Review: Drive Bender for Windows Home Server 2011 – Part 2 Terminology and Installation

by Paul Carvajal on November 7, 2011 · 13 comments

in Reviews

This is part 2 of a multi-part review of the Drive Bender software for Windows Home Server 2011. Part 1 is available here. In this section, we’ll cover the Drive Bender terminology and how to install Drive Bender.  If you’re thinking about installing Drive Bender,  there are some important points I’ll discuss about the product that will save you some time in your installation and some pain if something goes wrong.

I would like to point out before I start, I have successfully run the product for almost 2 weeks now with little to no issues (no different that what I had with WHS v.1).  I haven’t completed all of the testing scenarios yet, but so far so good.

Terminology:

There are some terms Drive Bender uses that I’m not sure the average user will understand, so I’ll try to define these terms for you in way everyone can understand.   It’s important for you know these terms as it will make your installation go much more smoothly.

  • Pool Instance - or “Drive Pool” – a collection of drives that are combined to make it appear as one large drive.  You can have multiple pools if you choose.
  • Drive Node – this is the physical hard drive(s) on your server used in the Drive Pool (Pool Instance)
  • Mount Point – this is how you can access the physical drive via Windows - by a drive letter or a shared folder.  WHS 2011 does NOT support accessing it as a shared folder (you can still create a “shared folder” for the drive pool or “pool instance”).  A little confusing, but more on this later.  Also, you can have multiple drive letters per Drive Pool (Pool Instance).

Preparing for the Installation:

The next set of instructions is what I recommend in preparing to install Drive Bender.  I believe this to be another layer of protection for your data.  Better safe than sorry!  I will be doing a complete set of instructions next week on “Backing Up Your WHS 2011″.

  1. Ensure that your operating system drive contains ONLY your operating system and none of your data.  In other words, make sure your Drive D: is on another physical drive.  This ensures that if you have to reformat your entire operating system drive, you won’t lose any data if you have a catastrophic failure.
  2. Make sure you back up your operating system before you attempt the install.  This will ensure you can get back to where you were again in case of a catastrophic failure for your operating system drive.  The built in backup function of WHS 2011 works very well for this function.
  3. Drive Bender states in no way should you ever lose your data when using their technology.  While I did this without any loss of data, I would prepare for a worst case scenario.  So, if you have any data that’s critical, back it up before starting the process.
  4. You are able to convert existing drives AND keep the existing drive letters.  However, due to some problems I had installing the program, I chose to install from my data backups and tried to repoint to the Server Folders to the new location, which was the wrong thing to do.  I would suggest converting the drives you’re using currently using for your Server Folders to Drive Bender and don’t use your data backup drives for this process.
  5. Launch Windows Explorer and on every Server Folder, right click on the folder and run “Properties” and document the number of Folders, Files, and the total Size of the Server Folders to be sure all of your data survived the process.

Again, I did not run into any issues with my data and in my situation Drive Bender did what they said it would do, which is creating a Drive Pool with existing data WITHOUT deleting any data, which it did.  A huge improvement over Drive Extender in WHS v.1

Drive Bender Updates:

Before I begin discussing the installation process, Drive Bender has released two additional updates to the original RTM version.  I believe they’ve fixed the issues I’ll discuss below, however, with as far as I was in the process, it didn’t do me much good.  The current version is 1.2.1.4.

Another item to note is that you do not get any type of notice when an update is available.  On the home page they have a “Follow” button that allows you to follow them on Twitter, which is where I’ve found that they notify you of the updates.

Installing Drive Bender:

  1. Remote into your server and download Drive Bender to your desktop on your server.  Remember, Drive Bender is a PROGRAM, not an Add-In.  However, it does provide an Add-In to manage the Pool Instance (Drive Pool) from the WHS Dashboard.
  2. Shutdown any programs/processes that aren’t absolutely neccessary.  In my case, I have a Video Converter that runs all the time, iTunes runs in the background, etc.  I would suggest shutting all of these down.
  3. Launch and install the program.
  4. Go to “Start”, “Program” “Drive Bender” and print out the documentation about Drive Bender.
  5. Once the program installs – REBOOT!  VERY IMPORTANT!  DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE! REBOOT REBOOT REBOOT!

Once I completed this, I had a number of issues in building and starting my drive pool.  After completing creating the Drive Pool (Pool Instance in Drive Bender terms) I believe I figured out what would have solved some of my issues.  Which is give it a couple of minutes to run it’s process, when it finishes or if you receive and error, reboot.

