A first look: Inside Windows Home Server (Customer Technology Preview)

Microsoft has released its latest version of Windows Home Server (WHS) to beta testers. Shawn Morton takes you inside the WHS console and examines the capabilities and limitations of this application.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic gallery and as a TechRepublic download.

Recently, Microsoft released its latest version of Windows Home Server (WHS) to beta testers. The following screens take you inside the WHS console.

Login screen

WHS uses a very simple login screen (Figure A). Provide the server password and you're in!

Figure A


Computers and backup

The first screen you'll see after logging into your WHS console is the Computers & Backup tab (Figure B). It shows you all of the clients that are connected to WHS, the operating system each is running, and whether they are backed up.

The reason two of the PCs are grayed out in this screenshot is that I had just installed the latest version of WHS and had not yet run the Home PC Connector CD on the other two machines.

Figure B

Computers and Backup

User Accounts

The User Accounts screen shows you all of the users who are set up to access WHS on your network (Figure C). Information about each account includes whether it is enabled and whether it can connect remotely to the WHS box from the Web.

An interesting thing about user accounts is that they need to match the account on the client PC. So if your username is "JoeSchmoe" and your password is "12345," your WHS logon name and password need to be "JoeSchmoe" and "12345."

After getting your user account set up, you only need the server password to access WHS.

Figure C

User Accounts

Shared Folders

The Shared Folders screen shows all of the default and custom shares on your WHS box (Figure D). By default, WHS creates Music, Photos, Public, Software and Video. It also creates a new share for each account listed on the User Accounts tab.

When you run the Home PC Connector CD in a client machine, each of the default shares is automatically added to the client PC. While setting up shared folders isn't difficult, it is a nice shortcut to have built into the software. You definitely won't be answering questions like "Where do my photos go on the server?"

If one copy of your files isn't enough, you can choose to duplicate any share on your WHS box by toggling the Duplication setting (the fourth column from the left) to On. The default state for Duplication is Off.

Figure D

Shared Folders

Server Storage

The Server Storage screen shows the available drives in your WHS box (Figure E). I have two 300GB Seagate drives in my box. The drive with the WHS OS is noted with a small Windows icon.

In addition to showing the capacity, location, and health of each drive, WHS also shows you the total storage available in the right sidebar. The pie chart breaks down the storage into Shared Folders, Duplication, PC Backups, Operating System, and Free Space.

Figure E

Server Storage

Network Health

WHS uses the term "Network Health" to describe the state of backups on your network (Figure F). If all of your client PCs are backed up and there aren't any patches or updates for WHS, your network will be "healthy."

The same green shield icon is used on each client PC in the taskbar. With it, you can see the state of your network as well as log into the WHS console.

Figure F

Network Health

Settings | General

The General Settings screen (Figure G) allows you to set or change the time, date, and language. It also lets you set your Windows Update, Customer Experience Improvement, and Windows Error Reporting settings.

Figure G

General settings

Settings | Backup

The Backup Settings screen allows you to set the range of time when backups will occur, set up the number of backups to keep, and clean out any old backups you choose (Figure H).

Figure H

Backup settings

Settings | Passwords

On the Passwords Settings screen, you can change your WHS password or update your Password Policy. By default, WHS uses the Medium setting (Figure I).

Figure I


Settings | Media Sharing

The Media Sharing screen allows you to choose which of your media shares you want to share with other computers or devices on your network (Figure J). By turning this on, other PCs can access your files. It also allows digital media receivers or an XBOX 360 to access your media collection.

Figure J

Media sharing

Settings | Remote Access

The Remote Access Settings screen allows you to configure your WHS box and your router so that your WHS box will be available outside your network (Figure K). Microsoft is currently using the livenode.com domain name to support remote WHS boxes. Your URL will be structured as yourservername.livenode.com.

Figure K

Remote Access

Settings | Add-ins

The Add-ins screen, which is new in the Customer Technology Preview version of WHS, allows you to install custom MSI-based apps on your server (Figure L). Now that the WHS SDK is available, we should see some new add-ins available soon.

Figure L


Settings | Resources

The Resources Settings screen shows you the basic configuration of your WHS box, including software versions and basic hardware specs (Figure M).

Figure M