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How To Install and Setup Windows Home Server

Have you ever wanted to be able to access all of your important files, music, photos, and more from all computers in your home from one central server? Today we’ll take a look at Windows Home Server and show you how to install and configure it with other machines on your network.

Windows Home Server (WHS) is meant for your family needs or for use in a home or small office. It allows you to centralize your important documents and digital media files on one box and provides easy access from other machines on your network. It has the ability to backup 10 computers and restore them if needed. It acts as a media server, backup solution, data recovery, document management, and allows you to access what you need from anywhere there is a web connection. Using a personalized website address, it lets you securely download and upload your data files.      

You can buy server machines that already have WHS installed on it, or you can create your own (which is a lot more geeky and fun). The cool thing is that you can repurpose an older desktop to run Windows Home Server. A machine with a 1GHz Pentium III, 512MB of RAM, and an 80GB Hard Drive will work as the minimum requirements, but as you know minimum and recommended requirements are completely different things. You can check out the minimum and recommended system requirements from Microsoft’s WHS PDF guide (link below).

Start the Installation

Installation is very straight forward and easy to do. Boot from the WHS installation disc and kick off the install wizard.

1 whs 

Select your region and keyboard settings…

2 whs

Now choose the drive(s) that are in the machine. In this case there is only one, but if you have multiple drives, make sure they’re listed. If you want to add additional drives at a later time, it’s a simple process that we will cover in a future post.

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Select New Installation…

4whs

Accept the Microsoft EULA…

5whs

Enter in your Windows Home Server Product Key…

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Next it’s time to give your new Home Sever a name…

7whs

Again verify the hard drives that will be formatted…

8whs

It’s going to ask you again to make sure all the data will be deleted from the drives…

9whs

Finally it’s time to kick off the installation process. The amount of time it takes to complete will vary between systems. Count on the entire process taking a minimum of one hour and perhaps longer.

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There is nothing needed from you while the install takes place. The system will reboot several times and you’ll see different screens displayed while the process completes…

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Finish Installation

When you get to the following Welcome screen, you’re almost done.

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Type in a password and password hint for the server.

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Decide if you want to set up automatic updates or not…

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Choose if you want to join the Customer Experience Improvement Program or not…

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Choose if you want to turn on automatic Windows Error Reporting…

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That’s all there is to it.  You don’t need to leave a keyboard, monitor, or mouse to the server. The only thing you needs to be connected is an Ethernet Cable running to your router (Wireless isn’t supported). You can administer the machine from any computer on your network after installing Windows Home Server Connector on the other machines.

18whs

Windows Home Server Console

To connect the computers on your network to the server, you’ll need to install the Windows Home Server Connector which is available as a separate download. You’ll need to install the WHS Connector to every computer on your network that you want to connect with the server. It connects your computers to WHS, allows for automatic nightly backups, monitors computer network health, and enables you to remotely administer the server from your computer.

If you don’t want to waste a CD to install it, you can use a free program like Virtual CloneDrive and mount the ISO and transfer the files to a a flash drive.

1 conxp 

Before installing the connector on XP you’ll be required to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and it’ll guide you through the process if needed.

3 conxp

When you start WHS Connector Setup it will look for the Home Server…

1 con

Then it’s just a matter of working through the rest of the wizard.

2 con

During the process you’ll need to enter in the password you created for the server.

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Decide if you want your computer to wake up if it’s in sleep mode to back it up…

6 con

When configuration is complete, we’re shown our settings — wake up the computer for backup between 12:00 and 6:00 AM. Also in this instance, we’re getting a message that one of the drives in the PC won’t be backed up. This is because it’s formatted as a FAT 32 volume and it will only backup drives formatted as NTFS.

8 con

The Home Server Console icon sits in the system tray and you can control some of it’s settings by right-clicking the icon.

9 con

It will display your network’s health and show security warnings (this feature can be easily turned off). In this instance we can see one of the machines on the network has its firewall turned off.

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When you open up WHS Console, you’re prompted to log into the server. There are a few other features here to like having the password remembered, password hint, and resetting the console.

console

Once you’re signed in, you can configure and administer the server and its different functions. We’ll be taking a closer look at the WHS Console in future articles.

