Review: HP MediaSmart Server EX490 and EX495

by Alex Kuretz on September 14, 2009 · 203 comments

in Reviews

EX495_unpacked

Over the past 10 months or so since HP released the EX485 and EX487 MediaSmart Servers, we’ve seen offerings from many other manufacturers entering the market. While most of these other manufacturers are releasing their first Home Server, HP has two generations of the EX-series as well as the LX195 under their belt, and undeniably the most experience making Windows Home Server based devices. We’ve seen the evolution from the original EX47x series, to the upgraded hardware and improved software of the EX48x series.

Today HP is continuing that evolution with the third generation of the EX series and have announced the upcoming release of the MediaSmart Server EX490 and EX495. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent the last couple of weeks using and evaluating the EX495 model running the new 3.0 version of the MediaSmart Server software, and I’m ready to give you a tour of what you can expect from the new MediaSmart Server.

The focus of this review will be on the HP MediaSmart Server, if you’re not familiar with Windows Home Server I suggest you start here and then visit our forums to ask any specific questions you might have.

Specifications

In previous generations of the MediaSmart Server there were two possible configurations that the customer could purchase. The lower cost model contained a single hard drive while the more expensive model contained two hard drives in order to allow duplication to be enabled so that files are protected in the event of a hard drive failure.

With the new EX490 and EX495, HP has made the change to more broadly differentiate the two models. Both feature Intel processors that are faster than previous servers, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, and more storage capacity. The EX490 model comes with an Intel Celeron 2.2GHz processor, a single 1.0TB hard drive, and will retail for $549. The EX495 model comes with an Intel Pentium 2.5GHz Dual Core processor, a single 1.5TB hard drive, and will retail for $699.

Here’s a full table of the specifications as provided by HP.


Specification EX490 EX495
Processor Intel Celeron 450 Single-Core Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200
RAM 2GB PC2-6400
Internal Drive 1.0 TB SATA 7200 RPM 1.5 TB SATA 7200 RPM
Network 10/100/1000 RJ45 gigabit ethernet
Expandability 3 Serial ATA expansion bays
4 USB 2.0 ports
1 eSATA port
Dimensions Width: 14cm (5.5″)
Height: 25cm (9.8″)
Depth: 23cm (base) – 25cm (top) (9.2″-9.5″)
Weight 5.0 kg (11.0 lb) 5.1 kg (11.24 lb)
Price $549 $699

My view on this change is that HP built the EX495 to meet the needs of customers that want a powerful processor and plenty of storage to really provide a high performance server solution. The EX490 keeps in line with the previous generations of servers, providing solid performance with reduced power consumption and a lower price point, yet still providing the same expandability to ensure your server continues to meet your storage needs for a long time.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the loss of the 2 hard drive SKU from the server lineup. On the one hand many customers didn’t want the 2 drive models due to the package cost often being higher than the additional cost of a user purchasing a drive. The other perspective is that there are a set of customers who want duplication enabled out of the box, they trust HP to provide the right solution, and are willing to pay a small premium in order to have that confidence. In the end, I believe more customers will be pleased with the option to purchase a server with a more powerful CPU and increased storage than customers who would prefer a 2 drive model. Do keep in mind that you’ll need to manually enable Duplication on all your shared folders that you wish to protect when you add an additional hard drive down the road.

New and Improved packaging

I’ll be honest, I don’t usually give too much thought to the packaging of electronic products as long as they arrive safe and sound from their journey to my home (except for the atrocious plastic clamshell packaging). However, when the EX495 arrived, I was interested to see the new style of packaging that the server arrived in. The box is a little smaller than previous generations and still safely protected with foam inserts, with the significant change made to how the packaging opens. The user simply has to open the front flap and find the box of accessories right on top, with the server underneath. This results in a device that is much simpler to remove and is a more subtle example of the attention to detail that HP put into the product.

PackagingOpen1
PackagingOpen2
PackagingOpen3

The accessories box contains the Setup Poster, power cord, ethernet cable, Server Recovery DVD, Client Connector Install CD, and PC Restore CD.

PackagingOpen4

Hardware

I’ll be giving you a more in-depth look at the hardware in the EX495 in another article, but want to touch on the highlights. Hacking and modifying the MediaSmart Server is a favorite pass-time around here, and so I asked HP about the potential for upgrading the processor in the EX490 to a dual-core model, and this was their reply.

The motherboards and BIOS are the same between the EX490 and EX495. Obviously they have different processors and heat sinks, and the BIOS can sense the different processors and use a new and improved fan control / cooling system to cool the processors.

The 3rd generation servers are also coming with a new power supply that is smaller and quieter, and the power supply fan has been relocated to the rear of the server. The noise from the power supply was probably the only real (and relatively infrequent) complaint heard from users when they first received their server, and the new MediaSmart Server is extremely quiet which I believe will appeal to many of you. Also, previous generations of the server seemed to blast the fans to full speed when the server was first powered on and then would slow down to a moderate level after a few seconds. The EX495 starts with the fans at a very quiet level, if you didn’t see the LED’s on the front you might not know you’ve powered it on. Kudos to HP for listening to their customers and making this welcomed change. It should also be noted that the power supply is an auto-switching type offering 100-240 VAC, 5.0A, 50-60Hz and so should be compatible in many regions.

EX495_rear

Finally, I’m very pleased to report that HP has also listened to the highly vocal massive storage enthusiasts and returned Port Multiplier support over eSATA to the EX490 and EX495 servers. The servers feature a Silicon Image SiL3531 chipset that has support for Port Multipliers with FIS-based switching. The SiL3531 enables the EX49x to go one better than the 1st generation servers and support 5 drives via eSATA port multiplication where the 1st generation servers only supported 4 drives. Here’s a screen shot where I’ve connected 5 drives via my Sans Digital TR5M-B storage enclosure.

5 drives connected over eSATA via Sans Digital TR5M-B

5 drives connected over eSATA via Sans Digital TR5M-B

I was able to hot-swap drives in and out of the enclosure with no issues encountered, the SiL3531 chip in the EX490/EX495 servers appears to work quite well from my initial testing. The most hardcore amongst you will likely be disappointed with the single eSATA connection, but I expect this will only be a small set of users that truly need the additional storage capacity a second eSATA port would provide and you might be better off with one of the massive storage solutions in our DIY forum.

Setup and Installation

I inserted the Client Connector Install CD into my Vista Ultimate 64 bit desktop, and began the install process. One of the first things I noticed is that HP changed the default name of the server from the previous “hpserver” to “hpstorage”. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind that, please feel free to speculate in the comments (I’ll mail a few WHS stickers and a “Mommy” book to whoever comes up with the best reason :) ).

setup1

setup2

setup3

setup4

setup5

It was nice to see that HP built the Windows Home Server operating system image with the most recently available patches and updates already installed, so the infamous 14% and 34% hangs during the install process were not encountered. This may again become an issue once Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 or other large updates are released, but for now the process only takes a few minutes versus the hour or more that could previously occur.

Server Console

The HP MediaSmart Server tab of the Home Server Console has been completely redesigned in order to be simpler to use, with each feature existing on it’s own sub-tab and having integrated configuration popup dialogs instead of navigating you to the Server Console Settings tab. The simplified interface works well and looks great, though I hope you like the color blue!

ServerConsoleOverview

The Tour tab is interactive and provides helpful tooltip style informational dialogs with more details about each feature of the server.

ServerConsoleTour

There is also a new “System Status” tab that lets you quickly view the server’s status metrics, such as health notifications, updates, Add-Ins, Remote Access status, power management, storage capacity, and memory/network/CPU utilization. The tab does take a few moments to initialize and gather all the metrics, and then periodically refreshes. This is a very cool feature that provides a ton of info at a quick glance.

ServerConsoleSystemStatus

The Server Console also has several tabs describing and allowing configuration of the Media Sharing capabilities of the server. These include diagrams of how the Server can fit into your networked home, how it can be accessed remotely, and how to configure the Twonky and iTunes streaming features. I’ll be discussing these features in more detail later on in the review.

ServerConsoleMedia
ServerConsoleInHomeStreaming
ServerConsoleWebiPhoneStreaming

Overall I found the Server Console more appealing and easier to use than previous versions. The interface was always very responsive; there was no delay switching between tabs and adding new users is almost instantaneous. This is definitely the fastest Server Console I’ve used, which I attribute most likely to the dual-core processor and plenty of RAM.

HP Media Collector

The Media Collector runs on the client PCs in your home, it scans your computer for music, image, and video files and copies them to the server. Media Collector allows you to choose the schedule of collection, where to look for files, and some limited options on how to organize the files on the server.

ServerConsoleMediaCollector2
ServerConsoleMediaCollectorGeneralSettings
ServerConsoleMediaCollectorMusicSettings
ServerConsoleMediaCollectorPhotoSettings
ServerConsoleMediaCollectorVideoSettings

HP states that the Media Collector has been optimized to work in the background and relies less on the computer’s processor. There have also been improvements to the information fed back to the user on the Media Collector’s status, with “Pending Files” and “Files Not Needed” views added to show more detail into the collection process.

ServerConsoleMediaCollectorPending
ServerConsoleMediaCollectorNotNeeded

The Media Collector had been a bit of a problem point for some users in previous versions, and I’m pleased to see the improvements HP has made to make this feature more robust and easier to debug.

HP Video Converter

The Video Converter is a feature that was very well received when it launched in the 2.5 Software Update for the EX48x series servers, but it required some hacks and modifications in order to get more configuration options and better file support. HP has made some very welcome changes to the Video Converter that make it for a much improved experience. You can now define profiles to control how your videos are converted by selecting the device your video will be played on or manually specifying your own settings.

ServerConsoleVideoConverter
ServerConsoleVideoConverterSettingsProfile
ServerConsoleVideoConverterSettingsFolders

The DVD settings allow you to choose how a DVD folder is processed. You can choose to convert only the longest title from amongst the .vob files, break apart each title into a separate file, or append all the titles into one file. You’ll need to remove the .vob and .ifo files from your DVD to one the input directories you’ve configured, and the server will not convert protected content. I tried connecting a DVD drive with an unprotected home DVD, but was unsuccessful with my brief attempts to have it automatically convert the video. I’m sure more investigation will continue into this.

ServerConsoleVideoConverterSettingsDVD

The possible predefined file output targets are iPod/Zune, PSP, iPhone, and HD720. Note that you’re not limited to streaming these videos, you can copy them onto your mobile device and take them with you for entertainment during that long flight.

ServerConsoleVideoConverterSettingsOutputAdv

A feature suggestion to HP would be to consider adding an informational dialog during the Profile editing process to show an estimated file size due to be output at the chosen settings, in order to give the user some idea about how bitrate, framerate, audio rate, and resolution impact file size. This could be displayed as megabytes per hour of video, or similar.

The Status page for the Video Converter has also been improved and now shows the Source and Destination folders for each file and each profile, as well as a detailed error message when a conversion fails.

ServerConsoleVideoConverterStatus

The dual-core processor held up very well under Video Converter load, though the system was definitely impacted it remained responsive throughout conversions. I also was able to stream music over the Remote Streaming interface with no observed issues from the ongoing conversions.

The Video Converter is a great feature that really helps take away some of the complexity of making your media accessible, both at home and outside the home via your mobile devices or remote access. It is not a flawless system, as the dvr-ms files created by my Vista Media Center PC are still not able to be converted apparently due to a driver/encoding conflict, the Converter doesn’t support .wtv files produced by Windows 7, and some file types are still not able to be converted.

HP Photo Publisher/Photo Viewer

The HP Photo Publisher and Photo Viewer features remain largely unchanged from the 2.5 software on the EX48x servers. The Photo Publisher allows you to publish photos from your server to your favorite photo sharing sites such as Picasa, Snapfish, flickr, and Facebook. Utilizing these services is as simple as entering your authentication information and then selecting the images you’d like to upload.

