Microsoft is sending in the spies after a preview version of Windows Home Server was leaked to TheHotfix.net blog by a user named "Richard" soon after it was released to a small group of testers.

In an email to testers, Kevin Beares, the Windows Home Server community lead at Microsoft, told Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) whose name contain "Richard" that they will not have access to the beta until he finds out who is behind the leak. MVPs are people Microsoft considers helpful in its product group communities, and many MVPs end up being early testers of products.

"For right now, you have no access to the beta until I can find the Richard who posted the WHS (Windows Home Server) CTP on this site," the email said. "I will work with the Connect Admin team to determine which one of you is the real culprit of this leak."

Beares apologised for having to punish all MVPs with the name "Richard", and said if the person who posted the release "comes clean," he may "have some discretion as to what actions I take."

Windows Home Server is a new version of the Windows OS that lets users set up secure networks of PCs at home so they can share and store media files. A Beta 2 of the software is available now, and the final release is expected to ship before the end of the year.

Ethan Allen, the owner Hotfix.net, who works as a quality assurance manager for a Bellevue, Washington-based software company, said that Microsoft also contacted him to ask him to remove the software from his site. He said it has been moved from the main site to a private download page.

Allen said he has caught flak from Microsoft since he posted fixes that he claims will be in Windows Vista Service Pack 1 on his site last week. The company asked him to take down the software pack, which he did. However, "Microsoft has been on my case about other things," the CTP of Windows Home Server among them, Allen said Thursday.

He said that Microsoft has "spies" in the forums on the Hotfix.net in an attempt to find out who is leaking software previews on his site. Microsoft also asked him to provide the names of who is leaking Microsoft files to his site, but he said he declined to do so.

Joel Sider, a spokesman for the Windows Home Server group at Microsoft, said the company distributes new test builds confidentially to select testers so they can work out the bugs before it is released to the broader testing group, and so is concerned if unauthorised users get access to the software.