Windows Home Server 2011 now available for TechNet and MSDN Subscribers

by Nigel Wilks on April 6, 2011 · 27 comments

in News

The Microsoft Windows Home Server Blog have announced that MSDN and Technet subscribers can now download the RTM version of Windows Home Server 2011. For those of you happy to see the back of DE, then it’s worth taking a peek. I’ve been running it in production now for a few days and if I’m honest I’m quite pleased with it. Granted I have a raid card so I don’t need DE, and its obviously not as flexible as V1 was with its drive pool. But for me having Windows 2008 running is a much better experience.

Heres what Microsoft had to say: -

Starting today MSDN and TechNet subscribers will be able to download Windows Home Server 2011 for testing and evaluation purposes.

Make sure you also check out the Windows Server Solution SDK site, which overviews how to create add-ins that can extend the functionality of Windows Home Server. Also just released is the Windows Server Solutions SDK Installer, a tool that helps you install the Windows Server Solutions SDK. It has Visual Studio 2010 samples and templates that you can use to easily create applications for Windows Home Server 2011.

Stay tuned for further information on the evaluation experience for Windows Home Server 2011 releasing later this month.

I’ve kept relatively quiet during the “missing” DE debate, for sure I liked it. But sometimes it was a frustrating technology, and for those amongst you that had stuttering video issues and had to cripple DE temporarily I’m pleased to say they have gone. My PC’s are being backed up, media is being streamed and Remote Access works well. I expect Windows Home Server 2011 will become a Marmite product amongst current WHS users. If you have MSDN or Technet why not test it out?

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I'm a Technical Architect based in the UK predominantly working on Windows Server and Active Directory based solutions. I'm also a Microsoft Windows Home Server MVP and moderator/author at I've released the FirePlay for Windows Home Server, WHS PHP Installer, MySql Installer for WHS and Wordpress Installer for WHS Add-Ins as well as co-author of the SanEncore and WHS Health Add-Ins with Alex Kuretz.


Paul April 6, 2011 at 2:45 am

I need to rebuild my EX490 (again…) – do you know if it’s possible/recommended to install WHS 2011 onto this?

Nigel Wilks April 6, 2011 at 4:52 am

There is no reason why not; except the lights wont work in the same way on the front of the server. Check out Alex’s guide here.

Alex Kuretz April 6, 2011 at 9:28 am

The cgi.ini needs to be updated for the RTM release, I’ll update my install guide but until then here’s the info:

Paul April 6, 2011 at 5:25 am

Thanks Nigel – looks good. I’ll give it a try.

jalaram April 6, 2011 at 8:27 am

What should I do about all of HP’s extra software that came with the EX490? I assume they’re not compatible with 2011.

Alex Kuretz April 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

If you choose to install WHS 2011 on your EX490, you will no longer have the HP additions to WHS, you will be running vanilla WHS 2011.

micksh April 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm

“If you have MSDN or Technet why not test it out?”

Because I need DE and my old WHS v1 server works perfect with 12 HDDs in DE pool. Sounds obvious to me. There is nothing in WHS 2011 that I need right now.

jericko April 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Like micksh said, I have a ton of drives and need DE. Without it, WHS V2 us worthless to me.

Nigel Wilks April 8, 2011 at 11:31 am

If it works for you, and you can stick with your original investment that’s cool. Some people need DE and I respect that, and some had enough a while ago or never used its features but got punished anyway as you couldn’t turn it off.

But for those upgrading, and wanting some other improvements (and possibly using some of the DE replacement Add-Ins) there are options.

Scoot April 7, 2011 at 10:30 pm

“like zOmG!:( I have a bunch of hard driver”. They are probably all over 2 years old if you have a “bunch” of them. If you are serious about protecting your data, go pick up a few new 1 or 2 TB drives.

micksh April 8, 2011 at 11:30 am

Like zOmG!, how can he see through me from far away?

Only 2 of my 12 HDDs are 1.5TB, the rest are 2TB and no disks over 2 years old. Even if all were 2TB I would not touch hardware RAID.
My data is protected with FlexRaid RAID6 engine, health is monitored with DiskCheckup.

