Scott Hanselman

Review - HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server

December 8, '07 Comments [40] Posted in Home Server | Reviews
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CIMG7852 Yesterday I received my HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server in the mail. There's two versions, the 500gig and the 1TB. I've been using WHS since Beta2 and was ready to tidy up my Frankenserver, which was largely a DIY (Do It Yourself) and I'd been having some hard drives go belly up lately. Fortunately I hadn't lost any data, since Home Server makes copies, but I was getting nervous with my existing hardware.

You might remember that I did a Podcast with the Father of Windows Home Server, Charlie Kindel. I encourage you to check it out.

The Home Server is so pretty I took it out of the Wiring Closet and put it in the Home Office. I took one of my Western Digital My Book External Drives and use it as a Backup to the Backup.

The HP MediaSmart is REALLY small. Like maybe the size of 2 technical books. It's headless, meaning it has no VGA or DVI port. No monitor. You have to remote into it with the Home Server Software, which is really no big deal.

Here's some unboxing photos. The soda can is for size reference.

CIMG7817 CIMG7819

CIMG7822 CIMG7827

The tooling on the hard drive enclosures is brilliant. Mine came with bays 3 and 4 filled with two 500 gig Seagates, so I added some other SATA drives I had lying around. There were NO tools required and no cables. Just shutdown, seat the drives, push them in, boot up and tell the admin console that the drives are cool to use. Even better, the lights on the outside of the case turn Red if a drive is failing, Purple if there's a drive but it's not configured and Blue if it's configured, so I watch the lights go blue as I added each drive. It took all of ten minutes.

It defaults to the name "HPSERVER" and you get one opportunity to change it so I made it just "SERVER" so we've got \\server\software and \\server\users\scott, etc. It's very tidy. I robocopy'ed over about 70 gigs of data then backed up all the machines in the house. You're allowed ten machines. Then I installed SyncBackSE on the Home Server itself (you're not supposed to install stuff on it that wasn't written for it, but SyncBack was a natural thing to want on it and it works great as long as you only refer to your Home Server by UNC path like \\server\foo. Hm, I  should make a SyncBack UI with the WHS SDK, or they should...) and set it to backup my blog and website.

Here's a screenshot of my setup showing 1.25 TB of space. I've redirected both our "My Documents" and "My Pictures" using mklink.exe so we're both writing to the server seamlessly. It doesn't run a domain, so we have to keep our password synchronized, but the Home Server Connector software warns you if they are out of sync and handles it.

image

Mommy_3The HP software adds another button as you can see above, with some additional features like an iTunes music server, so I have my iTunes protected music streaming from there to other instances of iTunes around the house, and my unprotected music streaming via Windows Media Connect to the Xboxes. That was an unexpected treat, as I didn't know it had iTunes integration.

You will have to install the HP software on at least one 32-bit machine in order to "bootstrap" the server the first time. However, there will apparently be a 64-bit Vista Connector for 64-bit folks (like some of my machines) available as on Windows Update in the near future.

Check out We Got Served, the best Home Server Community site I've seen, especially their list of Home Server Add-Ins. Also, here's the WHS team blog and their pretty clever advertising campaign about Stay At Home Servers.

So far I'm very happy with Windows Home Server. Now I'm just waiting for Mozy to include support for it. They had better pretty soon or I'll jump ship.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:16:50 AM UTC
Scott,

Thanks for this information. It would be nice to hear about your experience with the home server in a couple of weeks again, as the product is quite interesting for a lot of us.
I'm currently still fighting with some old hardware (with old I really mean old, the only new thing is the video card) and LinuxMCE, but it does not integrate too well in my environment.

Now it is waiting for the home server market to boom here in Germany :)
Saturday, December 08, 2007 11:59:25 AM UTC
Hey Scott,

Nice write up and many thanks for the link! My HP unit is at home waiting for me to set it up - I'm also migrating from a Frankenbuild I had for the beta to the MediaSmart Server... it's a great piece of kit!

Cheers
Terry
Saturday, December 08, 2007 12:53:21 PM UTC
Scott,

I got the 500 GB version because I was able to get a 500 GB hard drive at Newegg for less than the price difference between the 470 and 475 (I actually got 3 to bring me up to 2TB).

