Installing WHS 2011 on a HP MediaSmart EX475

Although I have been very pleased with Windows Home Server (WHS) on my trusty HP MediaSmart EX475, I have been eagerly awaiting the final release of Windows Home Server 2011 after I discovered that the lowly 1.8GHz AMD Sempron processor in the MediaSmart is 64-bit capable.

This article describes the steps you will need to take to upgrade your MediaSmart to Windows Home Server 2011 (hereafter referred to as WHS2011) based on my own experiences.

Note that as there is no offical upgrade path for migrating from WHS to WHS2011 it is  necessary to install WHS2011 on an empty disk and manually move the data from your original WHS disks afterwards.  Migrating your data will be covered in a future article.

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Restoring WHS (v1) backups into a Virtualbox VM

This article relates to restoring backup images from the Original Windows Home Server (version1) into a virtual machine running on Virtualbox 4.0.12 r72916.

In preparation to  upgrade my existing HP MediaSmart EX475 server to Windows Home Server 2011, I have been reviewing the data held on the server and planning the best way to migrate it. However, one area that it will not be possible to migrate to the new OS version  is the automatic backups that have been made of the machines on my home network.

For the most part I am not too concerned about these backups as I can simply perform new backups of my existing machines using WHS2011.Tthere are a few backups that I do need to keep because they contain legacy software or are images of work (and development environments) that I have completed in the past for clients – and this post describes the method I used to restore these backups to a virtual machine running on VirtualBox prior to the upgrade to WHS2011.

It’s actually very simple to restore a backup to a virtual machine, although I did have a little trouble identifying the correct networking settings to ensure that the WHS Baremetal Restore CD was able to identify the virtual network adapter. The necessary network settings can be seen in the screenshot below:

11. Setup Networking

VM Network Settings

  1. The  adapter type (in the advanced section) needs to be set to Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM) as this is the only adapter that the Restore CD has drivers for.
  2. The virtual adapter needs to be attached to your physical network card as a Bridged adapter to make sure that the HomeServer and virtual Machine are able to communicate.

Restoring to a Virtual Machine

Firstly, create a new Vitualbox Virtual Machine (VM) with sufficient hard drive space to restore the backup. The sequence for this can be seen in the following screenshots (clicking on a screenshot will show it full size):

Next, start the virtual machine and it will boot the WHS Baremetal Restore CD image. You will be walked through the process of connecting to your Windows Home Server and selecting the computer backup to restore. When the restore is complete, disconnect the restore CD image from the virtual machine and reboot the virtual machine.




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WHS 2011: Living without DriveExtender

With the announcement from Microsoft that DriveExtender support has been dropped from Windows Home Server 2011, I’ve been on the lookout for other solutions for when my aging HP MediaSmart finally needs replacing.

Should I stick to Windows Home Server?

I believe that for me, the answer is “Yes”. Windows Home Server still has a number of features that, in my opinion, make it a better solution than a simple NAS box or Linux based alternative. The most critical of these is the automatic backup integration with Windows based systems, for the following reasons:

  • Computers can be set to automatically wake-up, backup to the Home Server and then power down again. It’s a very successful fire-and-forget solution.
  • If an identical file blocks exists on many computers, then the Home Server only ever stores one version of the block in the backup area. This drastically reduces the amount of storage space needed to store backups, and also ensures that backups can be done quickly, even over a WiFi connection.
  • Bare-Metal restores; Backups can be restored to a computer by booting from a restore CD – there is no need to install a base operating system onto the system first.

In addition, I like the ability to install services and “standard” windows applications on the server to run in the background. Although Linux solutions also allow this, the installation and configuration of such services tends to be a lot more complex.

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Windows Home Server reporting “No Anti-Spyware”

My antivirus solution of choice is Microsoft Security Essentials because it is free, lightweight and scores highly in virus and malware detection in many independent reviews.

Unfortunately it doesn’t play nice with Windows Home Server and every time I boot my machine I receive an alert stating that there is no spyware detection. Although the alert clears automatically after a minute or so it is still annoying as I have my server configured to also send email alerts.

However, there is a very simple solution to this problem. Simply bring up Control Panel, navigate to Services and then change the properties of the Security Center service from  “Automatic  (Delayed start)” to “Automatic”.

Note: I have since discovered that this behaviour occurs with other antivirus and security suites, not just Microsoft Security Essentials.

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