Windows Home Server and SBS2003

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jethro's picture


As I previously mentioned I have been installing a Windows Home Server so as to test and evaluate it. I believe it is a product that is going to be very useful to a number of our clients.

I ordered the 120 day evaluation kit from Microsoft and it arrived about 10 days after ordering.

The Kit comes with 2CDs and a DVD in a cardboard sleeve and has a full licence key enclosed.

The DVD is an installation disk, and the two CDs are the client connector disk and the restore disk.

I had read the instructions first and also done a fair amount of research online so I was prepared. The machine I planned to install it on is a Pentium 4 Dual Core with 2GB RAM and 4 250GB Hard drives. It was running Vista, and was sitting in my server room. Its main use was to hold a large amount of Games, TV and Movies - about 600GB worth.

ATTENTION - Installing Windows Home Server will overwrite - format - your hard drives, not just your system hard drives, but ALL hard drives on the machine. So as to avoid this, I moved files off one of the non system drives into the the other 2 drives ad deleted a bunch of stuff to get my total data down to about 450GB and to leave these on 2 drives. These I physically disconnected from the machine, booting up again afterwards to confirm that I had disconnected the correct drives. The remaining 2 drives, one system drive and one non system drive I left running in the machine. I then booted from the Windows Home server Installation DVD. The whole install process took about 35 minutes.

Fast forward two days. I reinstalled Windows Home Server again - in about 35 minutes.

I fiddled too much and broke it! So after trying to work out what I did I eventually gave up and decided to started again with a clean sheet.

The installation process is similar to Vista or XP only simpler. In my case the OS did not recognise my motherboard drivers, but I was able to install the LAN driver from the MB cd. However audio and sm bus did not install correctly, though not important. As a rule though it would pay to check that the motherboard you buy comes or has drivers for Server 2003. Obviously Win HS OEM Hardware does.

After completing the final boot up and logging in I shut down the PC and reconnected the remaining two hard drives. After two reboots these were available for use.

Integration with a SBS2003 Server

I also changed the workgroup to my SBS domain name, DOMAIN.local (where DOMAIN is my domain name). Yesterday I joined the server to the domain as a server and this was one of the problems I had. However I was put straight by Susan the SBS Diva and this time I did not do that.

Next I added User names. These need to be the same as the Client PC user names (in my case controlled in the Active Directory in SBS) but for most users will be the local PCS main user name. Passwords also need to be the same. Note if you want remote access for a user it will need a complex password. In my case I created a special remote user as none of my ordinary users have complex passwords. Once user names have been added you can start connecting clients. I copied the CD to a folder on a storage server and ran the Setup.exe from there.

Since installing it I have a number of minor issues

  • The connection for each of the local pcs needed upgrading about 1 day afterwards. That has been done now but had to be manually run on each machine. Note also connection must be run by a user with local administrator privileges.
  • Vista 64 PCs cannot connect - though there is apparently a fix coming for this. So my Vista 64 machine is not being backed up. There is a work around for the connection but the backup will still not work.
  • Hard drives cannot be easily identified in the console. Although you can see what individual drives have in terms of usage you cannot see what is on a drive per se. Additionally although the drives that haven't been added to the server storage space show up in windows explorer with a drive letter, and can be used normally you cant see the drive letters in the storage console. So when I cleared out one drive and then wanted to add it, I had to physically remove the other drive from the system and then check to make sure I was adding the correct drive. Of course this wouldn't be a problem if starting with brand new blank drives.
  • PC Backup issues. The event logs tell me I had some failures because of network connection issues. I think that is actually because the PCS went to sleep during the backup process and nothing to do with the network. I cannot prove that yet, though I left one notebook running last night to see if it would continue backing up and it finished successfully (using a wireless connection). The documentation tells you that backups should wake pcs from sleep or hibernation and return them afterward. Another thing noted is the time taken to backup. With 8 pcs that are being backed up ( including a windows 2008 server) I have left the backup window as being all day. there doesn't seem to be any noticeable degradation of performance while backing up although network utilisation is higher.

Other issues

There is a documented data corruption issue. This is rare and affects certain configurations. There is a fix being developed but will probably not be released until June. Do not use WHS with multiple drives at this point as your sole un backed up location for important files.


There are masses of resources out there - Google is your friend! Here are some I used.42-15530197_LoRes


Conclusions so far

Very easy to install on a bare metal setup. Harder when using existing drives.

Easy to connect PCS - XP and Vista

64 bit not supported

SBS configuration means joining a workgroup not the domain.

Media Center works just fine with Windows Home Server

The data corruption issue is something to be aware of. Never put data that is not backed up elsewhere on any PC unless you don't care about losing it. This applies to any server as well. Hardware failures are more likely than the data corruption issue. If only using a single drive it isn't an issue.