It is easier to maintain and easier to recover from failure than hardware RAID. And it is less prone to failure than hardware RAID with my usage pattern. Not to mention it’s cheaper. This setup is also expandable to 16 HDDs, I just need to buy any decent SATA JBOD controller.

Go ahead and and waste money on hardware RAID controller.
Then learn how disks are dropping from array and replace all disks with enterprise grade ones.
Experience failure during array rebuild (HDD is likely to fail because of bigger stress), lose all data.
Then double number of drives for a backup mirror.
And then deal with proprietary RAID data format when either controller or motherboard dies.
Sounds like a good project for the next year, eh?

BTW, I will seriously consider WHS 2011 only if/when rock-stable and proven DE replacement is available.

PC April 8, 2011 at 8:25 am

Okay, I think I’m going to go with WHS 2011 in a Norco 4220. With hardware RAID, do you recommend 2 separate RAID 5 or 6 arrays (I know this wastes more drives but I’m concerned about data loss) or 1 large RAID 6 array with 1 or 2 hot swap drives. The idea of RAID 5+0 sounds like a good combination of redundancy and speed but I’m a rookie and would be afraid of the maintainability of this type of system. This will be a media server with some on the fly transcoding. Any RAID controller hardware suggestions?

Tim April 8, 2011 at 10:31 am

I got WHS 2011 installed on my EX485. I went with the instructions posted above, with the exception that I had to use an external DVD drive, as all my USB thumb drives have mysteriously disappeared. Luckily I have the special “debug” cable, so I was able to hook up a mouse, keyboard, and monitor to my EX485 and watch the entire procedure. I bought a used 250 gig hard drive to use as my “OS” drive instead of wasting one of my 1TB drives on just the OS. I know I didn’t have to do that, but that is the way my brain works when viewing efficiency… : P

I must say that it was kind of painful dealing with drives in the new manner. First off, you have to completely remove ALL partitions on whatever drives you throw in, or the EX485 still tries to boot off them with some Windows Recovery program… even thought the drive is blank!! Explain that?!?! Anyhow, once I figured that out, I had to add each 1TB drive one at a time and configure them to work with the EX485. I have 2x 1TB drives, so I added the first one and configured it as the “Main” drive to store all my stuff… ya, I have less than 1TB worth of stuff luckily. I then added the 2nd 1TB drive and configured it to be the “Backup” drive for the 1st 1TB. At least this way I won’t lose all my stuff if one of the 1TB drives bites the dust.

So that is how I did it, in case anyone is interested. It does seem faster that WHS v1, but it took about 6 hours total to get it all set up before I could start transferring all my stuff over to it.

Good luck!


Nigel Wilks April 8, 2011 at 11:23 am

Good to hear your success story! The pain you mention is much easier when a Raid card is thrown in (Needless to say that’s not an option for the MSS. Works well with the HP ProLiant box though.) And of course then your duplication needs are kind of taken care of.

Do you plan on rotatating that backup drive?

Comp1962 April 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm

@ Tim the reason why your EX485 booted into its recovery mode is because it saw no bootable device so it booted off the hidden SMI Area on the motherboard. Now that you have WHS 2011 up and running you should be able to see the SMI device in your drive listing called something like USB SMI and about 256 mb in size. It would be in your best interest to copy the files from that area and store them in a safe place. The reason for this is if you ever decide to reinstall the WHS Software that came with your EX485 and something corrupted those files you would have a copy of them and could create a bootable USB Flashdrive and copy those files to it and simply boot off that flash drive to place your EX485 into recovery mode.

Its great to hear you have success getting WHS 2011 installed and I hope you share your experience with it. I am running WHS 2011 RC and I have downloaded the release version from Technet which I will install at a later point in time after those who I have allowed to beat it up come back and tell me their thoughts on it.

Dan (Nomad) April 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm

It would be nice to upgrade to WHS2011 especially when many of us have upgraded our EX485′s. Extending hardware life is always cost effective especially when new software is available.

I have not seen any comments about the built in features that would probably be lost moving away from the WHS version written for the MSS. Also the lost of DE is a major biggie for those not willing to make managing their server a part time job.

