Microsoft releases Windows Home Server Power Pack 2

by Alex Kuretz on March 23, 2009 · 32 comments

in News

Microsoft normally rolls out larger product updates as Service Packs, however Windows Home Server utilizes a methodology called Power Packs to deliver new product features in addition to the bug fixes. With Power Pack 1, the Home Server Team delivered the fix to the Drive Extender corruption bug, support for 64-bit Vista, and the ability to backup Shared Folders to an external hard drive for off-site storage.

Today Microsoft has announced the release of Power Pack 2 for Windows Home Server (code named Snoqualmie), delivering a handful of fixes and new features that provide a relatively small but worthwhile improvement to the Windows Home Server experience. In addition to bug fixes, these changes include enhancements for remote access configuration, new features for computers running Windows Media Center including content streaming support for Windows Media Center Extenders, and the addition of Italian language support.

The best news is that all of this will be available March 24th (tomorrow!) as an automatic update, so make sure you’ve got your server configured to pick up updates automatically. Note that you will need to have Power Pack 1 installed prior to your server updating to Power Pack 2.

Now that we’ve got the overview covered, let’s take a closer look at the changes included in Power Pack 2. If you’re anxious to review the Power Pack 2 release notes, they can be viewed here.

Remote Access

The Remote Access feature of Windows Home Server is one that can be very useful, for users that want to access home resources from outside the home, such as from work or while traveling. As part of the configuration process, the current Remote Access Configuration Wizard would often present the user with confusing Warning messages about verification steps failing.

Verifying Failed warnings in pre-PP2 days

Verifying Failed warnings in pre-PP2 days

In Power Pack 2, the Remote Access page has been designed to make it easier to use, with new and improved initial configuration and repair wizards as well as better troubleshooting guidance for common home networking issues that can cause Remote Access to not work properly.

Remote Access Configuration in PP2

Remote Access Configuration in PP2

Remote Access Tests in PP2

Remote Access Tests in PP2

New Troubleshooting help in PP2

New Troubleshooting help in PP2

Microsoft has also added a Web-hosted diagnostic service to more accurately test if remote connectivity is available from outside the home network. I’m particularly hopeful that this last bit will resolve most of “Verifying failed” messages we see so often in the forums that are most often attributed to being unable to correctly assess remote availability from within the home network.

Media Sharing and Windows Media Center

Centralizing the storage of media in your home network and then accessing it wherever and however you want to is one of the more popular uses of the Home Server, and has generated a lot of discussion in the MediaSmartServer.net forums. We’ve seen hacks to enable storing or recording of live TV from Vista Media Center to Windows Home Server, some users have mapped the Windows Home Server shares to their Media Center library, and many users do some form of streaming of content from their server to a digital media receiver or Extender.

Power Pack 2 delivers a new Windows Media Center Connector feature to enable Windows Media Center computers to automatically have access to content stored in shared folders on the home server, with the Music, Photos, Videos, and Recorded TV folders enabled by default. This allows Windows Media Center Extenders to access and stream multimedia content stored on the home server, with access permission granted on an individual folder basis. You’ll also be able to access the Recorded TV content stored on the server from your Windows Media Center computer and Extenders, though moving the Recorded TV files is still a step that must be performed manually by the user by copying or moving the files to the Recorded TV share on the server.

Media Center Settings Tab in PP2

Media Center Settings Tab in PP2

Media Center Connector in PP2

Connector Install Screen in PP2

Media Center Connector Install Screen in PP2

Media Center Connector Install Screen in PP2

Windows Home Server now also supports streaming MP4 files to the Xbox 360 and other devices that support the MP4 format. Metadata such as title, artist, composer, album, and genre appears in the music or video library.

Bug Fixes

There are also several bug fixes included in Power Pack 2 that should please many users. One of the most important from my point of view is new functionality that is designed to help prevent issues of Single File Restore failing at 79% or 81%.

Summary

While Power Pack 2 does not deliver any revolutionary new features, it does provide some welcome improvements to the Remote Access configuration and backup software of Windows Home Server, as well as taking a nice incremental step towards better and more easily centralizing media storage and distribution within the home.

Be sure to check out the new features and bug fixes included in Power Pack 2, and share your impressions and feedback either here in the comments or in this forum thread.





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 32 comments }

JohnBick March 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Nice writeup…

And, I believe, the FIRST one (again)!

Jan Ilacqua March 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Hi,

Is it possible to be able to get the SP other than the auto-update download? Perhaps from the downloads website?

