In this guide I will explain how to redirect the the My Documents folder to the User share on a Windows Home Server. Also, I will set up Offline File Syncing so the computer can be disconnected from the network and still maintain access to the files. Upon reconnecting to the network the changes will by automatically synchronized.
The individual User folders are automatically created when adding a user to the Windows Home Server and it is set so only the specific user has read/write access. This is a great way to manage your files if you are working on multiple computers and/or are using a laptop that is occasionally removed from the local network and you still need access to all of your files.
I tried bypassing the virtualization solution and wanted to see what kind of performance I could get running straight off the hardware kind of like a benchmark so I have something to compare WHS VM performance to. I installed WHS directly on my secondary PC and have seen pretty good results so far. File transfers have been generally ranging from 40-50MB/s and I was able to stream a 10Gb 1080p .MKV file with no stuttering and basically immediate response to FF/RW requests.
I did once see transfer speeds below 1MB/s but it worked fine before and after that. I am assuming the slow speeds in that instance were do to the storage balancer since it was shortly after I had turned on some folder duplication and it was likely moving large amounts of data. Although I have no proof, if it happens again I will try to track it down.
Next I wanted to try to set up VMWare ESXi. I also read about how you can run ESXi off of a flash drive and I thought I would give this a try so I could dedicate the entire physical hard drive to running WHS.
I read that I could run through the installation normally and just tell it the installation destination is the USB stick, however this did not work for me as it said it was unable to find a location to install to. And after loading the installation files I was forced to restart and try again.
A way to avoid using the virtual hard disk files would be by using Hyper-V which has the ability to attach physical hard disks directly to virtual machines. That means I can set the physical hard drive as offline to the host operating system and dedicate it to the virtual machine os, giving the vm os direct and dedicated read/write access to the drive. Using the physical disk access you can avoid using the virtual hard drive “coffins” to store your files, and instead, the files are stored normally, directly on the physical hard drive that can be plugged in and read by any computer. This allows you to reap the full benefits from Windows Home Server’s Drive Extender technology that I have discussed in a previous post.
One of the greatest features of Windows Home Server is its dead simple data management and replication, or what they call Drive Extender. Aside from simplicity, Drive Extender has a few storage features that you cannot find with other solutions. In fact, many enthusiasts choose to run WHS instead of Linux or full blown Windows server upwards of 20Tb for this reason.
No drive letters
In WHS you can forget about worrying about filling up individual drives and having to move files to other drives because they are too big to fit. As far as Windows Home Server is concerned your disks are combined to form a single storage pool. This is like a JBOD “just a bunch of disks” array where you have a single namespace to access the data and the disks are spanned together and appear to the end user as one giant disk. This also greatly simplifies your file access as you will not have to navigate to different drive letters to find your files, they can all be accessed via a single shared folder.
After trying Virtual Server 2005R2 I decided to try VMWare Server 2.0, another free solution. After a quick Windows 7 reformat (to completely wipe the Virtual Server modifications/workarounds), the installation of VMWare Server went without a hitch. I had a 100Gb partition for Windows 7 and then the rest of the 1Tb drive was broken into another partiotn where I stored the WHS virtual hard drive (not pre-allocated, equal to the remaining space). Later on a second 1Tb hard drive was put in the machine and I created a second virtual hard drive equal to the size of the drive.
Right now I’m focusing on virtualization, windows home server, and HTPCs. I will be exploring different configurations to find the optimal setup able to achieve my goals.
- Computer backup
- Virtualization – testing/experimenting
- Media streaming server
- HTPC front end – for playback of DVD rips and recorded TV
- BitTorrent machine
- Automate the process of media downloading, organizing, metadata/fanart
My primary desktop is used for gaming so I want to accomplish as much as possible on my secondary pc (complete specs). For virtualization I plan to experiment with VMWare ESXi, Hyper-V Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V, VMWare Server 2.0, and Virtual Server 2005.
I hope this blog can serve as a reference for others who are interested in a similar setup, because I know how difficult it was to find information on these topics.