[box type=”info”]Building a Windows 8 Home Server – Step by Step eBook

Building a Windows 8 Home Server – Step by Step is We Got Served’s essential guide to Microsoft’s “re-imagined” Windows operating system… with a twist! Whether you’re new to the world of home servers, thinking about upgrading from Windows Home Server or swapping your Network Attached Storage device for a real computer, this 360 page eBook will help you build, install and configure Windows 8 for home server use.

Buy Now from the WGS Store: £9.99

  1. Introduction
  2. Windows 8 Home Servers: Why and What?
  3. Home Server Hardware
  4. Building the Server
  5. Configuring Your UEFI Motherboard
  6. Installing Windows 8
  7. A Lap Around the Windows 8 Desktop. Erm, Desktops
  8. Storage and Storage Spaces [eBook Exclusive]
  9. Managing User Accounts and Family Safety
  10. Homegroups and Shared Folders
  11. File History, Backup and Data Recovery [eBook Exclusive]
  12. Windows 8 Media Streaming & Play To
  13. Remote Access, Remote Media Streaming and the SkyDrive Cloud [eBook Exclusive]
  14. Running Windows Home Server as a Virtual Machine in Windows 8 [eBook Exclusive]

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As a consumer, over the last 20 years of computing, you’d probably find it difficult to articulate the key developments in BIOS development. BIOS engineering (Basic Input Output System – the low-level code that starts up and manages the running of your hardware) doesn’t get a lot of headlines, and in truth, whilst BIOS code has improved over the years, it’s not the most fascinating. It all looks like DOS, and therefore must be a bit cheesy, right?

Until now. UEFI is here! That’s right, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface has replaced the BIOS in modern PCs. UEFI offers support for aging BIOS features, but brings many more to the table that fit nicely with the Windows 8 feature set, including:

 

  • The ability to boot from hard drives larger than 2TB
  • Faster start-up times
  • A live network connection ahead of OS boot
  • CPU independent drivers and architecture
  • Rich user interface, controlled by the mouse (DOS design, be gone!)
  • Enhanced security features, including Secure Boot

 

That last feature is one that’s caused particular controversy during Windows 8 development – it’s not such a concern for us building our own hardware, but is worth a quick note for background. UEFI includes a feature called Secure Boot, which prevents the unauthorised running of firmware or UEFI drivers running at boot time. Of course, the question here is who governs what is unauthorised and what is authorised? Microsoft will mandate that OEM Hardware manufacturers that seek the company’s Windows 8 Certification (like HP, Dell, Samsung, Acer and the like have done historically) must implement UEFI on their systems. That’s fair enough. However, there’s some small print.

On standard desktop and laptop systems, the manufacturers must allow the secure boot feature to be switched off, allowing the installation of alternative operating systems on that hardware (say if you wanted to wipe Windows off the system and install Linux).

However, on ARM-based tablets (which will run a specific edition of Windows 8 called Windows RT) manufacturers must not allow Secure Boot to be switched off. So, if you buy a Windows 8 tablet with an ARM processor running Windows RT, that’s the only OS you’ll be allowed to install on it. Cue controversy – it’s a massive shift from the open architecture of the IBM PC, right?

The controversy is very much a sidebar for us here, as we’re not focusing on tablets, and especially Windows RT tablets but it’s a great example of one of the powerful features that has been developed in UEFI.

 

A Lap Around UEFI on the ASUS P8H67-I DELUXE Motherboard

Obviously there will be distinct variations between implementations of UEFI across the range of motherboard manufacturers. But to give you a flavour of how UEFI works on a typical motherboard, and what we need to do to to configure it for our home server needs, we’ll walk though setup on our ASUS P8H67-I DELUXE. Now, motherboard manufacturers are notorious for branding features that are generic across a wide range of products, so some of the language may differ compared to your own motherboard, even if the feature is actually the same.

To bring this to life, let’s look at how ASUS describe their UEFI support:

Flexible, Easy BIOS Interface

ASUS brand new EFI BIOS offers a user-friendly interface that goes beyond traditional keyboard only BIOS, to enable more flexible and convenient mouse controls. Users can easily navigate the new EFI BIOS with the same smoothness as their operating system. The exclusive EZ Mode displays frequently-accessed setup info, while the Advanced Mode is for experienced performance enthusiasts that demand far more intricate system settings.

The take-out? You manage the configuration experience using a mouse (common to most UEFI setups) and ASUS pull out the most frequently accessed settings in a separate screen (again, you’ll see this on many motherboards).

Let’s boot our (soon to be) Windows 8 PC and take a look at UEFI setup.