Jan :)

Alex Kuretz March 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Thanks John! Though I can’t take credit for being first, the entire MVP community had our embargo lifted at 6pm PST today when the WHS blog post went public. :)

Jan, I believe the only way the update is available is through automatic updates, is there a specific reason that this doesn’t work for you?

cx00my March 24, 2009 at 5:34 am

Great post, to the point…

My main interest on this update is related to the additional features on media streaming. You did not specifically mention the PS3, but I suppose what you said about support for MP4 applies to that console as much as it applies to the XBOX360 (please confirm if you can).
Can you tell whether while streaming MP4 files, there are some features that are similar to DVD navigation ? (for example the ability to have subtitles (and the abiity to turn them on or off)?

Thanks again for the post.

cx00my March 24, 2009 at 6:03 am

One more quick question – I knew there was something I had forgotten :-)

You’ve mentioned that with the Power Pack 2, there will be easier streaming to Windows Media Center computers – would the ease of use extend to mac computers as well? – I have a Macbook, but whenever I access videos on the MSS from the Macbook, the picture is very choppy (the picture is fine from my Windows laptop with much less processing power, RAM and video power than the Macbook) – that would help a lot. While we are talking about the choppiness on Macbook, does anyone know how I can fix it, so that it behaves more like Windows computer?

hakr March 24, 2009 at 9:24 am

Automatic updates through Windows XP or VISTA? Automatic updates through the Server 2003 on the MSS? I haven’t seen anything come in yet, and I tried “updates” in Vista and Server 2003 and so far as I could see, there was nothing there.

Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 9:28 am

Hakr, the Automatic Updates setting in the WHS Console is what you’re looking for, and while the release is coming out today, I don’t believe MS has published the exact time. Patience…. :)

Alex

hakr March 24, 2009 at 9:43 am

Thanks, Alex…I thought the “new rules” stated I was supposed to get this releases hours after you announced them. :>)

I do have auto updates set in the WHS console.

Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 9:46 am

I can assure you it will be within hours of me announcing it, just not how many hours. :D

hakr March 24, 2009 at 11:16 am
Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

Come on now, have I ever lead you all astray? ;)

Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

cx00my, note the “and other devices that support the MP4 format”. I don’t have a PS3 to test with, so I’ll have to leave it to others to state if it supports MP4.

The enhancements to Media Center are strictly that, they are not for other OS platforms and require a Windows Media Center PC.

For troubleshooting assistance with poor streaming performance, I’d suggest creating a topic in the forums.

Thanks,
Alex

Travis Illig March 24, 2009 at 11:45 am

Does anyone know if the MP4 support includes Apple Lossless?

cx00my March 24, 2009 at 11:46 am

Thanks Alex. I’ll do a search in the forums first, just to make sure that the topic hasn’t been covered before.

Jack Feeman March 24, 2009 at 6:36 pm

My MediaSmart Server downloaded the PP2 with no problem. My problem is that none of my clients can now connect to the server since an upgrade to the connector is required and the new connector is on the server which I cannot access from my clients. I click on the tray icon mesage that says click here to upgrade and it cannot connect to the server. I cannot power down the server to restart it. Am I supposed to turn off the server by pushing the on/off button(ugh)?

Thanks Jack

Mike G March 24, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Am I missing something about the new Window Media Center Connector? After getting all the appropriate messages after the install, Windows Media Center alerted me to the install, I added it to my first Vista PC and nothing ever appeared in Windows Media Center Recorded TV. When I checked WMC Library setup for shared folders, every shared folder I had on the server was available to be a “watch folder.” I checked my second Vista PC and the same options for adding “watch folder” (no surprise) was there. Since these are watch folders, something has to change before WMC picks it up.

My server’s Recorded TV file was empty so I move a DVR-MS file into it and WMC picked it up. Again, no surprise.

All this could be done before Window Media Center Connector was installed.

What am I missing?

Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Jack, do you have the same firewall software running on all your clients? I expect that something like Norton is blocking the Connector software from installing. Try disabling any firewall software you may have and see if that allows you to install the new Connector. Otherwise I recommend you post in the forums, preferably with a screenshot of the error.

Mike, as I mention in the article, there is no automatic process to move Recorded TV content, it is still manual. And as you say, much of what is now included could have been previously enabled as manual steps for the user. PP2 now makes this content available automatically, which makes the setup and config an easier process for the user. Remember that WHS is ultimately designed to make managing the home network easier for the average user.

Mike G March 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I thought I was an average user. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the server. But there’s a lot of information that requires assumed knowledge. For example, and it’s possible I missed this, your article was the first reference I saw that said to move recorded content into Recorded TV. What I did read in other release notes was PP2 “recorded TV libraries are automatically updated.” Automatically meant to me that there was new magic. Oh well.

Jack Feeman March 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Thanks Alex,
I figured out that I just needed copy the connector folder out of the Shared Folders/Software folder to the desktop and run it from there – duh! Yes, you are also right about the firewall if I hadn’t dome it this was. Thanks again Jack

Alex Kuretz March 24, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Hi Mike,

You never know with the users here, we have some incredibly advanced users as well as true beginners, I never like to assume where someone is coming from. :) Check out the Release Notes I have linked above, these are the relevant parts I believe:

Computers running Windows Media® Center can now view recorded TV content that is stored on your home server by using the recorded TV gallery.
• Windows Media Center music, photos, videos, and recorded TV libraries are automatically updated to include the Music, Photos, Videos, and Recorded TV shared folders on your home server.