One note: You don't need to shut down the server to add hard drives. Just slip them in and they'll show up in the server storage display. I added all 3 of my drives that way with no issues. I believe you can remove them the same way (after first removing them from server storage in the console, of course).
Andy
Saturday, December 08, 2007 1:30:30 PM UTC
Any reason/difference using mklink to create a symbolic link as opposed to using Explorer's Properties on the folder and going to the 'Location' tab and using the "Move..." button?

Does Explorer's move option result in an offline files version of the directory and mklink's symbolic link doesn't?
Sean McLeod
Saturday, December 08, 2007 2:26:25 PM UTC
Scott,

Since you moved this critter to the home office just to enjoy the blinky lights, can we assume this unit is virtually silent?

Peter
Saturday, December 08, 2007 3:10:05 PM UTC
I assume it can also serve up video to your Xbox 360 via Media Center?
If so, can you run a program like Transcode 360 (http://www.runtime360.com/) on the Home Server to add support for more video codecs?

It isn't clear to me yet what kind of applications "just work" on a Home Server, and which ones have to be specially written as a Home Server add-in.
Saturday, December 08, 2007 3:22:08 PM UTC
My EX470 is quiet but not silent. Can't quite tell if it's the fans or the four drives, but I'm sure that if I relocated it from my desk to somewhere further away I would not notice it.

I can confirm what Andy said about the drives being hot-pluggable. And the drive trays are really slick. Instead of screws they have retaining pins, you just bend the right side to get them out of the way and drop the drive in. If only the drive trays in my servers were so thoughtfully designed...
Saturday, December 08, 2007 4:23:19 PM UTC
You might want to take a look at the SyncToy 2.0 beta which supports Windows Home Server
Saturday, December 08, 2007 5:52:51 PM UTC
Good luck with Moxy... I emailed them a couple weeks ago and insisted I get the pro sku (intended for enterprise-level service). Apparently, they don't see the "Home" in "Home Server". No ETA as to when this will change. A friend hipped me to Carbonite the other day - thinking about jumping ship myself.
Gordon
Saturday, December 08, 2007 6:01:10 PM UTC
Hey Joshua,

With the latest fall update you don't need Transcode360 anymore for Divx/Xvid as the fall update for the 360 includes this support through Windows Media Connect (which is installed on WHS).

I got mine up and running this way now and it works great!.

Rob
Rob D.
Saturday, December 08, 2007 6:27:46 PM UTC
@Peter - Yes, it's the quietest machine in my room. It's not silent, but it's not noticeable to me. It also makes virtually no heat. And it's blinky. ;)

@Sean - I tried just moving the files via Explorer and if I remember correctly it didn't completely redirect things. I'll try again and do a writeup.

@Gordon - Ya, I'm happy with Mozy the Product, just not Mozy the Silent Company. I like my companies to blog and let me know what's going on.

@Rob - Interestingly with the new XBox update I can't get standard AVIs/MPEGs to work, but they support xvid. Weird.
Saturday, December 08, 2007 7:59:13 PM UTC
Hey Scott,

I was wondering how you intend to use this with your Mac's. I use Time Machine as a "version control" for my OS X files, but it is hardly a full backup solution given that it writes to a single external hard drive. I haven't used Home Server yet, but from what I have read it doesn't support OS X out of the box, is there anything special that you have done? Is there a special add-in of some kind that makes OS X backups easy? Or is it just a case of pointing Time Machine at your server?

Thanks!!

Cayne
Cayne
Saturday, December 08, 2007 9:06:52 PM UTC
Scott, can you please measure performance of this thing? Does it slow down on writing mirrored data? I read a little on EX470, and some people seem to complain that half a gig of memory is not enough for this thing.
max
Saturday, December 08, 2007 10:32:28 PM UTC
Is there a remote backup aspect to WHS? What happens, for example, if the house burns down, or a robber vandalizes the server? How would you backup your data offsite?

I haven't found any information on this, and it seems like a crucial aspect of any backup solution... do you know the answer, or is there some Microsoft resource for this.

Thanks,
Johan
johan ericsson
Sunday, December 09, 2007 3:29:06 PM UTC
Hi Scott - this reminds me that I've been wanting to ask you if you were planning on doing a hanselminutes show on internet backup any time soon? whs is overkill for my one poor laptop...