PhotoPublisherSites
PhotoPublisherFacebook
PhotoPublisherUploader

You can also use the Photo Publisher to create albums that are stored on your MediaSmart Server and can be shared with family and friends using the Photo Viewer. When you create an album in the Photo Viewer you can decide if it should be Public or Private, which allows the administrator to make an album private, while allowing access to friends and family that know the URL of the album. When your visitors visit your Photo Viewer album, they can view the photos in a filmstrip mode or slideshow mode. The Photo Viewer also supports the addition of captions to images if you want to add them.

PhotoViewerFilmstrip
PhotoViewerSlideshow

I didn’t notice any significant changes to these features from the previous versions in the 2.5 software, and they both worked well both inside and outside the home for publishing and viewing photos. I personally tend to not use this feature much, as I don’t want friend and family consuming my home bandwidth when I might be gaming, downloading files, or using my VOIP phone. However I do think this is a nice option to have available for users that prefer having their photos on their own server and not on the more general internet.

Media Sharing

Twonky has been delivered with the MediaSmart Server since the product was first introduced, billed as an improved media streaming alternative to the default Windows Media Connect 2.0 that ships with Windows Home Server. Twonky serves as the default media streamer for the MediaSmart Server and Windows Media Connect is disabled. The Twonky version included with the 3.0 software is 5.1.09 RC WHS, while the version in the 2.5 software is 5.0.56 WHS. Readers that were frustrated with the loss of the “Browse by folder” feature will be happy to learn that this has returned in the version of Twonky included.

In addition to streaming within the home, Twonky also provides Remote Media Streaming which is accessible via both a web browser and the iStream App for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. This feature allows you to view your music, photos, and videos either in a browser or on your iPhone when you’re away from home. At the time of this review there is no update for the iStream software, so you can read my hands-on review of the iStream application for more details into this functionality. I had a very positive experience using iStream on my iPod Touch via wifi from outside the home during the course of my testing.

The browser interface for the Remote Media Streaming is a Flash application that allows you to access your content in many different ways. Music can be displayed by Album, Artist, Playlist, or by their folder structure on the server.

MediaStreamerMusic

Photos can be displayed by Date, Folder, or Playlist, and features a full-screen Slideshow mode.

MediaStreamerPhotos

The Videos tab gives you the option of viewing just the Converted Mobile version, the Converted Full size version, or All video files, as well as by Folder Structure and Playlists.

MediaStreamerVideos

Unfortunately there are some issues with the Remote Media Streaming implementation in the 3.0 software. On numerous occasions I experienced the abrupt stopping of the music I was listening to while listening at work. This appeared to be a failure in the Flash application and not server related, as the song was fully cached and playback stopped about 3/4 of the way into playback. At this point it was impossible to resume playback on that track and I had to select a different track in order to listen to more music. I attempted to listen to more than a dozen albums over the course of my testing, and if asked to guess I would say that probably 80% of the albums I played would stop at some point during playback. I’ve been using this same feature on my EX487 running the 2.5 software for many months with no such issue. Interestingly, I was able to listen to several full albums via the iStream software on my iPod Touch over a wifi connection at work, and had zero stoppages of playback.

I also had significant issues with Video playback. Converted Mobile videos that were short in duration worked well enough, but I had no luck playing back a full length movie. In one case the video buffered and played for 40 minutes and then just stopped. Even streaming on my gigabit LAN connection took extremely long to buffer the mobile quality videos. Complicating the issue is the inconsistent feedback provided by the player. When you first click a video, the words “Loading” appear in the player window, and the video title and duration also appear. Shortly after the “Loading” words disappear but there is no apparent buffering occurring. High CPU load is the only evidence that something may be occurring, but there are no guaranties that your video will play back. I was unsuccessful in almost every attempt at playing anything but the shortest clips.

The Remote Media Streaming feature is one that I’ve used extensively on my EX487, even though I primarily use it to listen to music and have only rarely used the photos or videos feature. I’m hopeful that HP will be able to find the cause of the issues I encountered and get a fix out in the near future.

Server for iTunes

The Firefly iTunes streaming server is present in the 3.0 software, and is the same version svn-1737 that was included in the 2.5 software update. The Server for iTunes allows you to stream your music and playlists to computers that are running iTunes or compatible devices.

ServerConsoleiTunes

The configuration options are available on the MediaSmart Server tab of the Server Console, and allow you configure a password, set the scan frequency, name the iTunes server, and enable or disable it.

ServerConsoleiTunesConfig

If you’re having issues with the Remote Media Streaming application, you might consider trying the excellent FirePlay for WHS Add-In developed by resident Windows Home Server MVP Nigel Wilks. This only provides access to the music on your server, but is a viable alternative when you want to stream your music via web browser when you’re away from home.

Mac Features and Compatibility

HP has done a lot of work to expand the features available to Apple Mac users in the 3.0 software release. My wife has been wanting her Macbook backed up onto the Home Server for a while, and I took this opportunity to install the latest version of the Mac Client Connector software and get her backing up to the EX495.

MacInstaller
MacSetup2
MacSetup3MacSetup4

During the install process, a MediaSmart Server menubar item is created on the Mac that provides quick access to the Preferences and features delivered in the 3.0 software. The feature shortcuts allow you to Open the MediaSmart Server Home Page in your web browser (discussed later in this review), Launch the Home Server Console via the included Remote Desktop Connection software, Wake On Lan to wake the server when it is asleep, and Open the Recovery Assistant.

MacMenuBar
MacWOL
MacServerConsole

One of the complaints with the previous Time Machine integration was that the MediaSmart Server was only able to perform file restores, and was not capable of performing a full hard drive image restore. That has now changed in the 3.0 software, and full Mac hard drive recovery support is available.

MacPreferences2
MacTimeMachine2

You’ll need to use the included Recovery Assistant to create a bootable USB flash drive in order to boot your Mac. The USB flash key is used in the Mac OS X Installer environment to make the backup disks available in the Mac OS X Installer Restore assistant. I have not tried this restore feature, but know that it will be a welcome feature addition for Mac owners.

MacRecoveryAssistant

There is now a new Media Collector feature for the Mac that will copy your iPhoto, iTunes, and iMovie libraries to the server. After installing the client software on my wife’s Mac, it showed up as able to be configured in the Media Collector settings of the Server Console.

MacMediaCollector

I do have one complaint about the way the Mac software works. During install the user is required to enter the hostname of the server and the password used during initial server setup, the Admin password. I can see this being used to create the Backup disk on the server, however the password also seemed to be used to automatically authenticate the user into the Server Console. During my testing I was not prompted to enter the Home Server Console Admin password when launching it on the Mac. This is an unacceptable situation for me, and I’ll be asking HP if this is the intended functionality.

With the new features present in the 3.0 software, the Mac has become significantly more integrated into the Windows Home Server environment in a way that only HP is doing at this time. These new features alone will make a very compelling story that may well convince people to purchase a MediaSmart Server that may have been holding out.

Add Software

The MediaSmart Server has always utilized the extensible nature of Windows Home Server, both by the included HP software enhancements as well as the third party Add-Ins that they have included such as Packet Video/Twonky for media streaming and McAfee for antivirus. With the 3rd generation of servers, HP is still including McAfee as an Add-In that the customer can install, however they are now also developing an “Add Software” feature that links to a web site at HP.com that lists additional third party Add-Ins available for download.

ServerConsoleAddSoftware

AddSoftwareWebPage

Since the “Add Software” site is fairly sparse at this point, I asked HP for some more details about this feature. They told me that the “Add Software” feature is just starting out and will be built out over time with HP and 3rd party Add-Ins. The store infrastructure is only for the EX490/495 but obviously other customers can access it if they choose to upgrade later this year (for more on this, see the “Updates for previous generations of the MediaSmart Server” section later in this review).

Client Control Center

The Client Control Center has changed from an installed application to a Web Browser shortcut that takes you to the HP MediaSmart Server website where you are presented with rows of icons that are links to all the features of the server. This page is the same for both local and remote access, with the local features being grayed out when logged in remotely, and the remote features grayed out when Remote Access is not enabled on your server.

ControlCenter

I understand and actually support the concept of this type of interface as it offers a consistent experience for the user as well as simplified development for the HP team, however the implementation left me frustrated and disappointed. When clicking the icons to access any features local to the client PC, such as launching the Home Server Console, initiating a “Backup Now”, or even opening a Shared Folder, an IE Download window pops up, a file is downloaded to your client PC, and then the action is performed.

ControlCenterDownloadIE

The situation goes from distracting to annoying if you have a web browser other than Internet Explorer as your system default. FireFox offers to download, and Chrome automatically downloads the launcher scripts and saves them to your client PC instead of executing them.

ControlCenterDownloadFF
ControlCenterDownloadChrome

On the Mac, upon the first launch of the Home Page I received a certificate warning due to the Mac attempting to connect to the Server’s IP address instead of it’s host name. This concerns me a bit, because if the server’s IP address were to change the Mac would no longer be able to easily and automatically connect to the server.

MacSafariCert

If you value this feature for home use, then you’ll want to enable the “Always open” feature in Chrome, “Do this automatically” in FireFox, and in IE change the following browser setting: Tools>Options>Main> uncheck “Show the Downloads windows when downloading a file”. As for me, I likely won’t be using this feature and will instead use the WHS provided shortcut to shared folders and the System Tray application for access to the Server Console and Backup Now.

Easter Eggs and Goodies

The ubiquitous “LED Light Show” makes it’s expected appearance in the EX490 and EX495 servers, and I used my Eagle Scout experience to decode the Morse Code credits (actually I used Reflection to peek at the text strings in the HP files :D ).

Dan Thero, Matt Haines, Jerry McCollom, The Catalina Wine Mixer, Jason Goldman, Matt Fischer, Bryce Wemple, Tharuvai Sundaram Venkateswaran AKA TSV, Eric Peterson, Jim Long, David Lyle, Paul Cesario, Ron Gile, Jack Yang, Bernd Sitzmann, Steve Travis, Greg Lipinski, Fred Thomas, Paul Boerger, Christie Chaney, Jim Anderson, Charlie Radman, Drea Babcock, Nick Jennings, Kim Sipes, Amy Trefethen, Russ Wiechers, Allan Greentree, My Therapy Buddy, Mary Kay Meininger, The Microsoft Windows Home Server Team, and PS, Yes testers, we know that this was a run-on sentence, but we are not fixing it.

ServerConsoleSettingsHPLEDEasterEgg

The infamous T.P.S Report from the classic tech geek comedy “Office Space” has remained in the 3.0 software, and can still be accessed by holding CTRL-SHIFT-2 keys while logged into the Web Media Streamer.
TPSreport

I also noticed that the HP team photo album that we saw in the EX48x servers also exists in the new EX49x server 3.0 software, however the album is broken when attempting to view it. Along with the fact that I was unable to find any other Easter Eggs (so far, anyway) in the 3.0 software, I’m guessing the HP engineers were very focused on delivering the improvements and didn’t have spare time to add their typical fun components.

Power Consumption

With all these features, large hard drives, and even a dual-core Intel Pentium processor in the EX495, I’m sure some of my readers are asking about the power efficiency of the new servers. Here are the power consumption specs provided by HP, I’ll be sharing my findings with the Kill-A-Watt in the follow-on in-depth hardware review article.


State EX490 EX495
Sleep 1W 1W
Idle 41W 44W
Active Load 43W 46W
Extreme Load 57W 70W

I have to suspect that “Extreme load” refers to the high load produced by Prime95 or a similar application, which is what I use to test.

