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How to recover data after server failure

    General discussion

  • How To: Recover Data after Server failure

    Windows Home Server as the backend of a home network is not immune to hardware defects, bad drivers, misconfigurations, incompatible software installations or user errors. While it offers possibilities to backup the content of shared folders and even the client backups, these processes have to be done manually and need a lot of additional external storage space. So these will often not be performed regulary.

    We can consider following scenarios:

    • The system does not boot any more, but the disks are all ok. Recommended method: Server Reinstall.
    • The system disk is broken, the data disks are ok. Recommended method: Server Reinstall after replacing the disk. If you can still access the DATA volume of the disk, proceed as described below to copy eventually stored files.
    • The system disk is ok, but one or more data disks fail, or Windows Home Server Console reports disks as missing. Recommended method: Data recovery has priority. Try to get the data out as described below.


    If your Windows Home Server still boots, you can check the event log of the server for error details. To do this, log in locally or via Remote Desktop client to the server desktop. Use the account name Administrator and the console password for login.
    In Start/Control Panel/Administrative Tools click Event Viewer.
    Check the System and Application logs for errors (red marked) and warnings (yellow marked).
    If you find ntfs errors, double click them to see the details. In case of unreadable sectors get a replacement disk.

    After broken hardware is replaced, the next step would be to try a server reinstallation (which may be named different, if you got your Windows Home Server as an OEM product). This special installation mode will only wipe the system volume on C: (and with it all user accounts, customizations, installed Add-Ins and applications, applied updates), but leave the data intact. (A new installation will wipe all drives, so be carefull, what you select.) Be patient, since rebuilding the tombstones can take a long time without clear information on the screen, what is going on.
    Before adding the clients again and redo the configuration tasks, run Windows Update through the console first. Repeat this after necessary reboots, until you don't get new updates offered any more. This is necessary to eliminate potential bugs.

    If you get no server reinstall offered, this can depend from the sequence, in which the disks are detected by the Bios or which drivers are provided initially. The former or new system disk must always be detected as drive 0. If you are using SATA disks, it may be more convenient to select the IDE (ATA/PATA) mode in the settings of the SATA controller. In this case Windows Home Server setup can use built in drivers. Be aware that using SATA drivers may require, to present these drivers a second time during setup using a floppy disk.

    If a server reinstall fails, is not offered  or is not possible due to severely broken hardware or the configuration cannot be reused due to a replacement of main hardware components, and you don't have a recent backup on another disk or location, you need to copy the data manually to a new location.

    To do this:

    • Attach the disks one by one to a Windows PC either via internal ports or using an adaptor cable USB to SATA/IDE. This PC can be one of the clients, or a fresh installed Windows Home Server. Do not add this disk to the storage pool, before you have copied all data to the server share or external storage. The already configured storage pool devices must offer enough free space to handle the data from the disk besides old client backups (which will be lost in such a recovery scenario).
    • In Control Panel of that PC open Folder Options.
    • On the View tab select Show hidden files and folders.
    • Click OK.
    • In Windows Explorer look for the DATA volume on the former Windows Home Server disk (including the D: drive of the former primary disk), which will usually have gotten a drive letter in the system. After opening this volume in Explorer you should see the hidden folder DE. (Be aware, that in configurations with multiple disks in the server this folder may not exist on each disk or be empty.)
    • Within the folder DE you should find a subfolder shares.
    • This contains parts or all (or none) of the data in the former shared folders or duplicates of this data (if Folder Duplication was selected).
    • Copy this data either to the new server installation by accessing the server shares through the desktop shortcut Shared Folders on server or to another storage location. Do never target the file system of drives belonging to Windows Home Server directly (i.e. d:\shares)!
    • Repeat this for each DATA disk.

    Do not forget to check the consistency of data (can files still be opened, are they the most current version) before reusing the disks in the storage pool.

    Best greetings from Germany
    Olaf

    Monday, January 12, 2009 12:16 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • A German language version of this FAQ can now be found here.
    Best greetings from Germany
    Olaf
    Thursday, February 11, 2010 9:56 AM
    Moderator