Windows Home Server. What the Heck?

So many years ago we went out and picked up one of those mini HP Windows Home Servers. You know the one that fits in your bookcase, has 4 hot swappable drive bays and came with WHS (Windows Home Server) loaded.    We outfitted ours with 4.5 Terabytes of space; We plugged it in, set it up and it has been running for 8 or 10 years now with no issues.  I think this thing would run another 10 years no problem, HOWEVER; WHS (the original) does not play well with Windows 8.  If your house is like mine then you want all your PCs, Xboxes, Windows 8 phones and DNLA devices to talk to your Home Server…so what to do?

I started looking into MS Home Server upgrades and found that WHS has an Update to WHS 2011/2012, but in their Wisdom they are going to quit supporting WHS and EOL it somewhere around 2016.  Further research shows the (would like us to do) solution is to run a watered down version of Windows Server 2012 called Windows Server 2012 essentials in da house…Really?  Keep in mind my original HP WHS hardware and software cost me $400 something; Server Essentials is about the same. That and I get enough “Server” type fun in my day.  I like Windows Server 2012 but Cost vs home environment is not making any sense to me.  Note the Windows 8 PRO does much of what Server 2012 does.

Ok so I really didn’t want to go that route; time to see what Fry’s or Newegg have going on…my goal was to replace my WHS box with new hardware and have Windows 8 on it to do the whole “Home group” thing.   Weeks of researching components (cause we like to build our own stuff you know) I found that it was going to cost more building a box than just looking at some of the desktops available.  The caveat is that these desktops don’t have all the available disk bays that we have had in the past.  4TB hard disks are almost affordable now so I decided to go that route.

Another week of sifting through the available desktops and I was about to give up…so, we was on our way to our favorite Mexican restaurant and a poof OfficeDepot popped into my head.  Had to check them out.  Go figure, I ran across a nice looking HP Pavilion with Windows 8, an AMD A10-5700 APU, 10G RAM and a 2TB Seagate (7200rpm) all for $470.  It is USB 3.0, has a 16-1 media card reader, has built in Wireless-N and Bluetooth.  It is a really nice case as well. I have always been a fan of AMD for low power consumption.  I have not been a huge fan of HP (my darling wife reminded me that the WHS is HP) so I popped it open and found a MSI mobo in it, so all is good.

Note: If you plan on making one of these (any off the shelf) desktops a home server; check the specifics.  If it does not say Windows 8 PRO than it is just the OEM’d Windows 8 installed.  If it is not Win 8 Pro it must be upgraded ($99) to enable all the cool stuff that allows Remote Desktop, Media Center etc.

So I plugged in monitor, keyboard and mouse and fired it up.  Wow this is the quietest pc I have ever heard…don’t know how they can keep it cool.  I set it up (Just logged in with my MS account) over the built in wireless. Had to upgrade to Win 8 PRO so I could RDP into it.  Moved it to my living room, plugged into a switch on the LAN and Power (no monitor, keyboard or mouse).  Note: this model does not have HDMI so I can’t plug it in to the TV, but hey this is a File/Media server…I stream through my Xbox or my Pioneer Receiver.

So that is where we are at… Next I will drop another 4TB drive in the box and then the moving of ~3TB of media (documents, photos, music) to the new box.  I tell you what, it is blistering fast compared to the old HP WHS 🙂

I will post back on my findings…like things you have to turn on (media center sharing, home group, backing your files to this pseudo server, etc. etc.)

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