Windows Home Server Vail Installation Guide

by Alex Kuretz on April 26, 2010 · 34 comments

in Guides

Now that Microsoft has released the Public Beta of Windows Home Server Vail, I’m sure many of you are anxious to download the files and get started on installing your own test server. We’ve got guides for installing Vail on the MediaSmart Server, but if you’re performing your own install to a Virtual Machine or to your own hardware, this walk-through will help you be prepared for that process.

System Requirements
First, the system requirements are very important because Vail will not install onto hardware that does not meet certain specifications. Here are the requirements from the Vail Beta Release Notes document.

Windows Server “Vail” server software is a 64-bit only operating system.
You can install the server software either manually or unattended.
System Requirements:

  • 1.4 GHz x64 processor.
  • 1 GB RAM
  • At least one 160 GB hard drive.

Product keys are not required for this release.
NTFS is the only supported file system.
Supported Networking Configuration:

  • Your server computer must be connected via a network cable to a router.
  • The router should be a UPnP-certified device, but it is not required.
  • The router should be in the 192.168.x.x subnet, but it is not required.

If you attempt the Windows Home Server Vail installation without meeting the system requirements, you’ll encounter an error like this.

Installation Steps
After you have verified that your intended server meets the Vail requirements, you are ready to begin the install. I recommend that you use our Installing Vail from a USB Flash Drive guide to prepare a flash drive for the install, if possible.

Boot your server off of the Vail installation media, and proceed through the following installation steps, beginning by choosing a New Installation.

The hard drive in your server should appear in the list, if not you’ll need to load the drivers for your hard drive controller. Place them on a USB flash key, connect it to the server, and select “Load drivers”.

Installation will proceed by partitioning and formatting your primary drive, and then the installation files will be copied to the server. This process takes about 8 minutes on my dual-core EX495, and about 20 minutes on the Atom powered LX195.

Once all the installation files are copied to the server, it will reboot and the installation will continue from the files loaded onto the server.

You’ll see various screens loading screens and possibly multiple reboots. Eventually you’ll be prompted to set up your locale settings.

And accept obligatory license agreements. Post in the comments if you actually read this all the way to the end. :)

The product key isn’t necessary, just click “Next” to proceed past that prompt. You’ll have 30 days to activate your install, using a Product Key that you get on Connect.

Give your server a suitable name that does not conflict with any other system on your network. Set the administrator password, and be sure to set up a helpful but not obvious password hint.

Since we’re helping Microsoft test Windows Home Server, I recommend you accept the “Use recommended settings” so that you can be sure to pick up any updates or patches that are released, as well as to verify that the update process works correctly.

More setup and configuration will occur, as well as installing any available updates.

Here’s the typical Administrative warning on the server desktop. Be sure to do all server administration from the Server Dashboard, and only use the desktop for advanced server management tasks when you know what you are doing.

And finally, your server is all ready to use! You can join clients to your Vail server by loading the following URL into a web browser on the client: http://servername/connect .

This entire installation process took about 35 minutes on my EX495, and closer to an hour on the LX195. I hope this guide is helpful, and be sure to let us know in the comments or forums about your Vail installation experience.

Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


Rhinoevans April 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm

So, I guess when Vail is finally released, you will have to back up your data and do a CLEAN install?

shollomon April 27, 2010 at 7:09 am

So is there a guide for installing on an HP EX 495 or other headless system?

Alex Kuretz April 27, 2010 at 9:43 am
shollomon April 27, 2010 at 7:13 am

Let me rephrase that. Are the steps outlined in the post about preparing media for a USB key install sufficient to install Vail on a headless device?

eidos April 27, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Your instructions were right on and everything worked. I installed on a DIY home server and the only difference was that I have a product key and used it. I used the DVD drive to install using the ISO install disk I created.

Good tutorial!

Seer April 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

If you do install this on an HP server, can you still install and run the custom HP software? Also, what happens after 30 days? Does it just stop working?

