The Obligatory Disclaimer
I have to note that while this process worked for me, it is not a supported upgrade process from either Microsoft or HP. If you try this, you do so at your own risk.
It wasn’t long after the EX485/EX487 HP MediaSmart Servers were announced back in December that users began asking what would be the best way to upgrade and move all their precious data from the previous generation EX470/EX475 to the new servers. The safe response has been to either manually copy all your data off the old server onto external drives and then copy the data onto the new server, or to set up both servers on the network with different host names and copy your data across the network. Both of these methods are safe and effective, yet very slow and potentially difficult if you don’t have an external drive to use for shuttling data.
I first had the idea in early February to use Server Recovery to ease the migration process in response to a user who was asking about ways to migrate from the EX470/EX475 server to an EX485/EX487. My primary concern was around possible conflicts with the extra recovery steps that are included in the HP Server Recovery image, which attempt to restore some registry keys and reload the Photo Webshare. At the time the new server wasn’t yet available and no one seemed interested in testing out my theory.
Just over a month later the topic came up again, and since there were no volunteers willing to try the procedure I agreed to give it a try. The idea sat on the back burner until recently when I went ahead and tried to migrate my main development/test MediaSmart Server EX475 disks to my EX487 server chassis.
Note that this process should also work fine for migrating to or from a DIY/homebuild Windows Home Server or other OEM Home Server such as the Acer easyStore.
My EX475 had 3 disks: a 750GB system drive, a 400GB data drive, and a 500GB Server Backup and BDBB Backup drive. I had over 200GB of PC backups, several GB of music, video, photos, recorded tv, and 5 or 6 Add-Ins installed, so even though this wasn’t my primary home system it was a reasonable representation of a normally operating MediaSmart Server. The system and data drives were swapped directly into the EX487 chassis, however I did not connect the Server Backup drive since it was not needed for the Server Recovery. Note that the system drive is in the bottom most slot of the server, and needs to be placed in the bottom slot of the new server.
I inserted the EX487 Server Recovery DVD into my PC and started up the Recovery Application, powered on the EX487, and pressed the recessed Recovery button to boot the server off of the on-board recovery flash image. Once the Recovery Application found the server, I selected the “Server Recovery” option, and waited while the new operating system was applied. Be sure to perform the “Server Recovery” option, as the “Factory Reset” option will erase all the hard drives in your server.
After the recovery process was complete, the Windows Home Server Connector software automatically launched and I proceeded through the initial setup of the EX487. As a test to my patience I did run into the sometimes encountered hang at 14% while installing updates. The server did eventually get past this point and continued with setup, and during that time I got a brief flash of a Critical Health Notification from the server informing me that the Backup Database had errors and I would need to run the Repair utility. Eventually the server completed downloading and installing updates, and was ready for first use.
I’ll admit to a bit of trepidation as I first opened up the shared folders on the server and checked on the status of my data. As you can imagine I was incredibly pleased when I saw that my shares appeared to be containing the correct sizes of data and the Server Console was functioning correctly. I randomly selected various songs, pictures, and videos, and all were able to be played successfully.
I then turned my attention to the Critical Health Notification about the backup database. The client PCs were listed in the Computers & Backup tab, as was the Server Backup.
Losing the backup database, while not ideal, would not be a critical issue as I could always restore one of my BDBB backups, however I really wanted this migration process to be as smooth as possible and so was hoping that the Repair utility would be able to reconcile the issues found by Windows Home Server. I started the Repair utility, and waited to see what would be the outcome.
When the Repair utility completed checking the database, it ended up having to delete all of the backups for one client PC and some of the backups for the other PC. After some attempts to open the remaining backups and a couple of reboots of the server, Windows Home Server reported that the backup database was again corrupted and that all remaining backups would be lost.
Unfortunately, I did not discover until later that the server had not updated itself to Power Pack 2 during the extensive amount of time spent downloading updates while performing the initial setup. I now believe that the backup database would have remained intact if Power Pack 2 had been installed on the server prior to running the Repair utility.
I then reverted to an older BDBB Backup I had available to see if it could be recovered. After letting BDBB do the restore overnight, I woke up to find the backup database working correctly and was able to open the previous backups for access to the single file restore feature of the Windows Home Server Backup Software.
Another side effect of the move to new hardware is that my TZO domain name was lost. I believe this was due to the TZO account key being linked to the MAC address of the server. This should be able to be easily resolved by contacting TZO support.
* PLEASE review the Server Recovery process to ensure you are comfortable with the order in which things occur. It’s probably a good idea to practice on the stock 750GB drives once or twice prior to performing the actual migration.
* Be sure to check for updates as soon as you have access to the Server console.
* If retaining your Backup Database is important, you may want to use BDBB to make a backup in case there are any issues.
* There is a drawback to the process as I describe it in that you’re removing the stock 750GB drives and replacing them with your likely smaller 500GB drive or drives that came with your EX470 or EX475. However, once you have the system up and running successfully in the new EX48x chassis, you can remove and replace the drives as you like. If you decide to add the 750GB drives to the server, PLEASE SEE THIS IMPORTANT NOTICE about the dangers of re-using Windows Home Server drives, as it can be catastrophic to your data if you do not first format those drives.
* An alternative to a direct swap of your drives would be to swap all except for the system drive, and instead perform the Server Recovery process onto one of the 750GB drives that are included with the EX48x hardware. Again, note the warning above, and please format that drive in another PC prior to using it for Server Recovery.
I was initially hesitant to recommend this process to users, primarily because of concerns I had not with the Windows Home Server Recover process but with additional recovery steps implemented into the MediaSmart Server which could possibly cause conflicts between the two versions of the server. However after discussing the idea more with forum moderator JohnBick and other members of the site, I decided it was definitely worth the risk for me to try it and let you all know how my experience played out.
I’m glad I tried it, because even with the damage to the Backup Database, the process worked quite well and I’m hopeful that my experience will inspire others to try it and share their findings.
I do want to remind you again that this is not a supported migration path from the EX47x to EX48x servers, and so if you try this you do so at your own risk. If you do try it, be sure to let us know either here or on the forums!