Windows Home Server 2011 Evaluation Is Here! Or Is it?

by Paul Carvajal on May 12, 2011 · 12 comments

in News

Microsoft announced on May 9th, 2011 via their blog that the evaluation copy of Windows Home Server 2011 is now available.  You can download it via their website.

In the Microsoft WHS 2011 forum, WHS 2011 was released to OEMs for sale on May 1st. It was stated that System Builder versions would probably NOT be available for 3-6 weeks. So, expect sometime between May 21st and June 15th to purchase the software. More on this later in the article.

WHS 2011 Evaluation Lab

Wait a second – the blog say’s “Evaluation Experience”, not download.  Hmmmm.

Okay, it’s not a download, but an interactive virtual tour (they call it a “lab”) that takes you through the WHS 2011 experience.  This is definitely different than what was released for WHS v.1 where you had to install a copy of the operating system on a compatible computer.  Of course those of you who did this with WHS v.1, knew that after 90 days you would have to reinstall the software, which was a real bummer as you’d have to start over again.

This looks like a nice improvement over having to install a copy if you’re looking to buy new hardware to see how the software operates and the user experience. However, if you have existing hardware, you’re not going to be able to check out drivers, compatibility, etc. to see how the operating system will work on your existing hardware.  Just so you know, Microsoft is NOT planning to allow you to download a evaluation copy of the software to install on a server.

To use the “lab”, you’ll have to have the following minimum system requirements:

  1. Windows Vista or later
  2. Internet Explorer 8.0 or later
  3. .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 or later
  4. A screen resolution of 1280×1024 or higher recommended
  5. On Windows XP ensure CredSSP is enabled

See anything unusual in the requirements?  #1 says you have to have Vista or higher, but in #5 says if you’re using XP….so what are the minimum requirements?  The complete requirements are in a two page document for your review.

This evaluation provides a hands on ability to experience the product including the following areas:

  • Adding a user
  • Using the client Launchpad
  • Managing PCs to ensure its health and security
  • Protecting the server and PC’s data
  • Adding server storage capacity
  • Using Remote Web Access

While this is a great idea, I personally didn’t care for software they used to present the experience.  Just so it doesn’t catch you off guard, when you enter the program, you’ll be presented two screens, one for an instruction manual, which you MUST have as there are passwords you’ll need to log in and start the “lab”, and a second screen for the interactive demo.

I recommend you download the manual to your computer for ease of use and minimize the guide window (don’t close it or you’ll shutdown the lab).  Did I mention that the program can’t use the “Snap” feature in Windows 7 (where you can automatically have two windows each take up half of the screen dragging one to the right and one to the left)?

Overall, this was a great idea, but they should have fine tuned the overall experience.  Let us know what you think of the “lab” after you use it by commenting below.

Release of WHS 2011

As stated above, WHS 2011 should be available sometime between May 21st and June 15th.  Why the uncertainity?  WHS 2011 will be available for purchase from anyone but Microsoft!

Microsoft, as it did with WHS v.1, is expecting the OEMs who are including the software in with their servers and third parties such as Newegg to distribute the software for those who want to build their own server.  I understand that Microsoft is offering the software as System Builder only, which means that you can only use the software on one physical computer only, with no support from Microsoft.  But doesn’t Microsoft already sell software for download?  Couldn’t they offer it in their “store” like they do other home and small business software and remind people of the limitations?  Oh well, it’s only a few more weeks.

WHS 2011 is really awesome, a huge improvement over WHS v.1 and is well worth the wait.  I am soooooo anxious that I’ve stocked up on “Depends”!

Article by

I guess you could say I'm Home Tech Enthusiast. I'm a little different than most of the people who probably visit the website. I'm not an IT person! I love technology and want to find cool things that have a purpose. I'm not one who likes to program, create things, etc., I like to spend my time using them. Plus, my wife is NOT technology oriented! The more complicated things are, the more my life is complicated! One thing I hate about electronics nowadays, is that all documentation is written as though you know this, you've already been to another site or section to find this, etc. Nothing is clear cut. So, I try to write everything to the lowest denominator. Keep it basic, keep it simple, and make it fun!


Sam May 13, 2011 at 7:31 am

PAH! No evaluation software :-( So how am I to check compatibility with my existing setup? Another Vail fail…again. I want to test installation and performance on my own rig, if I want to experience streaming speeds, backups, and many other features including new add-ins

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:27 am

Sam – it’s like they took one step forward (a demo for those who don’t have a WHS) and then they took a step back (by not having a downloadable copy) for those building a new system or upgrading an old one!

I heard the new WHS 2019 is going to have both! :-) Ughhhhhhhh!!!!

Gardian May 13, 2011 at 10:46 am

I’ll save my “Depends” for when xp and WHS v1 don’t work anymore. Until then, No thanks! ( I was being nice ) :-)

Short Rant! WAKE UP MICROSOFT, Get out of that bubble and make something good, Gee’s! God help us when they have us all on the cloud and change stuff every other day. End Short Rant!

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

That day is here – with Microsoft Office 365 – they’re now putting the programs in the “cloud”.

If works for you, stick with it – nothing wrong with “tried and true and what you know best!”

GPKing May 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Get a mac. This summer Lion Server will be included in Lion at NO additional charge! I have kicked out Mickeymouse Software a long time ago with my MSS being the last stand!

Alex Kuretz May 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Pardon my ignorance of Lion Server, but what are the compelling features that make it a suitable replacement for WHS?

JohnBick May 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

I believe this is your answer, Alex…

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:34 am

I still don’t get it – have you had an opportunity to play with it?

Is there any benefit for media management?

Alex Kuretz May 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Uhh, that’s a marketing page for Lion, not a comparison of features vs WHS. There’s only 4 bullets under Lion Server and none seem relevant to my question. Wiki Server? Profile Manager? Easy Setup? File Sharing for iPad?

John B. May 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I have both MS and Macs in my environment and I am not a fanboy for either. No one really knows where Lion Server is going and Apple’s intent on giving it away. Who is going to buy a $800 Mac mini (1 drive) or spend $2500 plus on a Mac Pro so that you can run “free” server software? Only people who are in a total Mac environment, want an integrated solution and have no problem spending that kind of money. What is interesting about Lion Server is what you can do to manage Macs in your environment and that can be probably be done through a MacBook Pro. Forget about if you have both Macs and Windows systems. MS isn’t any better in dealing with Macs in WHS 2011 … the new Mac dashboard is a joke.

Paul Carvajal May 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

I agree – neither is good at helping you manage a mixed environment. While I can make backups of Macs on WHS 2011, I can’t run the dashboard on a Mac, which I could do with WHS v.1. That’s not a big deal to me as I have to run Parallels because of another program I have, but what’s the point of putting it on a Mac?

GPKing May 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Man, I started somethimg here. Agreed with all comments above. But if you have an all Apple ecosystem (which I have) it is just wonderful. Right now I have a copy of Snow Leopard Server running on a mac mini and it is just great (media integration through iTunes with my Apple TVs, ipad and iphone). Setup is extremely simple out of the box but you do need a fixed IP address from you network provider to run some advanced services. And setup of those is more complicated than just having it configured as a file, media and backup (time machine) server. Again I still like my MSS but this was and is only one compelling product Mickeymouse software has to offer.

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

Previous post:

Next post: