Using Server Recovery to upgrade your Windows Home Server hardware

by Alex Kuretz on August 28, 2009 · 31 comments

in Guides


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.

The Premise

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.

The Setup

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.

The Outcome

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.

Shared Folders after the Server Recovery

Shared Folders after the Server Recovery

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.

Backups list and the version of the new software

Backups list and the version of the new software

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.

Backup Database Repair

Backup Database Repair

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.

Opening a backup after restore from BDBB

Opening a backup after restore from BDBB

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.

Additional Thoughts

* 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!

Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of 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.


JohnBick August 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I had done this back in the WHS “beta” days and said earlier this year it would work. A couple folks around here have done it on my recommendation and it has worked. I actually did it again this week and can confirm it works.

I was going to post a series of steps, Alex, but you beat me to it AND, I might add, incorporated several warnings that I had not really thought of. I have nothing to add to your excellent instructions except that I would use Drive Balancer to clean the data off the System Drive before replacing it (to upgrade a 500–>750GB drive).


Phil Alban August 29, 2009 at 4:04 am

Hey Alex,

Fantastic article!!! Being a relative noob to server technology, an upgrade/migration was a deep dark worry in the back of my mind. Now that you’ve made it this far, I’d love to see if something similar would be successful with the next generation WHS OS – something we occasionally get hints at over the interwebs. Great to see someone gave it a try.

Thanks for your clear, concise description of the experience.

Diehard August 30, 2009 at 7:43 am

Thanks for the article,
The link for the PLEASE SEE THIS IMPORTANT NOTICE does not go anywhere for me. Is it just me ?

Just to clear things up in my mind, you had a 750 gig drive in your 475 and your moving all your drives to the 48x. you need to reinstall the OS because of the different CPU and such and to have the 2.5 updates… so you don’t need to remove any data off the system drive D: partition in your case, right ?

If a user is migrating from the stock 500 gig to the 48x’s 750 (format) or even a 1TB, then they should use JohnBick’s advise to use Drive Balancer to move off the data from the 500 gig’s D: partition since your physically using a different hard drive and you need the data on that 500 gigs d: partition, be it tombstones and shared folders stuff, right ?

From what I read here, can this method can be used ? he suggests that folder duplication be ON so that it can rebuild all the tombstones that should be on the primary (but aren’t because it’s a new drive).This way Drive Balancer is not used.

Looking forward to everyones comment on this so I can understand more clearly. thanks again.

Alex Kuretz August 31, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Diehard, thank you, I have fixed the “Important notice” link.

Just to clear things up in my mind, you had a 750 gig drive in your 475 and your moving all your drives to the 48x. you need to reinstall the OS because of the different CPU and such and to have the 2.5 updates… so you don’t need to remove any data off the system drive D: partition in your case, right ?

Correct, this is the same as any other Server Recovery, it’s just occurring in a new chassis.

If a user is migrating from the stock 500 gig to the 48x’s 750 (format) or even a 1TB, then they should use JohnBick’s advise to use Drive Balancer to move off the data from the 500 gig’s D: partition since your physically using a different hard drive and you need the data on that 500 gigs d: partition, be it tombstones and shared folders stuff, right ?

No, you don’t need the D: partition on the primary drive. Just like if a system(aka primary) drive fails, you can replace it with a new one and WHS will rebuild the tombstones. In this scenario you definitely want Duplication enabled on all your shared folders.

he suggests that folder duplication be ON so that it can rebuild all the tombstones that should be on the primary (but aren’t because it’s a new drive).

Folder Duplication has nothing to do with rebuilding the tombstones. Charlie Kindel (via Joel Burt) advocates for folder duplication to be on, because data could be stored on the system/primary drive, and if you replace that drive you could lose data unless you have duplication enabled.

Personally, I’d probably recommend most users do a full move of all hard drives to the new server, get things running successfully there, and then use the built-in WHS tools to Remove drives and add new ones.

