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Windows Home Server Power Pack 3

Because nothing material has changed since the Power Pack 3 beta, this article is adapted from my Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 Preview. However, you may want to refer back to that original article for some additional background material. --Paul

Back in July, Microsoft quietly revealed via the Windows Home Server blog that, contrary to previous assertions, it would indeed be supporting Windows 7 features natively in the current version of WHS, via a new and previously unrevealed Power Pack 3 (PP3) update. This update, which is available for free to all existing WHS users, shipped a few weeks back, less than six months after it was first announced. That, too, is surprising, given that PP1 and PP2 both took almost a year to come to market. Now, in just a few months, Microsoft shipped a major, surprise update to WHS.

For WHS users who have recently upgraded to Windows 7 as well, PP3 is great news. Here's what Microsoft has added in this important update.

Windows 7 Libraries support

With PP3 installed, WHS will add its shared Music, Photos, and Videos folders automatically to the Windows 7 Music, Pictures, and Videos shares (respectively). This change will let media applications such as Windows Media Player (WMP) and Windows Media Center discover server-based content automatically.

Windows Home Server PP3
With PP3, Home Server-based media shares are automatically exposed in Windows 7 libraries.

I actually find this behavior somewhat annoying because of the amount of server-based content I have. But for most users, I suspect, this will be welcome feature. (Note that you can very easily turn off any linked server-side folders from your Windows 7 Libraries.)

Windows 7 Backup and Recovery support

Because WHS includes superior, image-based backup capabilities, those capabilities should be used instead of Windows 7's native backup and recovery tools. With PP3 installed, WHS will suppress Windows 7 notifications to enable Windows 7's backup and recovery functionality.

Windows Search integration

PP3 includes Windows Search 4.0, which improves server-based searches performed from Windows 7-based PCs. Actually, this is an understatement, especially if you intend to use your WHS folders as Library locations: Without Windows Search 4.0, this wouldn't work acceptably at all.

Netbook support

PP3 modifies the display of the WHS administrative console on netbooks so that it will display correctly on the 1024 x 600 screens common on such computers.

Windows Home Server PP3
With PP3, the admin console will auto-size to match the low resolution of most netbook displays.

Windows Media Center enhancements

PP3 includes Windows Media Center Connector software, improving the experience of accessing server-based media content from WHS. The PP3 version of this software adds TV archiving support, so you can move recorded TV content from the PC to the server, then re-encode it so that it will work properly on portable devices or in its original resolution. There's also a Console Quick View add-on for Windows Media Center that lets you view certain WHS configuration items from the Windows Media Center software.

Availability and timing

As with previous Power Packs, PP3 is a free update for existing WHS users. It should be delivered automatically via Windows Update, but if you beta tested a pre-release version, you will need to manually uninstall it first.

Final thoughts

I've been using Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 since the first beta in July and have never had any issues. The Windows 7 functionality is, of course, excellent, and if you've got one or more Windows 7-based PCs and Windows Home Server, this upgrade is a no-brainer. For other users of Windows Home Server, there's not a lot here, of course, but there's no reason not to upgrade, if only for the Windows Search improvements. But this upgrade is really about Windows 7. And as such, it just works.

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