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• October 24, 2007 •

Windows Home Server Review (Part 3)

No More Drive Letters

WHS finally gets away from using drive letters. WHS just adds all available hard disk space into a single storage pool. To add a drive you simply run the 'Add Drive' wizard from the WHS console, and WHS will prepare the drive and add it to the storage pool. As soon as you have two (or more) physical drives, WHS can also take advantage of data mirroring (for its shared folders); placing two copies of the data on two different physical drives.

In the event you want to remove a drive from the WHS storage pool, it's just as simple as adding a drive; you just run the wizard (it can take a while for WHS to re-distribute the data) and when ready you can remove the hard disk from the system.

Network Health Monitoring

WHS monitors its own health status and the status of any computers connected to your WHS that are running Windows Vista. WHS will notify you if a client hasn't been backed up. WHS will also check the Vista clients Security Center status, and collect any messages (for example if antivirus is no longer running - or up-to-date) (Figure). The WHS tray application provides you with a quick color-coded alert of your home network, with either a green, yellow, red or blue icon. Once you notice a color other than green or blue (blue means that the computer you are viewing the tray application on is currently in the process of being backed up to your WHS), you can connect to your WHS console to get more detailed information.

Media Sharing

As noted above, your WHS server is pre-configured with the following shared folders: Photos, Music, and Videos. What is more, these shared folders can be enabled for media streaming from the WHS console (Figure). You can selectively turn on "Media Library Sharing" for each of these shared folders so that you can stream your favorite music, videos, and pictures from your WHS to any supported digital media receiver (DMR), such as an Xbox 360, or to a supported digital media player, such as Windows Media Player 11. Check the Microsoft Web site for a list of supported DMRs that work with your WHS.


With WHS, Microsoft has a cool product for any household with multiple computers. The only downside is that the connector application only works with Windows XP and Vista machines, so if you have older PCs running Windows 98/ME or Windows 2000 (or PC's with non Windows operating systems), you will not be able to get the automatic backup to WHS.

Right now the most important thing missing from WHS is a 64-bit connector. According to Microsoft they are working hard to release a 64-bit connector in the near future.

Another important feature missing from WHS is the ability to store a backup 'off-line', meaning the option to burn a backup to DVD for safekeeping. If one of the WHS hard drives would fail, chance is great that the backups will be affected, so the option for 'off-line' backup is crucial. Hopefully Microsoft will realize this and add this feature in the near future.

Users should realize that WHS is targeted at home users. So you can't join WHS to a domain. Similarly, users looking for a full fledged media server will find WHS a little short on features. But if this is taken into account, many home users will find this a perfect solution for several kinds of problems.

For the latest information on Windows Home Server, visit Microsoft's Windows Home Server web site.

The Windows Home Server team blog is also a useful source of news, insights and information.

As noted, WHS is not only available with pre-built OEM systems, but also as 'system builder' version. Newegg sells the WHS OEM version for $179.99.

WHS will be available in English, German, French, and Spanish.

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