I hope this helps!

skyfox September 7, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Nice writing.

I also have a HP Medias mart server EX470, but i lost my restore DVD how to get one as no where do i see one for download. please advise.



Alex Kuretz September 7, 2009 at 9:48 pm

The Server Recovery DVD is not available for download due to licensing issues with Microsoft. You’ll need to contact HP Support to have them ship you a new set of media.

skyfox September 7, 2009 at 9:56 pm


Alex will follow your advise but. can i hook up a usb DVD and install WHS like that, and than use the key from the bottom of the server case?.

Have a good one.


Michel Maduro

Alex Kuretz September 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm

You’d need to round up the correct drivers as well, and load them during the install process which is easiest with a USB Floppy drive. I believe the license key from the COA on the bottom of your server would work to activate WHS, though.

skyfox September 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Thanks Alex,

Will give it a try this weekend and share my findings with you.



Practical September 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Alex, Great site and I appreciate your work on enabling a migration proceedure for MSS. Hope that Hp comes up with a button to “Pack up to Migrate” in their Tool Kit.

You mentioned “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…”

I have an Ex475 w/2 – 1TB Data drives and 1.2 TB of Data –> going to a 485. Have Data Folders backed up externally and have also the cloned the two Data Drives – so I am willing to take big chances. I was hoping to try just installing the data drives in the 485 and performing the recovery. Is this the alternative you were mentioning above? Also could you clarify what you meant by “perform the Server Recovery process onto one of the 750GB drives”?

Alex Kuretz September 16, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Hi Practical,

Thanks for the feedback and the good questions.

So it sounds like you’re still running your original 500GB system drive along with 2 additional 1TB drives? If so you can erase the existing partition on the new EX487 server drive (you don’t want the WHS partition on there), move just the data drives to the new server, and then perform the Server Recovery. You will want to make sure you have Duplication enabled on all your shares, and give WHS time to balance before you move any drives to the new server. Depending on your free space, it’s possible you have backup files residing on the system drive, so there’s a chance you’d lose some or all of your backups.

I hope this clarifies your questions.

Practical September 17, 2009 at 9:12 am

Alex, Thank you for the prompt response.

Your assumption on the existing is correct – EX475 w/ original 500GB system drive and 2 additional 1TB Data drives running now. New system – EX 485 w/ original 750GB – not yet booted.

So if I understand correctly, to migrate my two -1TB data drives from the existing EX475 to the EX485:

1. I am turning on Duplication on the rest of the Folders
that I care about under the Shared Folder Tab. Is 24hrs sufficient to “balance” with 1.2TB data and .9TB free space?

2. Unmount the two 1TB drives from the 475 and leave the System drive in the 475. (re-clone these drives – so I get a second chance if needed:)

3. Remove the 750GB System drive from the new EX485 (perserving it in case I want to start anew) and replace it with a Raw 1TB drive. (Or does this need to be partitioned?).

4. Insert the two -1TB Data drives(from the 475)into the EX485 and
5. Perform the Server Recovery

Dan.Cal September 27, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Does anyone know which specific department to call in HP regarding obtaining a restore CD. I’ve already contacted HP support (800) 474-6836 (General Tech Line) and paid the $16 for a restore CD. Unfortunately, I was sent a “Windows Vista Premium Restore CD” instead of the appropriate “Windows Home Server Restore CD”. HP tech support seems absolutely clueless as to their MediaSmart Server offerings.

Can anyone help me source a new Restore CD?

Alex Kuretz September 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

We’ve got the magic incantation here in the forums, let us know if it helps.

Shawn January 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Alex – thanks for the great tutorial, and I wanted to let all of my friends know in the WHS community on how this went for me.

Spoiler – it did not work as I’d hoped. (will detail after the overview)

I wanted to upgrade from my EX470 to a new EX495. I had a total of 6 drives (4 Internal & 2 USB) for my EX470 system. I received the EX495 with the internal 1.5TB drive and followed the steps above.