Using Drive Bender:

To create your Drive Pool (Pool Instance), launch your WHS Dashboard.  You should now see the Drive Bender Add In logo at the top of the screen.  If you do not, REBOOT.

Below you’ll see that Drive Bender has done a nice job of creating a task list to take you through creating, building, and managing your Drive Pool (Pool Instance).  Again, you can have multiple Drive Pools if you choose.

Below are the screenshots of your “Getting Started Task” and “Other Tasks” .  You can  do most everything you need to do from the dashboard without remoting into your server.

1.  Creating a “Pool Instance” (Drive Pool).

STOP – DON’T DO IT!

When you launched the WHS Dashboard after installing Drive Bender, it automatically created a “Pool Instance” (Drive Pool) called “WHS 2011 POOL”.  This is mentioned in the documention at the bottom of page 5.  I didn’t read this as I saw the nice “Getting Started Tasks” and away I went.  No big deal, but this step isn’t necessary and probably should be removed from the WHS 2011 version.

I would highly recommend after launching the Dashboard, that you REBOOT BEFORE ADDING ANY DRIVES.

2. Adding A Hard Drive to the Pool.

BEFORE YOU ADD A DRIVE:  If you’re doing a new installation of WHS 2011 and are setting up your first drive pool, read on.  If you’re an existing WHS 2011 user and want to convert your existing data – STOP!!!  We’ll cover this in the next article.

HOW YOU ADD YOUR FIRST DRIVE IS VERY IMPORTANT TO AVOID SERVER FOLDER ISSUES!!!

Click on the “Add A Drive To The Pool” (if you’re converting a drive with data and a drive letter to start your pool, we’ll cover this in the next article)

You can format the drive if you choose and have Drive Bender rename the drive for you.  If you have a large number of drives, I suggest you add drives one at a time and be sure you notate where in your system which bay which drive is in so it will be easier to identify which drive is which if you have a drive failure.  Drive Bender names them [DB1], [DB2], etc.

Again, what I would suggest, is that while Drive Bender allows you add multiple hard drives, is that you start with one.  And what should you do after you add it?  REBOOT!

I know this sounds like a broken record, but as I did my installation, most of my errors were fixed when I rebooted after some of the inital processes.  Again, Drive Bender states that they fixed these issues in the updates they have released, but save yourself some time, or a headache, and reboot now.

3. After rebooting, open your WHS Dashboard, click on “Server Folders and Hard Drives”.  You will now see a new tab called “Pool Management”.

These are all of the drives that are a part of your “Pool”.  You’ll notice the first drive is named [2TB], which I chose NOT to rename when I added the drive, and that there are 2 [DB1] drives.  I believe this occurred when I added 3 drives at one time, instead of one at a time.

4. In order to access the “Pool Instance” (Drive Pool), we need to assign a drive letter to the Pool.  Click on the link “Add A Drive Letter To The Pool”.  This step shouldn’t be necessary if you imported your first drive if it already had drive letter associated with it.  My first drive was already assigned Drive J:/ so that is now the drive letter of my pool.

5. You should now see your “Pool Instance” (Drive Pool) in the “Hard Drives” tab on your WHS 2011 Dashboard:

Again, mine is the J:/ drive.

Issues:

The biggest issues I had during this process is that Drive Bender “hangs” while it creates the “Pool” or adds a drive. I was able to reboot and eliminate those issues.

The next part of this series will focus on Merging and Converting existing hard drives with data.

This is part of a multi-part review of the Drive Bender software for Windows Home Server 2011.
Part 1: Introduction to Drive Bender
Part 2: Terminology and Installation
Part 3: Adding Drives With Data to your Pool
Part 4: Managing Your Pool Instance
Part 5: Importing your WHS v1 Data




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!


{ 13 comments }

Eidos November 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I noticed in your final step 5 it appears that you did not include your Client BU/Files into the drive pool. Is there a reason for this? In addition why keep the H RAID drives when they could now be a JBOD array (with Drive Bender) that could be added to the drive pool J?
When you added the drives to the drive pool did your server folders simply “roll over” into the pool and are they still intact. I always get concerned regarding the server folders. Not using RAID, I had each drive as a server folder, like video 1, video 2, etc. because of the 2TB drive limit. When I go to Drive Bender I would like to only create one large server folder for Videos that would span multiple drives.
I am sorry for the silly questions I am just trying to learn from your strategy.

