Five Years of HP MediaSmart Server – And Counting

by Alex Kuretz on February 3, 2015 · 13 comments

in News

The following is a guest post written by Matthew Sawyer (forum member msawyer91) of Dojo North Software, developer of the popular and useful Home Server SMART Add-In for WHS and WHS 2011.

Wow how time flies. On Christmas 2009, my wife gave me an HP MediaSmart EX490. If I was a geek back then, I’m really a geek now! Thanks to the MediaSmart, I’ve learned a lot. Especially about some things I never really gave much thought to, like streaming home media. I wanted the server for backups, but it turned out to be so much more.

I helped my trusty EX490 along with a CPU upgrade and more memory, and it helped my family out by not only keeping our data safe, but also by streaming media for the young’ins. My daughter was 2 at the time I got the server and my son was born in April 2010. So the media kept us entertained too for those middle-of-the-night feedings.

Less than a year later, Microsoft pulled the carpet out from beneath our feet by announcing they were killing off Windows Home Server’s most endearing feature, Drive Extender. Many folks vowed to stay with WHS v1, no matter what Microsoft was going to put out. I too had invested a lot of energy into WHS v1, with my free Home Server SMART add-in, which many of you continue to run today. And every now and again, a donation comes in. Thank you! :)

As someone who works in IT and lives on the bleeding edge of technology, I felt the desire to move on to WHS 2011 despite Microsoft’s transgressions. A friend of mine was selling an EX487, so I bought that off of him, and like the EX490, upgraded the CPU and memory. Now I could tinker with WHS 2011 while still running WHS v1!

Despite the lack of Drive Extender, WHS 2011 did a good job. And it gave me an opportunity to come out with a new edition of Home Server SMART, and its companion shareware product WindowSMART. The fact that WHS 2011 supported the x64 processor and full 4GB of memory was a big help too. Plus, a couple of private developers kept the Drive Extender spirit alive with their offerings – Drive Bender and StableBit Drive Pool.

Sadly Microsoft abandoned the “home server” concept after WHS 2011. They released Windows Server 2012 Essentials, followed by an R2 version, but neither were ever priced appropriately for home users. Plus Microsoft’s first crack at resurrecting Drive Extender, now called Storage Spaces, fell short of the mark. I appreciate that Microsoft realized the err of their ways in killing off Drive Extender in the first place, but the first release of Storage Spaces seemed a lot slower and not quite as reliable as Drive Bender or StableBit.

Then a couple years ago, my trusty EX490 seemed to give up the ghost. Thankfully it was just a bad power supply. A good company called Overtek in the UK came to the rescue with a compatible power supply, and my EX490 was back up and running.

Fast forward to today, and I’ve got a small business running from both my EX487 and EX490, and I’ve got another EX490 on the way, bought from a fellow MediaSmartServer.net member. A friend of mine runs a small business and wants an onsite backup capability, along with remote access. She didn’t want a budget buster, and knowing how reliable the EX490 is, I was happy to order one up for her.

While some may regard the EX4xx servers as old, obsolete and outdated, I beg to differ. Arguably I believe this is one of HP’s best products, even if it never gained the market traction HP hoped it would gain. It’s small, reliable, still supports the latest operating systems (including Windows Server 2012 R2) and also supports the latest high-capacity hard drives. And SSDs too! Thanks to our good friend Charles and VOV Technology, you can add video and keyboard/mouse capabilities.

Yes, the MediaSmart Server is a powerful little machine. Over the years I’ve tried out several different heavy-hitting applications on it, like SQL Server, SharePoint and even Exchange. It ran them all, just not at once.

Today my EX487 and EX490 press on…backing up everything, streaming media and providing me remote access no matter where I am. It’s been a fun five years. Thank you HP for building us such a great product, and thank you for HP for building a product that helped bring together such a great community here at MediaSmartServer.net!





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. 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.


{ 13 comments }

Scott February 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

I too have a HP MediaSmart Server from yesteryear and can relate to your experience. I got my HP MediaSmart Server shortly after they were available. After a couple years I upgraded the Pentium 4 to a Core 2 Duo and increased the RAM to the max. I added more hard drives, as well, to four 1.5TB drives.

At one time the HP experienced a system crash which required re-installing the Windows Server OS and lost 6 months of photos (stupid me, relying 100% on the server to store precious photos of my children growing up). The primary usage was backup for PCs and my wife’s Mac (which periodically caused problems for her).

I got a Logitech Revue to which was great for streaming media, while my kids learned how to stream media to their PCs.

A while ago McAfee discontinued support for WHS so I had used my PC Antivirus to scan all the drives on the server.

However, in the past year or so, I became concerned about the lack of Antivirus software for MS Server and researched for a solution. I did not wish to upgrade to the latest so I switched it to Linux. There are a few solutions but I chose a free one via Amahi which has a fairly easy solution with Fedora 19, a variant of Linux. I have a background in Linux so that was a fun experiment for me.

Prior to converting, I made sure I had a duplicates and removed all the data from the server and on to my PC (since I have redundancy) and kept the main drive for WHS just in case Linux didn’t work. To this day, I have not had any issues with Linux and the system appears to work better, faster and more reliable than WHS. I added additional drives I have and created a duplicate program to copy all files to the extra drives I have on the server (instead of RAID, which I read was not reliable).

The experience was fun and the server works great. In addition, use VNC (Virtual Network Connection) where the HP MediaVault as a Linux server with KDE (a windows type environment) for writing programs, etc in a Linux environment. It’s like having an extra PC without the additional monitor and keyboard.

The HP MediaSmart Server is a great product with enough storage to support all my needs.

Comp1962 February 4, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Nice write up Matt and yes time flies!

What can I say that most do not know already but for me it was about Client Backup and Recoveries as well as central file storage. Back in 2008 when I bought my first EX470 I thought wow how cool that unit was. Thing is I was not 100% sold on it until I performed my first client recovery and that’s when this little EX470 really shined because it just simply worked as promised.

Of course over time I found new things to do with the server and quickly needed more and more drives so I actually out grew my HP MSS Solution and eventually moved over to custom builds which I run today.

Even though I run custom servers to handle my needs I still run HP MSS Servers for dedicated tasks and not so much because I need to but because I have several of them and wanted to put some to use. I actually have each model series MSS in my collection and then I added the Acer EasyStores and a RevoCenter but the RevoCenter is god awfully slow but I just have it in my collection.

While HP did drop the MSS Line they did put out their ProLiant Mini Server for those who want a small form factor solution but without an OS so you could always go that route.

At work I had an EX470 that sat there for years just doing its job and then I wanted something a bit more robust so I built a new server to replace it. Its a very nice server but when people come down from my corporate office they ask where that EX470 is and I point to the new server but they always say they liked the little server better because it was small and of all things cute and you know the MSS is indeed very pleasing to look at. In saying that the thing about the MSS is that not only does it work well but would look good in any room where as some of my builds well better to have them out of site although I do have small builds which are pleasing to look at as well.

Like many of you I first came to this site with a server problem and stuck around ever since. I learned a lot and share what I have learned with others. If I had to do it all over again would I change anything? No because at the time the HP EX470 met and to some point exceeded my needs. Yes I did out grow it faster then I had anticipated but then again for the average person the MSS more then meets their needs and today I actually envy those who are able to use a Small Server Solution and have room to grow.

fogdog54 February 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm

I got a MediaSmart EX475 for Christmas 2007 and agree with all the sentiments in Matt’s post especially his comments on Drive Extender.
It has chugged along for the past seven plus years faithfully backing up our home’s pcs and protecting our data and was worth every penny, if only for the peace of mind it gives.
I did the RAM and the CPU upgrade and now run it with 8TB of storage (still on V1 WHS). I am in no way a “geek” and start to get a headache when I read about NAS and I just can’t get my head around “RAID” arrays, which means that I’m dreading the inevitable day when my faithfull EX475 pops it’s clogs and I have to consider an alternative!
I’m so glad that others feel the same way about V1 WHS, especially the original MediaSmart servers and thanks to Alex and his trusty site (among others) that continues to provide assistance when needed.
Long live WHS V1 on HP MediaSmart!!!!!

phi February 13, 2015 at 10:01 am

I finally gave up on my ex490 being the sole provider for my data. I tried running FreeNas on it but even with maxed RAM and an upgraded CPU, it was too much. It now just acts as a secondary unit running a hackintoshed version of OSX 10.8 Mavericks with OpenZFS for OSX. Works pretty well for a backup solution with BitTorrent Sync.

Adam March 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

HI

I bought a used Mediasmart EX470 but it has no software or cds. How can set this up and start experimenting?

I would really appreciate any answers. I should also point out that I am using a laptop that runs windows 8 but I can use another laptop with windows 7 if needed.

Adam

Mark May 5, 2015 at 10:36 am

See my posts below yours, I’ll see if I can help if you still need it.

Mark May 5, 2015 at 10:18 am

Adam – shoot me an email (paquette_mark^AT^hotmail.com) as I might have ISOs of the original disks for the EX470. If not, maybe there’s something else I can do, like send me a drive I can build for you as a system drive and return (I have the VGA adapter and an old EX470 chassis I use just to build these things).
Regards,
Mark

Mark May 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

If you DO send me a drive, and can produce a license to use, with my VGA adapter I can build it as WHS 2011, or Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials.

Dan Davis May 19, 2015 at 7:23 am

A BIG thank you to Mark for his offer. I too had bought an EX470 through ebay that also had no disks. I asked him if he would be willing to make the same deal for me. He was more than willing and took the extra effort to help me out. Now I am ready start running my home server.

I can’t thank Mark enough for his effort.

Mark May 5, 2015 at 10:25 am

All of that being said – I have an EX495 I use as my primary Windows Server Essentials R2, and a different EX470 WSE R2 I use to backup the data (I was running it in the chassis I use to build my arrays, because for some reason I was unable to get an EX485/487 chassis to boot with these arrays, and I was too lazy to take it apart to connect the VGA adapter). However, the build chassis has a problem of shutting down on startup whenever I do a WindowsUpdate … and that seems to go away in weeks … by which time there are more updates and I take a chance, etc. SO … I pulled the plug on a good deal on a used EX495 on eBay with the best core 2 duo processor it could handle and 4GB RAM (which I think is more than the 2GB I have in my EX495 today), so I will move my existing EX495 array to the new one, the backup one to the old EX495, and use the building chassis as intended. I might actually install a new Windows Server 2012 R2 (not essentials) onto the new drives I’m getting with it (4x2TB WD Green drives – my main uses WD RED 2TB drives) so that I can install it into the ADS of the my main NAS to take advantage of DFS (Distributed File System) rather than having to mirror data manually between two different NAS’.
I use my NAS mostly for storage, but it also acts as DHCP, DNS, and some other purposes. I’m not going to go too crazy with it – maybe install an OpenFire IM server, Murmur voice server, and possibly Tonido … offload those functions from my desktop.

Mark May 5, 2015 at 10:26 am

By ‘think is more’ I mean ‘know is more’ … I just don’t remember how much RAM is in my EX495 … I think 2GB, but I haven’t checked.

Rick July 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm

The power supply in my HP Media Server died during a recent electical storm. Can I simply swap,the HDs into another Media Server?

Comp1962 July 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Rick you can do that but the server must be the same model otherwise you would have to run a recovery which is not fun. I also recommend you check your drives out to make sure they are in good working order. Often corruption can occur during a power failure if data was being written to the drive when the failure occurred. Good Luck…..

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