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Windows Home Server 2011 review

Microsoft's do-it-all NAS operating system
Fri Apr 15 2011, 07:03
Windows Home Server 2011 launchpad

Product Windows Home Server 2011
Specifications Minimum system requirements: 1.4GHz CPU, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk
Price N/A

WHEN WE FIRST LOOKED at the public beta of Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS 2011) about a year ago, we were mostly impressed with the direction it appeared to be heading in. Now that the final RTM version has been released, it's time to see whether it's been worth the wait.

WHS 2011 is a consumer NAS operating system designed primarily for automated backup, with file sharing, media streaming and remote access tossed in for good measure. Based on Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit only), it can perform full daily backups of up to 10 PC (or Mac) clients, and gives users an easy-to-use set of customisable shared network folders.

Windows Home Server 2011 backup screen

The minimum hardware requirements are not very onerous (it's designed to run as a headless system), and we installed it without problem on a VMware Server virtual machine. Contrary to our initial hopes, there won't be a retail version, so DIY builders will need to source OEM copies.

Windows Home Server 2011 launchpad

Setting up clients was easy, with the PC and Mac connector software hosted on a server web page. This installs the Launchpad for one-click access to backup, remote access and the Dashboard (the server admin console). It also shows alerts, such as low server disk space, clients without anti-virus protection, missed Windows updates and so on. Clients can optionally be woken up from sleep for the daily automatic backups, and put back to sleep on completion.

As with the original WHS, backups are single instance and incremental, so disk space usage is very efficient; it doesn't need to store multiple versions of identical system files. Each daily backup can be used for bare-metal restoration of an entire multi-partition PC, or for restoring individual folders and files. Current users will be instantly at home, although some of the admin features are now hidden behind wizards and help links. A handy new tool lets you create a bootable USB stick for restoring both 32- and 64-bit PCs. The WinPE-based restore wizard can now automatically format and partition the target drives, a very welcome addition.



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