Paul Carvajal November 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Good questions.

My data is my life and if I lost the data, I’d be a dead man! I kept one drive with my most important data seperate until I saw how Drive Bender performed. I did copy all of that data to Drive Bender so while you see the Server Folder pointed to a single drive, that data does reside in a copy on my Drive Bender pool. I’ve just been burned too many times not to be cautious with my data.

On the RAID array, I have a backup copy of more than 7TBs of movies on this array which would take about 6 weeks to re-rip.

First, I wanted to make sure everything copied okay before I tore it down. Second, for kicks, I wanted to see if a large RAID Array would work with Drive Bender, which it did. So currently on my system I have 2 copies of my Videos.

You can do what you want to do, but be sure to read my next article which will deal specifically how to handle your data if you’re a current WHS 2011 user.

Paul Carvajal November 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Sorry hit the enter key prematurely.

What I meant to say, is you can do what you want to do – which is have one drive which is 5 , 10, 15TB if you want, just like in WHS v.1. Except that you don’t have to create your drive pool from scratch and spend days copying your data over. You can just use the “convert” function and go.

Eidos November 8, 2011 at 7:22 am

Thanks for the answers. In my case I use multiple servers to backup my video library and music library to protect the hours of work that I have put in. I look forward to your next section of this interesting report.

Luke Foust November 8, 2011 at 10:20 am

Wow. This sounds really scary. I am not sure I would trust a product which seems so unstable with my data.

Funksultan November 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Heheh, the 13 exclamation points may have scared me off for now, although I’m anxious to hear the rest of the story. *grin*

I’d at least feel a little better if they were at the end of sentences like “This was so easy!!” instead of “Reboot immediately or you’ll be sorrrry!!”

:)

kcjack December 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Thank you for the article. I am trying to install drive bender with your instructions as I am a non-tech type. So far the info has been flawless. I am a little confused as I thought I could use drive bender and not involve my operating system hard drive and just do the normal 2011 backup to external for this, but when DP made it’s first pool it is my operating system. Did I miss something.

Thanks,
kcjack

Paul Carvajal December 8, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Hi KCJack,

I’m not sure I understand what the issue is. DB will install it’s program on the operating system drive (drive C:\). However, the only drives that would be in the pool are ones that you added in. Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “normal 2011 backup to external”. Can you explain a little more?

Thanks.

kcjack December 9, 2011 at 6:56 am

I was confused when I wrote the piece. I now understand and have completed adding the hard drives of my choice. As I went through the process it appeared to me that my initial drive with my 2011 whs op system on it was in the pool (c:) but it was not. I did not want my operating system backup for whs 2011 in the pool, but to an external hard drive and that is all ok and setup fine. Thanks for your article and patient response.

KCJACK

Ricky Chaddock February 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Thank you for the article. I would very much like to follow your example to the letter, but am having trouble figuring out how to get my data (D:) off of my system drive, and on to a different physical disk as you recommend. I’ve tried re-installing a couple of times, but there doesn’t seem to be an option allowing me to select that configuration — maybe I’m missing it somehow. Is there another article or forum that you might recommend? Sorry if this is very basic.

Paul Carvajal February 26, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Ricky,

If I am interpeting correctly your comment, you are trying to remove files from your system drive in WHS v.1 which has both the C: & D: drives on it.

You need to get a program, such as Drive Balancer, which will migrate the data the off of the system drive and onto your data drives. This should take care of the issue.

Thanks.

Ricky Chaddock February 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Paul,

Sorry I was unclear.

In my case, I am using WHS 2011. The WHS 2011 installation requires the primary system disk be at least 160GB. I’ve discovered (after doing a few WHS 2011 installation iterations) that if the primary system disk is unformatted, it will create several partitions on it. It installs the OS on a C:, and data on D: (on the same primary system disk). In the section above “Preparing for the Installation:” step 1, you recommend moving D: to a separate physical drive. Can I do that using the Dashboard to “move” the folders to another drive? or is there some other technique to do that?

Thanks,
–Ricky

Paul Carvajal February 26, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Here are the instructions I used. http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whsvailbeta/thread/f10fda66-4755-47cc-adf8-933291b48e79

Now, when you do this, your mandatory server folders will be deleted and you’ll need to recreate them. Make sure you have NO data in drive d: when you do this.

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