Skip navigation

Migrating To Windows Home Server 2011, Part 2: From RC To RTM

I've already written a lot about Microsoft's decision to cut Drive Extender from Windows Home Server 2011 ("Vail") so there's no reason to rehash that here: The decision to still build my home server infrastructure around WHS 2011 was adequately explained in I'm Betting On Windows Home Server 2011, from about two months ago. Since then, nothing has changed: WHS 2011 is still the right solution for me and, I suspect, for many readers. It just works.

Since then, I wrote about my experiences moving off the Drive Extender-based WHS 2011 Beta to the non-DE-based WHS 2011 Release Candidate (RC) in Migrating To Windows Home Server 2011, Part 1: From Beta To RC. I had hoped to forestall the inevitable and just go directly from the Beta to the final, or RTM (release to manufacturing) version of the product, but that wasn't in the cards because of the Beta version of WHS 2011 was expiring and I had run out of time. So I performed the first unwelcome 2.6 TB worth of data migration in March and then looked forward to the eventual migration, again, this time to the RTM version.

That day has come.

It could have come a lot sooner: Microsoft finalized Windows Home Server 2011 at the very end of March and then released it to MSDN and TechNet in the first week of April. Trouble is, I had two back-to-back work trips in April, both to Las Vegas, so I waited until those were complete before taking the plunge.

But I've done that now and I'm happy to report that moving from the RC version of WHS 2011 to the final version was a piece of cake, one of the easiest and most seamless transitions I've ever made. So here's what I did, how I did it, and some of the other changes I'm making to my home server configuration to make it better than ever.

Why can't all upgrades go this smoothly?

Moving from RC to RTM

You may recall from Part One of this series that the process of moving from the Beta version of WHS 2011 (or a previous WHS version) to the RC (or RTM) version of WHS 2011 is somewhat painful and, at the least, time consuming. And that's because there's no data migration solution available. So if you want to upgrade to the latest WHS version, you're going to have to back up your data thoroughly first, assuming of course you intend to use the same hardware.

Now moving from the WHS 2011 RC to the RTM version, even on the same hardware, is actually very simple. And that's because the WHS 2011 Setup wizard will only destroy the system disk during installation. But it leaves any secondary disks--like those three 2 TB hard drives I'm using for data storage and server backup--alone.

To be safe, I backed up first anyway. As before, I used a recently purchased USB 3.0-based 3 TB external hard drive for this purpose. Unlike with the previous manual backup, however, this time around I was prepared, and the server had the USB 3.0 card installed already and was ready to go with much higher transfer rates than I saw over USB 2.0 previously. So instead of taking two full days, as it did before, it took the better part of an afternoon. I just started the files copying over Remote Desktop and let it go.

While this was happening, I prepared an 8 GB USB memory stick with the WHS 2011 RTM bits. I could have burned it to DVD, of course, but the "server" I'm using (really a Dell Optiplex 780 tower PC with four hard drives) doesn't have an optical drive, and I've become a fan of USB-based installs. (The procedure is exactly the same as I outlined previously for Windows 7 here, the only difference being that the WHS 2011 Setup files are big enough to require a USB storage device larger than 4 GB.)

Once the backup was complete, I removed the external backup, plugged in the USB stick rebooted the server, and chose the USB stick as the boot device. Windows Server 2011 Setup began, as normal, warning me that it would format the primary disk (which was fine) and clearly identifying my three 2 TB disks as secondary disks, and thus leave them unscathed.

Unlike with Windows 7, or Windows Server 2008 R2 for that matter, the WHS 2011 Setup takes a while, up to an hour. And unlike other "normal" Windows versions, when you hit the interactive phase again--where you enter your time zone and supply an administrator password--you're not done at all. In fact, Setup takes another 30 minutes from that point.

But eventually it does finish, and you boot into the WHS 2011 desktop. From here, the normal post-Setup rules apply: Download and install Windows Updates, reboot as necessary, and then head into the WHS Dashboard to configure the server. This includes configuring users, configuring server folders and hard drives--which I'll get to in a moment, since this is the sticky part--and other tasks around sharing configurations, remote web access (also discussed in just a bit) and more.

WHS 2011, of course, does a lot, and can do even more with the right add-ons. And thus it's a fertile area for future explorations and articles. For now, however, I'd like to focus on the task at hand: Getting the RTM version of WHS to use the data already stored on those 2 TB secondary disks.

As a bit of a backgrounder, the server has four disks, configured like so:

160 GB primary disk. WHS takes this disk and divides it into two partitions, annoyingly referred to as hard drives in the Dashboard, where the first is the a 60 GB system disk (C:) and the remainder is used to contain data (G:) and is the default location for all shares, or what WHS 2011 now calls server folders. These include Client Computer Backups, Documents, Music, Pictures, Recorded TV, and Videos.

2 TB secondary disk. The D: drive is where I store my own Documents, Music, and Pictures server folders as well as a fourth server folder I create myself called Software. Currently, these folders take up about 710 GB, and there is 1.1 GB of free space.

2 TB secondary disk. The E: drive contains my Videos server folder. This one is getting full: 1.67 GB of the available 1.81 TB is used, with only 151 GB free. I'll need to move some of this to a new location in the near future, or simply start killing unneeded videos.

2 TB secondary disk. The F: drive is used for Server Backup. I don't back up the entire server locally (yet?) of course, so I've configured it to back up the C: drive and everything on D:, which gives me a backup of my most crucial data (documents and pictures). (With the RTM release of WHS 2011, I'm beginning an automated cloud backup procedure too. This is discussed below.)