Alex Kuretz April 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm

@Seer – No, the HP software will not run on Vail.

You can activate Vail by acquiring an Product Key on Connect when you download Vail.

Eidos April 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Just a note, right after I started my first backup I got a warning notice that Vail has new updates already so you should go the the General Settings tab and selct to install updates now.

Eidos April 27, 2010 at 5:45 pm

24 high priority updates and 1 optional update available for Vail right after installation.

Rhinoevans April 28, 2010 at 7:04 pm

My install has stalled. Says it can not find an internet connection, but gives me no chance to install drivers???

Rhinoevans April 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

OK, so not the smartest server guy, but if it stops for no interner it is the drivers were not installed. However, during the install it looks, cant find, and the only option offered is RESTART, which takes you back to the same place. I did Ctrl-Alt-Del and stopped the install process, which will take you back to the desktop. Install drivers from MB CD or Device manager, then restart, and all is well.

Alex Kuretz April 28, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Rhino, do you have a network cable plugged into the server? I saw that error when I did not have the network connected, seemed it would sometimes error.

Rhinoevans April 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Yes , had a cable plugged in. jsy did not load my drivers. It is all install, only problem is the driver for my minipci wifi which I never use. Already created users, and now DL the 24 updates. I know it has some PRECIEVED shortcoming, but I really like it. So far, been using it for 15 minutes. :)

hoppy May 5, 2010 at 2:32 am

Installed on my custom machine with Core 2 Quad and 2Gb ram took like 50-60mins for installation, I wonder why it was so slow?

abarr May 5, 2010 at 6:53 am

Anyone having trouble with external SATA port? Installed vail on my ex495 and when I connect an external drive to the sata port does not work, any way to get drivers

Alex Kuretz May 5, 2010 at 8:23 am

@abarr – I’ve not tried an enclosure yet. I’d first check under Device Manager on the server, make sure the controller shows up (it is a SiI3531 in the EX490/EX495/Data Vault). Drivers are harder to come by, but you can start here:

Ash May 25, 2010 at 4:15 am


Please can someone help me, i used the USB method to install Vail on a LX195 and all seemed to go fine, its now flashing Blue LED, and its in my DHCP list with the new name “vailserver”

However i cant access it at all! i have tried to remote in using its name and IP, and i have tried to use the:

with no luck, is there something im missing?

Many Thanks

Alex Kuretz May 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

Have you tried http://ipaddress/connect ? Do you get the expected IP address when you ping the server? What is the failure you observe, do you get a timeout in RDP and your web browser?

Jeff @ ABC May 27, 2010 at 8:45 am

I had a similar problem installing VAIL on my headless HP EX485. I followed the instructions for the unattended install via USB and it looked like the process would finish, but I couldn’t connect to it via RDP or the http://servername/connect webpage. I could see the server in my DHCP list but the name was always a strange mix of letters and numbers. After wiping the drive several times and trying different settings…..I gave up and plugged the drive into a desktop pc so I could “watch” the install process. It turns out the servername I had entered in the “answer file” was too many characters.
Thanks for this site Alex…it’s great!

Ash May 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

Hi thanks for the comments,

It turns out that all it needed was a quick kick and a restart, (probably more thanks to the restart)

I think the server keeps going into standby (LEDs dont show this as no HP drivers), but its not listening to WOL commands and so it was the restart then a prompt RDC into the machine before it went into sleep seemed to sort it.

Thanks for the help.

Tony May 31, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Does any one know if there is any way to check the CPU and HDD temperatures on EX495 running vail

Derek July 14, 2010 at 3:31 am

Did everything correctly as per guide to install from ISO disc. VAIL up and running but will not connect client systems due to ‘time date differences’ – when actually they are all synced the same to UTC/GMT 0. After a 24hr wait for time stamps to do their thing – dashboard now inoperative – doesn’t read anything about the system at all. VAIL not working. Am I missing something re the Pacific time difference on set up??