14 con

If you need to make more detailed changes to your server, another good option is to use Remote Desktop, which is easier than hooking up a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to it.

15 con

Download Updates

Now that installation is complete we need to add all the of the latest updates from Microsoft. Click on Start \ All Programs then Windows Updates. This will provide you with the latest server security updates and Power Pack updates as well. Power Packs are updates that add new features and provide fixes to known issues for Windows Home Server.

1 update 

Conclusion

This guide should get you started using your new Home Server. It comes in handy in a lot of cool ways if you want to centralize your digital entertainment and access it from any machine running XP or above. Or if you have a home or small office and want to be able to access your work from anywhere there is a web connection. There are several good reasons to have your own server at home, if you’re a power user. Over the next year we will be bringing you more detailed tutorials on how to set up and use your Home Server. If you happen to have an extra desktop you’re not using and can dedicate as a server, they offer a free 30 Day trial so you can try it out for yourself. If you like it, you can purchase a full license and I have seen it around the web for around $99 or a little cheaper depending on where you look. 

Download Windows Home Server 30 Day Trial

Download Windows Home Server Connector Software CD

Windows Home Server Getting Started Guide (PDF)

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 02/1/10

Comments (25)

  1. TheBigOldDog

    I’ve been using WHS server for several months now loaded on a HP Mediasmart server. These are the benefits from my perspective:

    1) Automated nightly backups. It creates differential images of all the machines nightly, waking them if necessary. It works flawlessly. I no longer used True Image or Ghost. To call it fantastic would be an understatement.

    2) NAS. I no longer have a bunch of external drives hanging around. I took them all out of their cases and put them into the HP box and now simply use the WHS for my external storage needs. It’s simply great! Note that I did need to get a gigabit switch to speed up transfers of large files back and forth but they are dirt cheap these days.

    3) There are many other features like media serving and external web access that I don’t currently use. I would use the web access but Comcast blocks remote access.

  2. Al

    Hi,

    Great howto – though I would recommend that one installs the connector software from the server rather than CD/DVD media as after the server completes updates to the new power packs the version of connector software is newer on the server. One should open an explorer window on the client PC and navigate to:
    \\SERVERNAME\\Software\Home Server Connector Software
    then run setup.exe from there.

    Cheers,
    Al

  3. Bob

    Why did you not join the customer experience and error reporting programs? I am curious and thinking maybe you know something I dont.

  4. Si

    Hi,

    Great howto guide, couple of days too late as I’ve just finished setting my homeserver up and I’m now in the process of moving all my files from a NAS to it.

    As someone new to whs I’d any chance of more howto’s? I’d like to see ones on how to back up files to a NAS now that I’ve one free and how to stream and transcode media withou Media Center.

    Si

  5. Peter

    WHS is awesome. Like BogOldDog, I have given up all my other local backup strategies in favor of WHS.

    Be sure to install PowerPack 3 if you are using Windows 7 clients. You get library integration with the WHS folders and lots of other goodies. The main benefit is that you need PP3 to be able to restore a Win7 machine properly.

  6. BullDawg

    Windows Update should not be run from the “Start \ All Programs then Windows Updates.” Instead, it should be run from the WHS Console. “Settings, General, Update Now.” This will ensure that only updates meant for WHS will be installed. Using the “Start” method will offer updates, especially optionals, that may break WHS. The “Start” method does not consider WHS, only Server 2003.

  7. 1fastbullet

    If anyone has used or is using WHS with an attached Linux computer, I’d like to know how well or haw badly it’s going. I assume that wine is used to interface…

  8. Icedmoon

    had tested WHS installed last year when it was newly announced. didnt like the idea, everything can be done from a xp/vista can’t see a reason to install it, hard to manage multimedia especially can’t upload batch of files at a time (maybe possible but I didn’t figure out). i am not a newbie…i was expecting a nice platform to manager all my files, photos, music, videos…but disappointed by this product.

  9. SquareWheel

    “Why did you not join the customer experience and error reporting programs? I am curious and thinking maybe you know something I dont.”