Now, this configuration was identical with the RC version of WHS, so when I blew away that install and put the RTM version on top of it, the C: and G: drives were recreated from scratch, but the D:, E:, and F: drives were left as-is, with whatever data they contain. So the next step is changing the WHS configuration so that the Documents, Music, Pictures, Software, and Videos server folders point to the right place. (I do not use Client Computer Backups currently, though that may change if I add some external storage as planned; I also don't use Recorded TV.)

If you're familiar with WHS 2011, you know that it has a new feature called Move a Folder, which is used to move server folders to new locations. And you know that it utilizes a strange (and unchangeable) folder structure that consists of a ServerFolders folder in the root of any hard drive that contains one or more server folders. Inside of this folder, of course, are the actual server folders.

So my D: drive looks like this:

Data (D:) >

                ServerFolders >





Now, it would be nice if I could simply go into the WHS 2011 Dashboard and use the Move a Folder wizard (in Server Folders and Hard Drives, Move the Folder) to move each of these folder server locations, in turn, from their default location (on G:) to the preferred location (on D:). And of course, I tried this. The problem is, Move a Folder detects that this folder structure already exists, so it refuses to do it.


The solution, of course, was simple. On each of the drives for which there were pre-existing server folders (D: and E:), I simply renamed the ServerFolders folder in the root of the drive (to "old"). Then, I used the Move a Folder wizard, in turn, to move the Documents, Music, Pictures, Software, and Videos server folders to D: and the Videos server folder to E:. Then, using the Aero Snap feature that debuted in Windows 7 and is also present in WHS 2011, I opened two Explorer windows side-by-side, with the contents of the "old" folder on the left and the contents of the ServerFolders folder on the right. Then, I just dragged the contents of each, in turn, from the old location to the new. Voila!


Because these file move operations were occurring on the same disk, each happened very quickly. And while it's kind of a dumb manual process, it's easy enough to do. And when I was done, all I needed to do was delete those "old" folders and get on with other things: My home server was back up and running exactly as before, only this time with the final shipping version of WHS 2011.

Cloud backup

I mentioned a few weeks back on the Windows Weekly podcast that I was investigating cloud backup solutions for Windows Home Server 2011. This presents some unique challenges because Windows Home Server 2011 is literally brand new and comes with a new add-ins model, which will take some time to be adopted broadly by third parties. Too, because WHS is technically a server OS, many cloud backup solutions either don't support WHS at all or do so via more expensive, business-oriented account types. I'm all about duplicating my data in a geographically diverse way, but I can't spend thousands of dollars per year on it.

The solution I chose came from an unexpected place but was the overwhelming choice of many, many readers who wrote in about this topic. It's called CrashPlan, and while the service isn't aimed at WHS at all--it provides no console/Dashboard add-in for either WHS version--the company does in fact support WHS and provides simple instructions for setting it up.

Best of all, CrashPlan is cheap: An unlimited plan (yes, unlimited data) for one PC costs just $49 for one year, though if you prepay for multiple years it gets cheaper as you go. That is a far cry from the services I was looking at previously, and while I still harbor some desire for a native WHS 2011 add-in for some reason, at this price CrashPlan was hard to resist.

Now, I'm not going to abuse this or anything. Looking at my data, the important stuff is of course in the Documents and Pictures server folders, so that's what I'm backing up, along with the Music server folder as well. Those three folders occupy about 541.5 GB, according to CrashPlan, and I have to think that's not far off from a typical PC hard drive, so it's not like I'm clogging up the pipes with videos or whatever. (I may get there. But for now, I just want to get my most important files backed up to the cloud.)


Even this small backup is going to take a while: CrashPlan says it's going to take 8.3 months, in fact, which must of course be wrong, but I've been leaving the WHS desktop open in Remote Desktop, so I'll leave the server to its own devices for a few days and see how it goes. I'll report back when I see how its going over time.

Update: Readers pointed out that CrashPlan throttles uploads by default, so I changed the upload limit from 300 kbps (the default) to "None." This interface can be found in Settings, Network. Problem solved: Now the upload will take a few days, not several months. (Be sure of your ISP's policies about bandwidth usage before changing this setting, of course.)

Fixing the router issues

The final WHS 2011 issue I'd like to address isn't so much a problem with Windows Home Server as it is a problem with my Internet router. We have FIOS here, which is about as fast as consumer Internet service gets in the US these day (25 Mbps down/18 Mbps up), and it uses fiber optic lines at every step of the way, including from the street to the house. The odd thing is, however, that FIOS also provides the crappiest, out of date Actiontec routers you've ever seen, and they don't support modern standards like UPnP--which debuted a decade ago, by the way. And that means that WHS 2011 (like its predecessor) can't automatically configure the router for remote access.

Now, I use remote access all the time because I travel and need to get at crucial work-related documents when I'm on the road. Because of these issues with the Actiontec router, however, I've used a variety of third party solutions to access my home server remotely, including LogMeIn Pro, which has always served me well but is expensive, and, more recently, LogMeIn Hamachi, which is absolutely free and one of the best remote access solutions I've ever used.

I can continue using these two products for all my remote access needs. And I probably will regardless. But the thing is, WHS 2011 provides some pretty stunning remote access functionality of its own, and even if it's just for review purposes, I need to get that going and check it out first hand. So I'll be replacing the Actiontec router (actually, augmenting it since the FIOS OnDemand stuff requires it) with a modern, new router sometime soon. I haven't even purchased it yet, but I've been researching it to figure out which makes the most sense, and I'll probably pull the trigger soon.

Anyway, one step at a time. I was ecstatic to get the server back up and running normally so quickly and of course I need to see how the cloud backup goes. Once that is resolved, I'll tackle the router. There's always something else...

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.