Perhaps those in the know could do a comparison of the 2 versions as it would apply to the HP Mediasmart server as well as recommend possible solutions to the DE issue.

Thanks to all that contribute and share knowledge!

Chris April 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I could not get my EX485 to boot off my thumb drive, but I did get it to boot and install from a USB external HDD. All is going well so far. I did also notice that you can still add drives hot. WHS2011 recognizes them after 10 or 15 seconds.

nate April 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

My EX487 is upgraded. Not sure if i’ll keep it this way or not.

I backed up all my data to an external drive. Then I removed the System drive from bay 1, and put the drive from bay 3 in its place. When everything was installed I put the old bay 1 drive into bay 3 and formatted it. Never needed another computer. Nice!

Seems ok. It actually seems much more stripped down in my opinion. Not automatically creating user shares, etc… the Dashboard just seems empty to me.

THe Windows Phone 7 app will be the deciding factor when it’s released.

Nigel Wilks April 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Yes its pretty sparse without the community Add-Ins but then its early days and not in general release yet. Do you find it quicker that V1? Have you tried a backup? Faster? Streaming?

nate April 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I actually never used add-ins of any kind.

I haven’t tried backup yet. Moving everything from back ups back to the shared folders, then I will format the old drives and setup backups.

I tried media streaming, but it says no photos, music or videos are available even through they’re in the shared folders. Server probably has to index it or something?

Flipping through pictures in Windows Live Photo Gallery seems faster, my wife will know for sure.

Darkstryke April 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

I threw it on my vanilla EX490, and just like the beta periods I’m really not all that impressed. The only major good thing I can say is backups are much better (did a laptop restore just to test it out), the process a good improvement over whs1.

Other then that tho, I am really not liking the direction that has been taken. It is very new-user unfriendly, and the whole process of drive setup / backup feels very tacked on compared to the simplicity of DE and folder duplication.

I play with server 08 at work quite often so I don’t feel out of place, but unless the OEM’s can really spruce up the barebones of RTM, this product is a step back from WHS1 for the target home joe average consumer market, imo.

nate April 11, 2011 at 7:12 pm

i agree after playing with it for the weekend. it seems like a step back for sure. i’ll probably leave it on due to not wanting to go through the backup/install/restore rigamaroll again.

Darkstryke April 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

I just pulled the 1tb OS drive out and threw in an older 320gig one. I think that the set it & forget it of WHS1 is going to win me back, and thankfully that’s just a drive swap & connector reinstall away.

Mark S April 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm

My favorite feature of vail is no support for any drive over 2tb. I believe that as they become cheaper and all users want to use them. Just say no to new tech!

Nigel Wilks April 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm

The 2TB limit is a pain I agree, and is a limiting factor because of the server backups use of VHD’s. This is an underlying Windows limitation and not an introduced WHS one.

However, you can create partitions larger than 2 TB and share folders on these partitions through the Dashboard. To try and convince users not to do this, the “Format a Drive Wizard” creates maximum 2 TB partitions by default.

nate April 14, 2011 at 11:05 am

Currently in the process of rolling back my 487.

The thing wouldn’t boot this morning. No idea what happened there. Oh well. Speeds were a little faster for file access, but not enough to warrent the upgrade. Happy to be rolling back. Was looking forward to the Windows Phone 7 app, but whatever. I’m fine without it.

richard smith June 8, 2011 at 3:22 am

I have just installed the RTM version onto a homebuild Sandybridge i3 2100, 8GB 1333mhz DDR3 on 1TB Samsung and 2x 2TB WD EARS all sitting pretty in a CM HAF X for maximum cooling. (My WHS is in my house loft)

Having used WHS v1, to be honest the only thing i like about 2011 is the media streaming. This and this only is the reason i’ll keep it. Its very unfriendly. I am in IT so its not difficult for me but why i like v1 was because when i go home, i dont want to feel like im still at work!! V1 was quick, dumbed down, easy and fast.
Sooner they replace the interface with a user friendly one the better.

I think MS have lost the plot on who this product was intended for, and as much as i hate apple, this is why apple will prevail, they understand and listen to there customers.

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