This may sound like automatic things are happening, but what I read and have experienced is that PP2 allows the Shared Folders to automatically appear in Media Center and it also provides access to recorded tv stored in that share on the server, however it does not automatically move it there. I hope that clears things up.

Jack, good to hear you got it working!

Thanks,
Alex

Timothy Daleo March 25, 2009 at 10:38 am

I installed PP2 via remote yesterday. After the update restarted the server I could never regain a connection. My Remote Notification kept sending messages about the backup service being down and other errors. A few hours later when I got home, and after no response from the SC440 server, I had to reboot using the power button. Once the server was happy again I noticed that the computers running Vista had little red houses. Upon clicking it told me I had to update the connector software. My XP machines were green. During the process of connector update the license agreement came up with Power Pack 1. I assume they just forgot to change it? Maybe the will get on the next revision. Once the connectors were updated I could update the WMC WHS application from the program menu. Enabling of the WMC connector require a restart of the PC. Great, more restarts. I finally have everything up and running however I am still trying to get the WMC to find the video folder where I have stored my DVD files. I see the Users folder but not the other folders. Within the WMC settings in WHS I have Full access for all folders. In addition, I have added to the library all the server folders. I should now be able to access the DVD files in my Videos folder on the WHS from any WMC PC on the network, yes?

All my resources are now 6.0.203.0. Woo hoo.

Looks like I will be busy this Friday night again.

Alex Kuretz March 25, 2009 at 11:08 am

The PP1 EULA is intentional as Microsoft does not have plans for a media refresh for PP2.

Make sure you’ve installed the Media Center Connector on all WMC PCs that you want to access the server shares. It did take a little time for all the shares to show up in my VMC video library.

Timothy Daleo March 25, 2009 at 11:15 am

I will check when I get home. This is like waking up for Christmas!

Robert March 25, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Based on Mikes questions/comments that he assumed that recorded tv episodes would magical appear in the recorded tv share on the WHS. Is there a way to make that “magic” happen. In other words is there some program/hack that will allow the Media Center (client) to move the shows that are recorded to the WHS recorded tv shared folder. Or even better would be a program that you could set filters to move specifice shows or series of shows to the home server after they have been recorded. Another idea would be to manually move the file using the remote. Accomplished by putting a new item in the more info menu of the show. So that you could go to the recorded tv folder on the media center pc and click more info button, this would bring up the menu and you could then select “move to WHS”

Alex Kuretz March 25, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Hi Robert, I think your best bet for this is Recorded TV Manager. It seems well regarded, though I’ve not used it and am not sure how it interacts with PP2. Let us know if you try it!

Mike G March 26, 2009 at 6:16 am

I found my earlier recorded TV in the video link in WMC. So I guess some magic did occur. It’s just that the PP2 for WMC really doesn’t do anything that I hadn’t done earlier. So my expectations were a little too high.

Meanwhile, the server is doing a great job and, despite what my post sounded like, I’m very happy with the box and software.

LPaolini April 13, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Question…..for some reason my HP Server will not update to the new PP2….I am running PP1….and it checks the HP site and comes back and says there are no new updates….this was this past weekend….April 11th….any ideas ? thanks !!!

Alex Kuretz April 13, 2009 at 3:43 pm

PP2 is a Microsoft release and thus not installed by the HP Software Update functionality. Check the Resources tab of the Settings tab in your Server Console and see if you have PP2. If not, check for updates from the General Settings tab. If that doesn’t work, you may very well have an older version of PP1 installed that cannot be updated, see the excellent Wiki Post on Windows Home Server versions.

LPaolini April 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Thanks Alex….yes I did mean the HP version of PP2….I will check my version of PP1…..if it is one of those that is not upgradeable…does that mean that I am out of luck ? or is there a work around ?

Alex Kuretz April 13, 2009 at 3:59 pm

See Brendan Grant’s post on how to deal with this if you have an older version. Let us know when you get it figured out!

Mick Miller October 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Hi Alex,

I have a weird problem that I can seem to find any info on. My HP Home Server is configured to download updates, but it still thinks there is no update available. I am still on Power Pack 1, but not on Power Pack 2.

Since there is no manual update, how can I get my server up to the latest.

Basically I was going to try Power Pack 3, but I think it needs Power Pack 2 installed first.

Any thoughs would for sure help.

Alex Kuretz October 5, 2009 at 3:27 pm

In most cases this is due to having a pre-release version of Power Pack 1 installed. We have a comprehensive version list here.

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