    @Bob: I can’t speak for The Geek here, but I can only assume it’s because he doesn’t want these features? I know whenever I install software of any sort, I opt-out of these programs. What exactly are you accusing him of?

  10. Peter

    1fastbullet – I haven’t used WHS with Linux, but the shares are just regular SMB shares, so I see no reason why a Linux box wouldn’t be able to access them. Obviously the backup and restore functions wouldn’t work. I can’t say how the media sharing functions would work, but my guess is not well if at all. WHS is designed to work with Windows clients, anything else that works would just be a bonus.

  11. r!es

    i have install mcafee on my WHS (acer h430), but on the whs console i cannot update or do anything. mcafee is working good, also updates. how can i remove mcafee from the whs console?

    regards,

  12. Kenny Kinder

    This is one I have been fighting for awhile. Boot drive died on WHS, new drive put in and done a new install (with out the data drives). Put data drives back on-line and then did a reinstall – everything looked good except where I had to go back to Microsoft and valadate my windows install. Said the CD key had already been used. I should not have to pay for another copy just because my hard drive failed even though the WHS was an OEM.

  13. Chris

    Just like Win XP (and practically any other Windows product), your CD key is still valid — just CALL Microsoft and explain that you’re re-installing. They’ll ask dumb questions (“are you using this on the same PC?” etc.) but in the end, you’ll get your installation completed.

  14. goutham

    can install windows server on VM ware and have a miscroft loop back enabled ???? the purpose to create a backup on my normal machine.. incre and Full back up for every week ..

  15. Bob M

    Do I need to set up a home network before installing WHS, or does it do that for me?

  16. Mysticgeek

    @Bob M

    You will need all your machines going through your Router, but then WHS will set up automatically. Then you need to use the Connector Software to access it from any of the machines on your home network.

  17. Gary

    I do i obtain a WHS EULA Licence

  18. Alvy

    Guys

    I can’t get past the starting point when installing WHS. This is because the software is looking for partitions (C etc). I originally formatted the raid disks on my machine, but now I’ve lost all partitions. I used a linux utility to repartition the drives (C drive at 10GB and D for the balance). Yet, the system still seems “partitionless”. What’s the go with the boot.ini file? Does that autocreate during the partiton process or the OS installation?

    As you can see, I’m out of my depth here, but I’m willing to give this a go (if you can please assist).

    Thanks so much!! Alvy

  19. Matthew

    This is a great how to guide! I just installed WHS and got it up and running in no time. This guide was very useful and easy, Thanks! I do have one question, does WHS support network printing? I would like to be able to hook up my printer to the server and use it on all my computers. Thanks

  20. Jeremy

    When installing WHS, I am prompted for Windows Server 2003 CD. I am using the following URL to obtain the 30 day trial (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=e3694b69-93f6-4267-b881-55ce0648c784) and every time I am prompted for the Windows Small Business 2003 CD. Any thoughts?

  21. logicdustbin

    I have an acer easystore, this came with WHS, I love this thing :D

    but, as someone mentioned above, mine came with MacFee(sp?), and I can’t get rid of it, the pop-ups are very annoying (coming from the connection console).

    Also, I just followed this guide to install WHS on an old P4, so far I’ve got to the point of doing all the updates (wow, there is a lot). Anyhow, when the system gets rebooted, Windows loads up, and I have to “ctrl+alt+del” to get it started? I thought this was suppose to be run without K/M, is there a setting I’m missing? ( I don’t have to do this on the acer)

    BTW, great website, just found this after another site crapped all over their design, making it unvisitable.

  22. Hritesh

    I would like to know if it is possible to install Windows Home server on the Server without formatting the local drives of the computer

  23. romi

    waho great guide line. thanks

  24. don

    Don’t use Windows, as WHS. all microsoft are money grapping assole that don’t care for there customer but there pockets..

    take plunge and learn Linux ..it Free and has best support in world.

  25. J

    —DON—

    You’re a dumbass, thanks. “woooh! Linux is awesome!”

    Say that to people who have been using Windows since day one.

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