Windows Home Server - My RTM Experience

Ok, Windows Home Server has been RTM'd for over 90 days now, and many folks are getting their copies from various online retailers.  I won't go into who's been bad and good in that department for this post, but lets say some vendors have been worse than others.  We're also seeing a wide variety of pricing for the same disc set from vendor to vendor.  If you care to post a comment about the retailer your dealing with, please keep it neat, clean and family friendly (if you don't, I'll delete your comment. Sorry!). 

Windows Home Server supports a "Server Reinstall", instead of an upgrade.  This method allows you to keep any backups made under the RC release, but sacrifices user accounts.  Shared folders are still intact, but they're no longer linked to a username, until you re-create the user account.

Now for the bad news...

1) I did a Server Reinstall and found that even with the same Administrator username and password I could not access any of the Shared Folders from the previous installation.  Fortunately, the External Copy Backup tool proved its worth.  It had completed its daily backup of the designated Shared Folders, so all was not lost. But due to the permissions issue, I did have to resort to a clean installation.  Again, thankfully the External Copy tool did its job!

2) The Program Launcher add-in no longer functioned correctly.  While it does work, clicking the Browse button to locate the executable causes the Windows Home Server Console application to crash.  I could still enter the path and file name manually, but........ I liked this little tool.  I dropped a note on the author's blog about this behavior on 10/17, but haven't seen a response.  The blog post can be found at http://www.danno.ca/blog/WHS+Program+Launcher+12.aspx

3) WHS shares the same lack of drivers and Windows Server 2003.  I'm running it on an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard with an ATI X800 video card.  Neither of the onboard NIC's had drivers, nor was there even a generic ATI driver for the video card.  Why an X800 on a supposedly headless machine?  It was laying around :-)  Fortunately for those buying complete OEM systems, this won't be an issue. For those doing a "roll your own", have your drivers handy!

And for some good news...

I've been running RTM for about a week, and am backing up 7 PC's.  Every one has been successfully backed up on every day.  Even those that are set to go to sleep or hibernate.  Great job WHS Team!

Another new feature since RC0 is the ability to set the "alarm" point for missed backups. In earlier builds it was hard coded for 5 days.  Miss a backup for 5 days and your SysTray icon would go red.  Now, you can not only set the number of days before it warns you about a backup failure, you can also set this on a per-computer basis.  Great for the kids laptops that may not be home during the school week, or even turned on if they are!

All along I've been very impressed with Windows Home Server.  The development team put a lot of thought and effort into it.  Sadly they were up against a hard deadline for shipping, so some much wanted features couldn't be included.  However, there are always Service Packs and Version 2.  While SP releases for OS's have historically been bug fixes, there have been a couple of exceptions.  Windows XP SP2 introduced new features.  The same happened with Update Rollup 2 for Windows Media Center.  So, maybe (and that's just my wishful thinking) we won't have to wait for version 2 for new features that aren't add-ins.  But don't get me wrong, there are some great folks writing some great add-ins for WHS.   A good listing of what's out there can be found at We Got Served, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  I expect we'll see even more add-ins now that the RTM version is more widely available.

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