First process I tried, move ALL of the drives from the EX470 into the EX495 and perform the Server Recovery from DVD, hoping the Recovery process would only replace the OS on the 500GB original C: volume (on Drive 0).

Drive 0 (System Vol & Data) – Original 500GB
Drive 1 Data
Drive 2 Data
Drive 3 Data
Drive 4 Data
Drive 5 Data

I went through the whole recovery process and when it was finished, it booted and I was able to login, only problem – none of the data drives were in the pool, they were only seen from WHS as an individual drives (Drives J, K, L, M, N). The WHS shares didn’t populate with my data.

Thinking that this was a problem with the original 500GB drive from my EX470, I thought – let’s pop in the 1.5TB that came with the EX495 that has the new Sys Vol partition on it.

This time, the drive arrangement looked like this:
Drive 0 (System Vol & Data) – New 1.5TB from EX495
Drive 1 Data
Drive 2 Data
Drive 3 Data
Drive 4 Data
Drive 5 Data

Went through the Server Recovery process again with this arrangement, loaded it up, same result. All data drives were ‘Out’ of the pool and none of my data was recognized in the New shares.

I gave up after trying this restore several times with the same result, so I just decided to move all of my data from drives J/K/L/M/N to the new shares. Since most of my data was duplicated on those drives – the trick now was to not overwrite or remove data, but parse through all of it and get everything back to their appropriate shares.

If you need to do this – I recommend two different tools that made this process ‘nearly’ painless (just time consuming…)

Go out and get FolderMatch (Shareware) and RichCopy (free from MS) and use those tools to do a comparison of the New Share (D:\shares\{Share name}) and Old Share ({Drive Letter}\DE\shares\{share name}) and ‘Sync’ only the missing data from each drive.

This sounds confusing as I write it – and I’d be happy to tell more, but just wanted to share the experience I had. I was hoping for easier results, but in the end – remember, all of the data is still there and recoverable.

Alex Kuretz January 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience, I’m sorry to hear the process didn’t go smoothly for you. Most often when I’ve seen the behavior you describe it is due to a non-storage drive being connected to the server during Server Recovery, did you by any chance have a backup drive connected? When you say the drives didn’t appear in the storage pool, were they showing as missing?

Secondary question, did you have any issues with the Server Recovery process on your EX495?

Shawn January 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Hey – I went into it knowing it may not be 100%, I was just hoping…

All of the drives I had connected were always data drives, none of them were Backup Drives. Once I booted the WHS after the restore, the WHS Console didn’t show them as missing, but instead showed them as “Non Storage Hard Drives” that I would have to add to the pool. The only “Storage Hard Drive” listed after recovery was the new 1.5TB in the 1st drive bay.

To your question on the Recovery process, as everyone else notes – you have to remember to directly connect your WHS to the Ethernet port of the PC where you’re performing the recovery. One note not in the instructions for the WHS Recovery – “when is it OK to remove the LAN cable and reconnect both the PC and WHS back to the switch?” Other than that – very straightforward process.

Thanks for keeping us all informed!

rmcypress February 15, 2010 at 10:14 am

I moved my (3) data drives from a failed EX475 to a new EX485, and performed a server recovery. The server “was found” during the recovery mode, and the install completed. However, my 3 drives show as “not added”. If I add these, will they be formatted and wiped out? How can I get the home server to find the data on these drives?

Shawn February 15, 2010 at 11:15 am


Do NOT add those drives to the Storage Pool without getting the data off of them. If you add them, it will format the drive and you will lose all of the data.

From my earlier post – your only recourse to get the data off of them (at least that I have found…) is to Remote Desktop into the Server, find the drives (they should have a drive letter for each), and move the data to a drive already in the storage pool. Right now – likely the only drive in the pool is your primary drive (D:).

