From time to time, we’ll feature interesting questions and tech tips sent in to us from We Got Served readers. This week, Richard wrote to us asking:

I am making the switch to iMac and currently have a n40l running WHS2011. I need to purchase a guide as to setting up the server to be able to serve both the iMac (personal computer) and a legacy Windows 7 Laptop (provided by my employer). The server will be used as data storage and backups for both systems – is this even possible? Could you point me at the correct one of your books that would let me know how to do this.

This is a common question as more people purchase Macs for the home. Indeed, compared to a few years ago where Windows dominated both home and business computing, we’ve seen a host of operating systems pop up – particularly in the mobile space. So it’s only fair that users are seeking a home server solution that is able to manage all of these devices together.

Whilst Windows Home Server 2011 claims some degree of support for Apple Macs, this is mostly restricted to sharing files and folders stored on the server to Macs. We cover setup and configuration of this feature in Windows Home Server 2011 Step by Step. Whilst there looked to be plans to offer Apple Time Machine support on Windows Home Server 2011 (using the server as a backup target for Time Machine), this did not come to fruition. There have been attempts to get Time Machine working with WHS 2011 (with partial success on older versions of OS X) but this involves a lot of hacking around and isn’t a robust solution, sadly.

So, for backup, you may simply be better off connecting a USB hard drive to the Mac and utilising Time Machine for Mac backup and continue to use WHS 2011 for the Windows laptop.

Alternatively, if you are planning a switch to Mac then you could decommission the N40l and run OS X Server on the Mac instead. Our Using OS X Mavericks Server at Home guide walks through how you can back up both Macs and Windows PCs (the latter utilising a free third-party service like Crash Plan) to OS X Server instead. OS X Server simply runs as an application on top of the standard OS X operating system, therefore you can continue to use the same features you love about OS X, with some additional features available for server use. Best of all, it’s a very cheap addition to OS X, and easily available from the Mac App Store.