Review: Drive Bender for Windows Home Server 2011 – Part 3 Adding Drives With Data to Your Pool

by Paul Carvajal on November 8, 2011 · 4 comments

in Reviews

In the last post, we discussed creating a Pool Instance (Drive Pool) and adding in a blank hard drive to start your pool for a new installation.  For those of you that are currently using Windows Home Server 2011, this article is for you!

Terminology

Drive Bender allows you to add hard drives to your pool in three ways:

  1. Add a drive – for new or drives without data
  2. Convert a drive – takes your existing drives, data, AND DRIVE LETTERS and adds them to your pool
  3. Merge a drive – takes your existing drive and data and lets you add it to an existing folder in your pool WITHOUT keeping the drive letter

Preparation:

As with any major upgrade, you should plan out how you are going to implement the change.  Below are my suggestions based upon the experience I had with Drive Bender.

As I had issues with installing Drive Bender and creating the pool, I decided to start my pool with a blank drive and copy my data over.

This was a big mistake as I had all sorts of Server Folder issues, part of which I believe were caused by the way Microsoft handles the mandatory Server Folders and the “hang” issues with Drive Bender that I discussed in Part 2 of this review.

I also had issues in using the “Move the Folder” function in WHS 2011 when I tried to move the mandatory Server Folders to the new Pool Instance (Drive Pool) I created.  I am not sure if this was due to WHS 2011 or Drive Bender, but it was an issue nonetheless.

What I’m suggesting below is not required in the documentation, but what I believe would minimize or eliminate issues based upon my install experience.

  1. First thing I would do, is reboot your system again.  I know you probably did this earlier, but I would recommend doing this again.
  2. Take a look at your Server Folders.  If you have any over 1TB, I would suggest moving the data to new or other folders to keep the size of each Server Folder below 1TB.  Some of the the issues I had seemed to be with the larger folders.  Again, I didn’t lose any data, I just had some Server Folder issues.
  3. If you’re using the “HomeGroup” functionality, remove your server from the HomeGroup.
  4. I would also suggest turning off access to ALL OF THE SERVER FOLDERS.  Go through each Server Folder and each user and ensure NO ONE has access.
  5. Once this is complete, again, reboot.

Converting Your First Drive With Data To The Pool:

If you’re a current WHS 2011 user, you’re going to want to take all of your existing data/drives and put them into your new Pool Instance (Drive Pool) EXACTLY the way you have them set up.

So, if your Server Folders are on drives d:/, e:/,  f:/, etc. then you will want to convert them to your pool EXACTLY the same way.  If you’re obsessive compulsive like I am and want to only have one drive letter, WAIT UNTIL ALL OF YOUR DRIVES ARE IN THE POOL AND WORKING CORRECTLY BEFORE CHANGING OR MOVING ANY DATA.

Only use the “Move the Folder” function to move the folders to a new drive.

1. Choose the drive which contains the smallest amount of data to convert to the pool first.

2. On the WHS Dashboard, click on the Drive Bender Add-In tab and click on “Convert An Existing Drive To A Pooled Drive”.

A popup will appear and you will select the hard drive that you want to convert.

Again, I would suggest starting with the hard drive that has the smallest amount of data on it and convert it first.

One thing to note – error messages DO NOT appear in the traditional manner.  The error messages appear in Alert Viewer.  I wasn’t prepared for this when I first converted a drive, but I finally found this message:

Reboot your computer.  You may have to reboot twice.

Launch your WHS Dashboard and go into your “Server Folders and Hard Drive” Add-In.  You should see your “Server Folders” exactly as they were before.

You can go to “Pool Management” and you should see your first drive.

If you don’t, wait a few minutes and reboot again.

Remote in and launch Windows Explorer from your WHS 2011 server and on every Server Folder you converted, right click on the folder and run “Properties” and document the number of Folders, Files, and the total Size of the Server Folders so you can verify all of your data is there, which it will be.

Once this has completed correctly, continue converting your drives and ALWAYS REBOOT BEFORE ADDING A NEW DRIVE.

I did this twice on my drives.  One drive converted in just fine.  The 2nd drive, an 11TB RAID 5 (about 7.5TBs of data) “hung” and I had to reboot a couple of times.  After one of the reboots, the drive letter or “mount point” disappeared in Drive Bender.  I recreated the “Server Folder” and pointed it to the directory on the hard drive where the data resides.  This solved the problem and the data was all there.

Drive Bender changed the directory or folder structure, but all of the data is there in a new directory as shown below.

