News, Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server vs Windows Home Server 2011 – Is It Worth Upgrading?

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Ah, it should have been different to this. When I think back to the first conversations I had with Microsoft about Windows Home Server 2011, or “Vail” as it was known back then, they were exciting times – discussions brimming with optimism, following the successful launch of the first generation of the platform. The v1 data corruption bug was in the past, and the talk was of new features that would allow Windows Home Server to build momentum from its early adopter phase into a more robust, more mainstream product. The move  to the underlying Windows Server 2008 R2 platform would mean no more development on the legacy Windows Server 2003 OS, enabling better driver support and importantly, enhancing the opportunities for cross-collaboration with other development teams in Microsoft.

Fast forward  2+ years, and it’s fair to say the product that will ship at some point this year is a pale shadow of what Vail could, and should have been. Microsoft’s reorganisation to bring together the home and small business server teams, whilst undoubtedly sensible from a commercial perspective, led to an organisation that from the outside appears to be less nimble, less single-minded and less free to innovate. Vitally, it’s a team that has had to develop not one, but four products simultaneously, in the shape of Windows Small Business Server 2011, Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011, Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials and finally Windows Home Server 2011. With a huge amount to deliver, it’s understandable that feature sets across the four SKUs would converge. And with three lucrative, well established business customers to serve, and one low margin, high risk consumer market to crack, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the effort would be spent.

All this before we’ve even started a discussion about the removal of Drive Extender. The decision to remove Windows Home Server’s storage pooling technology undoubtedly delayed the release of the “Colorado” suite of products (Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011 “Aurora”, Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials “Breckenridge” and finally Windows Home Server 2011 “Vail”) but that aside, with a four year gap between the release of Windows Home Server v1 and its successor, clearly Microsoft have had a mountain to climb getting Vail out of the door.

So, here we are at the start of the Windows Home Server 2011 era. Many of you have tried out the beta and release candidates, many have avoided the test release due to the Drive Extender debacle. But the question in most WHS v1 users minds today is whether they should consider upgrading to Windows Home Server 2011. As a WHS v1 user myself, it’s a question I’ve been pondering personally for the last three months, and being totally honest with you, I still haven’t made a decision. As I stated at the time, the loss of Drive Extender ripped the heart out of Windows Home Server, but the new edition retains a lot of new features (despite what you may think, Microsoft developers haven’t been sitting on their hands for the last four years). So, it’s time for an equation – do the new features in Windows Home Server 2011 outweigh the loss of Drive Extender? If the answer is yes, then I’m going to jump in. If not, then I’ll stick with v1 until it reaches end of life (scheduled for 2013) and review my options then.

(Obviously, WGS being WGS, we’ll be covering WHS 2011 either way, and there’ll be a couple of WHS 2011 test servers knocking around for reviews – but I’m talking about upgrading my “production” v1 home server.)

So, whilst I know many are still very upset at the loss of DE (and understandably so), let’s suspend that for a few minutes as we take an objective comparison between Windows Home Server v1 and WHS 2011, feature by feature to build the equation. Doing so will hopefully inform my personal upgrade decision, and may inform yours too.

One note before we get started – I’ve deliberately delayed publishing this comparison to allow the dust to settle around the DE decision and review the Windows Home Server 2011 Release Candidate, which should be feature complete. We’re also now aware of a number of third-party developments which flesh out the Windows Home Server 2011 story a little, and of course, additional third-party solutions may come to the fore at any time, so consider this a preliminary view with all of the information we have available at this time.

Cost

Let’s start with an easy one. Whilst Windows Home Server 2011’s pricing has yet to be announced, Microsoft aren’t going to give it away for free (unless you’re on an MSDN/TechNet subscription). Let’s assume for now that Microsoft go for a similar price to WHS v1 – around the $100 mark. That’s $100 you don’t have to spend if you stick with WHS v1, right?

[table id=85 /]

Hardware Requirements

Before digging into the software, let’s take a look at the hardware requirements. Depending on your current setup, upgrading to Windows Home Server may require you to purchase new hardware. Why? Two reasons stand out. The first is that like all recent Windows Server operating systems, Windows Home Server 2011 requires a 64-bit compatible processor. Now most modern processors fit the bill, but if you’re running an older home server, or if, like many, you re-purposed an ageing PC for home server use, it may be time to crack open the wallet.

Secondly, the march of time has led to Windows Home Server 2011 requiring more powerful hardware than its predecessor. If your v1 home server brushes Microsoft’s minimum specifications, again, upgrading is going to require some investment. So, for this comparison, I’m working on the basis that lower power, no investment required is better than having to spend money.

[table id=65 /]

As a result, we can clearly see that Windows Home Server v1 runs on older, lower specification hardware, and if you’re an existing v1 WHS user, you don’t need to spend any money if you don’t upgrade. So, v1 wins the Hardware Requirements comparison.

Migration

Let’s think about migration next. There is no easy method for upgrading from Windows Home Server v1 to Windows Home Server 2011 on the same hardware. Like all x86 to x64 operating system upgrades, it has to be a clean install. For the more technical amongst you (and let’s remember, WGS has a pretty technical readership), a clean install isn’t so much of an issue, but the migration path is exacerbated by the fact that you like have a huge amount of data sitting on your home server. Unless you’re happy to wipe off all of that data, you’re going to need to move all of that data on to an external hard drive or network PC, format your drives, install Windows Home Server 2011, then copy all of your data back again. It’s not a technically troublesome task, but it is inconvenient, and will take some time and consideration to ensure you don’t lose any data.

I fed back the need/opportunity for Microsoft to create some kind of migration tools to make the upgrade from v1 to 2011 more palatable over two years ago. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have proffered that feedback. Those tools do not exist, and I doubt whether they will do. So, again for comparison, we’ll work on the basis that no effort is better than a lot of effort, and that means staying with v1 wins the migration battle.

[table id=66 /]

Underlying Platform

We often think of Windows Home Server as an operating system – that’s not strictly true. It’s actually a set of features and services that sit atop of an underlying platform. In the case of Windows Home Server v1, it’s hosted on the wildly popular, if venerable Windows Server 2003, an operating system that is still supported by Microsoft when it comes to serious bug fixes and security issues, but is no longer actively developed. Increasingly, it will no longer be developed for – when it comes to operating systems, newer is often (but not always) better, and in the case of Windows Home Server 2011, sitting on the all-new Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 means you have the latest and greatest underlying technology powering the platform. As an added bonus,a healthy chunk of that software being developed for Windows Server 2008 R2 is going to work with Windows Home Server 2011 (depending on the role requirements). Vitally, driver support for new hardware is much, much better in the new platform, and that includes support for high-capacity, Advanced Format hard drives. Chalk one up for Windows Home Server 2011.

[table id=67 /]

OEM Support

A difficult one to call. In its time, Windows Home Server v1 had reasonable OEM support from hardware manufacturers, with mainstream vendors such as HP, Lenovo, LaCie, ASUS and Acer selling home servers in major markets around the world. There was also a pleasing variety of models from low cost, single drive units through to 4 and 8 bay servers available. Today’s picture is a little different, and the number of vendors is definitely in decline. Dig around, though, and you can still find v1 hardware on sale. On the flip side, those same manufacturers have hardly been clamouring to support Microsoft’s new platform. To date, Redmond have only mentioned Acer and UK system builder Tranquil PC pledging any kind of support to Windows Home Server 2011, although conversations I had with LaCie at CES this year suggest they may also jump in with hardware later in the year. WHS 2011’s close kinship with Windows Small Business Server Essentials 2011 may present some hope for the platform, as we’re sure to see some of the major OEMs step up to participate in the small business market, but whether they’ll offer Windows Home Server 2011 as an installed option remains to be seen. If not, then a self-install may be an option for those desperate for OEM hardware. Microsoft remain tight lipped on OEM support for Windows SBS Essentials 2011 at this time. On balance, I’m calling this one a tie right now, but next year, WHS 2011 is likely to be the only game in town.

[table id=68 /]

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Terry Walsh is the founder of We Got Served. He started the community in February 2007 with a mission to help families, tech enthusiasts everywhere figure out the technology needed to run the modern home and small business. He's the author of a number of guides to Windows, Windows Server and OS X Server and runs his own successful publishing business. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, Terry has been awarded Microsoft's prestigious Most Valuable Professional Award each year since 2008 for his work on We Got Served.
  • Brit53

    I also will be upgrading, one of the deciding factors for me was the support for drives larger that 2TB – I am using hardware raid on my whs1 and have had to play games (creating multiple smaller logical drives) to allow whs1 to see and use the drives which was an issue for me. And with 4TB drives becoming available the 2TB limit will likely become more of an issue for others as well.

