Meet the MIT computer that will never lose data in a crash

A group of MIT researchers claim to have created a computer that will never lose data in the event of a crash.

The new system is "mathematically guaranteed' not to lose information by accident, such as though a system crash or other failure, said the team from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).

Although the system is slow, the researchers admit, the same principles could be applied to more "sophisticated designs".

Nickolai Zeldovich, co-author of the paper and CSAIL principal investigator, said: "What many people worry about is building these file systems to be reliable, both when they're operating normally but also in the case of crashes, power failure, software bugs, hardware errors, what have you.

"Making sure that the file system can recover from a crash at any point is tricky because there are so many different places that you could crash. So empirically, people have found lots of bugs in file systems that have to do with crash recovery, and they keep finding them, even in very well tested file systems, because it's just so hard to do."

The team confirmed the computer's abilities through a process known as formal verification, which mathematically describes the limits of operation for a computer program, before proving the program cannot exceed these limits. While the system can still crash, data will not be lost in the process.

"It's not like people haven't proven things in the past," Ulfar Erlingsson, the lead manager for security research at Google, who had observed the MIT team at work, said. "But usually the methods of technologies, the formalisms that were developed for creating the proofs, were so esoteric and so specific to the problem that there was basically hardly any chance that there would be repeat work that built up on it.

"This is stuff that's going to get built on and applied in many different domains. That's what's so exciting."

The new system will be demonstrated formally at a symposium later this year.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at