How-To Geek

Backup Windows Home Server Folders to an External Hard Drive

Using Windows Home Server to backup computers on your local network is a great tool for your backup strategy. But what about backing up the data on the server itself? Here we take a look at using an external drive to backup some of your important data.

Adding External Drive for WHS Folder Backup

After plugging in the external drive open Windows Home Server Console and you’ll see the drive listed and that it’s not added yet. Right-click and select Add from the menu.


The Add a Hard Drive Wizard kicks off…


In the next screen it’s important to select the radio button next to Use this hard drive to back up files that are stored on your home server. Otherwise WHS will add it as additional storage for your data which is not what we want.


If the drive isn’t formatted as NTFS yet, select the radio button next to Yes, format this hard drive. If you’re not sure select this option anyway as formatting it again won’t hurt anything.


Create a name for the hard drive…


At the warning screen go ahead and click finish. If you want to make any changes at this point you can go back and make them.


Now wait while the drive is formatted and added to the server.


The drive has been successfully added and you can click Done.


Now when you go into WHS console you’ll see the drive added under Server Backup Hard Drives.


Backup Folders to External Drive

Now that the drive is set up and ready to be used it’s time to back up server files to it. In WHS Console go to Computers and Backup and you’ll see your server listed as Not backed up under Status. Right-click on the server and select Backup Now.


Here you can go through and decide which folders of data you want to be backed up to the external drive we just added. Check the box next to Remember these setting for future backups then click Backup Now.


The backup starts and you can hide the progress box or stop the backup at any time if you need to.


The amount of time it takes to backup will vary depending on the amount of data being backup. When it has successfully completed, you can close out of the Backup Now screen.


Go back to WHS Console and you’ll see the server has been backed up with the time and date.


Remove Drive

You might want to remove the drive and store it in a safe place.  The best method for removing the backup drive is to going into Server Storage, right-click on the drive and select Remove.


Then you’re presented with the the choice to temporarily remove it or stop using it for backups. If you plan to use it again select to temporarily remove it.


If you ever need to get you data back from the external drive, you don’t need to add it back to WHS. You can plug it into any computer. When you open the drive you’ll see the backed up Shares and you can get the files you need.


This is a good process if you want to manually backup the data on your Windows Home Server from time to time. In future articles we’ll be covering automated backup solutions locally, over a LAN, and online backup as well. You might also want to check out our article on how to configure your computer to backup to Windows Home Server.

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 02/15/10

Comments (20)

  1. RonV

    Since is use a hot swap SATA drive I am not presented with the option to just “temporarily remove” the drive just to stop using it. But when you insert it again and add it back the home server software remembers it was a backup drive and everything works fine. I think this is due to the way home sever looks at the drive via the ACHI driver.

    I am concerned that all the files are “flushed” to the disk after the backup so I wait a few minutes after removing the drive via the console.

  2. RAR

    This is fine for backing up data stored on the WHS, and then put the external USB drive with the backup in a fireproof safe off-site.

    But what I really want is to have a back-up of the computers connected to the WHS also stored off-site, in a fireproofe safe. The WHS cannot help me doing that?

  3. RonV


    There is a plugin for the WHS that will backup the backup’s of the computers connected to WHS. It’s called WHS BDBB:

  4. ProstheticHead

    Thanks Geek. :-)

  5. 7om

    This might be covered, but what about an actual backup of the WHS database aka the tombstone pointers?

  6. RAR

    Thanks RonV,

    The WHS BDBB is now running, making a backup to the USB drive. I feel safe when I can put the USB drive back in the safe…

  7. Mario

    Any ideas how to encrypt the backup? I want to store the backup off site – at family or friend’s house but I’d like to make sure that if someone gets to the drive that they would not be able to get the data. Any ideas?

  8. MSwanberg

    This is great for data… but what I would love is a recoverable backup of the WHS server’s core OS. Does anyone have any information on how that can be done?

  9. Tony

    How did you add your WHS to list under “Computers & Backup”? When I click on it, it only shows the laptops/desktops that I back up and not the WHS.

  10. MSwanberg

    @Tony, did you add a drive and make it a WHS backup drive? You need to do that first.

