Scott Hanselman

How to upgrade two out of four of your hard drives in Windows Home Server

April 16, '09 Comments [26] Posted in Home Server | Tools
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I love my Windows Home Server, it's saved my *ss and my marriage. ;) I bought an HP MediaSmart Home Server from Amazon. You can get various sizes, from 500gig up to 1.5 TB.

I think the best deal is to get the smallest one you can afford, and upgrade it when you start running out of space. That's what I did. You really can't go wrong because it's like butter (yes, rich, creamy butter) to upgrade.

When I first started, I had the two 500gig drives it came with. The HP supports up to FOUR drives at a time internally. Because I can't stand the empty slots, I threw in whatever drives I had lying around. I ended up with a 70gig (I have no idea why I put that) and a 300gig as drives 2 and 4. This gave me a total of about 1.25TB. This was fine when i started, as I only used up like 50% of the capacity.


Fast forward a year or so later, and I'd only had less than 20% left. A lot of space was taken up by backing up 6 different Home PCs, and a lot of was taken up by Family Photos and Videos from my new HD Camcorder. It was time to upgrade.

The system is always duplicating your files on as many disks as possible. It's not RAID, but it effectively gives you the same level of assurance that your data won't go missing. What's nice is that it supports drives of different sizes, rather than using either insisting on the same size driver, or using only the smallest drive size for all drives.

Here's how I upgraded my two smallest drives to new 1TB SATA Seagates.

Make as Much Room as Possible

This isn't 100% necessary, but I noticed that a LOT of my space was taken up by backups going back as far as 3 months. I really only needed the most recent ones, so I went into the Home Server Console and clicked "Backup" then "Backup Cleanup." This happens on Sundays automatically, but it's a good way to make a little space before a hardware upgrade like mine.


This operation, as with most "large scale" operations, will take a while. Maybe 10 minutes, maybe an hour, it depends on how large your stuff is.

Warn the Home Server you're Removing a Drive

Now you need to warn the Home Server that you're removing a drive. This is important so the Home Server can make sure ALL your files are sufficiently duplicated on more than just 1 drive. You are removing one, and it needs to make sure each file is on at least 2 other driver, as I understand it. This can also take a while, although it didn't for me.

I right-clicked the drive, clicked Remove. It tells me not to turn the machine off, etc.


When the drive is "remove" from the software, but not yet physically yanked out of the machine, it'll show up in the list as a "Non-Storage Hard Drive."


Notice that my free space went from 1.2TB to 1.02TB, so I lost about 200gig in this removal process. Also, at this point, the lights on the front of my server are 1 pink (the removed drive) and 3 blue (the remaining healthy drives.)


You can technically pull these drives out and put them in with the machine is running, but I'm still paranoid and I figure it never hurts to shutdown first (which I didn't do in this particular picture.)

Swap the Drive Enclosures

I like the enclosures on the HP because they are tool-less. They require no screwdriver, you just pull aside one edge and these little rivets (not screws) pop themselves via a tension spring into the screw-holes on the sides of the drives.


I put the new 1TB drive in the old drive's enclosure, and slide it into the HP. Push it into the machine, turn it on (again, I've done this hot-swap before, but still) and run the Home Server Console:


The drive shows up as a Non-Storage drive, but I just click Add and I'm given the choice to add the drive to server storage OR to use it to Backup the Home Server and my files. (I use an external drive for Server Backup.)


It'll run for a bit. After it's done, I tell the system to Remove the last small drive, and let it duplicate onto the larger one. Then I yanked the second small drive and repeat the process. Now Home Server reports I have 2.73TB total space, with 1.74TB free.


I like having the confidence that I can do this again at some point in the future with more cheap 1TB drives or larger. The whole operation took about an hour.

