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Windows Home Server: A Look Back

People sometimes ask me where my early and often unofficial peeks at upcoming Microsoft products come from. More often than not, it's a Microsoft employee, or someone close to the company, who reaches out to me and not vice versa. And the information I get is sometimes voluminous. It happened with Windows Millennium Edition (Me), where, contrary to the claims of the then-beta coordinator, I had the same daily access to the product's schedule, bug-count, and progress as she did. It happened with Windows XP, when a high-placed source within the company regularly channeled insider information in my direction. And it happened again with Longhorn, where more than once I was provided with a mother lode of inside documentation in bulk quantities.

Scattered amongst that Longhorn documentation were frequent mentions of an ancillary product, codenamed "Quattro", which appeared to be a server solution that would work with the home-oriented flavors of what became Windows Vista. The codename changed later to just "Q," and in my own passive-aggressive way, I publicly mentioned these codenames a few times, hoping I'd hear from someone at Microsoft. I did, and while they confirmed that this product existed, they also told me it had changed somewhat and asked if I'd like an early preview. So in December 2006, I headed out to the company's Redmond campus for a peek.

Microsoft subsequently announced the resulting product, Windows Home Server, at CES in January 2007. It was based on Windows Server 2003 but aimed at home users, and would satisfy a need that I was myself experiencing at the time: It would provide a secure and reliable way to store and share documents and digital media content, and provide a central location for PC backups. I couldn't wait, as I had been using a traditional Windows Server infrastructure to address these needs previously.

Today, the original Windows Home Server version has finally been replaced by Windows Home Server 2011, and is now based on Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1. I use it daily, and rely on it--as I did previously with the original WHS version--for my own data storage and sharing needs. These articles span the development and release of the first version, however, which included the now-missed Drive Expander technology--providing data duplication and almost infinite storage expansion functionality--but suffered from an embarrassing (if little-experienced) data corruption bug, later fixed in a Power Pack update.

The original WHS was also marked by HP's excellent and now-lamented SmartServer line of home servers. With one rare exception (a weird, one-drive model aimed at the truly low-end part of the market), these devices were innovative and ahead of their time. It's too bad that HP has now abandoned this market.

Like many other little-used but high-quality Microsoft solutions--among them Windows Media Center and Zune--Windows Home Server will always have a special place in my personal stable of technology memories, because it has always worked so well and addressed a very real need. I'm still blown away that more people don't use this software. It's fantastic and it just works.

As with previous retrospectives, the newest articles are at the top.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 - December 16, 2009

Microsoft is adding Windows 7 integration to Windows Home Server.

HP MediaSmart Servers (Late 2009) - September 20, 2009

HP delivers the third-generation version of its industry-best Windows Home Server-based MediaSmart Servers.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 Preview - July 21, 2009

Microsoft is adding Windows 7 integration to Windows Home Server, including support for Windows 7 libraries, backup and recovery, Windows Search, and netbook and Windows Media Center enhancements.

Quick Take: HP MediaSmart Server LX195 - July 10, 2009

The HP MediaSmart Server LX195 is an attractive, compact, and nearly silent Windows Home Server solution with a great price, an amazing collection of useful add-ins, and the usual HP attention to detail. But I'm no fan of single-server WHS boxes, and this is ultimately the big issue I have with this particular model: Anyone using this really should get at least one more drive for data duplication purposes.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 2 - March 23, 2009

The second functional update to WHS has arrived, bringing some important updates, including remote access configuration changes, media sharing improvements, and additional language support.

Introducing the 2009 Windows Home Servers - January 8, 2009

New OEMs, new hardware designs, and a great update to an old favorite.

HP MediaSmart Server (2009) Review - January 7, 2009

The 2009 HP MediaSmart Server is the best Windows Home Server yet.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Review - July 22, 2008

Discover the new features and functionality in Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, the newly released major update to Microsoft's home server solution.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Server Backup Screenshots - July 22, 2008

One of the most widely-anticipated features in Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 is the new Server Backup functionality. Check it out in this new screenshot gallery.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Install Screenshots - July 21, 2008

Check out the final version of Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 and the new PP1-based HP MediaSmart Server add-ons in this new screenshot gallery.

Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 Release Candidate Overview and Screens - June 13, 2008

Take a look at the new features in Windows Home Server Power Pack 1 in this overview and screenshot gallery of the near-final release candidate version.

HP MediaSmart Server Review - November 9, 2007

HP turns it up a notch with their new Windows Home Server entry, the MediaSmart Server. Check it out in my latest review.

HP MediaSmart Server Screenshot Gallery - November 5, 2007

See HP's improvements to the Windows Home Server experience in my MediaSmart Home Server screenshot gallery: My review will be up later this week.

HP MediaSmart Server Photo Gallery - November 5, 2007

Check out HP's innovative new MediaSmart Home Server in this new photo gallery: My review will be up later this week.

Windows Home Server Screenshot Gallery, Part 1: Server Install - October 3, 2007
Windows Home Server Screenshot Gallery, Part 2: Connector Install
Windows Home Server Screenshot Gallery, Part 3: Configuration

In anticipation of my Windows Home Server review, here is a set of three Windows Home Server screenshot galleries showing off the product's serverinstallation, client setup, and configuration

Windows Home Server Review - November 1, 2007

In my latest review, I take a look at Windows Home Server, Microsoft's integrated solution for PC backups, file and media sharing, and remote access.

Windows Home Server April CTP Screenshot Gallery, Part 2: Client Install & Configuration - April 18, 2007
Windows Home Server April CTP Screenshot Gallery, Part 1: Server Install
Windows Home Server Beta/CTP Preview - April 18, 2007

Today, Microsoft shipped a near-feature-complete version of Windows Home Server: Check out my overview of this new CTP.

Windows Home Server Beta 2 Screenshot Gallery, Part 2: Client Install & Configuration - March 21, 2007
Windows Home Server Beta 2 Screenshot Gallery, Part 1: Server Install

I've posted two Windows Home Server Beta 2 screenshot galleries, showing off server install and client install and configuration.

Windows Home Server Points Way to Next SBS - January 16, 2007

While Windows Small Business Server is well renowned for its simplistic UI advancements, Windows Home Server takes that to the next level, with two years of development aimed almost solely at ensuring that users are asked as few questions as possible in the clearest possible language. The big advancement I see here, however, is backup: Imagine a SBS product that provided WHS-like backup of every PC in your environment.

Windows Home Server Preview - January 7, 2007

Windows Home Server dispenses with the complexities of most Windows Server versions and provides the core storage, sharing, and remote access functionality that digital media and home networking enthusiasts require.

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