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Make WHS Back itself up RRS feed

  • Question

  • Why can't WHS back itself up?  If you could backup the OS instance or backup some of the more important config files then that would make a recovery simpler.   Forgetting about the data shares and backup shares that is...   the purpose of the backup would be to recover from config screw-ups such as Addin updates and config updates...
     
    In trying some of the Addins I have had corruptions of the system where I want to go back in time, like I can with the client PCs and restore the config.   I have had to do a full restore, which takes quite a bit of time.  I did not lose the data drives, but I had to re-create user accounts and settings.
     
    If WHS is able to do this with clients while they are up and running it should be able to snapshot itself, especially after a system configuration change???
     
    Is there a way to do this manually if you terminal server into WHS?   That is: backup the OS and config so that you have historical backups.
     
    That may be a good idea for an Addin if I had the time and skill to develop one....    unless I am missing someting that is...
     
     
     
     
       
    Friday, December 7, 2007 11:30 PM

Answers

  • ntbackup backup systemstate /J "SS Backup Job" /F "z:\backup.bkf"

     

    Did this ever work?  I just got an HP WHS to replace my win 2K domain controller I used at home as a file / web server.  A couple of the disk were failing and I thought I was pushing my luck considering 20 GB drives were as big as you could get when I built this thing.

     

    I am surprised WHS can't backup itself.  Even IT Pros goof up their home servers and need to restore.

     

     

    Monday, March 31, 2008 9:24 PM
  • Yes, this worked perfectly, althought I stoped using it as I was concerned about the data corruption bug that has been reported is reported to occur on muti-drive systems like mine and working (copying / writing) locally on the server.  Therefore with that discription of the bug I wanted to be safe and not use the Windows backup app on the server.   At least not until the bug is resolved. 

    Anyway to answer your question the process I defined in the earlier post works even if you backup to an external drive and I tested it writing to the local share with no problems.


    Monday, March 31, 2008 11:50 PM

All replies

  • I second the request. 

     

    I just spent almost 2-hours reinstalling my WHS because I was forced to manually power cycle the WHS machine after a lockup.  Apparently the registry was damaged when I restarted and it would not boot so I was forced to reinstall, losing all of my add-in settings, user accounts, etc.  It does not seem like this OS is 'self healing' like XP and Vista seem to be when confronted with a situation like this.  Safe Mode or booting to the last known good configuration would not solve my problems.  I was stupid for thinking that the Restore CD would restore the WHS itself, so I tried it, wasting additional time.

     

    It would be nice to get something that worked as it should consistently with this OS or some nicities (like this request). For example, a reconnection feature in the Connector so it does not have to be re-installed on each client after a server restore so the clients will talk to the server again.

     

    I can't believe so many issues made it through the beta testing.

     

     

     

    Saturday, December 8, 2007 10:29 AM
  • Ok,  to sort of answer my own question, after doing some research here is what I came up with as a workaround....
    • Use terminal services to access the WHS desktop
    • Create a batch file (backup_whs_ss.bat) with the following entry:
    Code Block
    ntbackup backup systemstate /J "SS Backup Job" /F "z:\backup.bkf"

     

     

    Where z: is one of the WHS shares.
    • This command will do a system state backup.  You can also create another one to do a full backup with the following entry:
    Code Block
    ntbackup.exe backup C:\ /j "Full Backup Job" /f "Z:\FullBackup.bkf" 

     

     

    Again where z: is one of the WHS shares.
     
    • This can be added to the Windows scheduler for automated backups or done after a system configuration change.   (I wonder if there is a way to invoke "whsbackup.exe" instead )
    I have not fully tested this yet as I am still in the middle of a full backup after I have done a successfull system state backup.  No restore done yet.  This may solve my problems, we will see.  
     
    Again the purpose of this is to save the system state and configuration of WHS not the data shares.  For the purposes of recovering from system configuration errors or beta versions of Addins that may corrupt the system state.   An example of this is the Whiist Addin on an HP MediaSmart Server which will screw up the HP OEM websites.
     
    Anyway we will see if this works....   BTW: ntbackup does not support command line restore so you would still need to have a working (terminal services capable system) in order to restore your config if you have a headless system.  Unless you don't have a headless system and you have a floppy drive, you may be able to restore system state from a floppy & using the orignial WHS install media.  (Also systemstate may not backup the WHS Console config, this may need to be done with a full backup).
     
    If anyone knows of any reason why this would not work please let me know before I spend too long screwing with it....
     
