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Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 10

It was bound to happen. Heck, it's happened many times before. I lost a hard drive in my PC last month.

Coming Home to Windows Home Server, Part 10

Oct 6, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Eric B. Rux

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Coming Home to Windows Home Server Series

Figure 1. Click here for a larger image

It was bound to happen. Heck, it’s happened many times before. I lost a hard drive in my PC last month. If such a disaster has ever happened to you, you understand the sinking feeling of discovering that all of your hard work is gone.

Wait a minute! What am I thinking? My PC is backed up every night by my Windows Home Server (WHS) system. Phew! I’ve tested the WHS backup/restore process in the lab, and I’ve even written a detailed how-to article on my WHSHelp website. However, now I was going to have to do it for real. I knew the process worked, but in the back of my mind I wondered if WHS would really save me.

I won’t go into great detail about the process of using the WHS Restore procedure to bring a PC back from the dead. As I mentioned, that’s already been done. But I will give you a quick overview of the process, and then I’ll point to some things that I learned along the way.

Figure 2.

My first advice is to not panic. You have a WHS system! So, relax and head down to your local computer store and purchase a new hard drive. Be sure that it’s at least the same size or larger than the dead drive. You’ll probably want to take the old drive out and take it with you so that you get a new one with the correct interface (connector). Most new computers use a SATA drive connector, but many computers still use the older ATA/IDE connector. These drives aren’t backward-compatible, so you need to make sure you choose the right one.

After you install the new hard drive, dig out the Home PC Restore CD that came with your WHS system. If you lost the CD, that’s OK. An ISO file is stored on your WHS system in the Software share that you can use to burn a new Restore CD. You can also download the latest and greatest version directly from Microsoft. Put this CD into your computer (with the new hard drive) and turn it on. Now, you can follow the wizard on the screen. If you need help, check out “How to restore a PC from a WHS backup after a hard drive fails”. And as always, feel free to contact me via email if you run into problems.

Figure 3. Click here for a larger image

My drive-replacement story had a happy ending, but what I haven’t yet told you is that it almost ended in catastrophe. As I attempted to restore the computer, I ran into an error that prevented me from proceeding. A quick review of the backups for this computer revealed that some of them were incomplete due to errors (see Figure 1). When I investigated further, I found that as the old hard drive deteriorated, some of the backups were failing. In my busy life, I had failed to closely monitor the backup status. The WHS icon in the System Tray (the area near the clock) had faithfully turned red, but I put off checking into the problem. My own failure almost cost me everything.

So, what can you do ensure that your WHS system is working correctly? Pay attention to the WHS status indicator in the System Tray. Green is good, yellow is cause for concern, and red means danger (see Figure 2).

Eric B. Rux is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro, co-founder of, and writes a periodic column for Residential AV Presents Connected Home. Eric is a senior Windows administrator and teaches the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) program at a technical college. He can be reached at [email protected]

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