At WGS, we have seen many a forum post about the trials and tribulations with Windows Home Server and Advanced Formats drives.  Microsoft has finally released a KB article outlining when you can use an AF drive and when you cannot.

The short version:

  • Windows Home Server v1: Do not use Advanced Format disks in your Windows Home Server v1.
  • Windows Home Server ‘Vail’: Upcoming Windows Home Server codename ‘Vail’ will support Advanced Format disks as server disks.
  • Client Machines: Windows Home Server functionality is compatible with client computers using Advanced Format disk for Windows Home Server v1 and the upcoming version codename “Vail”.

Update:

This is just a thought, but I wonder if there is an effort being made here to steer people away from WHS v1 and towards a more state-of-the-art OS like WHS 2011.  What are your thoughts on this?

[box type="info"]More: KB2385637 [/box]

Information regarding Windows Home Server and advanced format hard disks

Introduction

To improve enable continuing capacity gains in hard disk drives, manufacturers are moving to a new technology known as “Advanced Format sector disk”. This technology requires the hard disk to be formatted and aligned in 4K sectors instead of the traditional 512 byte sectors that is currently used by most software. This article details the compatibility of these hard disk drives with Windows Home Server.

MORE INFORMATION

This article describes the two scenarios that can affect your installation of Windows Home Server. Some manufacturers provide alignment tools for their products; however these tools are not always compatible with the platform and technologies upon which Windows Home Server is built therefore we cannot provide support. You may consult hard disk manufacturers for their recommended solutions on adapting Advanced Format disks with various environments.

The next version of Windows Home Server will support Advanced Format disk in 512 emulated mode from most manufacturers and supports disks larger than 2 terabytes as storage disk, however Extensible Firmware Interface BIOS is required for the System Disk otherwise capacity exceeding 2 terabytes will not be utilized.

Scenario A: Server Disk

You install or replace your disk in your Home Server as a system disk or storage pool with an Advanced Format sector disk.

You may experience performance degradation and data reliability problems when using Advanced Format disk in your Home Server v1 for Server Backup, Storage Pool, or System Disk because there is no guarantee that IO operations will be aligned with the native sector size on the disk. Additionally, the disks may be formatted in a way that is not compatible with Windows Home Server.

Windows Home Server v1: Do not use Advanced Format disks in your Windows Home Server v1.

Windows Home Server ‘Vail’: Upcoming Windows Home Server codename ‘Vail’ will support Advanced Format disks as server disks.

For more information about Windows Home Server codename ‘Vail,’ click the following article number to view thwe article in the Microsoft Knowledge base:

2510009  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2510009/ )  Information about Microsoft support policy for large sector drives in Windows

Scenario B: Client Computers

You replace or restore a client computer with Advanced Format drives.

If you replace or restore a hard disk on a client computer with an Advanced Format disk drive, you should not see any issues with Windows Home Server functionality such as Backup and Restore feature.

Recommendation: Windows Home Server functionality is compatible with client computers using Advanced Format disk for Windows Home Server v1 and the upcoming version codename “Vail”.

Note: Windows 7 client users please see KB982018  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/982018/ ) for more information.

Advanced Format Disk Drive

It is important to note that some hard disk manufacturers are releasing Advanced Format drives in the same base models as traditional 512 byte sector drives. Because of this, it is critical that you make sure that the drive you are purchasing is not an Advanced Format drive if you are running Windows Home Server v1. Before you purchase a disk drive, review the product specifications or visit the manufacturers Web site to ensure that the drive is compatible with Windows Home Server. Be aware that Advanced Format drives are not always clearly identified on the retail packaging.