Using Server Recovery on a DIY Windows Home Server

by Damian on September 30, 2009 · 25 comments

in Guides

About a month ago Alex documented using Server Recovery to upgrade from his HP MediaSmart Server EX475 to the EX487. Overall, the process went smooth and Alex was able to successfully migrate his data from the EX475 to the EX487. I decided it was now my turn to do this, but instead do a server recovery moving the data from my EX470 to a DIY WHS build (codename Shawshank) that I had been working on. After 4 grueling days of trial and error and many nights crying myself to sleep (I just told my wife it was due to my love for her overwhelming me, earned a few brownie points there, as long as she does not read this post!!!) I am happy to report that the server recovery was a success. In hopes that no one ever goes through what I went through, I thought it would make sense to document everything.

My Setup:

Additional Tools Needed:

  • Floppy drive and 3.5″ disks
  • Windows Home Server Installation Disk
  • ROM Drive – I used an Xbox360 HD DVD Rom drive via USB
  • Drivers for any Sata/RAID Controller Cards being used

You can see from the picture below my setup, with the Xbox360 Rom Drive on top of the case and an internal Floppy Drive  hanging off the side, I felt like a mad scientist running some crazy experiment!!!


Prep Work:

Before starting with the server recovery, there are a few things that need to be done. The first thing is to determine what drivers are needed for the recovery (should just be for any special setup you will have with your hard disk drives such as RAID/Sata controller cards, using the mobo sata ports in AHCI mode, etc…) and to create a floppy disk for each driver (copy the drivers over from the hardware setup disk or the manufacturers site). There are two important steps with creating the floppy disk. Each driver MUST be on its own disk. Also, and this is what tripped me up, you need to make sure that the file “txtsetup.oem” for the driver is in the root of the floppy disk. The actual driver files can be in the root of the floppy disk or in a sub folder, but without “txtsetup.oem” in the root the drivers will not load properly during recovery (you will get this message below).


The second  thing is  to make sure that the HDD you plan on using as the O/S drive is clean. When I first set up Shawshank I had it running with just the O/S drive to make sure all the hardware was working. Even though I never added any pooled storage a D: partition was created.  It appears that in this case the D: partition takes priority in the recovery process and WHS ignores the foreign pool drives (my MSS drives). You can either delete the D: partition prior to doing the server recovery or best bet would be to reformat the O/S drive. Without doing this you will be left doing a server recovery that does not add any of your pooled drives.

Step By Step Instructions:

With a clean O/S drive, driver floppy disks, and all the pooled drives installed into Shawshank, it is now time for the server recovery:

  • Install WHS Installation CD (you could also create a USB drive) and boot up the system
  •  This next step will be dependent on your setup and may not be necessary. I have three controller cards that are being installed into my system. It turns out that the SASLP requires you to make a change in the BIOS for it to work properly with WHS. On boot up, hit Ctrl + m which will take you to the SASLP BIOS. Under controller this is an option called “INT 3h”. By default this is set as enabled, so change to disabled. Not realizing that this change needed to be made let to numerous recovery failures and hardware conflicts, and was probably the biggest reason why my attempt at a server recovery took so long.


  • The system should now reboot itself. One final check I did before loading WHS, when the system reboots it should scan all controller cards and list out all ports being used. This is a good check to make sure that all drives you have connected to your system are being detected correctly


  • With the controller cards all set, next step is going to be getting into the Boot Menu. For my system this requires pressing F12 at boot. Since the WHS installation disk is in the USB ROM drive, I can go ahead and select this option.


  • A screen should now show up stating that “Windows is loading files…”, followed by a screen stating “Setup is initializing…”. After these screens pass you should now be in  the Windows Home Server Setup screen. Here you will have your first opportunity to load your drivers. Since I had created 3 driver disks I loaded all three drivers and then confirmed that all my hard drives had been recognized.


  •  Once the drivers have been loaded the next step will be to choose what type of installation you want to do. This is probably the most critical step since if you select “New Installation” instead of “Server Reinstallation” all your data will be wiped out and the server recovery will have been pointless.


  • The setup process should continue to move along, going through a few more steps before the system reboots again. Once the system reboots you will be taken to the Windows Setup screen. STAY ALERT, when this screen pops up you will be prompted to hit F6 to load additional drivers. This screen will only show for about 5-10 seconds, if you miss it you have to manually restart your system and try again.

