Microsoft Windows Home Server Unleashed, Second Edition

There should be an image here!Microsoft Windows Home Server Unleashed, Second Edition is the most comprehensive, practical, and useful guide to Windows Home Server, including Microsoft’s major updates in PowerPacks 1, 2, and 3. Top Windows expert Paul McFedries brings together tips, techniques, and shortcuts available nowhere else and presents them all in plain English for every Windows Home Server user.

McFedries covers all facets of running Windows Home Server: configuration, file/folder sharing, networking, media streaming and sharing, backup/restore, monitoring, Web and SharePoint site deployment, performance optimization, maintenance, and customization. He thoroughly addresses Windows Home Server’s new Windows 7 support, as well as major improvements in areas ranging from remote access to storing TV recordings.

This edition presents comprehensive, up-to-the-minute guidance on Windows Home Server security, plus a full section of advanced solutions utilizing Microsoft’s power tools, the command line, and automated scripting. Throughout, McFedries demonstrates key techniques through real-world examples and presents practical configurations you can easily use in your own home.

Microsoft Windows Home Server Unleashed, Second Edition provides you with detailed information on how to…

  • Set up Windows Home Server networks, user accounts, devices, and storage
  • Integrate with Windows 7’s new file libraries, backup/recovery tools, and Windows Search 4.0
  • Efficiently share folders, files, and digital media
  • Ensure security for both local and remote users
  • Automatically back up and restore all the computers on your home network
  • Quickly set up web and SharePoint sites

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 – Do You Want It Now Or Later?

When the Windows Home Server data corruption bug surfaced a couple months ago (updated information is available here), the Home Server team at Microsoft focused their efforts on squashing it. As a result, the Home Server Power Pack 1 release was delayed as a lower priority (and understandably so at the time).

image Microsoft has recently announced that they plan to get the data corruption issue fix out to the market in June this year, but Home Server Product Manager Todd Headrick posted a query on the Microsoft Home Server forums asking people if they’d like to get Power Pack 1 sooner, or if we’d prefer to wait for the corruption fix and take it all at once.

I’ve voted for the “Power Pack now” option, and will be glad to take a data corruption fix later. As long as there’s no dependencies on the bug fix (and it sounds like there’s not), and as long as additional risk is not being generated, releasing the power pack earlier is certainly the best option, as long as it’s ready. Here are a few reasons why:

  • 64-bit client support, so users of Vista 64-bit can use the home server as it is meant to be used (this appears to be a broader-reaching and more-common issue than many thought it would)
  • Ability to back up the home server folders to external drives
  • Usability and UI improvements
  • Other fixes
  • Opportunity some good news into the channel (it’s a great product with a lot of goodwill in the community that would benefit from some positive karma right now)

As a general rule, big companies (or “enterprise” customers, as we call them) want multiple changes carefully packaged together, with as many problems solved in one patch or update as possible, with low risk. But Home Server is notably not an enterprise product. Instead it is laser focused on a crowd where more frequent feature and fix releases are preferred, encouraged and asked for. So, in the case of Home Server it’s probably best to adopt something closer to an iterative release cycle.

What do you think? Microsoft wants to know!

Windows Home Server – Bug Plagues Operating System

Since December 2007, the Windows Home Server team is trying to uncover and rectify a ‘bug’ in the system that may corrupt data. Though not every system is affected, it appears that use who use more than one hard disk in the system and use specific programs to modify files could be at risk. On its blog site the team has stated:

One question that is getting asked is, “Will I be affected?” We are aware of only a very small percentage of users with confirmed instances of this issue, and we believe that most people are unlikely to be affected. In the KB article we offer up some precautionary measures that people can take. Some of the instances that were initially attributed to this issue ended up being something else, such as a faulty network card/driver, old routers with outdated firmware, or people incorrectly testing the limits of their home servers.

From the outside looking in, some people would say “Why is this taking so long?” Fixing this issue is the Windows Home Server team’s top priority and the team is making good progress on the fix. We understand the issue really well at this point – it is at an extremely low level of the operating system and it requires thorough testing to ensure that the fix addresses the issue. We have coded a part of the fix which is currently being tested internally. Internal testing is expected to continue for at least several more weeks.

Once the patch has passed internal quality bars, external participants will be asked to help test the fix. Our current plan is to release beta test versions of a fix over the next few months, with a final version currently estimated for June 2008, although that date could change as testing progresses. Thorough testing of the fix is critical and will take time.

On the site is a link to a KB article that describes which programs could cause issues with WHS.

