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My WHS Nightmare Came True

It’s now good news / bad news with the home server.  Good news is that its back alive and running better than ever with the new system drive.  Bad news is that it came back with all the drives wiped clean.

I chose to do a “System Recovery” instead of a “factory reset” because it was supposed to preserve your data.  Well there was issues getting it to work properly at first but thanks to help from HP I finally accomplished what should have been a system recovery.  Not sure how or why all the drives were wiped.

All is not lost but it’s going to be a long road back.  I basically have to remove all the drives and one by one attach them to my desktop PC and use a data recovery tool (Recuva) to copy my files locally onto my desktop PC, then add the drive back into the home server pool and then copy the files back.  This could take the better part of of week.

What a nightmare.

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My WHS died last night

My wife and I were in the middle of watching a recorded show in Media Center that was stored on the Windows Home Server.  Right at the end the show froze which I assumed was a network issue.  Turns out that the home server died. 

I am in the process of performing a system recovery to try to bring it back without losing 8 TB worth of data.  It has gone well so far but seems to now be stuck try to initialize the home server for the first time.  It looks like the main system drive is having problems which means I will need to replace it.  The screen says that it can take up to a few hours to initialize but it’s been 5 hours so far and I am not to optimistic.

Sad day.

Moving Your Family to a Media Center Whole Home Solution – Part 2

In my first follow-up to my post on moving your family to a whole home Media Center solution I wanted to give a better idea on what I have in my setup and how it’s all connected.  We have four rooms in the house where we can use and enjoy Media Center.  The following diagram explains what equipment is where and how everything is connected:

Media Center Network

Office:  The home office is where I centered the Media Center and all the supporting components.  I have dual monitors connected to the Dell XPS 420 so I can use one as normal PC monitor and the second to watch Media Center at the same time (actually doing that as I write this post).   Audio is just stereo via computer speakers.

Master Bedroom:  In the master bedroom we are using a Linksys DMA2100 extender that is directly wired into the network.  It is connected to the TV via a single HDMI.  This is a nice clean setup with the least amount of cables (4): two power plugs, one network cable and the HDMI cable.  The DMA2100 looks great on this TV and fits the master bedroom scenario perfectly.  Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.

Living Room: The main TV is located in the living room.  Because of this I am using an Xbox 360.  It gives the closest experience to actually having the PC connected to the TV.  It also looks great over a VGA connection on this TV.  Audio is full 5.1 surround sound.

Guest Bedroom:  The TV in the guest bedroom is rarely used so it is the only TV that is still standard definition.  The great thing about Media Center is that I can still watch all of my HD content on this SD set and it looks like an amazing DVD. Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.  This is also the only wireless scenario I have.  The guest bedroom is right underneath the office so the wireless signal is fairly strong.  I have had experienced a few disconnects over extended viewing sessions but overall it worked great and streamed HD content just fine.

I’ll keep on digging deeper into other aspects in future posts.  Hopefully this helps answers some questions for those considering Media Center.

My Movies 3.0 Is Coming!!

MyMovies was the go to plugin for organizing your movie collection in Media Center. Over time it started to show it’s age. We did get small updates and a nice Windows Home Server version to centralize the database. Finally after much anticipation we have news on MyMovies 3.0 from Ian Dixon:

I have some exclusive screenshots of the all new My Movies 3. On Tuesday I will have an interview with Brian Binnerup the developer behind My Movies and he is going to talk about the new features and UI in the Vista and Windows 7 version of My Movies. Tuesday will also be the release of the beta of the new movie app so listen to the show next week to find out all the details. I have to say its a great looking Media Center application!

I cannot wait to check this out. I really hope it brings much needed speed and stability to my movie collection. Check out Ian’s post for the screenshots.

MyMovies 3.0 Screenshots and Release Date

UPDATE: I just checked out the MyMovies website and I am stoked! It seems that it will have the speed improvements that I am craving. Check out this quote from the site.

My Movies 3 is mainly a new MCML (Media Center Markup Language) based interface, which will be much faster than our current interface. The interface is able to launch a collection of 2.500 titles in 3 seconds, and a collection with 10.000 titles in 5 seconds – the limitation on collection sizes with good speed will be above 25.000 titles.

My collection is up to about 420 movies so this should work great for me.

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JBOD++

The 5-Bay SATA drive enclosure is up and running with a new 1.5TB hard drive.  The storage pool (aka JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks)) now looks like this:

homeserver2

The setup was very much plug and play except for one small snag.  The eSATA port on the back of my HP Media Smart WHS only supports 4-Bay SATA drive enclosures and not 5-Bays.  So the top bay on this puppy is going to go to waste in the near term.  I decided to keep it because the restocking fee and shipping cost would really offset the savings of buying a new 4-bay.  Also I am impatient and don’t want to wait for that whole return/replace process to play out.

My WHS has a new friend

I have an HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server that has become the cornerstone of my family’s home network and my Windows Media Center setup.  The home server has four drive bays which I have filled with the following drives: 500GB (included/system), 500GB (taken from Media Center PC), 1TB, 1.5TB for a total of 3.5TB’s.  Just an FYI, just because a drive is listed as 500GB or 1TB you do not actually get that amount of space in reality.  So my 3.5TB’s is actually realized as 3.18 TB’s.

Amazingly 3.5TB’s of space is quickly being used up.  My home server is reporting that I have 442.65 GB worth of space left. 

homeserver

So based on the dwindling amount of space and the lack of hard drive bays in my home server I just bought a 5-Bay SATA drive enclosure to expand my WHS by five drives.  Meet Metroplex’s new friend:

IMG_1864

So over the next few months the plan is to keep an eye on Newegg for drive deals and fill this bad boy up with at least 5 more TB’s.  I just have the case right now and the first drive shipped separate and will arrive tomorrow.  I’ll post on the setup and how that experience goes tomorrow.

UPDATE:  I had my drive capacity reported incorrectly.  Thanks to Matt for pointing that out in the comments.  I thought my WHS was wrong at first and then I remembered the “Great Drive Swap” of ‘08.  That was fun when my main system drive was reporting as G: instead of C: but Google helped me fix that.

More Home Server Storage

The large drive is a 5.25

Image via Wikipedia

About two weeks ago I added another hard drive to my Windows Home Server (WHS).  I bought a Seagate Barracuda 1.5 TB drive.  So now my WHS has 3 drives: the 500GB main drive that came preinstalled, a 1TB Western Digital drive and the new 1.5TB Seagate drive for a total of 3TB (or 2.73TB realized storage).

The HP Media Smart WHS that I have makes it so easy to add a drive it’s ridiculous.  I was up and running with my new storage space in about 10 minutes, if that.  If you are looking at adding a WHS to your setup take a long hard look at the HP Media Smart servers.  Great value and easy to use.  I probably could have built a home server from a spare PC but at the end of the day my time was more valuable and I got a better WHS for buying a pre-built system.

The extra space allowed me to really clean up and organize my drives.  This is what things look like now:  (VectorSigma is my Media Center PC and Metroplex is my WHS)

VectorSigma – 3 Drives

  • 500 GB (OS, Program Files and temp download location)
  • 750 GB (Overflow recorded TV drive)
  • 1 TB (recorded TV only drive)

Metroplex – 3 Drives (WHS creates 1 pooled storage space out of the 3 drives)

  • Movies
  • Archived TV
  • Music
  • Photos
  • Personal Folders (me and my wife)
  • Public Folder (misc dump and share folder)
  • Software Folder (all my media center utilities, plugins and regular software installs live here)
  • Videos (family home videos, viral videos, etc)

I have one more open slot in my WHS and I would like to get another 1.5TB Seagate drive.  Maybe Santa will leave one under the tree for me.