Once you’ve “Converted” all of the hard drives to the Pool Instance (Drive Pool), reboot one more time.

After you reboot, you can reset all of your Server Folder permissions, User Access, and HomeGroup settings.

Merging a Drive

Drive Bender also allows you “merge” data from a hard drive into an existing Server Folder.  This comes in handy if you have a drive from another computer that you want to use with your pool AND you want to put the data into an existing Server Folder.

By clicking on “select path” you can pick the exact spot where to insert your data.

Issues To This Point

There have been a couple of issues I’ve encountered.  None of these have been major, but they have been annoying.

  • Anytime I do anything with the drives, Drive Bender has a tendency to “hang” the server.  I reboot once or twice and it seems to solve the problem.  But, it’s annoying.
  • I have had situations when I can’t access the Server Folders after I’ve performed an addition or converted a drive.  The only way I’ve found to solve the problem was to restore the operating system to the previous backup or image.  This took about 15 minutes, I repaired the pool (I’ll go over this in the next article) and all was well.
  • Twice I’ve had the server “hang”.  This was no different than at times I had the same issue with WHS v.1.  Again, rebooting took care of the issue.  I’ve been converting DVDs to MP4′s while Drive Bender was balancing the drives.  This causes my processor to peak out at 100%.  Again, this was similar to issues I had with HP EX495 (using WHS v.1) running the video converting process, so I’m not too concerned about this.
  • I continue to not be able to move Server Folders to a new Mount Point (drive letter – such as J:/ to E:/).  This continues to give me an error message.
  • I lost a “Mount Point” (Drive Letter in my case H:/) in Drive Bender and can’t retrieve it in Drive Bender (Windows see’s it fine).  I can still point to the data and access it, however, Drive Bender can’t see it to duplicate the data of the folder.
  • The documentation is installed on the “Programs” menu which can only be accessed if you launch the Drive Bender from the server itself.  I think they need to put a link on the WHS Dashboard to pull up the documentation.  Since anyone who uses WHS does almost everything from the dashboard, I didn’t find it until I had an issue and decided to launch Drive Bender from the server.

What I’m going to do tonight, is do a “New Installation” of WHS 2011 and start with everything fresh and see if this solves some of the Sever Folder issues (which could be Microsoft’s issue and not Drive Bender).  This will also test if the pool can be recreated from a catastrophic failure.

So, if you don’t hear from me for several weeks, you’ll know how it went!  :-)

Summary

At this point, we’ve

  • Created our Pool Instance
  • Added a New Hard Drive to the Pool
  • Converted a Drive With Data to the Pool
  • Merged a Drive with Data to the Pool

Overall, the performance of Drive Bender overall has been fine.  My measurement of how it performs is how my DVDs and BluRays playback on my clients in Windows Media Center.  I have watched several DVDs and BluRays and all  have the same performance I did from my RAID array.  Again, I’ve been using Drive Bender for about two weeks and it seems to be performing fine.  As I use it more and more, I’m becoming more comfortable with it in spite of the issues that pop up, which aren’t catastrophic, just annoying.

Next up, now that we have a “Pool Instance” (Drive Pool) and drives in the pool, we’re going to review “How To Manage Your Pool Instance (Drive Pool)” in Drive Bender.

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!


{ 4 comments }

Jericko November 8, 2011 at 9:38 am

This is a great write up Paul! I really appreciate the time you are putting into this. As a user/fan of WHS v1, you article is making me think about upgrading to 2011.

HarryF November 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hey Paul. Agree, great job. You may like to know that v1215 has just come out and it seems a lot of these setup issue have been put to bed. I have just run a bunch of tests on a vmware install and not a single issue with adding drives or merging data.

Mark January 11, 2012 at 1:07 am

Can u please give some comments on removing drives from pool? I has a real annoying problem where I had no choice but to force all my drives out of the pool. Now all my folders in the drives look like duplicates but are empty. One folder on each drive does have everything that should be on the drive but now I have to manually go through each drive and fix the folders. Hope I am clear to what’s happening. I am in communication with drive bender to try and fix the issue. This sounds like one of those annoying issues you talk about.

Paul Carvajal January 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

Mark,

Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you need to rebuild your pool. Have you tried that? Other than that, I’m not sure what the issue could be.

As far as the file structure is concerned, there is an article that explains the file structure of DB:

http://support.drivebender.com/entries/20437652-understanding-a-pooled-drive-s-structure

Let me know how it goes.

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