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Mailbag 15th December 2010

  • Can I move my hard drives from my old WHS to my new WHS?
  • Does RAID & Windows Home Server really mix?
  • How to rebuild my Windows Home Server
  • Should I stick with WHS v1 or go for Vail when released?
  • WHS Open Source Options

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This week the spotlight has been around the open source alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows Home Server. There are many alternatives to WHS and it is very surprising just how worthy some of them really are, what’s more surprising is how many people are looking at the possibility of moving to some of them on offer.

It takes an incredible amount of faith to put all your home videos/photos, hundreds sometimes thousands of £/$ of music, and in many cases there entire film/DVD collection to an operating system like Windows Home Server, could you have the same trust/confidence in an unknown operating system?

I am not trying to discourage anyone from using open source software, after all many people really on open source software and I am certainly one of them, but I would say make sure you have a failsafe backup and make sure you have read reviews and write ups, about the pros and cons about any of the alternatives.

WHS Open Source Options

Michael Asks:

Due to the drive extender issue I am thinking about getting a different package rather than updating WHS without drive extenders. My question is what are some of the options out there? Any open source packages available?

Also Varun Asks:

So I was part of the shocked DEv2 removal crowd. I firmly believe that Vail is DOA without DE. What alternatives do we have? Have you tried any?

I’m trying out Amahi, and had a FreeNAS machine for a few years, but interested in knowing what options exist.

At the moment I am getting these kind of questions asked at least once a day, with the death of drive extender everyone wants to know, is there any alternatives and can it run on WHS Vail?

Well there are a couple of alternatives, Amahi which is very similar to Windows Home Server it has all the features WHS has got and more an endless list of plugins to choose from and being open source most are free. FreeNAS is exactly as the name suggests, it is an open source NAS server and unfortunately nothing more and nothing less, it has got its benefits but the features list is no vast array of innovation. Finally there is FlexRAID which I definitely favor the most, it basically is a software raid utility, its versatility is endless, if anything its better than drive extender, you need to install an OS and that could be Windows or Linux and then use FlexRAID to span the data across all of your drives.

I have mentioned before in previous posts, there are a couple of developers working to harness the power of FlexRAIDand use it in an addin for Vail, this way you will be able to install this addin once Vail is installed and essentially have all the features and more that drive extender promised, this really is looking like a win, win situation now!!

Should I stick with WHS v1 or go for Vail when released?

Tim Asks:

I am currently running a homebrew WHS V1 which is now coming on three years old. When I built the system I didn’t anticipate I would upload my DVD and now Blu-Ray collection to my server. I have over 6TB of storage…the system has become sluggish and I have run out of SATA ports. I had planned on building a new system with 8 SATA ports once Vail was released, but with the elimination of Drive Extender I may just build a new system based on Windows Home Server V1.

My question… What steps do I need to follow to transfer the data from one server to another? I would like to build the server, transfer the data, and then replace the old server with the new one, hopefully not needing to make too many changes to the other systems to get it to work with the new server.

Should I build this system or should I wait and see if something positive happens with Vail?

There is an old saying, when everyone is digging for gold, be the one selling the shovels, unfortunately Microsoft don’t look likely to be making any U-turns any time soon with Drive Extender. That leaves many people who were planning on buying/building a new Windows Home Server with quite a predicament, there are actually 4 options facing these very people at the moment and some of the options are already above in this very post.

Do they buy/build later, once Vail is released on the proviso that Microsoft will make a huge U-turn, and actually ship Vail with its intended Drive Extender, but only for the domestic market?
Do they buy/build now and base there new system around the current Windows Home Server V1, sticking to what they already know and love?
Do they buy/build a new system, install Vail and hope someone comes up with a great optional addin that will give you the Drive Extender technology based on FlexRAID?
Or the fourth option, buy/build a new system and move completely away from Microsoft to something more unknown yet possibly innovative, such as Amahi?

To be really and truthfully honest I can’t tell you which way to go with this one, all I do know is that 2 of the 4 options above come with Vail. I don’t know how things will change for WHS in the future, although I don’t think sticking with Microsoft at the moment would be bad idea, because in the long run, there are a lot of developers in the Windows Home Server community that truly like this product, and that counts for a lot, when it comes to new addins, well.. That’s the users shovel.

How to rebuild my Windows Home Server

Gordon Asks:

I have Windows Home Server on a dedicated HP WHS server. I have been unable to do Windows Updates but the server was working okay a year ago before we moved.

Is there a way to reload the software and retain all the data on the WHS server?

First of all there’s no need to reinstall WHS if you don’t have to, although I will tell you how just in case it is something you want to do anyway.

Try to remote into your WHS first; press Windows Key + R >> Type “mstsc” >> fill in your server name, click connect >> fill-in your administrator username and password, you are now logged into your WHS remotely. Open internet explorer and click tools >> windows update, you should be able to do the windows update without issue from here, if you get an error message then that is a separate issue, it may be worth you posting that on our forum if you do get an error.

If you really want to do a clean install pop in your Windows Home Server disk in, rerun the install choosing WHS reinstall instead of clean install.

Does RAID & Windows Home Server really mix?

Anonymous Asks:

I am looking at getting a Windows Home Server and was told that it can run RAID 5, is that really correct, If so, what is your recommendation on drives and how many internally?

This is very similar to a question from Dean in the Mailbag last month, he wanted some impartial advice on purchasing a new Windows Home Server and what would be the best hardware to use. RAID 5 most certainly can be used with Windows Home Server, I will not cause any issues with the current Drive Extender, any Windows OS that works on top of a RAID formation never actually sees the RAID, Windows can only ever see the drives to which RAID makes up, for this reason WHS will only ever see 1 drive or however many drives in a RAID formation you create.

I never really recommend specific drives, but what you are looking for is something that is going to be reliable, try buying drives that have at least been released for some time say around  6 – 9 months, the reason for this is simple, new drives may possibly come with a firmware glitch it happens very rarely but better to be safe than sorry, remember you are looking for a lorry not a Ferrari, at the end of the day the drive is going to store data, not run crysis at 90fps.

Can I move my hard drives from my old WHS to my new WHS?

Doug Asks:

I have a HP EX470 with stock memory, but I put in 4 1TB Seagate Hard drives.

My question is:
1) Given HP’s announcement, if I choose to get a X510 or a EX495, could I just take my 4 1TB’s drives out and put them in my new server and I would be set, or would I have to manually transfer the data?
2) Given HP’s announcement, would you recommend getting one of the few remaining EX475s or something else on the horizon?

When adding a new hard drive to any Windows Home Server, the requirement is that the drive is formatted in order to be added to the storage pool. In doing this all data on the drive would be erased, if you was moving the drives to a new server, you would need to backed up the data on the drives first, before adding them to the storage pool.

The HP EX475 certainly is an excellent Windows Home Servers and I have feeling that the last few remaining will go quickly, if you are looking for a new WHS then you can certainly do worse than an EX475.

I know I haven’t been able to answer everyone’s questions, so those that haven’t been answered why not post them in the MSwhs forum.

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Matthew Glover
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