Complete article is here.

Windows Vista SP1 RC Update [Refresh] Available

Yesterday I received a notification that a new build for Vista Service Pack #1 was available. This ‘refresh’ requires you uninstall previous builds from your system per these instructions:

Uninstall Instructions for Windows Vista

Windows Vista SP1 does not support build-to-build upgrades. Therefore, if you have installed a previously release build on your machine, you have to uninstall this old build before installing the next build of Windows Vista SP1.

Prerequisite packages (KB935509, KB937287 and KB938371) for Windows Vista SP1 are permanent and uninstall of these packages is disabled by design. During the installation of Windows Vista SP1, the installer detects the version of the prerequisite package on your machine and updates the package if required.

Here are the steps on how to uninstall Windows Vista SP1 from your machine:

1. Click on the Start Menu and go to Control Panel

2. Double click on Programs and Features

3. On the left side menu, select View Installed Updates

4. Under the list of Microsoft Windows, select Service Pack for Windows (KB936330)

5. On the top menu, click on Uninstall

After completing the above instructions I downloaded the latest build #17128 and installed it. I will be testing the newest build for the next week or so before making a report on how it functions.

I’m also in the process of testing the Power Pack build for WHS [Windows Home Server] as well.

Caution. You may wish to wait until the final build becomes available for both Vista and WHS. :-)

Comments welcome.

[tags]vista, sp1, refresh, whs, windows home server, power pack, builds, service packs, uninstall, download,  [/tags]

Windows Home Server – Is It Right For You?

Microsoft’s latest addition to the world of Windows is their new Windows Home Server operating system. The basics of the software is based on Windows Server 2003, which has been scaled down for home use or in a small office environment. WHS can be used with up to 10 computer systems, so if you have this number of systems on a network, WHS should be considered as an alternative to the standard Server software.

Though I have previously reported on the beta of WHS, I have been sitting on a final copy of the software for about 3 weeks or so. So yesterday [Friday the 9th], with LG being down and out, I thought I would install the final version on my test box. I found a 120G hard disk sitting around collecting dust and popped it into my test computer. As with previous versions, the install is slow taking about 1.5 hours to complete.

Unlike other traditional server software, WHS is simple to administer. A wizard takes you through the setup process which includes installing software on all of your systems which are connected to the network. Once done, WHS handles the rest. The biggest benefit of WHS is that it will auto backup all of your stuff automatically. But is this feature alone enough to justify the cost of a server system, both hardware and software? HP has a mini-server model they will be introducing next month with WHS installed for about $600.

So who would spend $600 just for the convenience of backing up all of your stuff automatically? The average home user may be better off just buying a external hard disk and doing there own backup. I just received an email from Tiger Direct who is offering an external WD 250G drive for only $75.00. I think that decision is best left up to the individual.

I believe that WHS is another alternative method of securing your data. But it does cost more than several of the other alternatives, i.e. external hard disk, or backing up to disk or tape. There is also one thing that you also must consider. Having a system at the same physical location as your other systems will not protect your data from loss by theft, fire, flood or other natural disaster. Remote storage is still your best protection from data loss.

Another thought is, how important is your stuff to you? For many home users losing your data would not be critical or a life changing experience. But for those who have important data for running a SOHO that must be protection, WHS is something to consider. Bottom line. It is up to you on how much you wish to spend to protect your stuff. :-)

What do you think? Is spending $600 on a server worth it? Or are the alternatives equally effective?

Comments welcome.

[tags]microsoft, windows home server, simple, backup, automatically, [/tags]

Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server, a way-cool implementation of the operating system that lets you easily create a flexible and remotely-accessible storage point, is now available for purchase on newegg.com. The price (as of the time of this posting) is $189.99, and it’s worth every penny.

What is Windows Home Server? In a few short words… backups, share and access files, easy setup (simpler than a VCR to use), and you just add drives to grow over time. Plus there’s a bunch of cool add-ons already available. If you’re a Windows geek, it’s based on Windows 2003 server, so adapt away!

First of all, you should read a few of the reviews on the newegg page. They accurately and effectively describe the high points (and the remarkably few lower points) of the product. And here is a marketing description of the product that hits the basics:

Windows Home Server helps you pull together and protect all your family’s files in a single, central location that makes sharing easy.

Protect the things you care about
Keep all those digital memories safe for future generations with features like automatic daily backups and full system restore.

Connect with your friends and family
Share your photos, music, movies, and other files from a single, central location that everyone in your home can get to. Friends and family can see and share any files you want, whether they’re in another room or another country.