    • roger lindley

      I'll be upgrading. I have already built a new box and have the RC running on it. Now just waiting for the release. When will it be out do you think? I never trusted DE anyway. I am getting the "database has errors" message two or three times a week. Sometimes it repairs fine and other times it loses some or all of the backups.

      My experience with the RC was that not only must you have a 160GB drive, but that the drive you do the OS install on must be at least 160GB. That is, I had an 80GB drive I was going to use for the system, then another 500GB drive for data. But it would not allow that even though I did have one drive over 160GB. I had to select the 500GB drive to do the install on. Then I just got rid of the 80GB.

      • It really is difficult to rely on a software storage feature that is ONLY on one product, as opposed to a family of servers. While the features of Drive Extender were cool and innovative, the fact that they could not withstand a server workload should give pause to people who are trusting their most precious data as a back on DE technology. And the "serious data corruption bug" is a perfect, painful example of that. It's something that would have been more quickly found and addressed if DE were in standard WS2k3 installations.

    • Jonathan

      I will not be upgrading immediately. I think, however, that one of the biggest deciding factors will come when Windows 8 is released.

      If no changes are made to WHS v1, and there is thus no compatibility with Win8, I will be unwillingly forced to upgrade my WHS when my first Win8 computer comes around. This is Microsoft's "Ace in the Hole" so to speak…

    • DirectxBear

      Ditto to what Brit53 said.
      I also have a little raid container on my WHS(v1), it is just under 2tb, but I have wanted to build a new and bigger one. No worries about losing the DE… Wasn't DE at the heart of the dreaded data-loss bug that gave Microsoft and WHS customers fits? For me the raid solution made the most sense and I prefer it for data storage.

  • John Zajdler

    Thanks for the lengthy review.

  • varun

    Three comments:

    1. I think your Mac OS access argument is flawed. Macs are perfectly happy using Samba (at least for now) to access Windows shares, and one can perfectly well run the Microsoft RDP client to connect to the Dashboard. The one place they could've made it a compelling release for Mac users – Time Machine – Microsoft bungled it as usual. (score: -10 – nothing compelling in Vail, beautiful HP integration in Quattro)

    2. You've missed the point where we need a "Silverlight" plug in to use the remote access – something that the vast majority of computers do not have installed and is declining in use rather than increasing. (score: -20 for forcing their plugin down our throats)

    3. I think the point that needs to be emphasized here again is that there's virtually nothing that Vail can do that Quattro can't, with add-ons; the one possible exception is look and feel, and frankly, it's not as if Quattro's dashboard is that difficult to use. On the other hand, Quattro can keep my data reasonably safe out of the box. Vail cannot. (score: -several million for good thinking)

    It's pretty simple in my book for that reason – I'm sticking with Quattro, and looking forward to FreeNAS and Amahi to come of age at which point of time, good riddance to the last Windows machine left in my house.

    Oh, and -7,000,030. I think I'm sticking with Quattro.

    • Marcos

      Normally I'd upgrade just because I like upgrading to new operating systems, but, I value data storage and protection of key files from the loss of a single drive. So the loss of DE is a big deal for me. I did like the built-in ability of WHS v1 to perform backup of Windows based PCs, but, I do have other ways of getting my computers backed up.

      So instead of going to WHS v2, I've gone to the unRAID OS. unRAID provides RAID 4 protection against a single drive loss and if I do lose a second drive before I can rebuild the array, the damage is only limited to the two down drives (and since the file systems on those drives are based on a standard file system type, I can use the usual data recovery tools to minimize the data loss) since your data files are not stripped across multiple data drives. More importantly I do have drive shares that span multiple drives, but, look like one drive to the client computers and i can seamlessly add more drives later to expand without having to shuffle around. So unRAID does a decent approximation of DE's functionality.

      I never would have looked around for alternatives to WHS and found unRAID if it wasn't for Microsoft's decision to ditch DE.

      • jwm

        Trouble with RAID is it offers nothing to protect against user error – delete it and its gone. I'm in IT and personally just dont get it at all unless its mission critical and affects uptime. For your average user a decent backup or mirror strategy is just far better if you ask me. I simply synch all my data with a NAS.

        Re the Vail upgrade against FreeNAS etc… I've ported my system to an Atom 510, with a hardware card and laptop PSU. Thats pulling a measly 50 watts max and I can't see me going down the freenas route just yet though I am hearing some good things. Three PCs backed up regularly; no need for media extender (hate it, and vail just couldnt handle tags properly despite any permutation I tried); WHS V1 running sweet; Twonky Sreaming; Allway SYnch for backups…… I cant justify the time, money or risk in upgrading. I personally can't see that I'd gain much if anything.

    • NRG

      Your comments I struggle to balance with the realities of what is going on in the market place.

      1. Mac OS Lion does not support Samba very well; alienating many NAS devices.

      2. Silverlight is just like any other embedded technology used to deliver browser based rich UI. Users are no more forced to use it than with Flash or Java implementations. Furthermore it is not being distributed as an automatic update through Microsoft’s Update mechanisms – it is an optional update and it will never install unless you want it to be installed.

      It is also worth noting that Silverlight is very much on the ascendance:
      A. There have been 300 million installs in about the last 4 months
      B. Worldwide, over 1 in 4 computers (over 25%) has Silverlight installed.
      C. In some countries penetration rate is well over 50%, approaching about 60%.

      3. WHS2011 just like any OS can keep data safe when paired with a redundant Hard Drive solution either soft or Hardware RAID. Two sub $50 software solutions that are in final beta stages include: Drivebender and StableBit DrivePool.

    • joez23

      Let me guess… another Linux user?

  • Alec

    I will be upgrading. 2011 plays a lot nicer with my drobo pro via iSCSI (can be part of the 'storage pool') and so can my esata raid5 array. Now have to wait for my movies update to be released and all should be good… My biggest issue is with backup/restore which still has major issues – can only backup 2tb partitions and cannot span multiple backup disks, but oh well 🙂

  • Funny that no matter what else you put on this list, a lot of people won't be upgrading simply due to lack of DE. I know I won't, at least unless there is a Reliable 3rd party application that will do the same (which still scares the bejeezus out of me) or "DE like" hardware (Drobo?). Otherwise, I'm probably looking at a non-Microsoft alternative whenever I find my current system isn't hacking it; but really, i don't see that happening anytime soon.

  • iainz

    Um… no criticism intended, but you forgot to include (perhaps intentionally) the cost of buying the new 2011. If upgrading it is an additional cost and a lose / write-off of v1.

    • Ah – criticise away, as I completely missed that one. Whoops. Okay, have added in a cost section! Thanks for the input.

  • Claussen

    No DE, no upgrade. As a v1.0 MediaSmart owner, I'd be looking at a hardware upgrade as well. If I'm shelling out for new hardware, I'll be running something other than WHS on it.

    WHS has been the only Windows box in my home network for a few years now. Looks like that may be changing.

  • Ron

    Here's one for you… I'm building a new WHS 2011 box. Better hardware, more room for hard drives, etc, and all positive scores on this scoresheet except for the DE thing (yes, I'm pretty irked about that, too). So, my solution for backup? My old WHS v.1 box (which is an HP EX475, so it's not WHS2011 material anyway. A simple script on the WHS2011 box to synchronize all my data folders to the WHSv1 storage pool over gigabit network (I've already tested this in the RC phase) each night, and voila. All the benefits of WHS 2011, with the storage pool of v1 in the background as backup.

    • Hi Ron,

      That's more than likely to be the strategy I end up using – I'm fortunate in that i have a bunch of v1 home servers knocking around the WGS office but that's atypical….

      Terry

    • Pat Y

      Ron I'm glad that you found a solution that works for you. At least for now.

      The problems I see with that paln are.

      1. You said that you new system has more room for hard drives which mesns eventually you will have more data on your new system then disk space to back it up on the old one. (Unless you plan to throw a $drobo$ or a stack of USB drives on the V! backup rig.

      2. Adding another computer to spin that electric meter even faster.

      Since the bluk of my data is media files that don't change I'm just going to manually copy that data to bare drives using an e-sata dock when need and store those drives offsite. Ths data that I have that changes on a regulor basis will fit within the limmits of the 2tb server backup.

  • ErikR

    As for media features, the web part is nice. No support for Matroska though and other odd stuff. No support for transcoding to specific devices. No support for my wife's ipad. Probably no support for the xoom. No support for build-in tv tuners. Can't hook up the machine to the tv to get the beautiful media center interface… bof enough said… it's a very very small evolution over WHS1.

