Why I’m Uninstalling Windows Home Server

As I write this, I’m in the process of migrating a little over a terrabyte of personal data from my home server to an external USB drive in preparation of slicking the box and installing Windows 7 Ultimate.

Back in November I decided to upgrade my home server which had been serving me faithfully on Windows XP Professional for several years.

I bumped the RAM to 2GB, replaced the internal drive with a 2TB, and gave Windows Home Server a test drive.

It took a little getting used to, but I gritted my teeth and was determined to do things the “right” way with my home server file sharing.

For instance, all of my shares (music, video, software, etc.) now had unique folders and restricted access to users on my network. That wasn’t a big deal since there are only three users in my house, and it was always one of them logged in. But if you were logged in as a guest, or brought a PC from outside (such as my work laptop), you couldn’t access those files on the server. Technically that’s better security, but it just kept resulting in me keeping me from my data.

Probably the best feature of WHS is the automated PC backup routines. Once a PC is registered with the WHS, regular and redundant backups are made automatically on a nightly basis. Very cool stuff, and definitely the biggest thing I’ll miss. There are other solutions, but they tend to require software running on the client PC pushing to the server, while WHS ran on the server and pulled the backup data in overnight which communicated with the WHS Extender installed on the client. I’d love to find a standalone piece of software that performs this magic.

The two biggest problems, though — and the ones that have finally driven me past the point of no return, are the constant disk grinding, and frequent server reboots.

I’ve done a bit of research and heard that this constant disk access tends to be caused by the Windows Search feature working to catalog all of the files in the shared folders to make them easy to access. That’s cool, I guess, but when it means my brand new 2TB drive has to grind away 24 hours a day in order to do so, it’s just too much. Aside from the wear and tear, there’s a matter of the noise — it’s just become too annoying to sit next to what sounds like a meat grinder when I’m working.

And then came the reboots. After the first of the year, my copy of WHS became unregistered, and I had to fiddle with the WGA and registry settings in order to get things to function properly again. Now, about every 40 minutes, the box reboots on its own. This is absolutely unacceptable for a box that must serve not only as a data repository & file storage, but also as a streaming media server. I can’t lose connection to all of that data a couple of times every three hours. Watching a full movie is now impossible.

And so, I bid farewell to Windows Home Server. It’s a decent piece of software, and maybe if I’d bought a pre-built box rather than installing it on my home-brew one I may have had better results, but it’s just not worth it. I’ll take the things I learned from WHS (like compartmentalized file shares, and that cool PC backup scheme), and do my best to replicate them under super-stable Windows 7 Ultimate.

It was fun, WHS, but we’re just not right for each other. I’m sure you’ll find the right administrator someday, and we can totally still be friends. I’ll call you. Promise.

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