Cheers
Matt
Monday, December 10, 2007 4:34:31 AM UTC
The new XBox update does not support all xvid/divx variants. The files I tried all failed to work unless I used Transcode 360. So I'm still left wondering... is this the kind of app I can run on a WHS?
Monday, December 10, 2007 9:48:54 AM UTC
Scott - great timing, as I'm about the set up my Home Server over the Christmas break. Looking forward to doing it (geek: moi?) and your updates on how you're getting on.

The folks at KeepVault (http://www.keepvault.com/) have an online backup solutions for WHS - I think I'll be trying this one first. I'm a big Mozy fan too, but their support for WHS both sucks, and blows.

The Xbox Team over on MSDN go into mind-numbing detail about what mpeg/avi/etc works on which devices:

http://blogs.msdn.com/xboxteam/archive/2007/11/30/december-2007-video-playback-faq.aspx

Hope that helps someone.

ps. I'll bet you got this MediaServer for free, no? Grrrr... ;)
Andrew
Monday, December 10, 2007 9:50:46 AM UTC
Free, hardly. Bought it from Amazon. :)
Monday, December 10, 2007 7:11:48 PM UTC
Hey Scott,

Thanks for the review, I'm still waiting for my server to show up. In the mean time I had a few questions.

1) I was planning on using Mozy for my backups on the home server, but from the comments here it seems like there is some problem with that. Is it just the sku issue or does the Mozy Pro not work either? That keep vault site looks promising, let me know if you give it a try.

2) Since you have a distributed family much like me, have you thought about getting a VPN connection to other family members and having home server manage their backups as well? Do you know if this is supported?

Thanks!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 2:39:49 PM UTC
In the context of your earlier post about gigabit network performance, I can't seem to find any documentation on what Ethernet chipset this server uses - does it support jumbo frames?
Keith
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 6:06:14 PM UTC
@Keith - Yes, it does support Jumbo Frames...

@Bryant - Regular Mozy doesn't support WHS...I'm trying to get a straight answer from them about their future, but they are a very quiet company. Bummer for them.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 9:19:25 PM UTC
Scott,

Very useful information. Potentially dumb question: how do you encrypt the data you back up onto the WHS machine? It looks like it's small enough that an enterprising burglar could walk off with it, and your typical family might be backing up sensitive accounting information and so on. Can you encrypt specific folders or files on the server? Or do you have to make sure you're backing up encrypted data?

Vikram
Vikram
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 7:59:08 AM UTC
I wonder, is it possible to get Mozy working by simply putting it into compatibility mode and stating you are using XP? Is that possible with WHS?
benb
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:44:21 AM UTC
@benb - The issue with Mozy and WHS is that Mozy wants to talk to Physical Drives, and WHS only shows you reality through \\server\share UNC paths.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:46:03 AM UTC
@Vikram - Good question, I'll ask. It's certainly password protected.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 4:23:22 PM UTC
Scott, nice review, glad you're enjoying the MSS. If you really want to see the lights blink, try this:
http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=64

There's also an Add-in that can turn the speed up enough to induce comas. :)

@Vikram - Actually there's no encryption, it's an NTFS filesystem and you can insert the drives into another computer to read them should the system fail. This is considered a feature, though I see your point about burglary. It does have a Kensington lock, but no locks for the HDDs.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:09:03 PM UTC
@Scott - Interesting. Thank you for the information. I assume it is a forgone conclusion that mapping a drive will not work either? (sorry if that is obvious and dumb to ask - but curious) I would really like to get this device but also really need a good offsite backup solution that can be counted on.
benb
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 8:38:50 PM UTC
FYI - I just spoke with Mozy and the developers say they are looking at solutions to work with Home Server for MozyHome. I was told they hope to have something decided, one way or the other (as in if and what they are going to do) within a month.
benb
Thursday, December 13, 2007 5:18:04 AM UTC
Scott,

Thanks for the great review. I have been bitten by external hard drives going bad on me and losing important data. I'm researching for NAS drives that have RAID5 option. I love the features WHS if offering though. It is my impression it maintains some sort of redundant data for reliability very much like RAID5. Does it have a RAID controller on board? Or is that a software solution?
Thursday, December 13, 2007 6:25:45 PM UTC
@Serge

From my reading it is selective folder duplication - thus you could select all. It is not RAID. This is from the FAQ:
Is there a RAID option on the HP MediaSmart Server?

