about developers creating apps using the new file system, and comments about it only being supported on Vista, then I get the distinct feeling that this is really just an MS ploy to force customers to upgrade to Vista. What about corporations with a mixed user base of Win2K, XP, and later Vista? What about the server side? Say a company has all their employees data folders residing on a central file server running Win2K or 2003. Will they simply be unable to take advantage of the new search capability with an expensive migration and upgrade? If I were given this lack of choice, then I would opt for a 3rd part index/search engine that I could slipstream on top of my existing infrastructure.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really
no...this beta actually only works on WinXP. I have it...and it gives issues on Vista. How Ironic. So obviously it will work on XP points forward...youd be out of luck with 2000..but when think comes out in final in 07, 2000 will be 7 years old.
Posted by BlinkMM182 (63 comments )
Link Flag
Desertation by Bill Gates
Just read the whole item.
One can only cry !! This bloke is the richest man in the world with Warren Buffet I'm told.
I am fed up to the teeth with Explorer. Seems I'm forever updating. 'Safety devices' a world of it's own on top.
I'm webmaster for a project which hopefully will end up with a reward of $4.218 Million for a NZ farming couple. I'm doing this for nothing by the way. When and if they get the money I'm off the 'net next day. May write a book of my experiences.
PS ... We have had a downpour and hail storm in Wekkington New Zealand today Dec 26. So much for Al Gore's ranting about Global Warming !!
Posted by nil desperandum (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Desertation by Bill Gates
Just read the whole item.
One can only cry !! This bloke is the richest man in the world with Warren Buffet I'm told.
I am fed up to the teeth with Explorer. Seems I'm forever updating. 'Safety devices' a world of it's own on top.
I'm webmaster for a project which hopefully will end up with a reward of $4.218 Million for a NZ farming couple. I'm doing this for nothing by the way. When and if they get the money I'm off the 'net next day. May write a book of my experiences.
PS ... We have had a downpour and hail storm in Wekkington New Zealand today Dec 26. So much for Al Gore's ranting about Global Warming !!
Posted by nil desperandum (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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