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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Thursday, 16 April 2009 23:23:09 UTC
How does this work for the System drive? Is there even the concept of a System drive?
Thursday, 16 April 2009 23:58:40 UTC
Good question...I haven't tried. The System Drive is the one in the picture with the Windows Icon superimposed on it.
Friday, 17 April 2009 00:00:29 UTC
Interesting your comment about "The system is always duplicating your files on as many disks as possible. " Here down under we cant buy HP home servers so I bought a license of WHS I had been meaning to build a pc to do it thinking that I would use the RAID of the mother board. But your comment is very interesting so just to clarify if I copy a 1gig movie file to the server it effectively takes up 2 gigs possibly more if I have 4 HDD in the machine and they are near empty ? and if my HDD dies I can just plug in another and not loose a thing ? As to Jasons comment what about the System Drive if that crashes ?

Thanks for the info I just wish I had the time to get orgainsed to build my WHS
Friday, 17 April 2009 00:02:19 UTC
Steve - Yes, you don't need to build in RAID as the file duplication of WHS is always making copies and spreading them around. If you lose a drive, it'll show up as "unhealthy" and the WHS will prompt you to replace it and you won't lose files. Not sure about the system drive. Maybe the team will show up and answer that question.
Friday, 17 April 2009 00:04:21 UTC
so will you try that for me Scott? ;P

but seriously, I think they've got a winner with WHS and HP's implementation. certainly better than using old clunkers for backup which seems to be the norm at home (at least it is here)
Friday, 17 April 2009 00:21:35 UTC
Duplication is on a per folder basis, you can enable/disable as needed. For example, I duplicate personal videos/pics, but I don't duplicate DVD's.

You can not replace the system drive in the same way you can the data drives. You can setup a drive as a backup for the system drive rather than adding it to the drive pool.

I love the idea of the little HP system, but it's not enough space for me. I got a Norco 4020 - currently 8tb advertised.
Friday, 17 April 2009 00:55:50 UTC
I'm a little bit surprised they don't just have a flash chip for the "system drive". 16gb of flash probably wasn't so cheap when WHS first came out though I suppose.

So... Mr. Microsoft emploee man... do you know when a server 2008(r2) derived release is coming? I'd really like SMB2, among other things.
Friday, 17 April 2009 01:07:30 UTC
It's based on Server 2003. The drive you install on gets split, the first 20g is the OS (in pics above see "system" in the bottom right), the rest is added as the first drive in the drive pool. This allows you to run it on a single HDD (without duplication obviously).
Friday, 17 April 2009 03:12:26 UTC
You mentioned that you backup the home server to an external hard drive. Have you considered backing up to an on-line provider like mozy? Have you heard of any backup provider that support home server?
Friday, 17 April 2009 03:48:49 UTC
*sigh* yet more MediaSmart envy. HP must think Kiwi's aren't tech-savvy enough for these as they won't sell them here and they won't ship them here either *sadface*.

Wicked machine, wicked OS. Guess I resort to building my own.
Friday, 17 April 2009 04:02:30 UTC
Dammit Scott, I was hoping you'd have just pulled out a drive to see what happens if a drive fails and report back to us on your success or utter failure.

Then again, I don't have the guts to do it either ;)
Friday, 17 April 2009 04:22:06 UTC
Karthik - Heh. I've pulled drives out before. It just turns that bay red, and a dialog pops up on all the machines in the house that a drive has failed. Then you put a new drive it and it just works.
Friday, 17 April 2009 05:19:17 UTC
Can you make the drives appear as 1 drive?

For example, you have 4 - 2 TB drives, but would like it to show up in Windows Explorer as 1 Drive "Media". Is this possible?
Friday, 17 April 2009 06:41:49 UTC
@Parker: doesn't work that way. You don't access the WHS drives directly. You create shared folders (just like networking file shares), and WHS takes care of the rest. Therefore, you could create one shared folder, and just start adding stuff to it. It will just grow as required.

E.g., Say you have 1TB total, in 2x500GB. You create a share called "Videos", and start dumping stuff into it (usually from a "source" system, not from the WHS desktop directly; it's kind of a key point). You don't care about any drive boundaries (at the 500GB mark, in this case). You just worry about the total available space. As a matter of fact, in this scenario WHS will automatically start replicating data across the 2 drives.
Sherman Woo
Friday, 17 April 2009 07:24:20 UTC
Scott, have you seen this: ?

There are many info about 7200.11 drives in Internet. So, watch out.
Friday, 17 April 2009 07:54:29 UTC
Parker - Sherman's right. It ALL looks like as many shares as you want. You NEVER know there's physicalo drives under it.

