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Windows Home Server – Setup and Installation

I wrote an editorial last summer asking people what type of protection they had for their home setup. I got all kinds of answers, including a few I hadn’t thought of about online backup. Having a backup at home is good, but a fire could wipe out everything. It’s worth thinking about and while I use Live Mesh to keep things moving between machines, I also need to think about offsite backup.

However, in the meantime I decided to try Windows Home Server. I need to back up a bunch of machines, and this seems like one of the simplest ways to do it. The machines here at the house:

  • dkranch10 – My main desktop
  • tiny – My HP Netbook
  • quasimodo – my Toshiba laptop
  • my wife’s laptop
  • The kids’ iMac
  • my son’s laptop

In addition, it would be nice to move music among the machines as well as pictures. Right now we do a lot of CD burning or USB key shuffling when we want to do these things. A Windows Home Server will do all these things and handle the various platforms. I was getting tired of using External USB drives as well since I don’t think about moving things often enough.

I had checked on purchasing one at Amazon. A single disk HP Smart Server at $450 made some sense, but by the time I added in a few more drives, I’d be up in the $700 range. Not that it isn’t worth the cost to protect my data, but I get a free license to Home Server as an MVP, I have an old Dell Dimension E500 AMD64 that I replaced this year, and I have some technical knowledge.

After my laptop died recently and I shipped it away for repair, I got off my duff and ordered 2 new drives and a SATA card. When I’d added a new drive to me Dimension last year I had used the last SATA connection in the machine. My plan was to use the existing 2 drives and add 2 more with a new SATA card. From New Egg I got

  • 2 2TB WD Green drives for $140 each
  • 1 2 port SATA card for $20

They arrived a couple days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to get them into the machine. Finally today I opened it up and took a look. The first thing I noticed is that I only had space for 3 3.5” drives. That meant I’d need to pull one out. I checked and I had a 1TB and a 160GB drive. Guess which one went?

I also found out the SATA card was a half height card, built for “low profile” systems. I hadn’t noticed that, so I have a return to process. Then I noticed that both the CDRW and DVD drives were SATA. My plan was to disconnect one of the drives, the DVD only one, and use those connections for my other drives. I removed those, got my 3 drives into the computer, and closed things up. At this point I had 5TB in a system, which is easily the largest internal system I’ve worked on. We’ve had larger ones at work, but those were on a SAN. Shows you how long I’ve been out of the corporate technology world.

I booted up the system, checked the BIOS, and everything registered correctly. It’s amazing how much simpler this stuff has gotten over the years. No messing with inputting drive sizes, changing jumpers, etc. It just works.

I then rebooted, choosing the CD drive where my Windows Home Server was located. It booted, started setup, and asked for my product key. After that, it had detected my 3 drives, asked if I wanted them all to participate, and warned me all data was going bye-bye. I’m not 100% sure I have everything off them, but eff-it. I have backups across a few drives and at this point I need to move forward. If anything I lost some music, but nothing I can’t burn off a CD again.

From there it ran through setup, formatting drives and installing the OS. Once it was done with a lot of setup, about 30 minutes worth, it rebooted and I had a server on my network.

The cost for me to get a 5TB backup machine for me was about $320 since I reused existing hardware and the software didn’t cost me anything. It looks like you can buy the server software for around $100 from many places, so I would guess that if you have a fairly new spare computer you could set one up for about $400, a little time, a little elbow grease, and easily back up all your machines.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Glenn Berry on 10 December 2009

Glad to see you finally got on the WHS bandwagon. I have been running a homebuilt WHS for a couple of years, and I have been very happy with it. There are lots of addins you can install to get even more functionality out of it.

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