Ordering and Availability

Retailers will be able to order units from the HP distribution hub beginning today, and I’ve been informed that many of our favorite sites will be taking pre-orders today. Amazon, NewEgg, HP’s Home and Home Office Store, and others will all likely be taking pre-orders.

HP has also informed me that the EX490 and EX495 are planned to be available in Europe beginning in October. I don’t have details on which exact countries are included, but if we make assumptions based off the EX47x availability and the localized resource files in the English EX495 I was provided, then there should be support for at least the UK, Germany, France, and Spain. I’ll be sure to update you as I learn more.

Updates for previous generations of the MediaSmart Server

I asked HP for a schedule check on the previously promised software update for the 1st generation EX47x servers, and while they weren’t able to commit to a delivery date they did confirm that the upgrade path would allow owners of previous generations of the MediaSmart Server to upgrade to the 3.0 version of the software. HP is still targeting the rather broad “fall” timeframe for delivery of this update and wouldn’t commit to anything more specific.

Summary

I’m a software tester by trade, and I tend to find issues and bugs in most any software that I use. HP have come a long way with this latest generation MediaSmart Server and the 3.0 software, and I simply had trouble finding many issues to report, much less significant “Cons” to list in the comparison below.

HP has had a head start on the rest of the Home Server field by being involved in Windows Home Server from the very beginning. It’s quite pleasing to see that they’ve not been sitting back and taking advantage of that lead, but have instead been continuing to innovate and drive the product category forward with groundbreaking new features. There just isn’t much not to love about the new EX490 and EX495 running the 3.0 MediaSmart Server software.

Pros:

  • Faster, quieter, more expandable, and cheaper than previous generations
  • Attractive, easy to use hardware and software
  • Much improved Mac integration
  • Better Media Collector and better Video Converter

Cons:

  • Online Backup feature missing (placeholder on “Add Software” page indicates it may be coming)
  • Remote Media Streaming issues with music and video playback

Miscellaneous observations and oddities

During the 2 weeks or so I’ve spent with the EX495, I’ve made some observations and encountered a few oddities that I thought warranted mentioning, even though they weren’t directly impacting to the MediaSmart Server experience.

First, I was performing the initial setup of my EX495 late at night, around 11pm, and updates were installed during the setup process. I was later configuring the Remote Access, and browsing through the Server Console when suddenly it shut down and the server LEDs began blinking. Noticing that it was 12:06AM, I quickly realized that the server had downloaded some important WHS updates and was rebooting itself. In all my time (and late nights!) with Windows Home Server I’ve not encountered this behavior, and it would be nice if the server was able to tell that users were active and could delay the reboot to an idle time.

While looking through the Server Console for any other differences that might exist, I noticed a Windows Home Server file version in the Resources tab that was newer than the versions currently running on my EX475 and EX485, both of which have the latest updates installed.

ServerConsoleSettingsResources

A little digging uncovered KB972421 from Microsoft, which resolves “Issues occur after you recover Windows Home Server by using a server recovery DVD that has Power Pack 2 integrated.” Since Power Pack 2 is integrated into the EX490/EX495 Server Recovery image, it makes sense that this hotfix would be required.

One time my client PC just disappeared from the Media Collector’s status and configuration page apparently due to the Media Collector service dying on the server (I found a .NET exception in the Event Viewer logs that showed a crash resulting from homeserver.dll, a Windows Home Server component). This was resolved by rebooting the server, and I only encountered it once during my testing.

ServerConsoleMediaCollectorNoClient

While troubleshooting the failure of the Media Collector service on the server, I discovered that the Application Event Viewer logs were being blasted every two minutes with error messages a “PushClient” application that appears to be related to the Media Collector. This messages appear to be benign, though they make it difficult to look for legitimate errors or warnings while troubleshooting other issues, so I hope HP is able to resolve this in a future patch.

EventViewerPushClient

All these items didn’t significantly impact my use of the server, and a less attentive average user may not have encountered many of them. We’ll be sure to document the hacks, issues, and tweaks that the MediaSmartServer.net forum members uncover when we start receiving our new EX490 and EX495 servers.





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.


{ 200 comments }

Sam Wood September 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Great write-up, Alex.

I appreciate the little gear icon in some of the screenshots, especially ;) Are we going to see an EX49x wireframe come through the pipe shortly?

Alex Kuretz September 14, 2009 at 11:46 pm

Hi Sam, thanks! Actually the EX48x wireframe works just fine for the EX49x, so I’d recommend people use that.

Chris Bickerstaff (HSL) September 15, 2009 at 5:20 am

http://www.homeserverland.com/blogs/b/hslblog/archive/2009/09/14/new-hp-mediasmart-home-server-ex490-ex495.aspx

As always, Best review I have read! Alex,

I will suggest everyone stop by and read it.

clc4912 September 15, 2009 at 6:51 am

I did not see an expected release date. I guess the EX48X versions will start to pop up on sale all over.

rudini September 15, 2009 at 7:35 am

Thank you!!! Extremely detailed and informative! I’m an ex485 owner, so i appreciate the 3.0 update details at the end there :-)

thank you!
-rudini

Texas-Hansen September 15, 2009 at 10:01 am

Great review Alex.

Kudos to HP for making some really nice improvements to both the hardware and the software. It’s tempting to upgrade from my EX470 but I think I’ll wait for the next version of WHS in 2010 given the nearly $700 price tag and the fact that I got my EX47x only about 9 months ago. I suspect we’ll see the EX500 by the time WHS 2010 is released or perhaps the EX49x series but with the new version of WHS. The hardware on this new version does seem to be geared to handle a new WHS version better.

I would have liked to see HP up the memory a bit as 2 GB these days is becoming lean, memory is cheap, and > ~ 3.2 GB will be able to be used with WHS 2010 since it will be 64 bit based. I also like that the processor can be upgraded easily on the EX490.
Good job HP!

trapedui September 15, 2009 at 11:06 am

Thanks for the review. I just bought an EX485 last week, but probably would have waited if I had known this was coming out. I have been playing with the EX485 and am very happy with it. My biggest concern is the noise, as the server resides in the guest bedroom. Oh well. I will probably upgrade in 4 or 5 years. My mother-in-law can deal with the fan noise until then.

Cavediver September 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

Thanks for the great review Alex. It sounds like HP is really stepping up and improving the MSS. I wasn’t before, but since my daughter’s MAC HDD died late last month and she lost all of her data, I’m now interested in the MAC backup features to provide her with that option.

T-bone September 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

It’s called HPStorage cause they couldn’t in good moral consence call it HPKickAssServer. Too long an no one would like the profanity.

The server looks great I can’t wait for it’s release. I might have to upgrade this time haha. The cool thing is I have a recycling channel now that I got my family involved in media streaming. Sister,mom an dad, girl friends parents. Ect.. Haha. Can’t let this good stuff go to waste.

boulder_bum September 15, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Great review!

I’m psyched for all the new Mac features, and this new version is pretty tempting, but I’m still disappointed in the power consumption.

My Mac Mini, with its dual-core processor, graphics card, bluetooth, wireless N, etc. only consumes 13W at idle. It also goes to sleep after a short amount of inactivity and automatically wakes up on-demand when I want to stream movies & music (thanks to a new feature of Snow Leopard), so it’s consuming 1W or so sleeping most of the time.

Why does the MediaSmart still constantly consume 41W?

Other than that the new server seems almost perfect!

I think FireFly and the iTunes features are obsolete now that iTunes 9 has the superior “Home Sharing” capabilities, but I think HP is still showing itself a clear leader for home servers!

Anthony September 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm

As a Ex485 owner, I’m eagerly waiting HP’s software upgrade to 3.0. I cant even create a TM backup for my new mac because of their poor implementation in the 2.x software. Support says is that I need a large contiguous area on my primary HD. I don’t have any extra HDs to push out all my data to, so I’m stuck until HP can fix it in software.

soaklord September 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm

My guess on the name change is due to the mindset at HP’s tech support. This may have changed since my gen 1 warranty ran out, but when you called tech support, you had to go through the storage prompts to get to Mediasmart “support” (in those days, I was transferred back and forth to India and Canada about 5 times before I discovered this). So keeping with that of thinking, and attempting to get the consumers who buy them to the right place, HP changed it to hpstorage.

Bill September 15, 2009 at 1:48 pm

One problem I still have with the HP Media Servers (and all of them) is the media collector. Microsoft markets this as a solution for PRO photographers… yet the media collector doesn’t collect anything other than JPEG photos. I shoot RAW, it doesn’t look like this will collect those files. Anyone building an ADD IN?

Microsoft’s promises here…

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/photos/default.mspx

Texas-Hansen September 15, 2009 at 1:51 pm

So, when will the EX490/EX495 Hardware forum show up on MSS.net forums? :)

Alex Kuretz September 15, 2009 at 2:01 pm

@Anthony – You can try disabling duplication on a number of shares to free up some space, there’s some forum discussions on how others have gotten this to work.

@Bill – the Media Collector is an HP specific feature that they implemented. As hobbyist photographer, I can say that I do store backup copies of all my files on the Server, but I also keep a local copy on my PC for fast access to the large files.

@Texas – What, you don’t see it there? ;) Thanks for the reminder, I just added it.

Techvet September 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for the heads-up on this Alex! As the owner of a non-upgradable EX475 (wouldn’t accept a processor upgrade), I had high hopes for the EX48x series only to feel it wasn’t worth the upgrade price. This is not the case for the EX49x series, especially for the EX495. I suspect I’ll be taking the plunge shortly.

Maybe the name change was taken to make it easier for some to migrate over. You can’t very well have two devices on your network named “HPSERVER” if you hope to have them both active and thus able to migrate info from one to another.

DrewG5 September 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I am so very glad to see the improvements for the Mac side of the MMS and will be eagerly awaiting the update for the EX485 that we have in our home. We currently have 2 PC’s backing up to it and 2 Macs.

ymboc September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Can’t wait to see rest of the hardware details… Fantastic in-depth coverage as always!

Damian September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm

So if my math serves me correct, there is the capability for 17 HDDs (4 in the EX49x, 5 in an eSATA enclosure, and 8 in a USB enclosure).

I am with Tex, I would probably wait until WHS 2010 is released. Hopefully by then too USB 3.0 will be included in the next EX series

Kick ass review Alex, there is still hope for you :-)

Bill September 15, 2009 at 5:40 pm

If you upgrade, how do you migrate off of an old WHS to a new one? Seems like this is going to start becoming a more common issue..

Texas-Hansen September 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm
Bill September 15, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Thanks Texas! I love these servers and am certain this is a trend that will grow by leaps and bounds.

T-Bone September 15, 2009 at 8:23 pm

What is the dataVault is it their Linux server?

Tom Boucher September 15, 2009 at 9:28 pm

What about hte ‘feature’ of only letting a time capsule backup to the size of the hard drive? was that fixed? I just hit my 915GB wall for my 2TB of storage in my mac pro.

Also any word if the 485 will get those updated mac features?

Alex Kuretz September 15, 2009 at 11:57 pm

@ymboc – it’s on the way. :D

@Damian – you can hang a few USB enclosures off the server, that’s a lot of drives!

@T-Bone – I could tell you but… you know the rest. :)

@Tom – Your Time Capsule question isn’t clear to me, can you elaborate? As mentioned in the review, HP has said the 3.0 software will be available for previous generation servers, this would include the Mac features.

ymboc September 16, 2009 at 5:28 am

Very Nice… I’m thinking of picking up one of these just to get another kick at the ‘OpenSolaris/FreeNAS on MSS hardware’ can… pending spousal approval of course.

I’d have to keep my EX470 just for WHS’ automated client backup features of course — couldn’t live without those anymore.

Tom Boucher September 16, 2009 at 5:38 am

@Alex -

Currently on the 485/487 family when you try and create a time capsule backup, the largest it can be is the most free space available on the drive. So if you only have 500GB free, that’s the biggest it can bee. It can’t cross drives.

