Windows

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 sees the light of day

Windows Home Server was released in 2007 to much fanfare, but had a few significant limitations and quickly fell victim to a serious data corruption bug. This week, Microsoft released Power Pack 1, the first update to Windows Home Server. Scott Lowe explains some of the updates features.

I love my HP MediaSmart home server, even though I've had a few problems.  I bought it in late 2007 for a project I needed to complete and have found it to be a very useful tool--after I upgraded the RAM to 2GB from the 512MB that was shipped with the server.  Windows Home Server isn't without its flaws, though.  Most seriously was the product's data corruption bug that, well, corrupted data.  Unfortunately, I fell victim to this bug before it was publicly disclosed as a problem.  I learned the hard way that OneNote 2007 and Windows Home Server didn't make a good combination.  I'm convinced that this data corruption bug has really hurt Microsoft's efforts to infiltrate the home market with Windows Home Server.

This week, Microsoft finally released to manufacturing the first major update for Windows Home Server.  Dubbed Power Pack 1, this update introduces a number of enhancements to the server product, not the least of which is a fix for the aforementioned data corruption bug.  Additionally, Power Pack 1 includes the following major updates:

  • 64-bit Windows Vista support.  I run Windows Vista x64 at home, so this is a very welcome addition to the software!  I have other computers in the home running 32-bit operating systems, so all of Windows Home Server's features worked quite well with them, but on my 64-bit system, I was not able to use things like the integrated backup feature.  Of course, I was able to browse directly to the home server just as is possible with any Windows server, but it's nice to see that 64-bit support is now real.
  • Remote access has been improved.  One compelling feature of Windows Home Server is remote access.  Home Server makes it easy to remotely connect to and download your files and folders as needed.  Microsoft has made a number of improvements to remote access, including providing more granular remote access security permissions and making it possible to download files in batch by compressing them into either an exe or zip archive.
  • Backup of the home server itself.  One benefit to running a server in the home with integrated client backup is that you are then protected against catastrophic client failure.  In fact, Windows Home Server's client rebuild capability is really, really good.  I've tested a bare metal restore using virtual machines and the process really works.  But, what happens if the home server itself fails?  Windows Home Server RTM did not include backup capability, although third parties did rush to fill the void.  I subscribe to KeepVault's Windows Home Server backup service, which backs up my home server to KeepVault's servers.  With PP1, Microsoft has made it possible to back up the contents of a home server to an external hard drive which can then be taken off-site for safe storage.
  • Data corruption bug fix.  Did I mention this one already?  This fix is that important and, I believe, will allow Microsoft to continue their push into the home.

These are the highlights of Power Pack 1.  These may not seem like major improvements, but they are!  I haven't listed every single little update--and there are dozens--but these major items make Windows Home Server a much more robust solution.  A complete list of changes introduced in Power Pack 1 can be downloaded from here.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

4 comments
jonmobrien
jonmobrien

What is the the purpose of WHS? Supposedly to centralise the most important things home users need simply, but what is the number one thing that every computer user uses? Email of course! More so than sharing music or pictures, people want their own email address to keep, and not have to keep changing when they change their ISP, and they want real email in their Outlook that they can remotely access via Outlook Web Access, and synchronise their calendars, tasks, contacts, sent items with their PDAs, desktop, laptop, etc. But still WHS does not offer an Exchange ability. The official quote from Microsoft is Exchange adds too much complexity for a Home setup. DUH! Active Directory, NTFS Security, Server R2, Group Policies, IIS6 are all extremely complex tasks, but Microsoft removed all the complex stuff and made a simple Users and Security setup with simple file sharing security and even included a simple web server. Using that same methodology, how simple would it be to develop a simple-exchange? All you need is for it to ask for "email domain" (@mydomain.com) and have a tab on the users accounts for "email addresses" and it shows __________@mydomain.com and you just enter whatever email address you want and WHS can simply look after the recipient policies etc, then Outlook 2007 should auto-find the mail account (else WHS gives simple instructions, no more complex than the existing instructions for setting up a home web server to share photos with granny!!) and from remote workspace you can connect to webmail. It seems so simple and in such high demand that the vast majority of people who would make use of WHS are being forced instead to go with SBS and losing all the simplicity that WHS offered and the features of sharing media with XBOX simply, etc is not there.

drl.techrepub
drl.techrepub

How on earth did I miss that? Was it just launched in the USA I wonder?... I've gone to the Microsoft site but although they mention it in passing the link takes one to a standard Windows Server 2008 page where there is no mention of it at-all. Hardly surprising that I missed it given that I wouldn't think of typing Home and Server in the same search. I would like to try it if it still exists. What's the pricing structure for it? I've been using an XP Pro machine as my server (which does a sterling job) ever since I unsubscribed from the Microsoft Action Pack, but I am interested in 2008 so I can self train and get annoyed at something different. By the way, I hope they throw away the current IIS 7 management interface, or at least allow us to have the option of something moderately familiar and USABLE! I really don't care if it's a dumbed down wizard to step me through setups because at the moment I need help to understand what on earth it is trying to tell me. I used to just go to properties and configure an asp.net application for .NET 2 with a couple of clicks. It was so simple. Now I'm presented with two pages of options. I shouldn't have to retrain to be able to use just the basics. Is it just me or do Microsoft appear to be going forward so fast that they've reached escape velocity? I'm beginning to view the latest releases as fads and largely unusuable, and given the rate at which some of the new releases disappear into the Windows equivalent of /dev/null I wonder if it's even worth going to the effort of learning new products for the first couple of years. The learning curves seem ridiculously steep for a lot of the latest offerings. Getting to grips with .NET was a big leap but worth it, then the change to VS2005 from VS2003 again a big leap (the main problem being largely unaware of the improvements it offered), and now VS2008 which appears to have gone off to another dimension as far as the facilities are concerned. Thank gawd for WebCasts! I doubt I'd cope without them. Anyway, back to my moan about the rate of and more specifically what is being changed, Maybe "intuitive interface" means something else now and nobody told me they'd changed the meaning of that either... Maybe we are in the realms of intuition as defined by mediums and mystics. I can see the spec now... Server System Requirements: 8GHz Octacore CPU, 2 TerraBytes Molecular RAM, Neural Interface, Proficiency in Clairvoyance and Telepathy required to configure. Use of Telekinesis to unpack the server will invalidate your warranty.

regmigrant
regmigrant

appliance style units from HP (ex475), tranquil and a couple of others (i got mine from amazon.co.uk) each oem has added their own stuff to the basic os. Look at wegotserved.co.uk for some good reviews. only needs a low (for MS!) spec. so home build or repurpose is good. You can trial the home server os for 120 days and license is about ?80 this includes up to 10 attached PC's and provides backup of connected machines and sharing of your media files across a network. It won't help you learn 2008 tho :)

WoW > Work
WoW > Work

Can't get it like normal Windows, even Server (I've seen SBS in Staples.) Have to get it from Newegg or Buy.com as OEM. CDW has it too I believe. I've been wanting to get this for a while, but I wanted to build it my own (had a PC already in place, just want/need new, larger hard drives for folder duplication.) But the data corruption bug was the major issue that was keeping me from going to it. Now that the pack is out, time to demo it! Which, by the way, you can get a 120-day demo from Microsoft. Not a download, but they send you the DVD for free. It's on MS's website, but I forget the links to get to it. I think it was connect.microsoft.com.