Organize everything all in one place
This smart hub helps your family organize all your shared files in one place. Windows Home Server cuts down on clutter and brings order to digital chaos.

Grow into the future
You can add more space easily whenever you need it, so no more hard choices about what to keep and what to delete. And new products and services will be added as Windows Home Server keeps growing and getting better.

[tags]windows home server, windows[/tags]

Windows Home Server: Finally, A Microsoft Product I'm Excited About

I’ve been reading early reports about Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Home Server with more than a passing interest. I won’t bore you with all the speeds and feeds, which you can get yourself from Microsoft’s WHS Web site. I think it’s a brilliant idea that will finally address the issue of the ever-growing amount of digital content stored on home PCs, and the need to back it up and share it, both locally (Home LAN) and remotely (across the Internet). HP is among one of the first PC makers to announce a product based on Windows Home Server, the HP MediaSmart Server. Indications are that products based on WHS will start shipping later this year. What remains to be seen is whether Microsoft will ship a shrink-wrapped, software-only version for DIY types like myself. I hope it does.

So it was with a geeky thrill that I learned about Microsoft making a public beta available of Windows Home Server RC1. I downloaded the ISO images, which consisted of a DVD image (WHS Install), plus two CDs (Connector Software CD and Home Computer Restore CD). I resurrected a semi-retired desktop of mine on which I had played around with various pre-release versions of Windows Vista. I burned the main installer DVD from the image, then started the process of installing it on the test PC (2.8GHz P4, 1gb DDR RAM, 160gb HDD, DVD-R/RW). The 15-page PDF Getting Started Guide was pretty basic, but included more than enough information to understand the install process. The guide said the install could take up to several hours to complete (!), but my install took just under an hour from first booting up from the install DVD to the final restart. What was most impressive during the install was how easy it was to enable the remote Web access functionality, which involved the setup utility configuring port forwarding on my router and choosing a hostname to work via its WHS Web site (hostname.livenode.com) Amazingly enough, it worked the first time.

Once my WHS box was up and running, I could immediately connect to it via UNC… but the full WHS experience required me to install the WHS connector software on my main PC. This could have been done from the connector software CD, but I chose to do it directly from the software share on the WHS box. The connector software allows for the WHS box to “see” your PC and include it on a backup schedule. It also installs some administrative tools, allowing you to fully manage it from any Windows PC on which you install the software. You can even power it off from the remote console.

Overall, I haven’t had enough time with the product to fully kick all four tires. I plan to give some of my friends accounts on it to test the remote sharing functionality. I’ve used a lot of NAS devices in the past couple of years, but I think Microsoft’s approach is a pretty cool one. I think Microsoft and its OEM partners, if it markets this properly, will have a great seller on its hands.

[tags]windows home server, whs[/tags]

Is Microsoft Getting Better WIth Product Accessibility?

Microsoft has been working to further its attraction to the average user, and since Windows XP, the company has made some fairly significant strides in this area. Overall, Xbox 360 and Media Center have made up for any shortcomings felt in the Vista universe at this point, I think.

Then today, I happened upon something that really shocked me – Popfly. Even though this is certainly not OS related, its creation depicts that Microsoft is trying to prove that it can remain competitive when the chips are down, again. To be sure, Popfly will appeal to the non-developers amongst us, but what is Microsoft doing on the home server front these days? You know – something besides the Media Center?

Windows Home Server. Contrary to popular misconception, it has been recently made clear that WHS (Windows Home Server) will indeed, be offered as an OEM product, thereby not forcing you into ISV headache. Designed to bring all of your home media into a single source, the WHS is expected to be the simplest and most effective way to build an effective Windows file/media/print server for the home.

Complete with recovery options for lost files, a fairly robust firewall and Single Instance Store (SIS) technology to help you decrease the need for dated backups, the WHS appears to be a solid server package for the ever expanding home network.

Is Microsoft ready for this? To some degree, with what I have been witnessing with Vista, Windows Media Center, the Xbox 360 and now WHS, I cannot help but feel like Microsoft is aiming to take over the home space.

Considering the moves to make everything accessible across the board, I’m still not convinced that Microsoft’s latest wares have out long enough yet to be trusted with this level of unfetter access from one box to another. Even after factoring in the improved efforts seen with Vista, I suspect there are still some lingering concerns that will need to be healed overtime before people are rushing out to bridge their home systems together just yet.

To be fair and realistic, however, if WHS is based on the latest Windows Server technology, there may be enough security in place to appease even the most paranoid amongst us.