Each of the shares is still intact, but if you had data duplication turned on, you will have duplicates of the files to work through. This is where it gets somewhat cumbersome to move the data to the pool.

The location of the shares on each drive will be: ({Drive Letter}\DE\shares\{share name})

Here’s what you want to do:
1. Go into each share
2. Move the data from the non-pool drive to the pool
3. Once all of the data has been moved from that drive to the pool, then add that drive back to the pool.
4. Each time you get done with a drive, you will then be adding space back to the pool – so hopefully you’re not at capacity with all of the drives right now.

The best way to manage this ‘movement’ of data that I found was to use the tools I mentioned. See my January 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm post for those tools.

Best of luck – it’s not fun.

rmcypress February 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Thanks for the advice. Do you recommend using these tools (FolderMatch and RichCopy) from a client, or install them to the home server?

Also, is there any hope for my computer backups from the old server?

Alex Kuretz February 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I moved my (3) data drives from a failed EX475 to a new EX485, and performed a server recovery.

You need to also move the System Drive from the old server to the new. If you do not do this, you could lose your Backup DB.

Also, the new system disk in the EX48x had a WHS OS on it, you need to delete all partitions on that disk so it is completely clean if you intend to use it in another WHS system.

I believe you should be able to simply move the old system drive to the new server, remove the new system drive, and perform the Server Recovery again (with all your original drives in the new server) and you should have your system intact.

Shawn February 15, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I would try what Alex has mentioned first – as I REALLY hope you can get the system running without following what I’ve done.

But… if you do have to go through the process I used, I recommend RichCopy. It took some getting used to – but I trust it 100% now. I was afraid it would miss stuff, but 4TB later, it got everything.

In the end – you should be able to tell RichCopy to look at one drive, compare it to the other drive, and sync data to the drive without managing all of the duplicates.

I installed it on the WHS itself – the ONLY way I would do it.

Have at it! Cheers!

rmcypress February 15, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Okay, so I took the sys drive from the 475, and put it in the 485 with the rest of the drives. I booted into recovery mode, and the server restore disk found the server, “did” the restore, and the server rebooted to re-install the connector software. Now the 485 health indicator is blinking steady aqua, and none of the drive lights are lit on the MSS. Does that mean that my system drive is what was bad? If so, why would it complete the OS restore portion, and die on the reboot to install connector software?

cappy1 April 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I have an Acer H340 WHS expanded with an eSATA to a Sans Digital TR8M. I am building a new WHS server and wondering if the Server Recovery method will work?

Russ David February 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm


I have some data on my old 470 system drive – is it necessary to run drive balancer to move this data to the data drives?
Is it ok to move my 3 data drives from my “old” 470 server and put them into the new 495 server?
Is it ok to connect the new 495 to a client pc with just an ethernet cable and run server recovery?
I don’t want to use the old system drive from the 470, I prefer to use the new 1.5 TB system drive in the new 495 server. This seems too easy! I must be missing something.

Alex Kuretz February 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm
Tomas September 24, 2011 at 4:16 am

Dear Alex,
I just read your article about using system recovery for migration. I’m an employee of HP using EX475 at home for my private data. Unfortunately it just crashed (power supply seems dead). Looking at the market it seems that buying a new EX490 is a better option than looking for a powersupply replacement (difficult to find in Sweden).
I’m considering your process, but ideally a better option yet seems to rebalance the storage on the 475 to keep all files except system data on my two extra disks, and keep the system disk clean. That way I could simply move the two data disks to the new rack?
My questions are:
1. Would this work? I have files mirrored on my current system.
2. Is it possible to temporarily use the powersupply of the EX490 on the EX475 for rebalancing before moving the disks to the EX490?

Many thanks


Alex Kuretz September 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm

You can’t add storage pool disks from another server to a new WHS, they are always formatted when added to the pool on the new server. This guide is likely the best way for you to upgrade to a new WHS.

The power supplies are pin-compatible between the versions.

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: