Microsoft Server operating system spin-off, intended for home users who were looking to create a home server to back up their files and share their media across multiple PCs and devices, like the Xbox 360. Built off the Windows Server 2003 codebase, it bares a resemblance to Windows XP and is generally compatible with it.
So this took a few attempts to install, as Microsoft had implemted strict system requirements.
Failed due to using a SCSI drive instead of an IDE or SATA drive, as the installer did not support VMWare’s SCSI controller which was enabled by default. Another issue was the VM memory was set too low, as Windows Home Server needs at least 512MB to pass the install
Failed because the virtual hard drive was not large enough, by default VMWare created a 40GB and the installation needs 65GB
Failed again because the first hard drive was 40GB, even though an 80GB HDD exists on the virtual system, it wants the primary disk to the over 65GB.
Managed to make inroads into the install but after completing the setup wizard, the system restarted to a blank screen and would reboot back into the setup wizard where it would begin from the start.
This time I removed both hard disks and created a new blank 80GB and attached it to IDE 1 master. Again it installed but rebooted to a blank screen,
This time I created a new blank 80GB SATA disk and installed it to that. I managed to get further as at this point the install was completed and rebooted into a setup sequence similar to Windows XP, and then it BSOD
Same as above but replace SATA with IDE, eventually we are able to get this cunting thing to install. At this point, the install identifies itself as Windows Server 2003 which the OS was possibly based on. Later we reboot again aback into the Windows Home Server and install the setup design looks remarkably like Windows Vista with its light auras,
Eventually we get to the desktop but the setup isn’t finished yet, and the system is rebooted once more.
Although it wants to check the disk, maybe its procedure: You can skip it but it will nag you every time it boots, so might as well get it done with.
After that we are back into the install to complete once more, this is getting like Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs where we had to reboot a fair few times before we got a usable system. I’m guessing it’s using the same setup procedure? It does look remarkably similar to FLP.
So to summarize, to install Windows Home Server in VMWare:
- Have an IDE Hard Disk, 80GB or larger
- Set at least 512MB of memory, more is recommended but remember this is a 32bit operating system
VMWare will autodetect the ISO image as Windows Server 2003, which is technically correct but will cause it to set the default virtual machine settings incorrectly.
Here we see a unique desktop background that looks similar to the ones that appeared in Windows Vista.
Windows Home Server Console
This is the main user interface for setting up and configuring your home server. As this was intended to be used by a home user who may not be knowledgeable about servers.
Computers & Backup
A list of computers that are linked with your home server. This requires the installation of the Home Server Companion software in order to function on the client machine. Once added, you can schedule backups on a fixed scheduled basis.
You can add multiple user accounts who are then able to log into the server. Each user has their own folder to store their files in. Typically default folders will include a Picturer, Music & Videos folder.
Each user can set their own password for secure access, and user accounts can be disabled at any time.
By default, there are five folders, Music, Photos, Public, Software & Videos. All are dedicated folders to help store and share files on your network. Very similar to a typical home NAS drive. Each user account also has its own folder, of which only the user themselves has access to the drive, although this can be configured by the server administrator.
After the installation, a link to the server’s network share is placed on the user’s desktop. No network drives are mapped.
A list of all volumes currently connected to the server shows the disk status and the capacity. The storage usage is displayed.
Windows Desktop Search
The version comes included with the operating system which replaces the Windows XP style search and is more akin to the one found in Windows Vista (Windows Search was also available as a downloadable upgrade for Windows XP) Benefit here is a full indexed search that looks in your documents folders.
Start Menu & Themes
By default, the Start menu is barren compared to a regular Windows install since this is really intended for server management rather than day-to-day application use. But we can easily customize it to look like the regular Windows XP Start Menu.
The Windows Classic theme is set by default, and upon attempting to change it appears the Luna themes from XP are missing or are not included. Even when trying to install additional themes has little to no effect (Like the Zune or Media Center Royale theme)
To enable the use of Luna themes, the Windows Theming (Visual Styles) service must be enabled by enabling it within the Windows Service management console. Once enabled, a Luna theme can be set, even the default themes included in XP are now available.
Windows Media Player 10 comes integrated into the operating system, along with Internet Explorer 6 and Outlook Express (6.00.3790.3959)
|Windows Media Player||10.00.00.3997|
|Windows Messenger||Does not appear to be installed|
|Windows Movie Maker||Does not appear to be installed|
Installing Anti-Virus software seemed to be problematic, with Windows Live OneCare and Avast refusing to install. Possibly this requires the server versions of these applications?
Zune software also failed to install
Internet Explorer – Version 6 comes included, but we cannot install regular versions of Internet Explorer 7 or 8. Unless there are specialized versions of these that were released, it appears these browsers are not supported, despite running Service Pack 2. (A specialized build of Internet Explorer 8 can be found here)
This probably ties into the fact Windows Home Server isn’t a consumer operating system, so later versions of Internet Explorer were not released.
Still, DirectX 9.0c comes integrated into the OS and in testing a few titles seem to work ok.
Graphis drivers should be fine, although be aware this is running on the Server 2003 codebase (NT5.2) so I’d recommend using Server 2003 drivers instead of XP. This is also a 32bit only operating system.
Windows Home Server Companion
This is a utility that is installed onto a Windows XP system to allow full compatibility with the Home Server and is required to use the Home Backup features. It requires a version of Windows XP running Service Pack 2, although it runs as fine on Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs.
This isn’t required to access files on the server, as you can do this over SMB as long as the server is part of your Workgroup (All must use the same workgroup name, typically MSHOME or WORKGROUP)
Major updates were released as ‘Power Packs’ which added additional functionality to the Home Server component, particularly Power Pack 2 which adds support for Windows Media Center for editions of XP and Vista that were released around the same period. The Home Server companion was also upgraded to take advantage and adds a link to the shared folders to the media menu. This allows pictures and music stored on the server to be streamed directly to the media center PC.