Vitaliy - Thanks for the heads up!
Friday, 17 April 2009 09:22:58 UTC
Hmph. Looks like HP UK used to sell MediaSmarts, but gave up. Or they just don't want us to find them. All very HP, sadly. Once I stop procrastinating, I think I will probably go for a Tranquil PC machine. Pricier (but everything here is) but cute. And at least they're prepared to sell the darn things!
Friday, 17 April 2009 13:16:09 UTC
I love my WHS and think it was one of my best computer purchases ever. I also use Jungle Disk to back up from the WHS to Amazon. When you do the system backup to the external drive was is that backing up and how does the recovery work for that? My WHS actually failed the first month I had it and the steps HP walked me through to restore it kill my backups and shared folders even though the hd was the same, so I am still a bit nervous about having the only copy of my stuff on the WHS. Thankfully when it died, I didn't have too much stuff on it yet.
Friday, 17 April 2009 13:29:20 UTC
Can Windows Home Server run SVN ?
Friday, 17 April 2009 15:22:34 UTC
I have a question -- if maybe the WHS team is reading this thread.

I built my own rackmount WHS and have 4 - 500 GB drives. I haven't had any problems with it so far. In conjunction with the JungleDisk WHS plugin, it covers all of my backup needs.

However I was wondering, the HP server has lights that turn "pink" when a drive is deactivated and "red" when it is dead or whatever.

When one of my drives dies eventually, since I don't have the nice indicator lights, how do I do a physical correlation between what WHS tells me about the problematic drive and which physical drive is actually having the problem?
Friday, 17 April 2009 17:36:38 UTC
Timothy, thanks for reminding me that I need to write an in-depth blog post on showing just how to do that... though my plate won’t have room to do so for at least 3 weeks :(

The short version... is that the Windows Home Server SDK exposes information on disks added to the storage pool, and based on the information there, plus a few documented Win32 APIs it is possible to correlate where a given drive is... provided the underlying hardware is understood and regular.

This is relatively easy for an OEM to do that mass produces servers with identical hardware... but still very possible for an enthusiast to do, something I even prototyped and showed off at WinHEC last year using all off the shelf parts.
Sunday, 19 April 2009 19:41:30 UTC
WHS is cool. I wish I could back up my iMac to it instead of buying a Time Capsule.
Thursday, 23 April 2009 15:53:02 UTC
I too am a huge Mediasmart WHS fan. Last night I installed a nifty add-in called AutoExit, strange name but it allows me to control state on all my machines on the network. So say my development/SourceGear Fortress PC upstairs is in hibernate, and I'm downstairs on the couch and want to do a little work. I can fire up the WHS console, select the development server and tell it to wake up. And when I'm done, I can tell it to hibernate again. I can also hibernate the MediaSmart to hibernate, and I can wake it up from an app in the systray. Pretty slick.

The only challenge I have is that of the 3 machines that are frequently used only one is a desktop, the others are laptops, so my backup strategy is kind of limited. I know I can force a kickoff of a backup manually, but that takes remembering (sure you get reminders) and it's always a full (it seems). Where on the desktop, it will do differentials automatically each night. I'd love to be able to add something to my laptop shutdown routine that would give me the opportunity to perform a differential backup and shutdown when done. Is that something that I could build with the SDK?

Thursday, 23 April 2009 17:45:59 UTC

What was your rational behind the HD purchase, vs other models?

Thank you,
stephen patten
Friday, 24 April 2009 21:34:22 UTC
dm3281, there are two main options... if you Goog... err Live Search for information on how to make a Mac backup to a generic SMB share vs a Time Capsule you’ll be able to set things up to use a Windows Home Server as that new backend... in fact the new HP EX485 and EX487 models provide assistance to do just that (and more).

Ryan, we’ve heard many requests like what you describe of having the option to have backup and shutdown more closely tied together and are looking into it and other options as we continue forward.

Unfortunately when it comes to automatically kicking off a backup via the SDK... that is not something that is supported at this time.
Friday, 08 May 2009 20:05:41 UTC

This is a test post with myopenid

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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.