There was a forum post a while back where someone said that HP confirmed that they were aware of it and ‘fixing’ it ‘soon’. I was wondering if that was fixed.

Texas-Hansen September 16, 2009 at 8:03 am

Alex

So, now that you have the choice of the EX475, EX487 and EX495, which model is going to serve as your primary workhorse? :)

Alex Kuretz September 16, 2009 at 10:40 am

@ymboc – Interesting, though you might be able to score a great deal on an EX48x as they’re likely closing out stock on those. Depends on your budget and needs, of course.

@Tom – I’ve not seen any mention of Time Capsule in any MediaSmart Server documentation, do you mean Time Machine? If so, then I believe that limitation likely still exists though I’ve not tried it.

@Texas-Hansen – I still use my original EX475 from my time on the HP team as my primary backup and storage server, I don’t touch that one for testing or add-in development. The other servers are more “disposable” so to speak – I’m willing to try things and risk breaking them in the interest of testing and helping the community here. :) If I had to get rid of all the servers and keep one for personal use, it would definitely be the EX495. The performance, expandability, and quietness is awesome and the 3.0 software is by far my favorite.

Heckler September 16, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Honestly, and as alluded to by @Texas, I’m a little surprised that HP released new models before WHS 2010 went public (though i do have to admit that I’m itching to swap the 495 for the 470, might need to get some 2TB drives for it as well)…

Has HP had anything to say about upgrades to WHS 2010 (which I understand will be based on Server 2008 R2, which has just been released and will apparently only be available in 64-bit varieties) being made available for these new models. Given the 2008 R2 64-bit understanding, that would prevent them from even offering an upgrade to any of the prior models because they don’t (in stock configurations) have 64-bit processors… It would also allow for more RAM to be recognized for those like me that run VMs on their MSS.

I’d love to see the 495 torn apart… hint, hint…

Alex Kuretz September 16, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Heckler, actually all previous MediaSmart Server EX series feature 64bit processors. With that said, I’ve not heard any news about HP supporting an upgrade path to future version of Windows Home Server, and to be honest I don’t have expectations that they will do so. I personally expect to see some fancy pants new hardware from HP and other OEMs when WHS V2 is here.

I posted my hardware teardown this morning… :)
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2009/09/16/a-closer-look-at-the-ex490-and-ex495-hardware/

Michael September 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I’m a novice here, but someone recommended that I get the EX487 a few weeks back and I just discovered that the 490 was released yesterday.

I assume that the price of the 485 will drop with the release of the 490 and it appears that the software is upgradeable on the 485 and the features are essentially the same. I am a low-power user and probably won’t use the advanced features and speed offered by the 490, I just want a home server to store pictures, music and backups. I can see one day using the remote access software, but probably will never get around to setting it up. Really, the feature that I want most is the iStream so that I can put all my music in one place and synch multiple computers and iPods.

Is there any real advantage to getting the 490 over the 485? If I can save $100 on the older model, is it worth the money to get the 490?

Thoughts? Thanks

Alex Kuretz September 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Hi Michael, it’s always tough buying a product only to see the newer version come out not too long after. With the way you describe your needs, I don’t think the advantage is as big for you to upgrade. Since the 3.0 software should eventually be available for the EX485, the main difference between the two is the port multiplier aware eSATA port, the larger hard drive, and the quieter power supply. I think your primary thought should be if you see your storage needs growing to the point that you’d need an external enclosure in the not too distant future.

I hope that helps.

Michael September 17, 2009 at 5:54 am

Alex,

This is exactly the answer that I was looking for. I doubt that I will fill 4 SATA bays before the hardware goes obsolete.

It looks like the 485 MSRP is $50 more than the 490, do you know if/where I will be able to find a 485 at a reasonable price?

RichNY September 17, 2009 at 7:25 am

As a 47x owner who did both the memory and processor upgrades – it doesnt sound like from a hw perspective I’m missing out on much.
I am though interested in Alex’s comment about likely WHS2 not being supported on current hw.
My guess is that this comment suggests that while MS WHS2 would work on these boxes – its the HP/other proprietary extensions that would necessarily work.
With WHS2 seemingly so close around the corner, and the 49x versions just out for months – its surprising that HP released a(nother) new server series before WHS2.

Damian September 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

@ Michael – the EX485 is going for $449 w/ free shipping over on Newegg:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16859105420&Tpk=ex485

Martin October 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm

What is the best way to migrate data and setting from an EX485 to a EX495?

Alex Kuretz October 8, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Hi Martin,

You can manually copy data between the old and new server, either via the network or additional hard drives. Or you can use Server Recovery as I describe in this blog post.

John Molnar October 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Alex,
Great article. So my question is that with the current prices of the ex487 and the ex490 that is a no-brainer at $549 vs $529 but to jump to the ex495 is around $699. It seems the main difference between the ex490 and the 495 is the dual core processor. It seems that many higher end computers that I use for business as well as Apple has went to dual core – it this a big deal going forward or should it matter for a home server?

I am a photographer nikon 300 currently(amateur) but I shoot thousands of shots that take up a lot of space and I worry about ever losing them. I have an above average knowledge of computers but I am not a network pro by any means.

Will I regret not spending the extra $150?

Also is it easy/inexpensive to set up one of these offsite data backup solutions incase of a fire etc? Do you recommend one?

Thank you much,
John

Alex Kuretz October 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

Hi John,

It really depends on how you plan to use the server. If you’ll be using it primarily for backups and storage than the EX490 is just fine. If you plan to be using the Video Converter to transcode your videos, or installing additional heavy-load software on the server then I’d recommend you get the EX495.

We’re seeing some reports that CPU upgrades are being performed successfully on the EX490 (check the Forums for more details), so that may be an option if you want to upgrade down the road but requires more work and invalidates the warranty from HP.

As for Offsite Backup, HP is due to release the newest version of their Amazon S3 Add-In (I believe) in the near future, and I’ve had good experiences with S3 though it’s not the cheapest route. Other users in the forums like Carbonite or Mozy. It’s really going to depend on how much content you plan to store online. I’d probably recommend you search the forums and read the past discussions, then post up there if you have more questions.

Good luck and let us know what you decide!
Alex

John Molnar October 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

Thank you sooo much for your response. Since I am usually pushing the envelope where technology goes and I can see utilizing the video capabilities I went with the higher cost more powerful ex495. Should arrive Tuesday :-)

So therefore short of buying an additional game machine as it states utilizing to connect to your tv (my boy uses a Wii – not a playstation, etc) what are the good options to connect this server to my HD TV either directly to the TV or to my Denon Reciever? I think I saw HP again was introducing a new media box?
John

Damian October 23, 2009 at 12:25 pm

John,

You can search on the forums as there are a few topics discussing (see example – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5718)

I woudl recommend a SFF HTPC (Ion build), but other options include the PCH A110, SageTV HD200, etc…

Cheers
Damian

Kirth Gersen October 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I wonder how it stacks up against a NAS. This site: http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/component/option,com_nas/Itemid,190/ has read and write speed tests. Where would the EX490 sit?

Alex Kuretz October 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

SmallNetBuilder has done performance tests with the MediaSmart Server in the past, and it performed quite well. I expect the current version of the servers will perform even better, given higher performance components and improvements to speed up Windows Home Server.

http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/nas/nas-reviews/30135-hp-mediasmart-server-ex470–ex475-sexy-but-not-that-smart?showall=&start=9

Jason November 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

@Alex
Question, you mention that the Video Playback here is not that good. I was looking into this pretty much exclusively to contain my BDISO’s and stream to my HTPC. So, are you saying that this would not work for that?

Alex Kuretz November 5, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Hi Jason,

My comment was with regards to the Web Media Streaming, where I had issues with streaming video. The MediaSmart Server works great with streaming in the home, and very well with an HTPC. Damian has written several articles here and has had good experiences streaming BD ISO files.

Damian November 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm

@ Jason,

I think alex was referring to using the HP software for video playback over the web (Alex, correct me if I am wrong). You will be perfectly fine streaming your BDISO’s to your HTPCs from the EX49x (many folks including myself have had no issues on the older EX47x series).

Jason November 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Awesome, I thought it was a problem with the new series … I was about to buy the 47x series … but I think I’ll shoot for this one. Thanks for the detailed review!

William Eskildsen November 6, 2009 at 7:38 am

I feel that they changed the name for hpserver to hpstorage because it sounds more approachable to the average person. Most people still think to the office and the IT department running around, pulling their hair out, trying to get the SERVER back up and running. So the word server itself is kind of a taboo thing to everyday Joe. Now when you say storage that is another story as we are all used to at this point using various forms of storage so it is not be big jump for us to look at this server as nothing more then a simple system for storage.

I hope that all made sense and I must apologize for the last sentence I know it was a run on but I just could not think of a shorter way of saying it.

Thanks for the all the info as I am using your site to learn all that I can about home server before making the big plunge.

Ed November 6, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I personally will never buy an HP product in my life again…they are unethical and even with a design error acknowledged by HP in their zd7000 which I purchased refused to make good on resolving the matter – they are not worthy….

Chris Todd November 18, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Just got my ex495 this week and it works pretty good for the most part. The are only a few things that bother me about it…

1) They give you an interface to weaken passwords, but it does not work. Still requires very strong passwords.
2) Every video that I have converted has audio problems. It either distorts the audio and makes you sound like a demon or it cuts off a quarter of the way through and you are left watching a silent film.
3) A tad too dumbed down. Wish there were more options, particularly with the media collector.
4) Defragging sounds dangerous since they advise not using the built in defragger (in remote desktop). Why expose it if it causes problems?

Has anyone gotten a wireless adapter to work? I have been trying to get my WNDA3100 to work. It fails at the very end.

Fredrik November 19, 2009 at 5:01 am

“I had no luck playing back a full length movie. In one case the video buffered and played for 40 minutes and then just stopped.”
I experience the same issue. Had the same issue on a crack updated EX475 to HPs 2.5 Software. All recorded TV shows stops after about 17-20 minutes. I have to restart the video and fast forward to the point where it stopped. Then it runs again for 5-10 minutes. Do you know about any workarounds or tunings on this issue?

Alex Kuretz November 19, 2009 at 8:44 am

@Fredrik, I am not aware of any workarounds to this issue, I simply don’t stream video from home with the MSS. I do listen to music extensively and it usually works very well.

Alex Kuretz November 19, 2009 at 8:51 am

@Chris – you’ll likely get much more response in the forums, I’ll suggest you ask follow up questions there.

1) Strong passwords are required for Remote Access, if you don’t want to use strong passwords you can turn off Remote Access for those users.

2) I’ve found that the Video Converter doesn’t handle multi-channel audio, but stereo audio has recorded well for me.

3) The Media Collector in 3.0 is vastly improved with much more configuration options than previous versions, yet still remains easy enough for less experienced users. I think it’s a great improvement, but I do think it could stand to report status and failures better.

4) I suggest you search the forums for discussions on defragging, I personally do not use any defrag utilities on my 2+ year old MSS.

Brian Madigan December 5, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I am trying to install the EX490 from Windows 7 running in Boot Camp in brand new Macbook running Snow Leopard. Unfortunately, I am unable to connect with the server, although it identifies it by the name I gave it, and when I run the server restore disc, connected directly to the server via ethernet, I get “Step 2 of 4 Failed,” with no additional information. Any suggestions? Am I running ahead of the curve running Windows 7?

Jason December 5, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Windows 7 works fine (that’s what I use on my 495). It might be because you are using the server restore disc, instead of the installation one? I have not used the restore disk, which is (from what I can tell) for restoring/reformatting the server itself back to it’s original settings. If you just want a connection between the computer and the server, use the other disc you were provided “Software Installation Disc”. Hope that helps.

Jerry December 8, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Hello and thanks for all the good write ups on all the HP ex-line of media servers.

I own an ex487 that I purchased in May and wondered if the 3.0 software will run on the ex487 or if you know if HP will update the ex487 with the better interface and updated feature or if it’s just going to be left in the dust for the newer models, as it’s not that old.

Thanks!

Bruce December 25, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I’ll be a new server user with my purchase of a 490/495. I don’t think of myself nor my kids as power media users; so, I’m inclined to get the 490. But, I don’t want to look back and kick myself over $150 and wish I had acquired the 495. I’d appreciate meaningful practical differences that you can foresee between the 490 and 495? Thank you!

BillB December 26, 2009 at 12:54 am

Bruce, diff betwixt them is basically the HD size (1TB vs 1.5TB) but with all the expansion slots it makes little difference. The mobo and RAM are same with only difference being that the celery version of the processor is a bit weaker at converting video (about the only proc intensive thing this does) but should otherwise work perfect for you. The proc is upgradable to a full dual core should you feel the need later. I just ordered my ex490 ($50 bucks off right now through newegg and hp.com) and can’t wait to start consolidating and sharing.

Andrew December 29, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Hi Alex,
I can’t find anywhere whether the MedaiSmartServer can also be used as a PC, with browser acess to the Internet. The reason I want to know is that I want to access files on the Server from a device (www.PConTV.nl) that can connect to my TV and stereo, but I also want to have Internet access on the TV, without putting an additional PC next to it.

Alex Kuretz December 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Hi Andrew, the MediaSmartServer is “headless”, meaning it has no keyboard/mouse/video connectors. It is meant to be remotely managed via the included Home Server Console. It is Windows Server 2003 underneath, so you have basics like a web browser, but I’d be very hesitant to use it as a normal PC.

Damian December 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Hi Andrew,

Althoug generally not recommended, WHS has a fully function web browser (IE), so you can access the internet. You will probably just need to change t he default security settings. Keep in mind though with the MSS is that there is no video output connection, so you would need to buy additional hardware.

John Loeffler December 30, 2009 at 11:05 am

Alex, hoping you can help me with an issue that has me stymied for two weeks now. New EX495, 5.5TB, up and running well with several Windows clients and one Mac client. I am getting a health warning… “HP Media Collector – Please update the client software…. The version of software on “JOHNLOEFFLER’S MAC MINI is not compatible with the server. Please uninstall the client software and reinstall it from the server.” I have uninstalled/reinstalled numerous times, but the error always returns in a day or two. When I check for updates via the icon on the Mac taskbar it says I have the current version. Thank you for any assistance you can offer.

Alex Kuretz December 30, 2009 at 11:07 am

Hi John, I encountered this but a server reboot after installing the updated HP Client software resolved it for me. Have you tried a server reboot?
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2009/10/13/hp-releases-3-0-patch1-for-new-mediasmart-servers-and-data-vaults/

John Loeffler December 30, 2009 at 11:33 am

Thanks Alex. Yes, I rebooted nearly every time following the uninstall/reinstall procedure… error returns in a day or two. (I have also tried installing the software from the server, as opposed from the CD in desperation)

John Loeffler December 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I have one more issue… Maybe you can help. I have itunes playlists on my client PC that I was able to aggregate and share with Client PC’s and DMR’s using my EX485. With the EX495 though, things are different… I can “see” the playlists on my server in itunes clients, but they are “empty”. I can also “see” the same playlists on my DMR’s, and they work… all the songs are there and I can play them. What am I missing? (These same playlists worked flawlessly with the EX485 and the same clients… I allowed the EX495 to aggregate all the music and playlists… I did not “transfer” anything from the EX485).

Andrew January 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

Alex, Damian,
Thanks for your comments.

Mikhail January 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

Hi Alex,

I still run EX470 and would like to use its printer sharing capability, but there is nothing about it in attached documentation. Any place you are aware of I can get this info from?

Thanks

Mik

Alex Kuretz January 13, 2010 at 9:59 am

Hi Mikhail, there is no official printer support in WHS or the MSS, though it does work in many cases. There are some discussions on using printers in the forums, here’s a good starting point and a search will turn up more.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=66

rune January 20, 2010 at 3:06 am

Does anyone have any view on the EX490 comparted to the X510? What’s the major differences and such?

I live in Norway and the EX495 is not available here. Therefore these to are my choice. However Im uncertain is its really necessery to buy the X510 instead of the EX490.

Alex Kuretz January 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi rune,

I have some details on this in my review of the X510 DataVault. The X510 and EX495 are identical in all but name, and many people in other regions who cannot get the EX495 are purchasing the X510 instead.

Robert LaBossiere February 3, 2010 at 4:55 am

Alex:

Bought EX495, ran software, running windows 7 Home, two issues, the first is I have the same issue I have read about with the Media Collector, my is showing “not compatible” and to uninstall and reinstall from the server ?,, …. next issue is when I click on the Shared Folders icon on the desktop it asks for a user name and password, I only remember assigning a password which grants access to the console, don’t remember any “username”.. any comments would be greatly appreciated

Thanks
Robert LaBossiere

Alex Kuretz February 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Hi Robert,

I discuss the Media Collector issue in this blog post, be sure to reboot your server after you update the client software. The Password message is because WHS wants your PC user accounts and passwords to match user accounts that you create on the server. See the Users tab of your Home Server Console.

The forums are a great place to learn and ask more questions.

Thanks,
Alex

s4mb4 February 8, 2010 at 7:12 am

thanks for the TR5M-B info. i will be ordering one knowing that the compatibility if this good.

Alex Kuretz February 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

I’m glad you found this useful, and do be sure to check out my full TR5M review for more details.

Geoff A February 8, 2010 at 10:03 am

you say the performance is in line with your PC that you tested… I was wondering how it fairs when running off the EX495? Do you notice a slight hit in performance for disk activities vs the internal WHS disks? Also, is it possible to raid 5 the SANS Digital device and present only a single volume of say 4TB with a 5 disk raid 5 array of 1 TB disks? Thanks…..

Alex Kuretz February 8, 2010 at 11:35 am

I’ve not noticed any issues or slowdowns but I’ve not performed extensive testing and measurement. The Sans Digital specs show that it supports RAID 5.

Christian Jansson February 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

Hi Alex
Is it possible to add a hard disk in one internal bay for backup or should it be an external USB hard disk?
WHS version 3.0.14.33083

Alex Kuretz February 14, 2010 at 9:24 am

Any hard drive that is not part of the storage pool can be designated as a backup disk, it doesn’t matter if it’s internal or external.

Bill February 16, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Hey Alex,
Great review, I am almost convinced to buy a 490. I just have a couple of reservations. I am torn between a DIY WHS solution and a Mediasmart. I am almost sold on the Mediasmart purely because of the Mac compatability, I run a mixed environment of PC and Mac. However, there are rumours that the next release of WHS will include the media centre capabilities which I am very interested in. Do you think it be possible to upgrade to the next version of Mediasmart WHS when it is released or is the DIY route better for the upgrade path?

Damian February 16, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Bill,

I am sure Alex will chime in as well. I honestly would not expect to be able to upgrade the HP MediaSmart Server to Vail. There is still some questions about how well the upgrade path will go since the current WHS is x32 and Vail will be x64. If you are concerned about upgrading to Vail I would honestly go the DIY route (make sure you check out the DIY forum which has really exploded of late – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=22). Just make sure the hardware you choose for your DIY WHS is x64 compatible (you can see some examples such as my build – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=5045 and Cavediver – http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4816 to name a few).

Also, there is still some doubt about exactly what “media centre capabilities” will be included. For example, I think the leaked version of Vail does not have WMC integrated which many of us were hoping for.

Cheers
Damian

mike d February 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

anyone ever try to use this for playing mkv files through a wd tv media player?
thanks

s4mb4 February 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

The wd tv live will. The non-network model will not.

mike d February 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm

thank you very much

Geoffrey March 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Hi Alex,

I have the HP EX495. I am not 100% knowledgeable on servers as this is my first. I have no problem of accessing files on the EX495 and mapping to directories, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to see the disks separately and see what file is on which disk (either in the Explorer or see the disks in the Disk Manager).

Of course, I have the system disk and I added a second 1.5 TB disk. Could you tell me how I could see the individual hard drives in the Explorer or any other way? It doesn’t seem to matter if the second disk is attached as server storage or as a backup drive. If I don’t attach it then the disk light keeps blinking.

Additionally, is there a server for dummies book?

Thank you,

Geoffrey

Alex Kuretz March 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Hi Geoffrey,

You are experiencing one of the features of Windows Home Server, it’s Drive Extender technology is designed to take away the need for the end user to manage the individual disks. When you add a disk to the storage pool, WHS manages it and will store data as it believes is best. If you enable duplication on a shared folder, it will make sure that the file exists on more than one physical disk to protect from drive failures.

I’ll turn this around and ask you what you are trying to accomplish by accessing the secondary drive?

There are several books about Windows Home Server, here’s one by fellow MVP Andrew Edney at Amazon. Alternatively our forums are a great place to ask questions and learn more, we love helping new Windows Home Server owners learn about their server!

Geoffrey March 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Thank Alex,

Good. At least I am not that much of a dummy.

I like the idea to have duplication of shared folders, but I still would like to see with my own eyes that the duplication in fact took place, etc. It is akin to storing stuff at a storage facility and to know that the stuff is still there.

I guess, I’ve thought of servers as a quasi Network Drives as well. I like to use the back door a lot in my dealing with computers/computer programs and don’t want surprises.
Also, I heavily rely on a wonderful little program SameDir that does synchronizing much, much faster than the server can back up– no offence to the server. Therefore, it still would ne nice to have at least one disk behave like a Network Drive. For me just to have other copies of certain non-system files give me a piece of mind.
The Computer Restore and the other functions I really like.

I am sure I’ll love this server, I just have to learn about it and alter my thinking a bit. I will check out that book you recommended. I only had the EX495 for about 4-5 weeks and I will have to get used to its different ways.

What is the real difference between attaching the disk as a
Server Storage or a
Backup Drive?

Thank you for this excellent site and sorry for my potentially silly questions.

Geoffrey

Alex Kuretz March 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Geoffrey, the storage drive will increase the amount of storage available on your server and allow you to duplicate files across multiple physical disks to protect against drive failure. The Backup disk will allow you to make a backup of data stored in the shared folders of your server.

Ramakrishna March 8, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Alex,
I am planning to have RAID 1 capability NAS storage for all my valuable pictures, Music and Personal documents in case of any disk failures.

I have WD “My Book World Edition II” and “LaCie 2big Quadra” in my wish list. how come these are different from “HP MediaSmart Server EX490 and EX495″?

I have Sony laptop with Windows XP installed. could you guide me in choosing the right product.

Ramakrishna

Alex Kuretz March 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Ramakrishna, instead of RAID, Windows Home Server uses a technology called Drive Extender to duplicate your data across multiple physical disks. This gives you the same protection for your data but has some advantages, in that the disks do not need to be matched in size, the underlying filesystem is NTFS so can be read on any PC in the event of a system failure, and you do not have to dedicate the entire disk to duplication – only the shared folders that you choose are duplicated. This is valuable if you want to duplicate your vital photo collection, but do not care to duplicate your downloaded videos, for example.

Windows Home Server also has many other advantages over a simple RAID hard drive or NAS: it is an extensible platform that can run most any Windows application, it is higher performance than most other NAS devices, and has built-in automatic incremental backups of your Windows PCs (and the HP server can do Mac backups as well).

I hope this helps.

Ramakrishna March 8, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Alex,

Thanks for your extremely convincing answer. Just now I became part of the WHS owners group. I will share my experience once I get the product in couple of weeks.