The HP MediaSmart Server uses a sophisticated technology in the Microsoft Windows Home Server software called “folder duplication.” For extra protection, selected shared folders can be duplicated on a separate hard drive on the HP MediaSmart Server.


Selected folder duplication works with both internal and external hard disk drives. Selected folder duplication is superior to RAID in that you don’t have to duplicate those folders that don’t need duplication – for instance, TV shows and PC backups. This utilizes hard disk drive space more efficiently. This technology allows you to add different or higher capacity hard drives as they become available without sacrificing space on the new drive for RAID. As you add hard disk drives to the system your overall storage capacity simply grows larger by that amount.

-------------------------

This is why something like Mozy or Carbonite would still be a great thing. As Scott said though, and shown above, you could use something like Syncback to back up the server too.
benb
Monday, December 17, 2007 2:57:46 AM UTC
I own an HP Mediasmart Ex470 and after quite a few headaches getting it set-up, it is working well and I am pleased with its overall performance and feature set. I would like to change the default picture on the
Windows Home Server Home Page.

Any ideas on how to replace the default picture on the HP Mediasmart Ex470 server?

I have found forums where it states the picture is at C:\Inetpub\home\images, which you can access through remote desktop. I have tried this without success. I can't seem to ge to the C drive or to the Inetpub folder.
Daniel
Monday, December 17, 2007 8:57:10 PM UTC
I solved my issue by using my password with User Name Administrator. This was so obvious I skipped right past it.

I was able to replace the default pictures and all is well!!
Daniel
Tuesday, December 18, 2007 8:13:52 PM UTC

I got one of these babies about a week ago, and it is a breeze to set up. Much quieter than I'd feared (of course never as quiet as you hope!).

The disk system is robust, as I discovered by mistake. I was going to try a new drive into an empty slot, and pulled a live drive by mistake. The thing torqued in hand like a gyroscope until it slowed down (for some reason, I've never held a live drive before). The server beeped and a message came up on my main computer telling me a drive was missing. I quickly shoved it back in. Another beep and a message saying all was fine. Couldn't ask for more there!

I'm still trying to get the iTunes service working properly, but I'm sure that's my fault. All in all, a fine machine
Bill
Saturday, December 22, 2007 6:53:55 PM UTC
Anyword on Mozy? If not Mozy any other Online storage site play well with WHS?



Wednesday, December 12, 2007 12:44:21 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
@benb - The issue with Mozy and WHS is that Mozy wants to talk to Physical Drives, and WHS only shows you reality through \\server\share UNC paths.

todd
Sunday, December 23, 2007 2:42:21 AM UTC
http://www.keepvault.com is an online storage site that has a service specifically for WHS. I am thinking about registering to use it myself.
Daniel
Sunday, January 06, 2008 7:03:51 AM UTC
A comment on a previous comment =). I definitely felt the pain when I only had 512Mb of RAM The ex470 works much much better with 2G. I could run sharepoint/wsus and all sorts of nifty new features. Another positive part is that it seems to have dramatically improved the constant balancing that the server was doing. The following site shows how easy it is to upgrade your ram on the EX470 Homeserver Memory Upgrade http://homeserver.netartifex.com.

Do yourself a favor and buy the ram. It was pretty darn cheap.

Jacob
Monday, January 07, 2008 6:04:33 AM UTC
Scott,

Appreciate the write up, starting to learn more about hp+whs - what would be the limitations of using this for a small office, networking 4-5 workstations?

Jacob -- thanks for the memory upgrade link - wow, all in 5 minutes!

Thanks in advance

Mike
mike
Monday, January 07, 2008 6:26:02 PM UTC
This would be PERFECT for a small office, up to 10 machines.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 9:21:01 PM UTC
Thanks Scott,

Any ideas how permissions are handled compared to Server 2003? Esp. use with group database. Any other possible issues that could hinder its usage for small groups - seems an easier admin solution for simple net management, than 2003. I like the RAID alternative also. The reports on data loss with some applications seems to be open item for MS still.

Best
mike
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 3:59:08 PM UTC
Has anyone experienced improved copy speeds after a memory upgrade?

Microsoft has a note on data corruption linking SyncToy 2.0 Beta and a problem.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/946676/en-uson
Bill T
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.