    Finally, the web management interface.. why is there this really slow and creepy RDP solution, when a nice silverlight interface with web services (iis is in there) could of have been done… plugins.. well what about MEF 🙂

    Ok, enough said… I think you have to upgrade because whs1 was getting old.. But this is really a disapointment.

    • Pay Y

      I wil verify that you cannot strem media to the Xoom. :@ Unless MS releases Silverlight for Android and i-OS this probably will never work. I think that Silverlight for the Mac exists so maybe there is hope.

  • Bastiaan

    Thanks for the clear comparison.
    Next would be the same check with WHS2011 against one of the better NAS boxes and see if WHS is still a better choice at all. I think more people are reconsidering WHS now then ever before….

  • Bernard

    It depends…

    "IF" one of the DriveExtender replacements turns out to be reliable, maybe I will upgrade. Plus, I will probably wait several months just to give time for all the dust to settle. People can be very over zealous about new products. What sounds great in April or May could be disppointing in October.

    "IF" the DriveExtender replacements are not reliable, I'll stick with the old system. Hard drives will have to get awfully big before the lack of DriveExtender ceases to be an issue for me. And the strange thing is that my needs for storage space seem to grow faster than the hard drives. Twenty years ago, my Gateway came with a 200 MB HD. I wondered if I would ever fill it.

    • Pay Y

      Yeah I hear ya! My first PC didn't even have a hard drive. Booted and ran DOS programs from floppys. I remember vividly adding a 30 Mb drive that came mounted to an expnsion card once I saved up the $300.00 for it.o.0

      … and YES i'm old. xD

  • crabber

    I will upgrade, DE did not work well for me, I had to disable it at 5PM and reenable at 1am so I could watch ripped Bluerays with out occasional studder. Glad to see DE go, I can handle the drives based on what I have seen of V2

    • JazJon

      I was wondering way my blu-ray ripped movies stutter sometimes. (My Movies plug-in for Media Center WIndows 7 right?) I have top end hardware, gigabit, the works but occasional st-udder occurs once in awhile. I'm happy to upgrade to 2011 once a 3rd party DE solution exists.

      • It's because of DE, more specifically demigrator.exe.

      • Jon

        If the stutter is at midnight it is chkdsk, which is practically impossible to traverse (I even tried change the system timezone before and after midnight). Otherwise it is easy to turn DE service off and on using a scheduled task. I have it on only in weekdays day time when no one watches any movies. There is no issue to have DE run only few hours a day unless it is very important to you that folder duplication will happen in real time. Other than midnight I have no stutter at all with BD ISO (mymovies/pdvd) also over wifi N and 100Mbps MOCA. For the midnight stutter I got used to it, and I take a bathroom break then :).

  • dman1092

    I was really looking forward to version 2. I was hoping that there would be a lot of new features that would make it worth upgrading. Is there enough to make me upgrade to 2011?

    As with others, I had no intention to upgrade since the announcement that DE was being removed. I couldn't believe that it was being removed since it was one of the major features of the current version. Even after the outcry from the WHS community when it was announced, it seemed (and still does) that MS doesn't care what we have to say about it. A part of me can see why it was removed from 2011 but, on the other hand it really doesn't make any sense.

    I mean it is in the name itself, Windows HOME server. When I first learned about WHS it was great. I had a 2003 server that acted as a domain controller at home. The last thing I wanted to do when I got home from dealing with that all day, was deal with it some more. It was close to perfect for the HOME server. tT was simple and didn't take a lot of time from me to deal with it, unless there were things I wanted it to do that weren't intended from the product.

    I read almost every blog or post about 2011 especially since the announcement that DE was being removed. I then got to thinking, in my current setup, do I rely solely on DE to protect my data? No, and I never would. You would have to be crazy to rely on something like that. I know it had more features than duplicating your data, but for me that isn't the end of the world.

    I will say that I liked the one storage pool no matter what the size(s) of the disks installed. I don't particularly like the mapped drive or drive letters in the new version. Is this a deal breaker for me? At first, I thought absolutely. Now that I think about it, not so much.

    Maybe I am not like most of the WHS users. I don't have terabytes of data on my WHS. My total storage pool is just over a terabyte with 1/2 of it free (believe me, I think the move or copy data thing is a complete joke for those that have over 2 terabytes of data). I also have a program that backs up my music, photos, software, users folders, and documents to 2 external hard drives and also to my desktop. Could I still lose my data? Sure if all of those drives fail at the same time and I just don't see that happening. I guess to add another layer of redundancy, I should go to a cloud based storage solution.

    For the way I currently use WHS, things won't change that much since I have multiple backups of the data and don't rely on the server or built in redundancy to protect my data.I use it to protect the 5 other computers in my house. To me that is one the biggest selling points of WHS. Can I do it with alternate means? Yes, but to me this is just a lot easier.

    I am sure I will get some flack from other users, and I expect that. Will I be upgrading? The only thing that may stop me is the cost of the OEM software.

    I also wanted to just take a minute to say thank you to Terry and Jim for the work they do for this site. This was a great artice. I didn't use the scoring chart above only because I already had my mind made based on my use of my current WHS.You guys do an excellent job for everything that is WHS and look forward to more of this in the future.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments, dman1092 – I'm sure they resonate with many out there.

      Appreciate the comments re: the site – it's a pleasure. 🙂

  • reddog

    Thanks for the indepth comparison. I do agree with earler posts that WHS V2 should be compared to other nas solutions as well. Personally I will be upgrading. The removal of DE is depressing but not something to get bent out of shape over. I will have to come up with a different storage scheme to make up for DE but thats life… ohwell. I ended with a score of 138.

  • @iainz brought up cost $$? For me, even if WHS2011 was free it's features make it a tossup.
    However, after waiting 4 years for V2, I just can't reward MS for such an under-achieving "upgrade". Anyone that buys WHS2011 is telling Microsoft, it is OK that you relegated the Home market and all your first wave customers to the 4th tier of the new product line.

    Does anyone planning on upgrading really believe that Microsoft will spend any effort making the product better over the next 3 years? DE was removed to ensure that the 3 editions targeting the business market would work with server software. Will SP1 have any new features for the home user? I expect that all we will get is a "improved integration with Exchange". The promise of Vail has been forgotten. It is time to move on.

    • Wegotserved

      “For me, even if WHS2011 was free it’s features make it a tossup” – I agree. Some great comments in these posts about the upgrade. Nice article from Terry. My takeaway: 2011 is a mixed bag. If I have to work hard to convince myself to upgrade, it’s not worth upgrading. Should be clear, not muddy. I will wait, see what comes in the next version.  I was one of the “early adopters” of v1. Still happy enough with it. Things v1 disappointed me with 2011 doesn’t really fix/improve. It’s far clearer and compelling to me (in my own situation – other’s own mileage may vary) to not upgrade. Thanks to all for the great comments, observations, etc.

  • Thanks to my Technet Subscription, I installed WHS 2011 on my Homebrew server box, which previously ran WHS v1. I'm sorry to all the DE Lovers out there, but WHS 2011 is a breath of fresh air compared to WHS v1. The easy peasy remote media streaming ALONE justifies the upgrade. That, combined with the modernized platform upgrade you get through the Server 2008 R2 underpinnings, makes it a frickin' no brainer.____I won't lie and say I don't miss the easy storage pool thing, but my experience with DE in WHS v1 wasn't all that rosy. It worked yes, but there were times when it let me down…badly. I also found that relying on it bred complacency, in terms of not doing regular server backups.____So, I've begun migrating my data over to WHS 2011. I won't be looking back.

    • jwm

      I'm wondering if the media streaming has changed since VAIL. The tag presentation was the final straw for me and I went back to WHS 1 and Twonky as no matter how I stored the tags I just couldn't present an album as 1 album. Not a big deal to some BUT I use mine for media storage and presentation (to a PS3 and Popcorn C-200), not a workhorse. I bought an Atom 510 specifically for the Vail but actually used the hardware to reload as WHS 1 and copied my data after a few weeks (thank heavens I parallel ran till then, WHS1 and Vail beta). I'm running with absolutely NO issues and dont understand anyone commenting on reliability issues… mine is rock solid, and more likely to look into FreeNAS next time if its looking like an economical solution.

  • Gotta Love It

    Great article. However, not convinved by all the 'new' features available to me, and the cost involved. I'm very happy with WHS v1. It just works. And I have recovered several PC's from it, giving me peice of mind. So it is works, its reliable, its cheap, it does what it says on the tin, I can't see a strong enough case to upgrade. I'm happy to stick with my trusty WHS v1.

    • Shangwe

      Ditto.