One thing i would like to know more about remote access feature in WHS. I would like to access the server remotely even on default port number 80 instead of using TZO.com web forwarding service.
Were there any alternatives available other than windows live and TZO?

Can we access the external drive which is encrypted completely using TrueCrypt ( http://www.truecrypt.com ).

Alex Kuretz March 9, 2010 at 12:13 am

Sure, you can turn off the Secure Web Forwarding feature of TZO, or just use the homeserver.com domain. Note that for some features such as logging into the server you’ll need to access the server on port 443 for secure authentication, regardless of which DDNS provider you use.

Yes, external backup drives can be encrypted with TrueCrypt for manual backups or BDBB backups, I’m not sure if they can be used with the built-in Server Backup feature. Search the forums for more info on using TrueCrypt.

Geoffrey March 9, 2010 at 10:02 am

Alex,

On you advise I looked for some books and the first to come across was the Windows Home Server “Bible”. I realize that is a bit out of date and not perfect, but finally I can put two and two together. It is a shame that one doesn’t get proper paper manuals with these complex products any more. (The EX495.pdf is not comprehensive enough).

Now the fog has lifted. Finally, I know what this server is about and at last I’ll be able to ask sensible questions.

Geoffrey

Alex Kuretz March 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

Great, I hope it helps, and don’t hesitate to ask questions in the forums!

John Dee March 9, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Dear Alex,
I have the Ex 470 and it works wonderfully for my home network. Does the new EX 495 back up a windows server as well? I was wondering if I could use this for my office and would like to back up our server which is 2003 soon to be 2008 windows server. Would this work? Then I could also back up our individual computers as well

Johnnydez

Alex Kuretz March 9, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Hi John, backing up Server 2003 won’t work, and Server 2008 is unsupported but apparently works.

Halfrikan March 10, 2010 at 12:42 am

I have a media closet being built and was looking at using this to stream videos and music around the house.. just wondering if the processor will handle streaming multiple Files (potentially HD). Lets just say streaming 4 separate video files to 4 different computers all locally within the same house through a wired connection. I really haven’t found any information on what to get to be able to run something this extensive, it will be part of my whole house A/V, if this will do it, i will sure add it to the new closet.

Alex Kuretz March 10, 2010 at 8:45 am

In initial testing of the previous generation servers, HP stated that the server could handle up to 5 simultaneous streams. Now, this is obviously dependent on a number of things, most importantly the speed of your network (wired gigabit would be required) and the bitrate of the files. If you’re wanting to do 4 Blu-Ray ripped movies that are encoded at a high bitrate you’ll likely have problems, however most solutions would have trouble accomplishing this. The MediaSmart Server is one of the fastest and most powerful home storage devices available and beats the pants off of almost all NAS devices.

Anandha March 11, 2010 at 6:43 am

Has anyone run opensolaris on this server?

I love the form factor – and would like to build a NAS running opensolaris and ZFS. Does anyone know if opensolaris will work on this box? Or know of a similar form factor box I could use instead?

Thanks
Anandha

Paul Gosney March 21, 2010 at 9:02 pm

I note that in a post above by Brian Madigan that he was installing the server software via bootcamp on a Mac. Is this necessary, or can it be done with the supplied software without needing to boot into a windows OS?

Cheers, Paul

Alex Kuretz March 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Hi Paul, the initial setup must be performed on a Windows OS, this is a limitation of Windows Home Server.

Geoffrey April 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Hi Alex,

I have three questions:

1. Is there a way to access my EX495 wirelessly w/out using the internet?

2. If I don’t back up the server itself and the main drive skunks out, but I have a second drive set to duplication, can I just place the second drive in as a main disk and add a new second drive?

3. If I do need to backup disk what size disk do I need to accomplish that? Presently I have two 1.5 TB drives 12% used.

Thank you,

Geoffrey

Alex Kuretz April 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Hi Geoffrey,

1. The server only has wired ethernet, you would need to wire it to a wireless router to gain wireless access in your home. I would say this is a very common configuration in many homes.

2. No, you need to replace the failed system drive and perform a Server Recovery. Data that is not duplicated may be lost. Search for more info on “Drive Extender” to learn how Windows Home Server handles data redundancy.

3. You need a backup disk that is large enough to accommodate as much data as you wish to back up.

RISHI KSHETTRY April 28, 2010 at 9:17 am

CAN WE BUY THE hp smart media server in india yet?

Alex Kuretz April 28, 2010 at 9:23 am

@Rishi – To my knowledge, no, the MediaSmart Server is not available in India. You may be able to import one…

Carlos B. May 20, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Hi Geoffrey, when I installed the media server I noticed that it was connected to the default Workgroup network and not to my network. Is there a way to change the name of the network in the media server?

Thanks

Yoshitaka Nakamura June 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

Hello Alex,

I have a question.

I have a MediaSmart Server EX485 and considering to add EX495 to my home network. Does HP MediaSmart Server 2.5 or 3.x software support to manage to MediaSmart Servers?

Thank you,
Yoshitaka

Alex Kuretz June 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

Hi Yoshitaka,

A client PC can only be joined with a single Windows Home Server. However, you can use Remote Desktop to log into the other server and run the Console there. And you can access the network shares from any computer.

Yoshitaka Nakamura June 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Hi Alex,

Thank you. I thought I needed to have two PCs, one for EX485 and the other for EX495, to manage those two servers separately. I did not know that there is an option to run the Console from Remote Desktop. Thank you, again.

Alex Kuretz June 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Hi Yoshitaka,

Glad to help, we’ve got a guide on using Remote Desktop if that’s helpful. Alternatively, you can run c:\program Files\WIndows Home Server\discovery.exe to switch the “join” of your client PC between the two servers.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/wiki/index.php/Remote_Desktop

Let us know how this works out for you.

Step Velkan June 7, 2010 at 6:34 am

Hello Alex,
thanks for your review but I have some questions:

Can I set up one HP MediaServer in my house and have another one at my parents’ and configure some sort of backup scheme so all/some pictures/music/video will be constantly downloaded to their unit (or better yet synced between the units)?

Do I need to use the the console all the time and trust it to sort the way I like or can I just switch to an ‘explorer’ like application and manage/re-arrange media files on drives as i f it were just an external drive?

I guess I’m trying to get a grasp of whether this device is more suited towards collecting and backing up media files from all pcs on the network with minimal user intervention/control OR whether it can be used just as an external storage (possibly of file types that do not fit into any of HP’s categories) with full user control?

Can a screen saver be a slide show of “Favorite” pictures played back on the screen in the idle state?

Is there any way to configure an IR remote through the use of 3rd party software (like EventGhost, Girder) to use instead of mouse interface?

Thank you for your time!

Chris June 8, 2010 at 8:44 am

Hi Alex,

I just recently purchased a EX 490, and would like to upgrade the processor. Do you have any recommendations?

I am looking at the following processors:

Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5400 Wolfdale 2.7GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116076

Intel Pentium E6300 Wolfdale 2.8GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116091

Intel Pentium Dual-Core E6500 Wolfdale 2.93GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116093

Intel Pentium E6600 Wolfdale 3.06GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116347

I would like to use the most optimal processor, while keeping heat to a minimum.

Thanks for your assistance, and feedback

Chris

Alex Kuretz June 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm

@Chris – I’ve not performed the CPU upgrade myself, I’m satisfied with the dual core E5200 of the EX495. A lot of forum members have performed different upgrades and documented their results here:
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=5512

That forum topic should get you everything you need.

Alex Kuretz June 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

@Step – There’s no built-in sync functionality, but if you are handy with VPN’s and configuring ssh and rsync it’s possible to get something working.

The Server is a storage device, plus much more functionality. You can let the built-in tools aggregate your data, or you can just access the shares and store data however you want. Note that you cannot choose which hard drive data is stored to, Windows Home Server manages that.

It’s a headless unit, so no screensavers. You can set up your PCs to use a shared folder location of favorite photos as their screensaver, I do this in Windows Media Center on my HTPC.

Using an IR remote with the server doesn’t make much sense to me since there is little user interaction except to configure the server.

Carlos B. June 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Hi Alex, Sorry I previously posted the question to the wrong person. My question was when I installed the media server I noticed that it was connected to the default Workgroup network and not to my network. Is there a way to change the name of the network in the media server?

Thanks

Alex Kuretz June 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Carlos, you can change the workgroup, you’ll need to log onto the server via Remote Desktop and manually change it.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/wiki/index.php/Remote_Desktop

Ken Rea June 18, 2010 at 11:17 am

Hi, We recently made the move to MAC mini, macbook, and macbook pro, doing away with all our PC’s. The only thing we now have with windows is our HP Mediasmart Server EX470 with 500GB and I added two additional 1TB drives.

I have it working with our mac and a good portion of it set aside for time machine but I dont like the overal feel of how it works or wants to play.

Can I wipe windows completely off this unit and install Snow Leopard Server on it? I would like to get completely away from windows.

Thank you, Ken

Alex Kuretz June 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

Ken, I don’t think Apple allows you to install OS X on generic hardware, so you’d most likely be in unsupported territory if you attempted this. I also have not heard of anyone trying it. People have successfully installed Linux and other versions of Windows on the MSS hardware.

Ken Rea June 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

Thank you Alex, that was fast reply.

I am guessing that if I want to just use time machine I would be better off pulling my two 1TB drives from the HPMSM and eliminating that all together and placing the two drives in an external drive “shell”.

It sounds like I would be making my own set of new problems if I tried to alter the HP setup.

Does this sound right?

Alex Kuretz June 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Ken, if the MSS Time Machine implementation is not working for you, then I can see you wanting to use another solution. I personally find it to work well with my wife’s Macbook in our home.

Michael, I’ll ask you to take troubleshooting requests to the forums where it’s easier to share info such as screenshots and the community can help you figure out the issue.

Michael R June 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Hi Alex,
I have a question regarding my EX470, I upgraded the RAM to 2GB and then I recently moved to the OS 3.0. I found that the response time from the 470 was extremely slow and that the screens would stop responding as I went from tab to tab in the menus. I weas so frustrated that this occured that I decided to downgrade the OS back to the original. In doing so I performed a servery recovery. It hung up after I reloaded the OS and I cant get past the console asking me for a password. I imagined that the recovery would have taken me through the initial set up again and asked me to name the server and add a password, but it didn’t. The icon on the taskbar notes that I should update the connector software, but it wont let me. I’m sort of stumped, of course I have 2 drives filled with data that I’m trying desperately to preserve, hence I dont want to do a clean install. Any insight you can provide would be tremendously helpful.

CB June 20, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Alex, I noticed that there is a TwonkyMedia directory on the music photo and movie directory in the server. I am transfering my Itunes library to the server and my question is do all the Itunes files need to be under the Twonkymedia directory or they could be in thier own directory. Do I need to use the Twonkymedia directories at all?

Thanks

Alex Kuretz June 20, 2010 at 10:59 pm

CB, no, you don’t need to use those directories, I’m not sure how they are used by Twonky but you can organize your media however you like.

Brian L June 23, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Alex, I have been planing on buying either a EX 490 or EX 495, primarily due to your article. A major discount warehouse has the EX 490 on sale until July 3rd, 2010, for $439.99. They also sell the EX 495 for $649.99. Two questions: Should I buy either one of these machines (which one) or wait for the next generation of media servers? I primarily want to media server to house my itunes and connect to my TV for movies, etc that I download from Tivo. Demands are relatively low, but I don’t upgrade my hardware very often so I want something that will last. I also don’t want to spend a lot of money. The $649.99 is about the most I want to spend. I like the $439.99 price better, but don’t want to buy something that is quickly outdated. Any suggestions? Buy the outgoing model or wait? thanks. Brian

Alex Kuretz June 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Hi Brian, thanks for your comments and I’m glad my review has been helpful to you. That seems like a pretty good price for the EX490, and it’s easily upgraded to the same or faster CPU as is in the EX495 (check the EX495 forum here for details). This gives you room to upgrade should you want great performance.