Why do home users need this? As I’m sure this will come up, the question as to why the home user actually needs access to a WHS is likely to come up. And thus far, it appears that the defining response is primarily that it will be seen as an extension to home media appliances.

Besides this, any time you have a central server hosting your most beloved documents, pictures, and other media, there remains the safety net of knowing that if one workstation goes belly up, those files are safely stored elsewhere.

At the end of the day, remote storage offerings are not an option, as cable Internet providers have made it very clear. I suspect that Microsoft plans on banking on this fact, even if the underlying idea behind more localized storage does feel rather “last century.”

This article has been republished with the kind permission of our friends at OSWeekly.com. For more computer news, go give ’em a look or Subscribe to OSWeekly.com’s RSS Feed!

Related Articles @ OSWeekly.com

[tags]Microsoft, Windows Home Server, WHS[/tags]

Windows Home Server – I'm Thinking Of Building This Box – Input Welcome

Well I am still playing with the CTP version of Windows Home Server and still enjoying finding the new features and how best to use the operating system. So it’s time to take a look at building a hardware system around WHS that will provide good performance but at the same time will not break the bank. So today I did some window shopping looking for deals around the Internet, comparing prices and trying to set a reasonable budget for using the WHS operating system.

As I have previously mentioned, Microsoft has set some fairly low spec’s on what WHS should work on. But as most of know, that would be a bare minimum and I wanted something just a bit more powerful, yet, not be total overkill. Microsoft lists the system requirements as:

  • 1 GHz Pentium 3 (or equivalent)
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 80 GB internal hard drive as primary drive
  • Bootable DVD drive

So I loaded up my wallet with $500 to see if I could build a WHS system for that price and what I could get. Oh, before I forget. WHS does not use RAID.The operating system controls redundancy so you can add more drives as needed without being concerned and even external drives can be used.

So how about this:

  • AMD 64×2 3600 Brisbane retail cpu for $75.00
  • Asus M2A mobo, video, sound built in – $75.00
  • Crucial 1G DDR2 – 800 memory – $115.00
  • [2] Seagate sata 250g hard disks – $140.00
  • Sony DVD burner – $30.00
  • In Win Case w/ 350 watt PS – $50.00
  • Note – once the server is setup with WHS, no monitor, mouse, keyboard or speakers are needed – so onboards will work just fine. The server can be controlled by any of the other computers on the network. Oh, and I rounded off the prices.

Here is my thinking. The retail AMD comes with it’s own heatsink for cooling and the In Win case has a rear 80mm exhaust fan plus a side air intake. Asus makes a fairly good board and should hold up well. Like I stated, once the WHS software is installed, it becomes a standalone with nothing attached except a rj45 connector to my router. The AMD dual core and 1G of RAM should give the system enough poop to run the WHS software. 500g of hard disk space should be adequate to backup all 5 of my systems. The DVD is only used for the original WHS software setup and also serves as a boot restorer in case of a problem. And since no peripherals will be added, 350 watts should carry the load.

So what do you think? Comments, suggestions, thoughts, anything…… are all appreciated.

[tags]computer, system, windows home server, asus, AMD, crucial, sony, [/tags]

Windows Home Server (WHS) – Open To The Public – Beta Tester

Today I was contacted by the Microsoft team that is handling the CTP (Community Technology Preview) of Windows Home Server (WHS) and have been given the ‘green light’ to discuss this latest release and also to announce it will be available to the public.

First the blog WHS release:

Great news! Today we’re broadly rolling out a new test build of Windows Home Server – a Community Technology Preview (CTP.) If you’ve been following Home Server press coverage, or seen the subtle hints from the team in postings to the forums, you knew it was coming soon.

CTP provides a wide range of code fixes, user interface improvements and feature enhancements, such as:

  • A more complete and simplified “out of box” experience, including an easy, 7-step setup process after installation, personalized home server naming, and the ability to configure a standalone Windows Home Server from an existing home computer.
  • You can now set up and configure Remote Access capabilities from the Windows Home Server Console, including selection of a personalized Web address from the Windows Live Custom Domains service.
  • You can enable or disable home network health notifications and can dictate where and when various notifications are displayed on their computers.
  • Users can clearly define their password settings, and designate a password hint to assist in recovering a forgotten Windows Home Server password.
  • And you can now add and remove Windows Home Server Add-in programs developed with the Windows Home Server Software Development Kit.

CTP is an exciting milestone for the team on the road to final release. As always, those interested in participating in the beta program can apply here. We’re looking forward to hearing the feedback!