  • toy4x4

    I say give it a few weeks or months before deciding. I am having issues and am still working through them. See the forums here…

    Let's wait until we stabilize the thing and see what other problems people encounter.

  • Toto

    Funny, I did test my score and obviously removal of DE is a deal breaker, but that's not the only point.

    For me, automatic duplication was nice beacause I was "more" confident in using some older hard drive, that I would maybe not use otherwise (higher risk of failure), even so those are drives are still OK (no dead cluster, SMART parameters OK etc etc).
    The other big steps then are also cost (!!!) and community add-in. I really hope that microsoft will renew its add-in reward for particularly outstanding add-in.

    So I think I will let stick with v1 for at least 6 month, see how thing are changing. I will probably change if at the end I can use whs2011 without being a sysadmin 😉

  • Terry – an excellent and helpful article. I thought that your introduction on the effects of the reorganisation on the Vail project to be accurate and fair. And I'll certainly be using your table to draw up my own score to see whether I'll upgrade.

    My gut feeling (before totting up the results) is that I probably will upgrade, but it doesn't feel like a "must-do" at this stage. And I think that you make a good point that if I do upgrade and therefore buy the OEM disc, then I am implicitly rewarding Microsoft for producing what strikes me as a pretty mediocre product – at least in the functional areas of prime interest to me.

  • Ted

    Upgraded to 2011 because i'm not bothered about the lack of DE but I do love the new remote web access and media streaming. It never worked for me on V1 and on 2011 it is flawless.

    I just wish Microsoft would also release the Windows Phone plugin! I hope they don't intend to wait till the Mango update is ready!

  • Nick

    Excellent review as ever. I’d love to see one of windows 7 vs vail. With drive bender working outside of server platforms, is a modified win 7 platform (with media centre!) a possibility?

  • Mark

    great summary Terry!
    with a home build heavy powered WHS V1 and great interest in the photo and mainly video option in WHS V2 I will be upgrading. Plus the benefit that I can now run 64 bit virtual machines on my server! (Assuming virtual server of virtual pc work on WHS v2)

  • Paul

    No DE, no upgrade for me from WHS1
    But great side by side review!

    • boggy4062

      Let's not get religious about it Paul 😉

  • Malcolm

    Is support for Software RAID-5 included? This is one of the features of Windows' dynamic disk feature on Servers 2008 but is disabled for Workstation OSs. Might be a passable substitute for DE?

  • landrover

    I already "upgraded" about a year ago, by obtaining hardware specifically for the first Vail beta. From that moment on you can't really go back, because the V1 license is coupled to the replaced hardware. Initially I liked the Vail beta's with their promising new elements. The DE debacle scared the s***t out of me, with the horrible scenario that it would be the end of Windows Home Server as a product. Then came WHS2011 RC, rapidly followed by several promising attempts to compensate for the loss of DE. Now WHS2011 is officially on it's way, and I'm officially very happy.

  • James

    Loosing the pooling and having to rethink the storage pool (drive lettering) each time a drive fills up is a deal breaker for me. Being on the PC systems at home is more important than constantly admining the system behind the scene.

    I'd also have to migrate to an x64 bit system, as my current is a single core. Hyper threading can be enabled however too flakey to trust. Ah well, MS is famous for everyother system being a winner (ie xp, vista, 7) so no doubt WHS 20152016 will be viable unless SP1PP1 release is earthshattering.

    On the posititive side, the interface is much better looking on 2011, 2008R2 is great to admin (enterprise level). Couldn't care less about MACNIX or additional languages (beyond my own) being supported. I don't plan on adding this to my personal network so means nothing to me. A decent AV andor anti-malware is a true pull in V2's direction.

    These are only my opinionssetup, may not necessarily jive with the majority though.

  • James

    All the reviews I have read haven't addressed whether WHS2011 continues to use SIS (Single Instance Storage) or similar technology? This being a duplicated file is hassmarked by a 4kb tombstone or pointer file to the orignal save in order to save drive space.

    Has this been preserved?

  • Kristian

    50-50 at the moment.
    I'm going to wait and see – if FlexRaid (or similar) matures into a product I'd use to replace DE then I'll upgrade so I can use 4TB + drives etc…

  • Alistair

    I don't see many advantages for WHS2011 over Win7. I had 2 hopes for WHS2011: Drive Extender and Media Center integration and neither were present. I replaced my WHS1 box with a new Win7 installation.

    I have all the media sharing abilities has out-the-box in Win7 and there is no more DE, but WHS2011 didn't have that either. I just have to go back to managing my HDs like I used to. As I now have native Media Center I have also been able to remove my dedicated HTPC and replace it with a Xbox 360 extender. This means just one PC on all the time now.

    Drive duplication/backup is handled by SyncToy (runs twice/day which is enough for me). Other PCs in the house are backed up using Acronis TrueImage (they had a deal recently selling it for £20).

    So really I'm not sure what WHS2011 would've given me over a Win7 installation. Sure, most home users couldn't do what I did but most home users cannot manage their storage setup like WHS2011 requires!

    As far as I'm concerned for 4 years development, WHS2011 is a real let-down. They have delivered a few nice features but nothing which would make me want to upgrade in any way. In fact, it made me not upgrade at all and switch to a non-server OS which so far has been stable without a reboot for a month.

    • Pay Y

      About the only thing I see that you are missing is the web access and streaming. Although with some work I'm sure that could be set up too.

  • Greig Holder

    Terry, your article was informative, provocative and well written. Thank you for it.

    I'll stick with my v1 until it won't run anymore. Then I'll make a new plan, but WHS 2011 won't be on the evaluation list. I really like DE and I really don't like the lack of Media Center.

  • Brian

    Thanks for the review Terry. Like you said, you, yourself, need to determine if the upgrade is worth it. For me., DE will be missed, but I need to share photos of my kids, be able to remote into my home boxes, and I LOVE the fact you can change the server web page around! Streaming is a nice addition, but when I tested the beta, the move streaming didn't work all that well iirc. All in all, I am impressed. Yes, I will miss DE, the the positives outweigh tthe few negatives.

  • Klaas

    Thanks for the review. I am using WHS1 with 3x 1,5Tb and 3x 2Tb. Boot from 320Gb hd 2,5inch. What I like is the choice what to duplicate and what not. My DVD backfolder is bigger then 2Tb so is will be at more drives. Don't like that idea.
    I have WHS 2011 RTM now installed. Installation twice beause I forot to change workgroup name during installation.
    The join to a home group was easy. Still thinking should I move 10Tb of data twice? That keeps me waiting to go further.

  • Harvey Wilson

    I've been testing the release candidate, and it's great. The storage solution I've been testing, and will use when I upgrade, is to RAID 1 a couple of 2TB disks using the Intel RAID functionality of the m/b's ICH. The array provides instant duplication of the most important working data. For data that can afford to wait for a daily server backup (archival storage) I'll add a non-RAID drive or two. The Intel RAID work well. If a drive fails, the server still boots up off the good disk. Replace the faulty drive and the Intel application automatically rebuilds the array. Of course this adds greater up front cost for me in the form of buying the matching RAID disks, but from my testing of WHS 2011 I think it's worth it.

  • CheezeWiz

    Wow, all the crying goes on. And what is up with you Mac weenies? Just to point out the obvious: THIS IS NOT A MAC OS, SO SHUT UP ALREADY! You want Mac, then get Mac and get off this Windows web site, please! Deal with your 7% of the market and STFU!

    Way to go Terry! Very nice and balanced review. Of course that is what we expect from WGS, but thanks anyway!

  • Bill

    Your comments where well received by me. I thought you put in a lot of effort and your logic and objectivity were flawless. I'm upgrading as we speak. Thanks much.
    Bill W

  • Rychek

    +40 for me. I'm wrapping up my second full day of data migration. I had all of the parts to build a dedicated server, so I can fall back to v1 if 2011 turns out to be a lemon.

  • hasi5

    I am "not upgrading". It's my opinion, WHS2011 is still not ready for the prime time as a Home Server. MS released prematurely, no matter what, an unfinished product.

    I have stressed-out WHS2011 on 2 machines (HP EX475, and my built quad-core, 12+ drive server) and there are so many bugs and things missing, not reliably working, that it was not even funny. Disk management is a mess (2TB partitions, only one 2TB backup of whole server, wizards…). It almost seems, Microsoft guys spend all the time playing in their virtual machines but not putting this OS to real world of 3TB-drives machines. My household is 50/50 Windows/MAC. HP EX475 was excellent in this environment for file serving. Compared to it, WHS2011' MAC Samba connectivity is a joke (try to connect, mount server and then sleep your Mac – you go hairwire).