We don’t know when Vail is due out, so unless you are set on holding out for the newest servers when Vail arrives, I think the EX490 will serve you well.

Brian A July 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Like the other Brian, I just ordered an EX490 for the $439.99. It will replace an almost-full 320GB Maxtor Shared Storage II NAS which we use for photos, Outlook PST files, iTunes library and all our other crap.

This is my first server. Newbie question: Does the supplied HD contain the OS (i.e. is the first drive like a C:\ drive) or is the OS on some sort of flash memory? I am flirting with buying a couple of 2TB drives to install at start-up since I would have other uses for the supplied 1TB drive.

Alex Kuretz July 2, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Brian, congrats on your purchase. There is a 20GB OS partition on the system drive. You can replace it with your two 2TB drives, perform a Factory Reset, and set the server up fresh. If the system drive fails down the road, you can replace it and recover your data with the Server Recovery mechanism. Search the site for more details on that operation.

hank b July 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Hi Alex

I’m contemplating picking up the HP X510 as the EX495 isn’t available here in the UK, but i’m a little concerned about the issues you faced with video streaming as i’d be using this feature regularly should I purchase one. given the date of this review, are you aware of any fix/patch released by HP which has resolved the issue?

p.s. great site and review – i was so close to going for a NAS solution but i think i’m a WHS convert now!

Alex Kuretz July 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Hi Hank, I’m glad the review helped you consider converting from NAS to WHS, thanks for the feedback. :)

HP has released several patches since this original review, and there have been some improvements, I’ll recommend you search my site for “HP patch” or “Twonky updates” for more details. The Remote music experience is good now, but the Remote video streaming has never been perfect for me. Keep in mind this is for watching movies from your home server when you’re not at home, so I’m not sure how important that is to you. It’s not something I do, but others are more into it.

There are alternatives, in the form of Orb and others. I’d suggest you also check the EX49x forums on the site, and definitely post your questions and intended usage there if you’d like more input from the community.

LK July 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Hi Alex,

Thank you for such a comprehensive review. Can you please elaborate on the duplication/redundancy feature. My main goal is to utilize the MSS as a file server but I am also looking for some type of RAID 5 feature.

I had recently purchased a Buffalo LinkStation as a NAS solution but the transfer rates were atrocious. It was taking approx. 30mins to transfer 100mb of data. Considering I have 6 x 250GB external WD USB Passport drives, trying to transfer this over to the LS would be a nightmare. So now I’m planning to return LS but am looking for a better replacement/solution.

I’ve got a Mac/PC household. I’d like to have the WHS be primarily a File Server, iTunes Server, Backup Server. I’d like to have each member of my family to have their own ‘User Share” to house all their files. I personally work with RAW image files and Photoshop. My goal is to have my Aperture DB sitting on the MSS and also work off my large Photoshop files in my User Share.

Will the MSS be able to meet my needs? Will I need to look into an external option regarding redundancy/backup of all the data? Ideally I would love to have RAID 5. My other thought is to keep the LS and use it to backup the MSS at night.

Your thoughts?

Thank you,
LK

Alex Kuretz July 7, 2010 at 4:19 pm

LK, your planned usage is not uncommon and many people utilize the Windows Home Server in the ways that you describe. I personally keep my photos on my PC and sync them to the server, I like the faster access of local storage when editing large RAW files. The network performance of the MediaSmart Servers is generally considered to be quite good, you can view performance charts on http://www.smallnetbuilder.com if you’d like to compare it. As to how the duplication features in Windows Home Server work, I’ll refer you to the Drive Extender whitepaper for all the nitty gritty details, and do a search on this site for more discussion in the forums. All the technical briefs are available here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/support.mspx

Brian A July 20, 2010 at 10:25 am

I am preparing to set-up my new EX490. I see mention of running server-versions of anti-virus software. Never thought of this.

Why does a server need anti-virus software if all client computers have anti-virus protection running? Isn’t a server therefore completely protected from viruses? (If not, where are the infection risks?)

I run Symantec/Norton AV on my home laptops and desktops.

Alex Kuretz July 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

Hi Brian,

Antivirus on WHS is a bit of a personal opinion, some people want it and some don’t. There’s multiple discussions in the forums that will show up in a search, here’s one to get you started.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=7143&start=0

soaklord July 20, 2010 at 11:52 am

There are a number of reasons to run AV on your home server. Here are just a few:
If you ever plan to have your server download anything directly (think torrents, etc) then it can become infected.
Zero day attacks. If your AV solution did not catch it because there wasn’t a signature for that particular piece of malware, you could end up with it on your server, which would then become a spambot/vector out to the WWW.
You access your server from outside your network on a machine that is not running up to date or very good AV. You may then be infecting your server, and potentially your network.
If you ever plan on plugging an external drive into your machine that you are not going to borg for server purposes (just to transfer files for instance) then you want AV.

If you are insanely security minded, keep your machine fully patched, never allow it access to the www, never plug external media in to it, and know your process explorer well enough to spot anomalies, then you should be fine. But seeing how most prudent organizations keep AV on their file servers, it may be a word to the wise to follow their lead. I personally would recommend that you look for something that takes up very little memory, has low cpu utilization, and has an advanced heuristics module.

Brian A July 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

Sorry for the hijack. I’ve restated my AV questions in:
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8557

Alex, SoakLord: thanks for the comments.

Rodolfo Farinas July 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Hello Alex; wow, what can i say, you’ve done an extensive work with these servers and the information you’ve posted here so far. I know these are great machines, i’m buying one in the very near future, i just have a very silly simple question, i have an intel core 2 duo E8600 which runs @3.33Ghz and it’s 65w. My question is, if i buy the EX490 and upgrade the celeron processor with mine, do you think it would overheat the machine, since the E8600 runs considerably faster, and these servers have passive radiators, what would you think about this case? And yes, i know such an upgrade will void warranty. Thanks a lot for your help to everybody here.

Alex Kuretz July 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Hi Rodolfo, thanks for your comments. There are several forum discussions about various processor upgrades for the EX49x servers, including the E8400 and E8500. I suggest you take a look there and follow up with any further questions you have.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewforum.php?f=25

Gord Hoover July 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Great review Alex!
I have been running an EX475 @ home since it first came out and am very pleased with it.
I am looking at picking up a new EX495 to put in the condo my two daughter stay in while @ university.
They each have laptops – One running Vista and one running Windows 7
Does the EX495 support both of these newer PC operating systems?

Alex Kuretz July 28, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hi Gord, thanks for your comments, and yes, Windows Home Server supports and works great with both Vista and Windows 7.

rishi July 28, 2010 at 8:57 am

hi alex,
i just configured my media smart server. i am trying to HP media collector. there my home computer connection status is showing imcompatible status.
how do i see the pictures , videos of my home computer on the server. i have already taken a full back up on the server.

Alex Kuretz July 28, 2010 at 9:01 am

Rishi, the Media Collector can have some issues, we’ve got numerous discussions in the forums, I’ll recommend you read through the EX490/EX495 and Software forums for hints from other members of the community to learn what worked for them.

rishi July 28, 2010 at 11:49 am

alex, i went thru it dont seem to see any solution for this. i am in a fix.

Alex Kuretz July 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm

A search on the site for “media collector incompatible” turns up several forum topics that would help you. In short, your client PC is not running the latest version of the HP software, you need to install the latest from \\servername\software\Home Server Connector Software\.

Rodolfo Farinas July 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Hey Alex, i just need you to point me in the right direction, since i can find a real solution to this problem, and if the problem persists, i will be calling amazon to return my server. Now i just got a EX490, and i upgraded the cpu to an e8500, and it’s very good on that side, i haven’t had any issues, but the problem is the converted videos videos that won’t play in my PS3, i always get the dlna error 7522 with converted videos and i cannot play them, (in my PS3). So i tried to convert them with handbrake and now they do ply, but stutter and buffers too much, i even encoded the movies at very low bitrates but that doesn’t help. And about the connection, i have an apple time capsule extreme which i use as a router, my ps3 is less than 5feet away from the router and the signal is 100% So i really don’t know what else to do. Can you please help me or at least point me in the right direction. Thank you soo much.

Alex Kuretz July 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hi Rodolfo, check this forum topic, and you might want to consider installing PS3MediaServer for streaming.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5140

I don’t own a PS3 so don’t have personal experience, you can try posting in the Media Streaming forum with additional questions.

Lucas August 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

How well would something like this do for handling FTP?
Also, seeing as you obviously have experience with servers… I don’t suppose you know how to use Filezilla FTP server on a server?

I find it a little more intuitive than the IIS FTP option.
Thanks for any help,
Lucas

Alex Kuretz August 9, 2010 at 1:14 pm

FTP is no problem, though there is an issue in that the Media Collector uses FTP to transfer files internally, so if you use that feature you’d need to be sure to leave that config in place. There are a number of ftp discussions in the forums, here’s one and Search will turn up several more:
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=17108

Jason Havens August 17, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Alex, I’m having a problem with the Video Converter. Is there a way to clear out the “cache,” including all previous conversions or attempts? I’m receiving nothing but errors, and I’m trying to convert different subfolders. Any tips would be appreciated. I looked in the User’s Guide, but there’s not much there under “Troubleshooting and FAQs.” Thank you.

Alex Kuretz August 17, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Jason, you can manually delete the files from the shares, and you can “Re-convert” files from the Video Converter tab of the Server Console. We’ve got some details in the Wiki on the previous version that came with the EX48x servers here, including instructions on how to clear the history:
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/wiki/index.php/HP_Video_Converter

If all that doesn’t help you, post up in the forums and I’m sure the community can help get you sorted.

Jason Havens August 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

Thank you very much, Alex. That did it!

Jason Havens August 18, 2010 at 8:59 am

P.S., Besides your helpful Wiki above, I found the following in-depth review helpful, which you’ve probably included in here somewhere but I figured that others might find this helpful:

http://www.mediasmarthome.com/article/11958/HP-MediaSmart-Server-Update-2.5-Hands-On-and-In-Depth/?textpage=2

This second page covers the Video Converter in depth, including pictures and file format information.

Robyn August 18, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for this great review, Alex! I would love to get an EX495, but I have one concern that you may have the answer to. On my current MediaSmart, I have changed the web server ports so that I can access my server remotely since my ISP blocks port 80 & 443. (I did this by following a tutorial from myhomeserver.com – http://www.myhomeserver.com/?page_id=23 ) However, there is a warning at the top of the tutorial that it will not work with the new 3.0 software version. Do you know if there is any way of changing these ports in the new software, or any workaround that will work?

Thanks so much for the great site!

Alex Kuretz August 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for your comments, Robyn. If I recall correctly the HP 3.0 software has some hard-coded ports in some of the functionality, so that’s likely the reason for the disclaimer. I’ve not tried it though, you can try searching and posting in the forums for more details.

rishi August 21, 2010 at 9:05 pm

my “network critical ” on the WHS console is saying ”

UNDER HP MEDIA COLLECTOR – Please update the client software -
the version of software on my laptop is not compatible with server. Please uninstall the client software and reinstall it”

so does this message mean i need to uninstall the entire HP software. what is this client software?

i have already backed up my computer twice which has taken more than 20 hours for the first time.will i lose this back up if i uninstall?

thanks

Alex Kuretz August 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

rishi, yes, uninstall the “HP MediaSmart Server” software from your client PC and re-install from the \\servername\software\home server connector software\ shared folder. This will not damage your backups. You can learn more in the forums if you need further assistance.