     
    Saturday, December 8, 2007 3:13 PM
  • Wanted to add my $0.02 - would be really nice to have the ability to create a backup to an external drive on a schedule. Right now I backup important files to a 1TB external drive manually but it would be cool if WHS had the ability to automatically do this for me out of the box so that I could just rotate the external backup drives in and out and take them to a safe offline storage.

     

    Wednesday, December 26, 2007 7:35 AM
  • Yes, I agree with the request too.

    I'm spending a little over a day at the moment to get my five days old WHS up and running again.

    Of all things the harddrive containing WHS died on me (even the BIOS does not see it any more).

    Getting all the stuff back (several disks, over 1 TB) takes a LOT of time and effort.

     

     

    So.. would it be hard: to put WHS itself on more than one disk, and if it can't boot from one disk it will boot from another and do appropriate reshuffling of data 'n such (sort of automatic re-install )

     

    It would really up the trust in the product a lot.

     

     

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008 7:56 PM
  • I agree completely.  Let's look at the facts:

     

    - RAID, even RAID-1 mirroring, is unsupported

    - all backups and configuration settings (which may be extensive) on C: and D; are not duplicated

    - if you lose HD0 and toss in a new one, WHS Setup isn't even smart enough to see the data drives and offer a Reinstall option.  However, it will gladly Install and format all of your precious data if you like!

     

    So, I can't add redundancy at the hardware level and be supported, and the software makes me jump through hoops to recover from a failed drive, and when I do jump through those hoops, I still have to completely reconfigure all of my backups and add-ins, since the only thing recovered are the shares.  Oh, and all my backups were lost too, meaning if a machine on the network dies during this several-day recovery window, I'm hosed.  Realistically it could take several days, as if I have a lot of data, recovering tombstones can take a long time; during which time backups are going to run slow; if at all.

     

    I'm quite shocked MS didn't address this with some form of whole-system back tool in PP1.  They did add a nice utility for backing up the data to a remote disk, for triple redundancy, and easy off-site storage:

     

    http://www.geekzone.co.nz/freitasm/4350

     

    However, I would have rather seen *any* find of redundancy on C: D:, before seeing *another* layer of redundancy elsewhere.  Or, at least in addition to.

     

    Granted, there are tons of tools to do this.  As pointed out, NTBackup can do this.  But in the spirit of WHS, it's supposed to be *easy*.

     

    What would be great are two more line items in the above linked screenshot: "System Snapshot" and "Backups".  System Snapshot would get you all of C:, and Backups would get you that part of D:.  Then the setup program needs to be able to see this drive and Reinstall from it (it would scan all attached drives looking for the System Snapshot fingerprint, and if found, offer Reinstall from it).  This way I can have the server back up in < 1 hour.  Yes, tombstones would still have to be rebuilt, but at least while rebuilding I have backups, and my backups are backed up!

     

    Ryan

    Thursday, January 31, 2008 11:38 AM
  •  ryan.rogers wrote:

    - if you lose HD0 and toss in a new one, WHS Setup isn't even smart enough to see the data drives and offer a Reinstall option.

    Well, Ryan, I have done exactly that with no problem. Several times, on several servers, as a matter of fact. In some cases I've needed to provide drivers during setup to get it to see all my drives, but I've never been unable to reinstall and preserve the data already present.

    I know some people have had problems with that; in many cases I believe they also had trouble getting WHS to install on their hardware to begin with, so I tend to think that it's not really an issue with WHS setup per se.
    Thursday, January 31, 2008 12:30 PM
    Moderator
  • That's good to hear.  I know there have been several threads reporting this issue, one just the other day.

     

    It's great that the feature is there (as one should expect it to be), but disconcerting that it's not working for everybody.  But hey, v1 product...

     

    For myself, I'm getting ready to build my first physical device for testing, and this is one of nearly two dozen test cases I have laid out.  As long as this works for my supported hardware platform, I'm all set.

     

    One thing that may be causing the issue here is a lot of people have complained in other threads that the driver support pressed to the CD leaves a bit to be desired.  Perhaps these people were simply never forcefully loading their drivers?  For example, HD0 may be on a controller for which WHS has drivers built in, but HD1, 2, etc may not be???

     

    That would certainly explain why no Reinstall option would showup...to WHS it would look like a totally clean system with only a single drive.

     

    Ryan

    Thursday, January 31, 2008 4:58 PM
  • Ryan, not forcing the drivers is almost certainly the source of some peoples' problems. I reproduced that issue early in the beta, when I was still running WHS on a RAID array. I loaded the drivers in the initial graphical setup, but failed to do so in text mode. Because at that point there was only a partial solution for nondestructive reinstallation in WHS, I wound up losing everything. The current product doesn't have that issue; I reinstalled WHS one last time on that machine with the RAID controller and just to see what happens didn't load drivers at the "Press F6" prompt. Another trip through setup, and I was able to finish the reinstallation without data loss. Even if you only have one drive connected to a secondary HBA that requires drivers, failure to supply those drivers will block a reinstallation.