    Out of curiosity, I have installed Apple OSX Server OS (Snow Leopard Server) on this 12+drive machine built for WHS2011. And run the same tests (network transfers, pulling drives -simulating HD failures, RAID rebuilds, making backups of server,..). "It just worked", faster and better then WHS2011. No silly 2TB limits either. Plus OSX Server has included and built-in Mail, Apachi Web, Address, Calendar, WebDAV, Wiki, VNC, SSH, FTP, etc servers, secure mobile access… everything what small business or home user needs. Simply, it's ideal Home Server. I put WHS2011 in small virtual machine in Parallels and linked shares in MAC. Apple was taking care of all of TB of files, Time machine backups and virtual WHS2011 was nicely doing sharing ands streaming the Windows stuff. Both worlds under one roof.

    I am not upgrading to WHS2011 as a prime OS, also after I have seen what Apple is doing in new Lion OSX OS coming out in summer. First of all, they are bringing together Workstation and Server OS (until now, it was for $500). Only one OS ! (no Essential, Premium, Professional,.. Server this, Server that BS from MS). Full blown Server OS for everyone and you can decide what to install (Simple or Server). On top of that, OS that is directly talking to iPhones and iPads. (Androids, HP WebOS, ..) WHS2011 is quite obsolete in this regard, no HTML5, MS didn't noticed there are Androids and iPads. Just obsolete and incompatible SilverLight and proprietary MS Web. To get there for Microsoft, and next version of WHS, it would be a few years (after Windows 8) For all the above, I would be going OSX Server Lion this summer for my Home Server.

    • Peter Schmidt

      Another MAC fanboy. Thanks for sharing, now move on.

    • phaze

      ….."Out of curiosity, I have installed Apple OSX Server OS (Snow Leopard Server) on this 12+drive machine built for WHS2011"….

      Are you saying you installed an Apple Server OS on a NON supported NON Apple hardware machine, and you're actually trying to let people think this is a good way to go? What hardware are you using?

      please… just…go… away…

    • bart

      How did you manage to install a Mac OS onto non-Mac hardware?

    • CheezeWiz

      Yeah, well try and get your Mac software for $100 and then we will talk. Until then take it to a Mac site and STFU!

  • Nice, but…

    Great article up until the conclusion, Terry, but I think your evaluation methodology is flawed. Each of the features you identified (Mac support, internationalization, remote access, storage flexibility, etcetera) is given equal weighting in your scheme, whereas their importance will vary for each individual user (eg. I don't need Mac support so that feature shouldn't carry the same weight as ones I do rely upon, such as storage). If you assign a percentage to each feature (eg. for me it would be storage = 80%, media streaming 10%, driver support 10%, others 0%) and then multiply the percentage against the rating for that feature (-20 to +20) then the resulting sum would better reflect the importance of the feature for a particular user's needs (yours included).

    • CheezeWiz

      Maybe if you had read the whole thing, as he clearly states just that on page 5. Wow, bust a guys balls for trying to give a well thought out comparison! Do your own thinking then and see what you come up with.

      I think he did a great job considering how we all had overly high expectations and what we got was not even close. In the end it either works for you or it doesn't, so you figure it out and stop crying at Terry!

      • Nice, but…

        @CheezeWiz: Thanks for your uninformed and abusive comment.

        Had you read my post with the same level of detail you claim to have given to Terry's you would have seen that I proposed an additional step to his evaluation method to bring it in line with the methodology used in large enterprises for product evaluations.

        Instead, you resorted to insults, abuse, and invective as your contribution to the discussion…

        • Guys,

          There's no need to get bent out of shape on this – all we're doing is providing a (hopefully) structured and objective framework to help guide readers through the decision making process. I'm open to different scoring approaches – go for the full Kano if you're so inclined, but ultimately we just want to help people think systematically about the upgrade decision, and highlight that the good and bad of WHS 2011 is not just about DE.

          Thanks for the comments,
          Terry

  • OwlSaver

    My take is that I am going to seriously consider upgrading. I bought an EX475 soon after they came out, so it is getting a little old. I would be fine with a simple hardware RAID solution. It seems to me that they could create one that supports drives in 1TB increments. Each drive would be partitioned by the hardware into 1TB chunks and then combined with RAID. It would only support 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, or 4TB drives. Just a thought.

    So, for me it is not if I will upgrade but when I will upgrade.

  • emuu

    Thanks for this really useful comparison. I'll be upgrading, and I will probably do that before the DE-type add-ins are fully bedded down. I figure that could be a while, and in the meantime I might decide I can live without that functionality after all – much as I resented the decision to drop it…

  • Chris

    I'll not be upgrading. Why give MSFT any more of my hard earned money for very sub standard product?

    I used to like DE but had a hard disk physically fail and found it impossible – yes impossible – to remove the drive using the built in tools – MSFT you should be ashamed of such poor product.

    As for Vail. No media center after it being the number one requested feature means you don't listen or care or both to your existing customers.

    I am right now evaluating other NAS options to replace my WHS v1 and will not be upgrading. Anyone upgrading must really love MSFT because for the hassle and cost you can get far far more going with other vendor solutions.

  • boggy4062

    OK… as much as I am disappointed by MSFT (not the first time, and not the last-for-sure-time), I will be carefully watching what my options are with the new version. There is one thing I've learned in last few months, as I watched the V1 vs V2 discussions: having everything running in one box is NOT the optimum solution.
    New generation of hardware allows me to separate some distinctive functionality of my home computing requirements into few dedicated, smaller, very efficient boxes. Boxes that will play nicely with each other.

    1. I do not need a very powerful processor to run my backups/file serving functionality. Energy efficiency, storage redundancy, storage expandability are THE most important factors. Removal of DE is certain blow to this, but I do believe in free market forces, and I am certain somebody will meet this demand.
    Drobo and other flex-Raid-like solutions could be the answer.

    2. For my media, I am already using a dedicated Windows 7 box, attached to a 55" bad-a$$ TV with a network dual tuner (hdHomeRun), and I am happy. It is more important for me that the new solution plays nicely with any new media devices I may have on the network, so I can stream, record from any place, to any devices, any time.

    As Terry mentioned, for those who already own WHS v1, there is no reason to rush to switch (will not), until the situation becomes more clear on options that the new WHS brings.

  • Peter Ferguson

    As usual a very informative & well written report. I will be upgrading only because I can fit all of my 3 computers data on a 1TB disk. I do however understand the frustration & disappointment of those who have a vast amount of multimedia to preserve.

  • In style

    I'm happy with 2011

    My 10tb raid 5 is setup, migrated 8tb of storage. Runs vmware windows 7 x64 image for serving media to 3 xbox's and records Tv thanks to 2x silicon dust hd home runs. (4 tuners)

    Honestly don't know what all the fuss is about. Guess haters are gunna hate.

  • Pay Y

    I'm not upgrading because thay changed the Dashboard background to snot green insted of the blue from the eairly betas. xD

    Yes I plan to upgrade when I get around to it. With the nice weather slowly getting here that probably won't be untill fall though.

    I probably wouldn't but sinc I already have hardware that will run it and a technet subscription. the cost is only my time.

    I hope one of the addin drive pooling solutions is well proven and afordable when I'm ready to switch.

  • guest

    I have updated to whs 2011 :
    Lost pool but :
    IPV6 native easy to improve
    NFS service native = very simple for my dvico.
    Better Windows média intégration on home network (for my wife)
    sabnzbd+ as service run good

    I wait about stable drive bender solution of third party

    Sorry for my language (I'm french).

  • talex

    Cost – 0, I have MSDN and Technet
    Hardware 0, ALready Have
    Migration -20, don't have to do anything or figure out what file goes where.
    Platform +5, I am running newer hardware however there is nothing WHS does in either v1 or v2 that really should require it outside of the 2+TB drive support and many hardare vendors have a jumper to get around that in older systems.
    SOftware Support 0, See Ad-ins
    OEM 0, Self builder but if I was an outside judge the loss of HP would put this at -20
    Add-Ins 0, I am not buying an OS / Server based on what 3rd party apps may or may not run on it, OS / Server needs to stand on it's own merits.
    Dashboard 0, prettier is not better and again the dependancy on 3rd parties does not effect my decision of the base product… what "may" come out is not a consideration for me.
    Remote Access 0, Most users will not have the horse power to stream their media, great for those who can and there are plenty of streaming apps available already you just need to install them. RDP and file access are all I need and both do that, so a wash.
    Netorking 0, Homegroup… your kidding right?
    Apple 0, don't have any

  • talex

    SDK 0, good to have but see add-ins, I will not base this decision on what some 3rd party may or may not come up with.
    Storage -20, would put that number in a higher minus but this topic has been beat to death.
    Backup / Restore 0, Due to storage I would have to manage drives in V2 which is something I will not do.