RISHI August 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

ALEX,
THANKS FOR THE HELP. TWO MORE QUESTIONS.
1.ON THE MEDIA COLLECTOR I HAVE ALL THE FILES LINED UP “FILES PENDING”. HO WTO MAKE IT “FILES COPIED” . WILL IT HAPPEN ON ITS OWN?
2. I WANT TO COPY ALL THE PICTURES AND FILES FROM MY HARD DISK. THE TOTAL SIZE IS 169 GB. How can i do it?

Alex Kuretz August 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Rishi, search the forums for the pending files issue, there are a number of possible causes. I don’t know what you mean about copying your files from the hard drive, you’ll need to clarify your question and the forums is the best place to do that.

Paul Gosney October 6, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Alex,
I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to the Dark Side of PC’s (I’m a Mac user..) so any tips are greatly valued.

I would like to safely upgrade the System disk to a larger capacity without the risk of losing data. Could you kindly advise on safe method. What concerns me is what happens to the data regarding ownership of shared/duplicated folders etc. I’m assuming that this would have to be backed up on the other disks in case of a System driver failure but I’d like to be sure.

If it helps, my total storage is currently 5.91 TB and I have 1.80 TB of free space.

Regards,

Paul

Alex Kuretz October 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Hi Paul, Server Recovery is the process you need to read up on, it’s documented in the HP Online help and there are many discussions in the forums. You can also search this site on “How to clone system drive” for a more technical alternative.

It all boils down to making sure Duplication is enabled on all your shared folders before you replace the system drive, and having backups of the most critical files is always a good idea for any storage solution.

Felipe October 9, 2010 at 2:48 am

Can i use hard drives with a different storage capacities (1x1TB, 2x2TB and one 500GB)?

Alex Kuretz October 12, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Felipe, yes, you can use any capacity SATA drive with the MediaSmart Server, as well as USB and eSATA drives and enclosures.

dave October 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Hi
i have a ex490 worked great formatted main drives in two computers & installed windows 7 cannot install setup disk for sever it finds server & trys to download something but fails is there anyway for ne to reinstall server disk to new win 7
have laptop with win7 on it (not formatted) and server is working on that but it isnt main setup so cant get far into server
any help apreciated
dave

Alex Kuretz October 16, 2010 at 11:59 am

dave, please post in the forums with some more detailed error messages and preferably screenshots, plus a better description of what you’ve tried.

Bill October 19, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Anyone know if this new 3TB drive will work in the HP Server?

http://www.legitreviews.com/article/1442/1/

Alex Kuretz October 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm

To the best of my knowledge, no, as the review notes those large capacity drives require specific hardware, software, and firmware which is why they are including a new controller card. Plus, I’m not sure that WHS (which is based on Server 2003) would be able to correctly recognize and use them even if the hardware could.

Jarmo December 5, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Making the default server name “hpstorage” was a bad idea, if you ask me. The default client install searches for \\server and this will fail, hence most average home users will fail to connect their clients and will send the product back.

Alex Kuretz December 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Actually the client software looks for a UPnP beacon from the server and will see any Windows Home Server on the network and provide a dropdown list to select the correct one if there are more than one on the network.

For the first two models the server name was “hpserver”, then they changed it for the latest models.

Jarmo December 6, 2010 at 9:43 am

That’s interesting, and is how I was expecting this auto-discovery to work. My XP client install went smoothly and it auto-found the server (named hpstorage by default) but my subsequent Vista client install could not auto-locate the server — I had to manually tell it to search for ‘hpstorage’ rather than ‘server’. That Vista client is pretty stock too so I’m surprised that it could not locate the server. On an unrelated topic, I was slightly disappointed to find that the server console immediately alarmed (in red) to report that my (XP) connector client was back-level. Had to jump through a few hoops reinstalling and rebooting in order to clear that — web searches suggest that this started over a year ago so a little disappointing that it’s still an issue, and straight out of the box too. All that said, things are going smoothly now and I’m generally impressed with the product. Appreciate your earlier feedback, thanks.

Brad December 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

I have noticed some individuals have downgraded from the HP EX470 MediaSmart Server 3.0 software. Does anyone want to sell their copy of the upgrade. I just got back into working with my HP EX470 after a long absence and did not find out about the upgrade until it had been discontinued. Thanks for you consideration.
Brad
EX470 with 2GB and LE-1640 Athelon 64 processor
8 TB w/ 4 WD20EADS drives

Christoph December 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I wonder if it also possible to change the output format of the video converter from .mp4 to MPEG-2 or divx? – I use a Panasonic Viera 50” Plasma TV and the DLNA interface is not able to support mp4 :(.

BIGO January 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm

1st. time user of home server, I’m running window 7 home . I just hooked my new EX-490 hp smart media and so far hook up looks ok . My HP media collector configuer and connected and enabled all photo,music and vedios. >> but this what i’m getting all files are pending, nothing copied ZERO and 1 file not needed. so please help what i need to do any idea thanks.

Alex Kuretz January 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm

BIGO, this isn’t an uncommon problem, do a search on the site and you’ll find numerous discussions. If those don’t help you, post in the forums where we can more easily help you troubleshoot.

thollett January 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Thanks for this great review. I just ordered an EX490 for $449 as I was considering a NAS that was not much cheaper. Seems like these will provide better performance with many more features that I can grow with as I learn.

As a novice, I hope this was not a mistake. Can Alex or others chime in on the fact that drive extender has been dropped – can I just stick with the prior version or will automatic updates take that feature away no matter what? I really hope to still get a nice life cycle of a couple years out of this. My main use would be hosting my photos and itunes libraries as well as streaming my DVD and BD rips to various devices throughout the house (Google TV, Roku, iPad, etc.) and be able to access these files remotely. In my early reading, looks like I should be OK (fingers crossed)?

Alex Kuretz January 16, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I think I’ve chimed in about as much I plan to: http://www.mediasmartserver.net/2010/11/23/opinion-is-windows-home-server-dead/

WHS v1 will be around and used by many of us for a long time. Drive Extender was removed from Vail, not WHS v1.

thollett January 16, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Yep sorry. Found these after I posted and have been reading since. Thanks!

FireWire February 25, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I just plug in a eBOX-R5 to the eSATA and set the email notification feature in this box to monitor the HDD SMART.

Work pretty good

Geoffrey March 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I have used the restore CD on XP computers w/ great success, however now on Windows 7 (64 bits) the program asks if I want to restore a computer w/ more or less than 512 MB of memory, but then the screen goes gray and that is it.
Do I need to get a 64 bit restore disk and if I do wher do I get it?

Thank you,

GS

Alex Kuretz March 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

There is no 64-bit PC Restore CD, use the same CD. You will need Vista-32bit drivers for any network cards if they aren’t detected automatically. We’ve got good discussion on this in the forums if you get stuck.

Blarr April 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

My health light is blinking and the server wont come up…Any help anyone can provide? Has HP discontinued the Mediasmart Server?

Alex Kuretz April 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

HP has discontinued the MediaSmart Server, you can search this site for news posts on the topic. As for your blinking health light, we have numerous discussions with troubleshooting steps in the Troubleshooting forum, please review those and then create a new forum topic if you need additional assistance.

Blarr April 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm

What is the largest drive this server will support

Alex Kuretz April 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm
Bill April 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Wow. I’ve missed the news about HP discontinuing the Server. That’s tragic news. Alex (1) any word why?; (2) will they still support it?; (3) any recommendations for upgrades.

They seemed to be doing a lot of great development on the software side (mac compatibility etc). Given that investment and a great product and their relationship with Microsoft I am really surprised.

Alex Kuretz April 6, 2011 at 5:15 pm
Milan May 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Hi there. I have HP x510 but OS is in german language. There is no chance find an installation cd with english version in shop or internet. Really I work for it for many times. Please, please can someone in here create a installation CD’s image and leave it somwere in internet for download. I’m not allone with this problem I mean. I’m ready for send some money for it. There’s no chance for return the device to the store because it’s more than one month for this service. Help me please. thank you

Robert June 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

I am looking for a server to act as a holder of the files on a 3 system Linux home system, and perform period back-ups on all three PC’s, will the HP EX490 perform this task?

geoffrey swenson November 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hi All,

I have a curious problem.
1. I have an XP desktop w/ 2GB of memory and w/1 IDE and 3 Sata HDs. One of them is Sata 2TB in size.
When I try to open up the backups all disks open up w/ no problem, however when I attempt to open up the 2TB disk’s backup the process goes up exactly to 81% and then the computer freezes up completely. Every time!!
Also every other computer behaves like this.
Any ideas?

2. My other question is that me being dense a bit, is there any step-by-step instructions on how to restore a 64 bit Windows 7 computer from my EX495?

Thank you all,

GS

Alex Kuretz December 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

You are best off posting in the forums for tech support help.

If all the backups open on the client except for the 2TB drive backup, and it freezes on any client, then there’s probably an issue with that backup stored on the server. You can try using the Repair utility but you may lose some or all of your backups.

To restore a 64bit client, you may need to load the 32bit drivers for your network card, Vista 32bit drivers generally work the best. http://www.mediasmartserver.net/wiki/index.php/Restoring_a_PC_with_additional_drivers

geoffrey swenson December 5, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hi Alex,

Thank you for your fast response.

Even though I still don’t know why I couldn’t open my 2TB backups (process goes to 81% and stops), however I solved half of my problem.

I split the 2TB disk into 2 quasi equal partitions. I did a backup and I was able to open both partitions one-by-one.

In two weeks I’ll get a new computer w/ 16GB of memory. Perhaps this was a resource induced problem. I’ll try that soon.

Thank you,

GS

William January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I’ve got the Media Smart Server ex495 from friend without any CD.
Is there any where I can download the software to install the storage.

Please advise me.

Thank you.

Alex Kuretz January 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

It isn’t possible to download the Server Recovery DVD due to licensing restrictions from Microsoft. If it hasn’t been set up yet or you know the admin password, you can install it from the server by pointing your client PC browser to http://hpstorage:55000

Geoffrey Swenson March 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Hi Alex,

I recently switched the main hard drive in my XP machine and reinstalled everything from scratch. I gave the same name to the computer, but still my server considers it to be a new one.

How could I merge the two backups, otherwise I’ll run out of my 10 computer limit eventually.

Thank you,

GS

Alex Kuretz March 12, 2012 at 11:24 am

You can’t merge the backups, when you need to add a 10th client you’ll need to remove the old one.

Kristian July 14, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hello.

Am about to get me an expansion tower.
Would you say that the TR5M-B and the TR5M+B is the same?

Stefan April 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hello,

I have a ex490.
I buy 2 Barracuda – 2x Seagate 3 TB, 3,5 SATA-600 7200rpm 64MB
but my system see only 786gb?
Can you tell me what te problem is.
a. Is this drive (not de right one for this system?
b. what is de maximum this system can handle?

Alex Kuretz April 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

2TB is the largest supported, more info on that here: http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9238

Damian April 17, 2013 at 5:49 am

Alex, did you ever try this method to use greater than 2TB (honestly more work then I would care to do lol)?

http://forum.wegotserved.com/index.php/topic/16580-guide-how-to-make-gpt-4k-sector-drives-and-3tb-drives-work-as-storage-pool-drives-in-whs-pp3/

Alex Kuretz April 17, 2013 at 9:23 am

No, I haven’t, I don’t need larger than 2TB drives in my EX495, that’s plenty of storage for me.

Charles May 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm

i have hp ex495 with microsoft home server 2003, and would like to purchase total protection package for computer after i uninstall Mcafee total protection. Please which total protection software do you recommend?
Many thanks

Alex Kuretz May 27, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Charles, there’s been several discussions in the forums on anti-virus for the home server, start with these two and then use the site search feature in the Forums or post in the forums if you have further questions.
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12324
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=11056

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

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