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  1. #1
    5 Star Lounger
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    A cheap, effective home server using Windows 8




    TOP STORY

    A cheap, effective home server using Windows 8


    By Woody Leonhard

    Windows 8 has taken it on the chin for all sorts of transgressions both real and imagined but for one application, it's an excellent option. As a home or small-office server, it might be just the excuse you need to take advantage of Microsoft's discounted Win8 pricing.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/top-story/a-cheap-effective-home-server-using-windows-8/ (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
    New Lounger
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    Windows 8 Server sounds like a sad, but acceptable alternative to WHS (Windows Home Server). I'm interested in pursuing this option.

    Another need I have, though, is for a media server. Since digital TV arrived in my country (New Zealand) I can no longer record TV broadcasts to hard disk, for technical reasons (the digital decoder is inside my TV!). I'm thinking of building a PC with TV card and hard drives to handle the digital signal decoding, and recording, functions.

    Is this a role that could be combined with the WHS role on the same Win8 server? Or are these functions too disparate that they should be handled by different boxes?

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    Hi David,

    Regarding your question of recording TV broadcasts, I can't speak to Windows 8 but I have recently set up an HTPC using Windows 7 Home Premium's Windows Media Center (WMC), which allows recording. WMC is free with Windows 7 Home Premium (at least in the US) but I understand will be a paid add-on in Windows 8. I simply built a homebrew PC reasonably capable of running Windows 7 - not a high end unit at all but including a NVidia GEForce 9500 GT video card - and added a Hauppauge HVR-1250 to receive OTA broadcasts - we opt out of cable. The WMC interface takes a bit of getting used to, but it does work reasonably well. I had it set up in time to record the Olympics, which allowed us to watch what we wanted when we wanted. Your broadcast standards will be different, but you should be able to find the appropriate devices for New Zealand. BTW - we spent 3 wonderful weeks traveling in your country about 4 years ago. Great place and the nicest place to drive a motorcar in the world. Cheers!

  4. #4
    Douglas Baumwall
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    Why bother with your own server?

    Why anyone would spend $450 and go through all that work to get a home server is beyond my understanding. The cost doesn't stop there, you will have to maintain your server indefinitely, which adds up. And you will never be able to approach the level of security in a commercial data center in your home. With several excellent cloud based servers available for free, why bother? For example, I've been using Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) for years and I have access to all my files from any device using any Internet connection. I can keep all my files private, share specific files with specific individuals with view, comment or edit access, or actually publish them on the Internet with just a few clicks. I can even collaborate with others to review and modify these files together in real time with free videoconferencing using a Google Hangout [similar to but better than Skype]. I just don't see the point of maintaining a server.

    Douglas Baumwall
    Last edited by Medico; 2012-10-01 at 09:43. Reason: Removed ad in sig

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    I had been considering switching from WHS2011 to Win8 for the very reasons Woody put forward in his excellent article. Now can anybody help with installation on a truly headless system like my HP LX195? Does anyone have a cfg.ini or autounattend.xml that works?

  6. #6
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Win 8 is such an easy installation (the actual OS installs from DVD in less than an hour) that you really do not need it. Download the ISO file (once it is released for sale on Oct. 26th), using a slow burn, burn it to DVD. Boot to the DVD and choose Custom Install.

    On my latest installation on my wife's PC (90 day Ent. Eval. edition) from start to finish was about 5 hours. This included installing Win 8, customizing to what I wanted, installing all apps (Including Office 2010 full install) then updating all apps (Office took a LOOOOONG time). I also did 3 Images during the install, one after Win 8, one after Office 2010, and one after everything was complete.

    The Custom Installation went without a hitch. Before I started I Imaged Win 7 in the off chance she did not like it, but she loves it.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    How retrievable is data under Storage Services?

    Hi Woody,

    Thanks for your useful article about a W8 home server using Storage Services.

    If I have such a server, with 3 or more data disks, and more than one disk fails either at the same time, or during the period in which I am still recovering the first failed disk, can I then still retrieve the data stored on all the remaining (undamaged) disks in my array?


    Thanks,


    pbbuk

  8. #8
    New Lounger
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    As one of those last few still using WHS, I too am interested in the alternatives -- and what you describe with Windows 8 is interesting, but there are a couple of issues for me:

    1. I love the fact that everything is pretty much done from the WHS side out, meaning that end users do little or nothing -- everything kind of happens for them. I have two WHS setups -- mine and one for my folks. At 81/78, they certainly don't want to mess with making sure their computers are doing what they should do. More than once, I've helped them and their guests recover from a problem just because WHS was doing its job!

    2. I've even needed to totally rebuild systems after hardware failures. WHS did a wonderful job of being ready to rebuild their computers after replacing their hard drive, etc. It was real simple and not sure how well the Win 8 solution would do in that regard.