    My Scrore: -15.

  • talex

    Some like to tinker and 2011 will appeal to these users so they can tinker more and it will also appeal more to those wih deep pockets who can implement raid with it's matching drives, hot spares etc, it is not going to be as appealing to those on a budget.

    Almost every benefit comes from the underlying OS which although better than 2003, there is nothing a "home server" needs to do that should require this. Some of the media stuff comes from the underlying OS (media services in IIS), there is just very, very little to this at all other than the dashboard which someone could write for 2008R2 on their own and RDP is also a breeze if you are "tinkery".

    If one of the Windows independant pooling solutions get stable I will be switching to Win7 so media center can be implemented, I can handle RDP as well and remote file access with FTP or even http and a simple directory browsing website of which there are plenty in MS's web platform for IIS.

    Personally in the end I am highly disapointed with 2011 and have no intention on rewarding MS with a purchase of it.

  • talex

    ooops, my score -35

  • A question for those using DE replacements: If I use the DE old folder structure, can I still use the streaming capabilties against the VIDEO shared folder created by the DE replacement? If that all worked, I might be tempted.

  • Mick Mickle

    This was an excellent analysis and decision-making tool. I scored +35 for upgrading. But regardless of the comparative advantages, I'm at a point where I have to reset all the backups for five computers because I can't trust the integrity of the backup database in WHS v1 as a result of unreadable sectors from earlier backups, so I may as well jump to WHS 2011 now. If there are going to be reliability improvements to the backup function, they will probably only be made to WHS 2011.

    What is needed to correct the backup weakness is a built-in backup verification option in WHS (like in Norton Ghost and other backup programs) to compare the integrity of the backup to the client. This option could run automatically after a backup operation or be executed as a stand-alone function. I don't see using such a feature all the time because of the additional backup time required, but one would be able to confirm that a faithful backup existed on the server. I'm looking forward to WHS 2011 providing some additional reliability in this area.

    • Mick Mickle

      Apparently, WHS v1 can mask insidious problems with file corruption in backups that don't show up until restoration is actually attempted (even though a backup may mount and open successfully and the Database Repair tool finds no problems). Since backups don't duplicate sectors previously backed up, I think these problems can be caused by subsequent backups' reliance on unique sectors which are saved in an initial backup. If those initial sectors become corrupted over time by Drive Extender migration when removing a drive or some other reason, it seems that subsequent backups can continue to think a previously backed-up sector is good even when it isn't.

      While I don't know whether DE caused the loss of sectors in the earlier backups, changing drives in my WHS (using proper and successful removal procedures) is the only anomaly that I can point to. Perhaps the initial backups were corrupt to start with, but they opened okay when they were made. So, moving on to 2011.

      • Mick Mickle

        Of course, I meant "clusters" rather than "sectors".

    • Thanks for the feedback, Mick – glad the feature was useful.

      Terry

  • Steve

    I'll keep my WHS V1 running under my ESXi Server:) Easy backups, easy snapshots and great speed. True hardware raid 5 under the covers too.
    yay

  • Tim

    Wow. I am following simple rule… if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I'm sticking with WHS V1.

  • Michael

    I did a similar analysis. And decided to upgrade to WHS2011 – only to have to move back to WHSv1!!

    The reason….. WHS2011 can only back up to 1 single 2 TB disk. And (in my case) with 4.2 TB found this too big a restriction.

    Reference: http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/i-dont-bel
    The WHS team at least do recognise the limitation. Over at the Microsoft Connect bug-reporting site, a member of the team has written:
    At this time we can only back up to 1 single 2 TB disk. We realize the limitation and are working with the Core Windows team to fix this. Hopefully it’s something we can provide in future releases. For now you have to pick your critical data.

  • Michael

    I did a similar analysis. And decided to upgrade to WHS2011 – only to have to move back to WHSv1!!

    The reason….. WHS2011 can only back up to 1 single 2 TB disk. And (in my case) with 4.2 TB found this too big a restriction.

    Reference: http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/i-dont-bel
    The WHS team at least do recognise the limitation. Over at the Microsoft Connect bug-reporting site, a member of the team has written:
    At this time we can only back up to 1 single 2 TB disk. We realize the limitation and are working with the Core Windows team to fix this. Hopefully it’s something we can provide in future releases. For now you have to pick your critical data.

  • G.Wright

    This sucks, I want to upgrade, all my hardware will support it, but there is no upgrade path for me, because I have no place to put 16TB of data. MS fail.

  • volswagn

    Great article, but I went with FreeNAS about five months ago. I had purchased a couple advanced format drives at a good price that I was planning to use when v2 came out. But when the DE got dropped, I had to make a decision. DE was the main reason I had chosen WHS in the first place. Eventually, I decided I wanted to use the AF drives, and I didn't want to rely on a plugin or something else for DE for v2. So if I was not going to be able to do drive extension anyway, I started looking at my other options. I looked at Server 2008 R2, Small Business, and quickly realized they were overkill (not to mention the need for 10GB of RAM for was I was essentially using as a file server), but I didn't want to just use Win7 either, which some people moved to. I wanted a real "server," but one that was more optimized for documents and media.

    It was a little trouble making sure I had all compatible equipment, and I'm still having an issue with the USB port and the UPS due to an incompatibility between FreeBSD7 and certain Gigabyte motherboards. But once I set it up, it has just been humming in my wiring closet for months now. I have an encrypted disk for all my sensitive documents, I have about 10TB in the box, and I can replicate shares locally using rsync in much the same way WHS allowed "folder duplication." So if I lose one drive, I all my data has been rsync'd to another folder on another drive, and also up to Amazon's S3 service once a week. I get a daily report emailed to me on the status of the network, drives, etc. I haven't looked back.

  • volswagn

    Great article, but I went with FreeNAS about five months ago. I had purchased a couple advanced format drives at a good price that I was planning to use when v2 came out. But when the DE got dropped, I had to make a decision. Eventually, I decided I wanted to use the drives, and I didn't want to rely on a plugin or something else for v2.

    It was a little trouble making sure I had all compatible equipment, and I'm still having an issue with the USB port and the UPS due to an incompatibility between FreeBSD7 and certain Gigabyte motherboards. But once I set it up, it has just been humming in my wiring closet. I have an encrypted disk for all my sensitive documents, I have about 10TB in the box, and I can replicate shares locally using rsync in much the same way WHS allowed "folder duplication." So if I lose one drive, I all my data has been rsync'd to another folder on another drive, and also up to Amazon's S3 service once a week.

  • TimWaite

    Very pleased with the way DE rescued me when a disk crashed, so I was reluctant to even consider using WHS 2011. Tried to set up WHS v1 on a new server with 2gb drives but it refused to accept them. After several attempts it would install program on a 500GB drive but still would not read the 2gb drive sooooooo……. I tried it on WHS 2011 and it worked first time. Have been using RC version for two months and although it slows down the client start up a bit it is all OK. Will probably download the RTM this week and reluctantly say goodbye to DE.

  • TimWaite

    Of course I meant I had problems with v1 reading 2TB drives not 2GB!!!

  • Kenst

    Unfortunately I purchased an OEM box – the HP 485 EX which doesn't have a monitor cable nor external drives, which probably means I couldn't upgrade even if I wanted to. Looks like I'll be buying a new machine in the future.

  • P. Ip

    Thanks for the review. I am not aware of the HomeGroup requirement and it may be a big issue for me. I actually run two homeservers (both are HP MediaSmart), one for regular work and the other for media sharing. All the client computers are Windows 7 and they all share the same HomeGroup but they can be a client computer for one or the other homeserver. I do this not because I have more than 10 computers; it is due to the single drive pool for each homeserver and I want two drive pools. Also this will help speed up daily backups. I wonder if the same HomeGroup can be used for multiple WHS 2011 servers.

  • Guest

    LoL upgrading V1 why there is no good reason at all just for the newer server software or to make M$ richer, all i see is a stripped windows server 2008 nothing more nothing less.
    I see people talking again about the remote connection what the hell all windows home premium versions are stripped of the remote connection part what you mean its usefull.
    Only those with pro/ultimate versions can use this so -5000 points for that.
    The removal of DE for me its almost the only thing which made homeserver v1 great, now that no longer in whs2011 = – 1000000 for whs 2011
    The plugins there are non for whs 2011 and to my questions to M$ about fixing some major issues for them being fixed in whs 2011 i got the answer not yet in upcoming releases.
    So for this another – 5000 points
    Guess there are no really good points left all other is pure for streaming freaks and new stuff junks this 2011 has no gains other then a new way to get a big buck in M$ o so big pockets.

