Bye bye Windows Home Server

, posted: 25-Mar-2008 15:44

So my love affair with Windows Home Server has come to an end.  Sorry honey, but I'm not putting up with this any longer.

The notorious "data corruption" problem raised its head again for the second time.  Interestingly enough not for any of the reasons listed by Microsoft as why it happens.

This time, I think there was a power outage which corrupted something in the server 2003 boot process resulting in a blue-screen.  Annoying but no big deal to reinstall Home Server which largely takes care of itself.

Up came all three of my drives - all data intact, movies played fine, mp3s were good, photos all there.  Everything was happy until "load balancing" kicked in whereupon 95% of my of files got trashed.  This is off a clean installation - no software from their "blacklist" was involved.

Fortunately I never trusted home server enough to leave anything valuable in its exclusive care, so everything except for a few kids' tv shows is safe.

I just want to say this was such a cool product!  But you can't have an OS that corrupts data... really.

Before I get a gazillion emails saying "you can do that with linux" let me clarify the things it did out of the box:
  • Efficient, incremental backups of all windows PCs on the home network, and bare-metal restores
  • Remote access to the home server, other PCs, shared files & backups, from the internet
  • Your own internet domain name
  • Redundant storage specified at folder level
  • Add a new drive any time you like to the pool of storage
  • Stream multiple feeds of video and audio anywhere in the house
... and probably other things I took for granted.  Show me another product that does all that for $200.

So now what?

Option 1:  I move everything back to Linux like it was 6 months ago.
RAID on linux seems all to complicated for someone who doesn't have hours of hacking time to blow on researching arcane combinations of hardware and the various flavours of Linux RAID.  God forbid I actually have to rebuild anything!  And I don't trust disk hardware without RAID as I see at least one disk die every year.

Option 2:   I try out Solaris with its swanky cool ZFS file system
This sounds like a geek's dream but then I have a huge investment in what amounts to a NAS box and nothing else.

Option 3:  Merge my storage with a media centre
I'd like to be an early adopter of HD / DVB-T but again I'm a few months ahead of stable drivers for the newer cards and don't have a lot of time for tweaking.  And then should I go the MS route with MCE, or back to Linux with MythTV?

Option 4:  A "hybrid" option would be to continue with my existing Linux mediaserver and rsync my "big disk" back to another "big disk" on my desktop (Vista) box as a form of poor-man's RAID.  This would do while I wait for the Hauppauge 4000 series HD / DVB capture cards to settle into mainstream.

As for backups, I'm going to evaluate the Acronis range of products as I got used to knowing there was a historical archive of bare-metal-restorable images of my laptop(s) sitting safely at home.

RIP Home Server


Other related posts:
Puppy Linux

Comment by tonyhughes, on 25-Mar-2008 16:49

Are you talking about software raid on linux? Why not a cheap PCI SATA raid card that does all the hard work for you? Use RAID1 for two drivers or RAID5 for three or more, anything else in a home setup is just wierd.

Author's note by vrtual, on 25-Mar-2008 17:20

Well I have RAID on my motherboard which I could turn on. I use that on Windows and it appears as a single volume, so I guess it would be the same on Linux. Windows has some software from the RAID manufacturer from which I can check the status of the RAID volumes. My concern was relying on the BIOS of the RAID controller to rebuild without any software support and if there was any compatibility issues between Linux and my on-board RAID controller.

But yes, this is easy to try out. I also have a cheap SATA RAID board in the garage collecting dust too. Thanks.

Comment by pjv3, on 25-Mar-2008 22:21

Personally I use FreeNAS. Sure it may not be as closely integrate with other Windows machines as Home Server, but I find it works for me. Best advantage is it only costs $0
The only thing I want to find is a decent rsync client for windows that supports shadow copy.

Comment by southernman, on 25-Mar-2008 23:05

I've been running sme server for years now, the latest version is pretty damn sweet and simple to set up. Boot from CD, 30min later you have a running file, print, email etc server all ready for use.

If you have two similar sized drives installed it'll raid1 from install, more than two it'll raid5 for you too. Pretty painless linux raid. has the latest version. (Based on Centos).

If you just want a big bucket of raid disk available to your other machines, try FreeNAS or OpenFiler - they are nice NAS/SAN distributions that can do cifs/smb/nfs/iscsi and allow you to manage their config via a web browser.

Not as easy as Win2K3, but still, pretty nice & fast & free (as in beer).

Have fun.

Comment by allan, on 26-Mar-2008 13:55

When you say "load balancing", you mean "Balancing Storage"?

Yes sorry - I had load balancing on the brain from elsewhere.

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John Curtis
New Zealand

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