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Apr 22

Windows Home Server FAIL

I’ve been a Windows Home Server owner for over a year now. The little server has been dutifully backing up the households four computers nearly every night. I’ve restored a PC once before, a HP laptop that was running 32-bit windows vista. It worked beautifully.

Tonight while fooling around with Visual Studio 2010 on my new Lenovo W510 laptop running Windows 7, 64 bit I ended up blue-screening Windows 7. The PC kept blue-screening on every boot attempt and the built-in boot recovery in Windows 7 could not find any problems.

Well, not to fear. I just took a backup, so I’ll simply restore it. Popped the client PC restore CD in the drive and booted.

Snag 1: The network card was not detected. Well I’ve read about that. That’s what the “Windows Home Server Drivers for Restore” folder on the C: drive is for. I opened the backup on another PC and copied the whole folder to a USB thumb drive, the popped it in the PC to be restored and scanned for drivers.

Snag 2: The Lenovo W510 has USB 3 and the bloody thumb drive was not even detected. It seemed I needed to load USB drivers first. Luckily I remembered that the PC has two USB 3 and one USB 2 slots. I inserted the USB drive in the USB 2 slot and again click scan. This time the light on the drive flickered, but it still could not find and drivers. After googleing the web I found the cause.

Snag 3: Since I was running Windows 7 64 bit all the drivers in the “Windows Home Server Drivers for Restore” folder was 64-bit drivers. The bootable client restore CD is running a stripped down version of 32-bit Vista and thus cannot load my 64-bit drivers. I actually need to download 32-bit drivers manually from Lenovo.com.

Snag 4: Drivers usually comes in a nice msi file or setup.exe file. That’s no good. I needed to extract the actual files from within the msi’s. The resulting file’s (.inf, dll’s and more) can then be moved to the USB stick. That’s the whole point of the “Windows Home Server Drivers for Restore” folder. The drivers were supposed to be there “ready for picking”.

Finally after several hours my PC is now back up and running after a restore that should have taken only 30 minutes or so.

Microsoft: You really need to release a 64-bit client restore CD that supports the drivers. This is a major flaw in the way WHS works.

7 comments

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  1. Henk

    I fully agree MS could make the process a little easier, there’s definitely room for improvement. The process for restoring a 64 bit system which requires drivers that are not present on the restore cd is not really straight-forward, especially for consumers that have little or no computer skills. A lot of them will definitely get stuck even after reading the instructions for restore.

    However, if you had simply started with reading the instructions on how to restore there would have been only one snag. The whole process would then have cost you an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

    Since you did manage to restore the system from a WHS backup in a few hours I wouldn’t really say WHS failed. It did exactly what it promised, after a little (perhaps unexpected) effort you managed to do suucesfully restore the system. IMO even with a few hours of work this beats reinstalling the system from scratch and then trying to recover your data, settings and other customisations.

    Pål Andreassen, next time please start with reading the manual, restore, then tell MS what they should/can do to improve the process

  2. Pål

    Got up on the wrong side of bed today? I still feel that Microsoft really went wrong on this one. This is a miss of functionality and something that I frankly feel that Microsoft should have remedied by now.

    I consider myself quite computer literate and even I had problems. Btw. had to do another full restore today. Windows has this 100 MB “system reserved” partition that is the bootable one. Proved impossible to restore properly and WHS kept giving it a drive letter. In the end I had to set the C: as active, boot from the Windows 7 CD and select “boot repair”.

  3. kbreak

    Well it would be interesting to know what you did to get it restored, since I’m sitting here with a 64 bit win7 computer and I’m stuck in the same situation and now I’m googling…. and here I am.

    back to google.

    I wish I never went 64 bit.

    1. Pål

      I had problems with the network card (NIC) drivers. This is how I sovled it:
      1. Downloaded Windows 2003/XP 32-bit drivers from the manufactures web site
      2. The drivers came as an .msi file. I start the setup (run msi file)
      3. At the first prompt I open explorer and navigate to my temp folder (normally something like C:UsersYourUserNameAppDataLocalTemp)
      4. Sort by last modified date (descending)
      5. Locate the newest folder and this is most likely the contents of the uncompressed msi file
      6. After having located the files I copied them to a USB stick and used that from the restore wizard after having booted from the client restore CD.

  4. Michel

    http://xfiles.breakinghomeserver.com/myfiles/X-Files/ClientRestore/1.2/

    Howdy fellow WHS user :) Drasha have made this CD that contain all your drivers well at least most of them regarding nic at least and others for a PC restore

    He have made also available on torrent the X FIles server edition also.

    Hope this will help you for your 64 bits problems.

    Sincerely

    Michel

    1. Pål

      Nice tip. I remember reading something about x-files restore cd earlier, but I had totally forgotten about it when I needed it.

  5. E. Keith Owens

    Whats more the drivers that WHS automatically extracts from the client PCs and stores with each backup image dont work either not sure why although the restore CD is based on Vista whereas all my PCs are Windows 7 and in the case of the Realtek NIC in my Acer Aspire One netbook even the correct drivers from Acer dont work due to some sort of bug…I sorted out the Aspire One problem a while ago thanks to which pointed me to a suitable generic driver on the Realtek website. Nope…The problem with Intel NIC drivers is that they are bundled in an installer package so you cant just download a few versions and try them out.

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