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.