Press “S” to select drivers to be loaded


Enter floppy disk with driver and press ENTER


Choose correct driver and press ENTER


Repeat these steps for all drivers. Once complete you should now see a lost of all drivers that will be loaded. Press ENTER to proceed.


  • You will be asked one final time to insert the floppy disk and load the drivers. This should be the last time you will interact with WHS during the installation process, so you can just kick your feet up, grab a beer or cold glass of milk, and let WHS do its thing. One thing to look out for which will be a clue as to whether your storage pools will be added correctly, during “Finalizing installation” a process should run called “Recovering Data”. If you do not see this process run odds are your server recovery was not successful.


  •  Once the installation is complete there will be a few more screens to go through.

Click on the Welcome arrow


Enter in your password and hint


There will be a few more options to set up such as Automatic Updates, etc. Once done, you will now be taken to your WHS desktop!!!


The moment of truth, if the server restore was successful you should see your data drives part of the storage pool, phew!!!



Signs Something Is Wrong:

The good thing, I guess, about going through all the problems I went through is you soon learn what to look out for that could be an indication of a problem with the recovery. Here are a few things I observed that would indicate a problem (and in my case it did):

  • At the very beginning the “Windows is loading files…” process will not complete unless you remove all connected storage pool hard drives
  • Before you get to the Windows Setup screen where you press F6 a quick message pops up that says something to the affect “Windows is analyzing your hardware configuration”. This message you only last a few seconds, not 10-20 minutes as it did in my situation
  • You press F6 during the Windows Setup but nothing happens (I was trying to load the drivers for a USB thumb drive until I realized it had to be from a floppy disk)
  • You load all the drivers but one of the storage pool hard drives appears to hang causing the system to freeze. This ended up being due to a hardware conflict with the controller cards (BIOS setting needed to be changed on SASLP).

Additional Information:

One last thing I wanted to point out. After I did the server restore there was a Network Critical notification in the WHS console regarding my backup databases that they needed to be repaired. I ran the repair tool but unfortunately WHS was unable to repair and I lost them. It appears the most likely cause of this was I did not complete all the necessary Windows Updates to bring WHS to the latest versions. If you do a server restore make sure you install all available Windows Update prior to repairing the backup databases (I had shut off Automatic updates so I needed to do this manually).

Final Thoughts:

Now that I have had a chance to reflect on the experience I can’t believe it took me nearly 4 days to get the server restore to work correctly. Unfortunately I ran into the “perfect storm” of problems, with hardware problems of the HDD cages delaying the WHS build for nearly a month. Overall, I am glad I went through the experience as it gave me a chance to really understand the entire process. Hopefully my pain will help a lot of people go through this process with as little hiccups as possible. I also wanted to give a big thanks to Alex, erail, and cavediver for their immense help and patience in working through the server restore with me.

Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for you can find me over at my blog at or follow me on twitter


Timothy Daleo September 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I had the same issue with a backup database error. After I let the EX470 update (overnight since I was tired) the backup database repair was successful.

Did you restore yours with the BDBB?

In addition, did you have any remote access issues?


Damian September 30, 2009 at 6:32 pm

I didn’t bother trying to restore my backups with BDBB. Almost all my critical data is on the WHS. Plus I plan on doing clean installs of W7 RTM on all the pcs this weekend, so I plan on starting over from scratch.

The only remote access issue I have is the same one I have with the MSS. The WHS console tells me that remote access cannot be configured but it always work when I try to access remotely so I just ignore the error.

Greg September 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm

If you have a D.I.Y. WHS, the easiest way I’ve found to BACKUP and RESTORE the server is to GHOST it to another harddrive.


On mine, the main OS drive is a 750. My backup “GHOST” drive is a 1TB drive. Works like a charm. I had to restore mine back after I installed PP2 messed my system up.

Of course, everyone’s setup is different using a DIY configuration.

It is a good idea though, to have all the drivers and a copy of WHS on hand in case things do go wrong.

But using GHOST has saved me many countless hours of headaches.

It takes about 45 minutes to backup the entire OS / Data drive.

but…That’s just the way I like to do it…..

Alex Kuretz September 30, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Greg, how often are you backing up the OS drive? Are you backing up both the C: and D: partition? Do you restore both partitions or just the C: partition?

I suspect you’ll have issues if you ever have to restore to a new system drive.

Timothy Daleo September 30, 2009 at 11:15 pm

You said you actually performed the restore. How long did the Ghost restore take? Do you have any conflicts with Norton?

Greg H October 1, 2009 at 8:02 am

In Ghost . . .

DISK > to IMAGE > would back up the ENTIRE disk….

That would include which holds the O/S and which holds the shares/data.

you are correct . . Backing up and restoring ONLY the partition WILL NOT WORK!

The hard drive I am BACKING IT UP TO is not associated with WHS. It is NOT added to the pool.
Its a drive formatted exclusively in FAT32 and used for images.
GHOST backups are done in DOS off a windows startup cd I made.

I would assume you could use this process with a regular HP WHS if you had the video cable assembly to actually see what you were doing (but you’d loose one drive you could have added to the pool, because you’d have to reserve it for the ghost image(s).

I am going to do a backup here in the next few days. I’ll report how long it takes. I do NOT use compression. Its just file per file backup. In theory, if you had a very full WHS, this could take some time, but I only probably have 200GB of data total.

Phil Alban October 1, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Great article – especially considering the migration to a DIY WHS. I made the mistake of mentioning to my wife that a new WHS O/S would likely ne available in another year or two, just fter we bought our refurb MSS from HP. She rolled her eyes and said, “So we’re gonna have to start all over again?” I lied and said it would be a piece of cake.

Much thought has gone into migrating from one WHS to another, and to the next gen OS as well. I love the ease of use of the MSS (EX470 in my case), but have been a bit disappointed with the bang-for-buck quotient. I am convinced I could build a high-capacity DIY for less than what HP will eventually charge for their next gen MSS (WHS based on Server 2008 code, or later). Of course, it won’t have all the bells and whistles that HP provides, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Glad to see someone is blazing the trail. We’ll all have to migrate eventually, won’t we?

Damian October 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm


Good point, I guess at some point we will all have to migrate.

The good thing for me going through this process is now I feel confident I can get through a migration to Vail which I was worried about since it will probably be x64. My system will support x64, so it is just a matter of having the correct drivers (not always an easy feat!!!)

sr October 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Well this article will really help me, but I have to say that loss of the backup database is UNACCEPTABLE. This WHS product is decent for a Microsoft product but it reminds you that it is a Microsoft product when things like migrating your server is hard to do and even harder to do without data loss. This is UNACCEPTABLE in this day and age. It is inevitable that people will need to migrate without data loss from one WHS machine to another if not this year, next year. These things need to have been thought through better and documentation should have been issued. Otherwise what exactly is the cost of this software for?

Alex Kuretz October 5, 2009 at 9:45 am

In both Damian’s case and mine, the belief is that the backup database was lost due to us not fully updating our recovered servers to the same patch level as prior to performing the server recovery.

Timothy Daleo October 5, 2009 at 11:22 am

In my case (EX470 PP2) the Database repair worked because I had let the system update back to the most recent release.

Jon Andrews October 23, 2009 at 9:54 am

Firstly, thanks so much for a great write up…I am about to build myself a 16 disk setup and was really wondering if I had to do a full new build and then migrate everything across slowly but it appears I am gonna be good to “restore” to get to the same point.

I did have a few questions if that is ok though..

What happens if I have some data on the original system drive, at the moment, I have my original WHS and an external eSATA case which means a total of 8 1 TB drives..however as the system drive is also a 1TB drive and im currently getting to the point where most drives are as full as can be, will I not lose any of my “shared” data if I put in a new system drive and do a restore…or will the system recreate the missing data from the remainig 7 drives.

Is there a physical limit to the amount of drives that the WHS software can work with….the new case I have ordered holds 16 drives, so with enough sata ports…(motherboard with 6) and 2 or 3 cards with extra ports I will have more than enough…but is the system gonna be able to work with all of this.