So the beta program is now available to the public. But before applying, please read the requirements of the equipment you will need to use WHS:

Who is an ideal candidate to participate in the Windows Home Server CTP program (English-only version)?

People with:

  • Two or more PCs
  • A broadband connection and router
  • A spare PC or server that can be dedicated to Windows Home Server software

We will contact qualified participants as we expand the Windows Home Server CTP program and will provide instructions about how to participate. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to invite all candidates. Please be patient.

So there you have it. If you have some time to spare and the right equipment you may wish to consider signing up as a beta tester. I have previously posted a article on WHS and believe me this is the simplest server software I have ever used. Though I detest using the term ‘user friendly’, in this case I must say that is exactly what WHS is. Microsoft has eliminated the cumbersome procedures for setting up a home network using WHS and it is straightforward and easy to use.

As an example: Once the server software is installed, just take the same DVD disk and setup the computers you wish to be part of the network. The software finds ALL of the computers on the network including the server automatically for you. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Once the software is installed, you can control the server from any computer connected to the network which has the WHS software installed. Nice!
Oh, I had previously mentioned a few things that bothered me about using WHS. I’m not a big fan of having to enter my password and using CTRL-ALT-DEL keys and all of the protections that normally need be in place. BUT TweakUI works for Server 2003 [which WHS is based on] as well as Windows XP. So I set my systems to auto-logon and it worked perfectly. :-)

Comments welcome.

PS Just as a recommendation. You may wish to consider using a spare hard disk if you have one available. I used a 100G drive and WHS worked well. It would not install on a 20G I had. I believe that the minimum drive size is 40g. :-)

PSS I just wanted to thank the blog folks at WHS for their taking note of the article I originally wrote about WHS:

Ron Schenone over at The Blade gives us the attaboy in his review of Home Server, calling the software a winner.

[tags]microsoft, windows home server, CTP, public, tester[/tags]

Windows Home Server Leak Was Not From A MVP – Previous Reports Were Incorrect

PC World Article here, Yahoo News here and other websites had posted information last week concerning a leaked copy of Windows Home Server that according to sources was obtained illegally from a ‘Richard’ and who was possibly a MVP. When I original read this article, my heart sank then anger set in. My first thoughts were that I know a lot of MVPs and found it hard to believe the story that any MVP would betray the trust that Microsoft has given us.

Fortunately the media was incorrect. It was not a MVP as this article describes from The WHS blog from Microsoft:

Leaks, Richards and MVPs 

I like to monitor the blogsphere for posts on home servers (e.g. (this feed). There were no shortage of posts that popped up last week regarding reports that some “Richard” leaked a CTP (Community Technology Preview) of Windows Home Server without Microsoft’s authorization.

What a bummer. I mean, it stinks that people violate non-disclosures like this. Trust worthy computing is one of Microsoft’s core tenets and as such we take public distribution of pre-release software very seriously. The leak was unfortunate, and we took action to find the parties responsible.  We are happy to report that has happened. I don’t personally know, nor do I care to know, who the actual person was, but I have heard that he/she wasn’t a “Richard”.

The real bummer, though, is some news media inaccurately implicated Microsoft MVPs as the source of the disclosure. As I think it is well known, we are big fans of the MVPs, and we’re happy to clarify that no MVPs were involved in this breach.

We wanted to clear that up because it’s really unfair to the MVP program and the MVPs themselves.”

I think it would be nice of those media sites that originally posted the story on the Internet were to post a retraction and clear all MVPs of any wrong doing. If anyone reading this sees such a posting on another web site it would be appreciated that you provide a comment and use the link below for clarification or to this posting. TIA.

WHS blog here.

[tags]mvp, windows home server, leak, richard,microsoft, blog,  [/tags]

Windows Home Server At CES 2007

One of the more exciting announcements from Microsoft at CES 2007 was the new Windows Home Server product, which aims to make storage and backup in the home easier. Based on Windows 2003 Server, the Home Server is a platform available to vendors like HP for deploying home backup and file management solutions to make accessing files in the home a simple process. With very few details available at the moment, Jason Dunn teamed up with Jake to find out more from some of the Windows Home Server product team. Questions answered include things like remote desktop support, theoretical limit of storage space in the server, number of users, and what’s making the Windows Home Server work under the hood.

Download the standard podcast (mp3 format) here!

[tags]Chris Pirillo Show, CES 2007, Windows Home Server, podcast, Jake Ludington, Jason Dunn, Microsoft, product team[/tags]