  • Mike M.

    Too late, already installed it and not looking back. Homegroup makes networking easier and if I didn't find the PC backup feature useful, which I do, I would not need to install the connector software at all.

    I upgraded the CPU and memory on my HP Mediasmart EX 495 before the RC. It performs flawlessly. To perform installation, I added a USB optical drive a debug card. As easy to install as Windows 7. All told about $400 of upgrading which could have paid for a NAS solution, but this was way more fun. Only drawback with the Mediasmart 495 is that the drive lights do not work and the health light continously blinks. Nothing a piece of black electrical tape couldn't solve. I haven't figured out the remote streaming, but will eventually. I had this working with WHS 1 and never used it.

    I understand most people's hesitancy, I was more worried about the migration. I found an article on Microsoft's forums that makes that a snap. That turned out to be the easy part. Goodsync can also be a good alternative as a back-up scheme if you want to back up over the network as well. Take the plunge, it really isn't that bad.

  • The Geb

    WHS 2011 was supposed to be released in April 2011………when is MikySoft really gonna release it?

  • homeservice

    My hardware is up to 64 bit use but as WHS v1 does everything I want I see no point in upgrading. It would cost me the price of v2 and severely restrict my disk upgrade path, I have 4 x 1Gb drives and was intending to but 2Gb drives one at a time because of financial constraints.
    I don't want to be a home sysadmin, I want it to just work as it does now with the free space being the only thing I have to worry about. So It's a no-brainer. Should I upgrade to cause myself more maintenance, problems and expense while lose the ease of use? No thanks, I'll keep it until it breaks or something better comes along.

  • Mark

    After switching to WHS after I lost everything in a complete RAID 5 crash on a previous Linux server that was getting short on space DE was the one feature that sold me on WHS.
    DE isn't perfect – far from it – but I added 3 hard drives and replaced two over the lifetime of the machine and that made it worth it.
    Without DE I may just go back to Linux if I have to put together another server. Time will tell.
    For now I don't see myself "upgrading" to 2011.

  • Jim

    Part1:

    I read every post in here and lots of good points were made and a big shoutout to the tests the moderators did. I have used V1 since the original beta. I run a small computer support firm and several of my customers have WHS-V1 units also that I maintain for them. I have absoutely loved WHS-V1 and I absoutely hate V2 (2011). I have 8 computers that I back up and I store over 6TB of raided data on my V1. The streaming doesn't matter at all. I have a W7 HTPC connected to my A/V rack and it does all I need and more. I hate to beat it to death, but the end of DE was the end of WHS as a practical matter. Now only geeks like me will deal with it. Any wonder why HP and others backed out? Sure, if there are 3rd party solutions to Raid the data, I may take a second look. But why would I want to put up with all the limitations and data backup hassles when V1 does all most folks need? see part2…

  • Bob

    Without DE I might as well install Linux and use rsync on a cronjob. I will not be upgrading.

  • Jim

    Part2:

    At first, I liked the idea one guy offered of using his old V1 as a backup to his V2. But that 2TB limit kills it all. And why would I want to have to manage 2 servers? I don't care about most of the new features except the driver support. Nope, I'm telling all my clients to sit tight. There are a few concerns. As hardware ages, it will eventually fail and that V1 license is tied to that MB! So I will be keeping a close watch on the old V1 availability and may buy a copy to put on the shelf just in case… I have been using PCs since the beginning in the 70's and have a ton of experience with every MS OS. It's a big shame that something so promising has gone down in flames like this. That's not whining, just a statement of fact. See part3…

  • jim

    Part3:

    I work with tons of small business and home customers and none of them are going to buy into V2 now. They don't want to be me. They just want to plug it in and use it knowing their PCs are backed up and the data is nicely, centrally stored. That is no longer possible. Maybe a 3rd party solution will fix this. But, and it's a huge but, none of my customers or any friends or relatives would ever try and make that all work. The miracle of V1 of WHS was it was basically a plug and play product that my sister could use. No longer… Sad. (PS, this word limit is a real pain…)

  • GPMark

    My conversion to Amahi went fine. No more Windows Home Server for me. I can't attest how easy WHS 2011 vs WHS v1 installation is, but the Amahi was amazingly simple and FREE! Tons of remote access applications and all are working fine.

    Backups, including backing up Linux systems, have been flawless. Data migration was the same pain as going to WHS 2011, but I've already done one major upgrade and migration should never be a problem for me. Managing Amahi remotely is fairly simple, but it appears a little more complex than WHS 2011. No need for plugins – everything is already there.

    Best move I've ever made – thanks Microsoft for killing DE!

  • bill

    i have several xp machines, one i built with xp media center recently, i don’t really use the media center much, still using GOM to pay video, and media monkey for msuic. i used to use itunes… my 500gb nas is full, so i am debating to build another htpc for the bedroom and add a few 2tb drives for media storage, or build a whs. i like the drive extender, but am not sure which is really better for media server applications. i really just need file storage, but something with good music and video programs would be great. itunes is sort of a pain with the NAS and i use media monkey much more now that i have learned to convert my itunes to real mp3s. so for me, i wonder should i bother with a home server? will i be any better off? does whs handle itunes better? i see mentions of media servers in whs articles, but no real details. i might have to purchase some book to really consider it, but in the meantime… does anyone have an opinion about how whs works for mp3s or itunes? i am starting my build from scratch, so not repurposing old parts. i can go v1 or vail. which really does mp3s better? and why?

  • TjerkB

    I don’t see the problem with DE removed. You have 2 and 3 Tb drives that cost almost nothing. A good raid controller that supports raid 5 and you have a faster more stable solution. Hit me if i am wrong.

  • Paul

    I upgraded… and then downgraded again. Two main reasons:
    I host a number of web sites and I couldn't live without WHISST (any hope of a port of that fantastic add-in)
    I couldn't set the domain name – the xxxx.homeserver.com that worked with V1 fails when I try to use it with 2011
    In time I'm sure these reasons will go away, but for now I'm back on V1, and do you know what? I was actually pleased to see it's old face again and I can't really come up with a list of things that I briefly had with 2011 that I yearn for again.

  • Loy
  • Loy

    Thank you for a very insightful review. I will not be upgrading for one very simple reason – simplicity. I don’t have a WHS because I need a toy to play with but to simplify storage, data access and backups. It was a major mistake removing DE. Clearly WHS 2011 will not make my life simpler. Instead, it will create more work and worry over backups and backing up backups and drives that are over full. Too much! No sale!

    I wonder if Microsoft bought stock in Axentra Corporation’s HipServ and they are trying to increase Axentra's market share with WHS 2011’s release. LOL

  • Mama

    For me, no DE = no WHS2011.

    For Migration, if WHS2011 had DE in it, I would upgrade by buying fresh hardware, a low power platform like AMD E350 or similar. Then I’d install WHS2011 with only the system drive. Then I would attach a single new HD I purchase and start copying files from the old WHS server to the new server, up to almost the size of the new HD. Then I’d remove one HD from my old WHS server (it has 8 HDs) and add it to the drive pool in WHS2011. Then copy files the size of that HD over, then remove next HD etc. I’d just have to repeat this until all data drives of the old WHS has been move to the new WHS2011.

    But… no DE in WHS2011 means this scenario isn’t even possible! And no, I don’t want data on 8 separate drives. I had that before I discovered the wonderful DE in WHS, so if WHS2011 doesn’t have it, I don’t want it.

  • HappyMe

    I cannot understand why everybody is complaining about the loss of the DE. I am glad te be rid of it. The demigrator (the word already says it, "cut the homeserver performance in half") was very annoying. It was so busy doing things, the homeserver did not respond very well (in the midle of a movie it decieded to check its stupid datafiles).
    Also the disks are readable by an other pc, so if the physical homeserver brakes down, you can easily access your files.
    Powermanagement works now for me and spins down disks when I don't use them.
    If you're data is so important, one backup is no backup. Just hook a (or more) usb disk to your homeserver and use the windows server backup. Keep it at a safe place and preferably out of your house.
    I don't hear much about the amazing backup functinality of workstations. It backs up your precious data and you can retrieve it easily. For me a very, and underestimated strong point of this product.
    There are creative ways to add disks to a drive, e.g. in a folder.
    Oh well, I probably forgot some things and you may have other visions/use of the homeserver. I love it for home use and what I do with it. It was worth my 109 Euro's.