  11. MSwanberg

    @Mario… not sure, but you may be able to Remote Desktop into the WHS server and use NTFS encryption on the folder where the backups are stored. Either that, or get better friends… ;-)

  12. Rory

    How do I remove the Home Server from “Computers & Backup”? Remove is greyed out.

  13. Brad Hansen

    I have a simple question but can’t find an answer. When manually backing up my WHS server itself(not the attached computers) as shown above, how do I force a full backup? I am getting incremental WHS backups and I want full backups. I have a drive that I used for a WHS backup that no longer exists, WHS does not know that the drive does not exist, so my latest WHS backups only include new and changed files beyond the non-existent old backup drive. This is a big and serious problem.

  14. BrianDFS

    Does anyone happen to know if there’s a way to schedule this so that it’s automated? The feature itself is awesome — but being able to automated it would be icing on the cake.

    For example, I’d like to plug in my USB drive and leave it, with an auto-backup scheduled for like every other day or so, or even weekly.

  15. Chris

    I’ve been rotating two eSata drives for nearly a year now. WHS doesn’t seem to remove the old backups the same way it does for clients. I started to remove them through WHS, but each one takes a very long time. Also, after completion, it suggest connecting the drive to another computer and deleting the folder. However all the folders are linked to the “same” (historically) files/folders, so I don’t know that this is such a great idea.

    What’s the best practice, especially with two drives. Should I simply clear one of the drives every few months?

  16. Todd H

    I’m using the HP495ex and whs v1 – setup was a breeze, and getting the whs shares started backing up works perfectly.

    However, it is painfully, silly, slooooooowww.

    is this normal? i’m using a seagate goflex external 3tb drive (usb 2.0) plugged directly into the hp495.

    2.3tb of data to backup (almost all photos) – day 2= 47% complete.

  17. Scott Farrell

    use esata or usb3 – 2.3tb over usb 2 – as you say – sssllloooowwww.

    If its go flex – go and buy usb3 or esata – depends on what server connections you have

  18. Cliff

    Answer to BrianDFS
    Here is how I backup my WHS automatically.
    Forget about WHS doing the backup of itself and let the real Operating System (Server 2003) do it for you.

    1. Remote desktop into your WHS (not the connector).
    2. Create a batch file using the xcopy command.
    3. Go into the scheduled tasks and create a new task to run your batch file
    4. Plug your external drive directly into your USB socket (USB 3.0 if you’ve got it)
    I use two 1TB portable USB3.0 (approx $100 each) drives and rotate them regularly. I place the removed drive in to a ziplock sandwich bag and then double bag that into another bag (now flood proof) and then into my 2 hour fireproof safe ($160) in my back shed.

    (Sample batch file below)

    @echo off
    rem the /w is for wait
    rem the /c is for ignore errors
    rem the /d is for source files with a newer date
    rem the /s is for include subdirectories
    rem the /e is for copying all subdirectories even if empty
    rem the /h is for copying hidden and system files
    rem the /r is for copying read only files
    rem the /m copies files with the archive attribute set, then turns off archive attribute
    rem the /y is for yes, eg, suppressing confirmation prompt
    xcopy “D:\Shares\*.*” “X:\MyServerBackup\Shares\” /c /d /s /e /h /r /y

    If you want to backup the PB backups too, then write the batch as:-

    xcopy “D:\*.*” “X:\MyServerBackup\” /c /d /s /e /h /r /y


  19. pompie

    well written explanation how to back your files to an external disk.
    So i have now managed to get that done all 3TB of it.
    Next step is how to restore it ?????????

    Why restore, simple i want to do a clean install of the whs on new larger disks.
    and so restoring from external disks would be great (and simple, like the back up)

    Is that possible ????? (even if I have to recreate manually the principle shared folder names)

    could someone enlighten me please.

  20. christian

    Hi Geeks,

    I am having troubles with my Homeserver and the connection of a 2Tb Samsung g3 USB drive. It has taken a while to get the server to recognize the drive, but after i reboot the server it doesn’t automaticly find the USB drive again.
    Any Thoughts would be greatly apreciated. :)

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