Alex Kuretz July 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

Derek, I don’t have any suggestions beyond what is covered in the Known Issues from Microsoft. From my experience if you have this issue it is usually resolved by leaving the server running overnight. See “Installation and Initial Configuration”.


After installing and configuring Windows Server “Vail”, the server does not work properly or you cannot connect computers to the server.


This issue occurs when the following conditions are met:

· The certificate is used to authenticate between components on the server or when connecting computers to the server.

· The BIOS clock on the server is wrong or the BIOS clock is right but the installation takes place in a time zone located east of Pacific Standard Time (PST), between PST and the date line.


Before you install Windows Server “Vail”, set your BIOS clock to match the time and date for the Pacific Time Zone (PST) regardless of where you are located in the world. After successfully installing Windows Server “Vail” and joining client computers, do not reset the time, date, and time zone on the Dashboard for another day.

If you do not set your server time to PST, you should not use the server or connect computers to it until the number of hours pass that equals the difference between your time and PST.

roednex July 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I am trying to install Vail for weeks now with no success. Having purchased a debug cable, I at least can see the screen now :-).

But still weird things happen. Once I boot from my USB stick, the setup starts and it completes the first 5 steps (from copying the files until finishing the installation). After the 1st reboot, a screen appears (saying “Windows is loading files”) and then a restore window is up. The background looks like the Vista one and not like the grey Windows Server 2008 / Vail one. Even if I remove all hard disks (and also the USB stick) and reboot, the PC would show this screen. I am confused :-).

Can anyone help?

Leake March 26, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Alex – any advice or updates to this topic now that MSFT has announced dropping drive extender from WHS2011 final release? From what you know about the HW configuration of the EX495 is this upgrade path now dead? Thanks!

Alex Kuretz March 29, 2011 at 9:25 am

You can still upgrade and use WHS 2011 the way Microsoft intended it, by using Server Backup to backup your Shared Folders. You could also use one of the DE replacement Add-Ins that are currently in development. Ultimately WHS 2011 just needs a computer to run on, whether it’s a DIY or a repurposed MediaSmart is up to you.

Andrew March 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm

I have a MediaSmart WHS unit with V1. I would like to upgrade to 2011. Does the install do this without losing the actual data/shared folders? Just wondering as there are 4x 1 TB drives and I’m not sure how to do it if it will wipe the drives on install.


Alex Kuretz April 1, 2011 at 8:35 am

No, you’ll have to move all your data over manually, there is no way to upgrade in place.

Dennis Atherton April 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

Just a quick question. I have an HP KX-195 and I thought that ATOM processor was not 64-bit. Does it really install on this model< Before I blow away my Shipped version of WHS, I want to confirm that it does work with 2 GB RAM on this box.

Alex Kuretz April 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

In the article I say that I installed WHS 2011 on an LX195. :)

The Atom 230 in the LX195 is 64-bit.

For more information see my install guide:

David April 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Hi, I just completed the Vail installation on an EX490 and everything seems to have installed correctly perfectly!

The only one thing that didn’t seem to install was the MASS STORAGE CONTROLLER which has a yellow exclamation mark next to it in the device manager. Anyone know where to get the driver for that?

Also, the health light is just blinking aqua and the hard drive lights are off. Has anyone found a way to get the health light to stop blinking and any way to get the health and hard drive lights to report status correctly with Vail?

Thank you for these instructions!


David April 9, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Sorry – I did a bit of reading…for anyone who doesn’t have it, the driver for the MASS STORAGE CONTROLLER is here:

I see others have asked about the health and HDD lights…would be very interested to see if someone can create something for that!



Ryan December 2, 2011 at 2:31 am

Banged my head against the wall trying to upgrade automatically w/o a monitor. I finally plugged the drive into another computer and used these instructions:
My usb boot didn’t do everything automatically, so I had to hit some keys and had to see what I was doing. Even then, you have to be quick and unplug the drive while the temporary computer is off. Then it worked. Still had some problems, but at least I could see (through Remote Desktop) what I was doing. Totally worth it though!

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