    3. SkyDrive? I have a couple of terabytes of family pictures, family movies, ripped CDs, etc. on the WHS server. Don't think I want to try to do that with Skydrive...

  9. #9
    New Lounger
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    Thanks for getting around to it

    Thanks, Woody for supporting the idea of a home server.

    I've been using a dedicated retail computer as a file server since I discovered network file sharing some 20 years ago. For over half that time I've done the same for my clients (businesses with less than 10 - usually 1-3 - users).

    The primary server need for a small business is file sharing. Everyone sees all the same files (depending on access restrictions) in the same drive letter and folder. There's no concern for versioning when documents are emailed around the office. Most critically for the sysadmin, backup is centralized.

    No, you don't get local Exchange, some server-installed apps, or automatic workstation imaging. You do get reliable and versatile data storage and hugely simplified administration. And migrating your data to a new server is a matter of copying one folder, configuring users, and repointing shares.

    Bill

  10. #10
    New Lounger
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    Something you should know about Windows 8's Storage Spaces. I too considered using Windows 8 for my home server and downloaded W8CP to test with. I have a new system with four 2TB drives that I wanted to setup as a RAID5 array. My motherboard has an integrated RAID controller, which I intended to use, but W8 refused to work with it. So I used W8's Storage Spaces and set them up as a parity striped volume. During the set up I discovered that:

    1. The system drive cannot participate in the Storage Spaces pool. I wanted to boot from the first drive and add the remaining space to the pool. No can do. I had to add a fifth drive for the OS.

    2. When it became available, I upgraded from W8CP to W8RP and my Storage Spaces parity striped volume was not readable! Microsoft's only comment was to backup before upgrading and restore after recreating the volume, which is what I had to do. No migration tools are available, or are reported to be in development. Gee, thanks MS.

    3. I was using the 32-bit version of W8RP and decided to upgrade to the 64-bit version. Once again, the Storage Spaces parity striped volume was not readable! No migration tools, several more hours wasted restoring data - ARGH!

    My experience tells me the code for Windows 8's parity striping is unstable and could change again at some point in the future - a big FAIL in my opinion. Without any migration tools you are forced to recreate the volume and restore your data from backups. Of course we need to maintain backups, the point is when the about of data grows into many TBs, the time required to perform a restore also grows. Not having any migration tools is another big FAIL on MS's part.

    I ended up putting Win7 Pro on my server, which worked perfectly with my integrated RAID controller. Problems solved.

    Other interesting points about Windows 8:
    With Win8's parity striping I had a net capacity of 4.8TB out of a total of 8TB. Using Win7 and the integrated RAID controller it shows a net capacity of 5.6TB. Also, performance increased by 250%!!! Win8's storage spaces is not only flaky, it's also inefficient and slow, features that are not on my checklist.

    The low price for Windows 8 is tempting as a home server OS, but it has some serious caveats if you intend to have a parity striped data volume. It seems they took W7 and added a new -ugly- face, added some new features that are loaded with bugs, and screwed some things that were working well. It took a number of years before XP stabilized, and Win7 still has a ways to go. Given Microsoft's development history, Win8 might be worth using in a few years, maybe.

  11. #11
    New Lounger
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    Why not keep using Windows Home Server?

    I guess I am confused about this article regarding moving from WHS to Win8. Why make a change if WHS is working fine?

    To quote Woody from his article entitled "Making do without Windows Home Server" dated 2010-12-10, "Call me stubborn, but I plan on running the classic, original version of Windows Home Server until my final platter takes its last spin." http://windowssecrets.com/woodys-win...s-home-server/

    I have not used Win8, so I do not know of any technical reasons for not continuing to use WHS.

    Thanks

  12. #12
    New Lounger
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    I suddenly remembered the 2tb limitations of partitions for images made using WHS2011 and for images made using Win7's own backup utility. Not only can you not source an image from a drive larger than that, you cannot use such a drive as a target for image backups. Do these same limitations apply to "storage spaces"? Would I be able to create a Win7 image (using that OSes utility to do so) and save it to, for instance, a 4tb (actual or "virtual") storage space, and then do a bare metal restoration using such an image?

  13. #13
    New Lounger
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    How / where /when to obtain win8 pro $40 upgrade ?

  14. #14
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    It will not be released until Oct. 26th. The $40 is for the downloaded version. Until then we have to be patient.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  15. #15
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    A cheap, effective home server using Windows 8

    to:
    Woody Leonhard

    I did follow the article, (A cheap, effective home server using Windows 8) but could not find the link to purchase the W8 pro upgrade for $40 bucks.
    I would like to try it. I have WHS and I don't care what any one else says, it's about the worst piece if crap MS ever put out.
    Just try to get it back after a drive failure, back ups don't work, can't rename it to be part of my own local work group. I could go on.
    So I will try using W8. Where do I get it?
    All that is needed it to be able to back up and share the many files on all the home computers.

    Thanks
    Harv

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