  • michael

    I wanted media center added in, and instead they cut the best feature. I will not be buying a product that clearly was not listening to the people. No sale.

  • Steve

    For a multi cpu set up, its worth noting that Vail is based on the Foundation SKU of Server 2008, so only supports 1 socket. True it seems a little quicker than a single socket WHSV1 box, but it seems criminal to have two processors and then not use one of them.

  • smerdonw

    I have a Dell Inspiron 530s with a Intel Celeron 450 2.2GHz 512KB Cache. Will I be able to run WHS 2011?

  • RickT

    Thanks for the well-done review. I think MS hosed WHS2011 and failed to maintain what I thought was the home server concept. WHS2011 seems to have morphed from a terrific backup and recovery device for the PC's on my simple home network to a complex, more labor intensive system for businesses. Backing up the server? You gotta be kidding. That's not sounding like a "home server." I don't want to back up the backup! I'll be going back to Acronis software and more hard drives when WHS1 reaches EOL, unless something else comes along.

  • Scott

    I'll be upgrading soon. I'm migrating all my data onto individual disks now. I took the test and scored a +45 in favor of the upgrade. I'm not happy about the loss of DE (I never had issues with it) and migrating over 10TB of recorded TV and movies will take a while, but I'm looking forward to a faster, newer system when it's done.

  • SDP

    Don't forget that running from 2k8 means you can now have OS disks go above the 2TB mark.
    If you are a power user and have a 'few' other computers in the house, you will very quickly run into the limited backup space with WHS. Because backups are on your OS drives and they can't go above 2TB.

    With WHS2 you can use an UEFI motherboard and boot from a +2TB drive. That's one of the most compelling things about WHS2.

    But I still don't think I will migrate very soon. The migration is just too painfull but when I finally have to start using WHS2, I'll be very glad with all the extra options avaible to me thanks to 2k8 under the hood.

  • Lou

    Great review!
    I was wondering… I read somewhere that the feature of waking up the server from the client pc is no longer available. Is that a fact?

  • Andrew

    I’ve been waiting for a newer version of WHS, mostly because I have really nice/new hardware in my server. Before I hit the buy button at newegg I decided to look up a how-to on upgrading from 2003 to 2011. It turns out I can’t upgrade! I have 6TB of data on my present WHS setup (meaning it would cost me too much $$ to temporarily migrate that data elsewhere so that I can upgrade the operating system). AWESOME. I mean, who has 6tb of storage sitting around for temp backup? On the plus side I’ll save some cash from not buying a new OS..

  • Albert

    @ Andrew, You don't need 6TB for free space, just free space equal to your largest drive. If you have your largest drive a 2TB hard Drive then all you need is a 2tb free space. Set up WHS2011 with 2TB+ of free space then take you largest drive from WHSv1 and hook that up and transfer the data over. Once you transferred the data add the newly empty drive to WHS2011 then repeat the steps by finding your next largest drive and transferring that. and so on.

    I have done this before and will again this next weekend. (Newegg Special $49.99 with free shipping) already ordered WHS2011 and look forward to using it.

    (And some people do have extra space around, like me i have 16.8tb of space with 7.8tb free 🙂 got to love frys and their sales on drives)

  • Keith L

    I upgraded to WHS2011 yesterday and I think it is fantatstic. Sure I had to start from scratch with each client pc to the new server however
    with the substantial discounts in the U.K. on both the HP microserver and the WHS2011 server this was an opportunity not be missed. Saved about £150. I like the look and feel of WHS2011 ..it looks professional. The HP kit has a very small footprint so I have space for other kit!

  • ubronan

    hahaha i had enough of the crappy ms homeserver products,
    bought a huge nas which has now taken over all functions of whs.
    no more crap or problems all works including backups of my pc's 😀
    everything in a nice tiny box and 12 TB space the best choice i ever made.
    THANK YOU MICROSOFT for make this choice easier

    • myangeldust

      Do you mean the software or all those products already sold with WHS installed?

  • Gene

    I agree with some of what you stated. Buying software and moving data is a given on most any upgrade – moot points. Drive extender? C'mon…there are other, more reliable and faster solutions. Buy a RAID card and use an external USB drive for one. I run WHS 2011 on a Dell PowerEdge 830 with the legacy CERC/SATA RAID card with two 1tb drives and USB backup. With Dell's support utilities it's a beautiful thing! I, too, was a v1 fan…I can understand your bias.

    • myangeldust

      Weird, I was just asking if a rackmount server (similar to yours) was a good buy and what version of WHS I should pair it up with.

  • myangeldust

    My EX470 is completely dead (HP's Server Recover disc killed the data). So I was thinking about getting a CybertronPC Quantum TSVQJA1521 rackmount server (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=199636&csid=_21). It has two 1Tb HDDs in a RAID 1 setup. Since I never really hotswapped any drives in my EX nor needed more than 1Tb for multimedia and backup I figured that'st the amount of space I need.

    I have two questions: 1) Does this sound like a good machine to use has a WHS box? and 2) Should I get WHS version 1 or the new 2011 version? Thanks!

  • Avenger

    I have to say that Terry has done a remarkable job in the presentation of this article by remaining objective and offering detailed insight to something that I think Microsoft would prefere the consumer just blindly move toward. I highly recomend anyone contemplating the move from V1 to 2011 read this article entirely before deciding. It's not to say that one is better than the other right off the shelf or anything; it's to say that it's important to be sure that the implementation iether way has to make sense to your abilities as a user and how the features (or lack of) impact you. For me, I still need a reliable DE and realy am not looking to move my server to a 64bit platform for finacial reasons – This is afterall something for my own personal entertainment dispersal

  • Kent

    The one thing WHS 2011 does really well is a bare metal restore.  WHS V1 always failed on the SATA driver.  I could get around it by using and PCI network card – but it was a pain.

    I like the 64 bit and fast data transfer speeds.  My Blu-ray sees the server and plays videos without any setup – pretty cool.

    I really hate the size limitations – I back up four home computers and have to be carefull or I fill it up and get the warning messages.  2 TB come on man . . .  I miss duplication – so I back up to a 2008 R2 server every weekend. I thought about RAID but it has its downsides too.

    It does have a much more ‘robust’ security defaults.  They crossed the line and it is a pain in the ask.  A few tweaks in the local policies and it plays nice with all the home network machines and does not recreate passwords anymore.  So I don’t have other family members yelling up the stairs for a password.

    WHS 2011 is much more stable the WHS v1.  It just runs and I do like that it tells me when other computers are not be updated.

    It is like getting a new car with the wrong color.  You like it, and it works, but you are disappointed every time you drive it because you know what it could be.

  • Shlimon_y

    Can WHS 2011 be installed on 32-bit hardware.

  • Rainer Reitz

    I like my WHS1, as it runs very stable and reliable. The only reason to “upgrade” to the new RAID system would be a significant better power management. BR

  • Rainer Reitz

    I like my WHS1, as it runs very stable and reliable. The only reason to “upgrade” to the new RAID system would be a significant better power management. BR

  • schen

    Best review that I’ve read. I had already made the decision to upgrade, having acquired the necessary hardware, and now just need to block out the time to do it all. Just wanted to read, double-check and make sure I didn’t miss anything!

  • Greg H

    Great article. I took the plunge on an old HP Media Smart Server. Installed WHS 2011 on a 1 terabyte drive using a desktop and then powered down at the first reboot and stuck the drive in bay 1 of the headless server to finish the install. The install was smooth but VERY time consuming. It must have installed 50 updates. Data migration was tedious but successful. Watch that you don’t fill any of the drives on client computers more than 90% or they won’t backup to the server. That was my only glitch. I noticed MUCH improved performance and stability. That alone was worth the effort and $49.00 for the software. I then installed Subsonic music server software on the server using Remote Desktop Connection to the server. Then I installed the iphone app on my iphone. Now I am steaming a 1 terabyte music library to all my family’s iphones. Subsonic performs flawlessly on WHS 2011. This was just the solution I was looking for.

  • likeatiger81

    Great Article!!!!!!. i have been thinking about migrating my Acer homeserver to WHS2011 but havent worried about it too much until now. just wondering if anyone would be king enough to give me an update since this article? i have around 8TB in one storage pool thanks to DE. i use this mostly as a media server storage system, backup my PC’s and thats about it. But i do love the DE feature that is just an easy storage pool with duplication. id be happy to migrate if i can still use some sort of storage pool or RAID, and i can backup my folders eaily. how have you guys found it since updating? what headaches did it cause? do you no longer miss V.1, would you never look back since migrating? how have you overcome or replaced DE?

    thanks

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