We had our first look at Power Pack 3 for Windows Home Server way back in mid-July when Microsoft announced the Power Pack and opened up a public beta. The Power Pack has been through a ton of testing since then, and today Microsoft is announcing that Power Pack 3 will be available in all shipping languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish) on November 24th. The update will be delivered via Windows Update and does require that your home server already be running Power Pack 2. If you’ve been running the Power Pack 3 beta you’ll also need to be sure to uninstall it so to enable your server to download the RTM version. In case you haven’t tried the Power Pack 3 beta, here is a closer look at what you can expect to see once your server is updated next week.
The primary focus of Power Pack 3 is to improve the Windows Home Server experience with Windows 7 and Windows Media Center. Windows 7 has so far worked fairly well with Windows Home Server, though it’s not been officially supported, and Power Pack 3 brings several enhancements and fixes to get Windows 7 working great with Windows Home Server. These include properly displaying Windows 7 in the Computers and Backup tab of the Home Server Console, better management of Windows 7 power settings with Home Server Backups, and the ability to suppress the Action Center warning reminding you that Windows Backup has not been set up.
After installing the new Windows Home Server Connector on your Windows 7 computer, you’ll now be able to automatically access the home server shared folders from within the Windows 7 libraries.
Power Pack 3 also includes Windows Search 4, which improves the search times and reliability of searching for files. Now finding that misplaced “Gravediggaz” album on your Home Server is as simple as clicking the Start button on your Windows 7 PC and typing in the name.
There are also new features that more tightly integrate Windows Media Center with Windows Home Server. After installing the Windows Home Server Connector and Windows Media Center Connector on your Windows Media Center computer, you’ll find a new ‘Home Server’ menu item in the Media Center interface that provides two options.
The TV Archive feature will automatically archive recorded TV by moving your recordings from your Windows Media Center computer to your home server, and can even convert the recordings to a variety of formats to suit your home computers and/or portable devices. Conversion options for the portable devices include Windows Mobile (320×240 resolution) and Zune (720×480 resolution).
You can choose to convert individual programs or episodes, or to have it convert an entire series of recordings.
There is also an Activity menu where you can see the results and history of the Archive and Conversion processes. In this example my two recordings of The Office have been successfully moved to the Home Server, however the Conversion process is failing due to the lack of an AC3 decoder capable of decoding the digital audio from the HD recordings.
I’m a bit disappointed with this failure with the Beta software, and am hopeful there have been improvements in the final release. I have also yet to try installing an AC3 decoder to see if this would allow the conversions to complete successfully.
The other new feature for Windows Media Center is a Console View that allows you to view the details of your Home Server from within Media Center or an Extender such as the Xbox 360. I don’t personally think I’ll utilize this feature very much, but it is nice to have access to your home server details in as many ways as possible.
Even if you’ve not yet upgraded to Windows 7 or don’t use a Windows Media Center PC you’ll want to upgrade to Power Pack 3 in order to pick up the included bug fixes. You can read the entire release notes to see what else is included in Power Pack 3 when those are made available at release time.
Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 makes storing and accessing your media easier by bringing all the content contained on your Home Server smoothly into your Windows 7 libraries. TV Archive is also a very nice feature that has allowed me to record TV shows and move them to my Home Server to be watched at a later time. I’m overall quite pleased with Power Pack 3 and am looking forward to the final release coming next week.