Saturday, December 29, 2007

Windows Home Server Review

Well, now that I've purchased Windows Home Server OEM edition, and am 1 week into using it, I thought I'd post some of my thoughts on the software, as well as some of the things I've had to work around.

Installation went pretty well. I installed it to a Hitachi 500GB IDE drive, in an Intel motherboard, with a Pentium 4 2.6Ghz processor, 1.25GB of RAM. After updating and patching (required downloading a bunch of security patches) and three reboots, I was ready to go.

I have a backup hard drive that has a huge 450GB encrypted file on it that I use for back up of several computers in my house (mine, my wife's, our music studio computer). Prior to using WHS, I was using a windows XP box with this drive attached via USB, and Truecrypt to encrypt the file. With Truecrypt, I can open the file up and mount it like a drive, and then share it with specific password protected privileges for network based backup over my home gigabit ethernet lan.

Getting TrueCrypt to Work with Windows Home Server (WHS)
There were several posts saying Windows Home Server was not compatible with Truecrypt, but I wanted to share that I did get it working. I mounted a USB hard disk to WHS, but left it as a stand alone hard disk, rather than merging it into the storage pool for the server. I installed Truecrypt for Windows 32 bit, mounted the huge file with TrueCrypt and another drive then showed up in my drives list (my encrypted drive). But when I shared a folder on the Truecrypt volume, I couldn't get to it from anywhere on the network. I kept getting this "not enough server storage is available to process this command" error. So I found a tip on another web site (http://www.pcdoctor-guide.com/wordpress/?p=174) and several other tips.

Solving this problem requires a Registry edit:

  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. Type regedit, and then click OK.
  3. Navigate to the following registry key:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services
    \LanmanServer\Parameters
  4. In the right pane, double-click the IRPStackSize value.
  5. Important: If the IRPStackSize value does not already exist, you will need to create it:
    - In the Parameters folder of the registry, right-click the right pane.
    - Point to New, and then click DWord Value.
    - Type IRPStackSize.

    Important: Type "IRPStackSize" exactly as it is displayed because the value name is case-sensitive.

  6. Change the Base to decimal.
  7. In the Value Data box, type a value that is larger than the value that is listed.
    If you created the IRPStackSize value using the procedure described in step 4, the default value is 15. It is recommended that you increase the value by 3. Therefore, if the previous value was 11, type 14, and then click OK.
  8. Close the Registry Editor.
  9. Restart the computer.
I followed the above steps for a several rounds of reboots, and nothing work. Finally I changed the value of IRPStackSize in the registry to a decimal value of 30. Low and behold, after a reboot, the shared folder on the encrypted volume can be written to on the network.

Getting Console Access Remotely
When you login WHS locally with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, you can login as the Administrator with your administrator's password. I tried logging in from another computer using Remote Desktop Connection, and instead of seeing the same view as on the monitor, or taking over what was on the monitor, I got a whole new session on the machine. Given that WHS is based on Server 2003, I asked a friend of mine for a tip, and he said you can login to the local console login by using a command line argument for Remote Desktop. You have to start up a DOS prompt, and type: 'mstsc.exe /console' -- this will launch the Remote Desktop program, with no visual indication that anything is different, but when you put in the IP address / name of your server, you can get console access, meaning you take over the session that is presented to the user at the keyboard. I tried installing logmein (logmein.com) while at the console for the server, and then accessed the console that way from another computer via logmein, and it worked fine.

No comments: