My Perfect Home Server

I use an older computer for my Windows Home Server 2011, but have never liked the performance (or lack thereof). This month, I’ll share how I created my perfect Windows Home Server.
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My Perfect Home Server

Dec 5, 2011 9:40 AM, by Eric B. Rux

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I use an older computer for my Windows Home Server 2011, but have never liked the performance (or lack thereof). This month, I’ll share how I created my perfect Windows Home Server.

Start off by reading last month’s article and get an HP StorageWorks X310 Home Server. It’s still available as of this writing for just $349. I already had the big brother to this server, the X510, so that’s what I used.

I followed Alex's instructions and found them to be extremely well written. They explained everything that I needed to know. The only problem that I had was actually self-induced; I put the hard drive in the top slot instead of the bottom slot. Alex makes this crystal clear – but I missed that little tidbit. Home Server will install if the drive is in the top slot, but it will not boot to this drive.

It is important to mention that you can only use the USB drive for one installation. This is because the setup routine adds a line to the cfg.ini called “Processed=true” that essentially makes the setup routine ignore the cfg.ini file. If you want to use the USB drive for another installation, simply remove the “Processed=true” entry in the cfg.in file.

Probably the most important thing to remember when installing Windows Home Server 2011 on a computer without a monitor is patience. The process can take some time, and it’s easy to want to “fiddle” with it. Just leave the server alone and let it finish (easier said that done).

Once WHS 2011 was installed, connect to the server via a web browser (http://HomeServer/connect) to finish the installation. Next, you need to update a driver: SiI 3531 64-bit Windows SATARAID5

Log into your server using Remote Desktop. Open Server Manager, expand Diagnostics, and click on Device Manager. The driver can be found here.

One thing that you’ll notice right away is that the blue lights on the front of the HP servers do not work with WHS 2011. I did some digging, and found an article on the We Got Served website. You’ll also need to update the AHCI driver. Search for "Intel RST." The name of the file was: iata_enu_10.8.0.1003.exe as of this writing. Note that this may change slightly over time as the driver is updated.

Before the driver updates, the blue drive lights were totally dark. Afterwards, the first drive light lit up. The three remaining drives are blinking at the moment – I’m not sure why, but I’ll let you know if I figure it out.

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My Perfect Home Server

Dec 5, 2011 9:40 AM, by Eric B. Rux

Now I have Windows Home Server running on the HP hardware that I love. As soon as I added in the rest of the hard drives, I was reminded how much I missed Drive Extender from the first version of Windows Home Server.

I decided to give Drive Bender a try (v1.2.1.6, as of this writing). The installation does require a reboot, so make sure nobody is using the server when you install it.

Drive Bender adds a new TAB under "Server Folders and Hard Drives" called "Pool Management. To create a drive pool, simply click on the Pool setup wizard. This wizard presents three options:

  • Create a net Drive Bender pooled drive
  • Convert an existing Windows Drive to a Drive Bender pooled drive, while keeping the existing files intact (Recommended for WHS)
  • Take Drive Bender for a test drive.

I chose the second options, recommended for WHS.

Adding the drives to the pool is easy. Once the pool is created, right click on the pool and assign it a drive letter. I choose 'P", for "pool" (real original, I know).

Once the drive letter was attached to the pool, I could create new folders under the 'P' drive. I added the other two drives by right clicking on the drives and choosing "merge a drive into the pool". This removes the drives original drive letter. If you choose "Convert the drive into a pooled drive", it keeps its original drive letter, and is also added to the pool. I did not choose this method as I wanted the three drives to only be represented as the P drive.

I can’t believe how easy Drive Bender has made this process. It’s so easy…and it just works. If you decide that you do not want to pool the drives anymore, you can easily “undo” and go back to the original drive letters – all while keeping your data intact. I am impressed, to say the least.

There are some limitations of this current version: You cannot use the Move Folder feature and move current folders to the new P drive. The P drive also cannot be backed up using the Server Backup feature. Both of these issues are expected to be resolved in the next version (v1.3), so I’m not going to knock them. Once these two remaining issues are resolved, I’ll give Drive Bender 5 out of 5 stars.

To complete the perfect Home Server 2011, I installed “Orb”, as I described back in October.

I now have the perfect Home Server: Home Server 2011 running on great HP Home Server hardware. The storage works the way I want, and I have the multimedia features that I need.

What kind of Home Server are you using? What hardware did you choose? What “add-ons” or other features did you add? Let me know, and I’ll share your ideas with our readers.

Until next month, have fun with your Home Server!

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