Seems a stupid question to ask, but would it be possible to have the sys disk installed on an ide drive…as all motherboard come with them…and it will let me get the most out of my machine……and I guess on top of that (to allow this to work at all), does the sys drive HAVE to hold any of the storage pool…..cos I can assume if it did the IDE drive might not have the throughput to handle the data moving about

Final question, in your problem points above you say

“At the very beginning the “Windows is loading files…” process will not complete unless you remove all connected storage pool hard drives”

Does this mean I should unplug all of the sata drives apart from the system drive a that point…if so when would I plug the other drives in.

Im actually looking forward to building this machine and cannot wait to get it all up and thanks again for the help in your article…I know I would be stuck without it.

Thanks again

Damian October 23, 2009 at 10:01 am


Assuming you have duplication enabled any data on the O/S drive shoudl also be on one of the other storage pool drives, so the recovery will grab from there (I actually asked that question myself!).

As far as physical limitations I had read that a max of 32 HDDs could be used (so in theory up to 64TB). I would expect this would be expanded with Vail. Once again, I read this, did not actually confirm for myself.

I don’t see any reason why you cannot use the IDE drive for your O/S. Also keep in mind that WHS will only store non system data on your O/S drive if there is no more room left on the storage pool drives, so if it gets down to that you probably have a bigger problem and need to get more storage :-)

Regarding – “At the very beginning the “Windows is loading files…” process will not complete unless you remove all connected storage pool hard drives”. The only reason why I got this message was because I was having hardware problems (I needed to change a BIOS option for the SASLP card that was causing a conflict). There is no need to leave the storage pooled drives detached, the fact that WHS would not load for me at first with them attached just indicated that I had a problem elsewhere.

Hope I answered your questions. Good luck with the build, make sure you post your setup on the DIY Build section of the forum!!!


Alex Kuretz October 23, 2009 at 10:11 am

Good questions Jon, definitely let us know how your build goes. Damian addressed all your questions well, I believe, so I’ll just confirm that the current version of WHS does indeed have a 32 drive limit.

Rhino April 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

Two questions?

1. Really, a 3.5 floppy drive. I do not have an IDE on the Zotax BM. Will a USB floppy work. Why not a USB thumbdrive for the drivers?

2. On the AHCI. Do you install with it set to IDE, load the AHCI drives on the install, and then after install go into the BIOS and reselect AHCI? I think that when I initally selected AHCi without the drivers install, it would not boot.

Alex Kuretz April 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

@Rhino – Floppy is required due to the textmode install portion of Server 2003. Some USB floppy’s work, others will not; I had good luck with a Mitsumi generic brand, and an expensive Sony would not work.

Damian April 7, 2010 at 10:40 am

@ Rhino,

Regarding #2 I don’t have experience with but I recall reading on the forums that it is a PITA to set up. You may want to post your question there ( as I believe several of the members have dealt with.

Ian Eberle June 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Do you think it’s worth it to run a home server? What do you host on your server?

Damian June 23, 2012 at 4:16 am

Don’t forget, Home Server doesn’t imply that you are running websites from it. Many of us here run a home server for several reasons:

- PC Backups
- Storage and streaming of Multimedia
- Remote Access of files.

Ian Eberle June 23, 2012 at 5:21 am

Yes, but for me personally, I don’t need PC backups or remote storage. It would be cool, but in reality, I have Dropbox that handles that much smoother than any FTP client would to have remote storage.

If I were to set up a home server, it would be Linux-based because Linux is free and I would set up my websites on it. I was wondering if anyone does this and if they find it worth the hassle or not.

Damian June 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

It is definitely individualistic how one would use a home server. This site is run off of a home server, and I am sure there are other members here who use to host their sites as well.

I personally don’t see why it matters whether it is Linux, WHS, etc… just a matter of what the user is comfortable working with

Ian Eberle June 23, 2012 at 10:34 am

This website seems to be responsive and quick. Do you think it slows your home Internet in any way?

Alex Kuretz June 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

First, your questions have nothing to do with this blog post. If you have genuine questions I recommend you take them to the forums.

This site is actually run off a Ubuntu server that resides in a datacenter. It could easily run off a home server, the limitation would be the home bandwidth. I personally run both a Windows Home Server as well as a Linux server at home that among other things monitors this server.

It looks like you’re mostly posting here to promote your own reseller web hosting and site that you have linked.

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

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