    But other problems include flaky hardware or drivers. If you get a BSOD several times in a row when you're initially installing any operating system, you need to sort your system out further before relying on it. Some network problems can even manifest late in the install process, though they shouldn't cause any issues with reinstallation.

    As for driver support on the CD, remember that the base OS is a version of Windows Server 2003. Don't look for more drivers than you get with that operating system. In particular don't expect drivers for desktop hardware that's not even listed in the Windows Server Catalog. Remember that most people will buy Windows Home Server preinstalled, and those that install it themselves are expected to be technically proficient enthusiasts or professional system builders. Both of those groups can be expected to know how to install drivers.
    Thursday, January 31, 2008 5:54 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    Thanks Ken,

     

    I agree, if you are building your own WHS, you should know what you are doing and can handle this.

     

    But, with that said, it is a Home product.  I think this is another one of those minor (and I truly want to stress "minor") things where "wouldn't it be nice of WHS had it's own build", instead of having to rely on what is there, and isn't there, for 2003.  I can think of lots of room for minor, simple tweaks that would overall improve in the product.  Unfortunately the WHS team simply can't do since they are relying on building on top of WHS, vs. their own build.  And of course, the cost of setting up and testing their own separate build would be astronomical compared to the rewards...

     

    Think of how much cleaner these forums would be if the WHS team had simply removed all of the features that they don't support? ;-)  I'm sure it would have made the marketing suits happier to boot.


    I completely agree though, anybody building their own should be smart enough to find their drivers, and supply them at the right time.  They shouldn't rely on them being pressed to the CD.

     

    However, it would be *convenient* if more drivers were pressed to the CD, as is the case with othre "Home" SKU's. ;-)  I have a strong suspicion that if the WHS team could provide more, they probably would.

     

    Assuming MS eats it's own dogfood, Server 2008 should be building on top of MSBuild.  As such, the WHS team could provide them with components that allow the same build to spit out multiple targets.  There would stll be substantial QA overhead, and setting this up would not be trivial for sure, but at least MSBuild gives you a structured, modern way to do this why of "rebuilding everything".

     

    Ryan

    Friday, February 1, 2008 10:34 AM
  • ntbackup backup systemstate /J "SS Backup Job" /F "z:\backup.bkf"

     

    Did this ever work?  I just got an HP WHS to replace my win 2K domain controller I used at home as a file / web server.  A couple of the disk were failing and I thought I was pushing my luck considering 20 GB drives were as big as you could get when I built this thing.

     

    I am surprised WHS can't backup itself.  Even IT Pros goof up their home servers and need to restore.

     

     

    Monday, March 31, 2008 9:24 PM
  • Yes, this worked perfectly, althought I stoped using it as I was concerned about the data corruption bug that has been reported is reported to occur on muti-drive systems like mine and working (copying / writing) locally on the server.  Therefore with that discription of the bug I wanted to be safe and not use the Windows backup app on the server.   At least not until the bug is resolved. 

    Anyway to answer your question the process I defined in the earlier post works even if you backup to an external drive and I tested it writing to the local share with no problems.


    Monday, March 31, 2008 11:50 PM
  • THX Al

    Friday, April 4, 2008 6:26 PM
  • Hello

     

    I was taken by surprise and shocked when I read your comment about the upcoming power pack NOT having the much awaited backup of the server itself. Is it really true? As I see it, a WHS system is four things: shared storage, backups of clients, software (OS and applications) and settings. The shared storage is duplicated, which only guards you when it comes to disk failures, not if your house burns down or someone deletes a file by mistake. That's why it is totally unacceptable that there is no total backup solution! The corruption issue so much debated is another proof why a system backup is needed. I need offsite backup of all shared storage, client backups and WHS system settings, so I can get the whole system back up with only the WHS install disks. Some have said that backup of the client PC backups makes no sense. I disagree, due to the risk of fire, flood and the like. I had a PC that died some months ago, luckily after it had been backed up by WHS. I have NOT restored all of it to another PC yet, and don't know if I ever will (can you ever know for sure that you have found every valuable file on a PC?). But keeping the backup of it for some years makes it possible to search for that important piece of data if the need arises. Conclusion: Everything that isn't supplied on the OS/application CD/DVD should be backed up to offsite storage (swapping external disks or over the internet).

     

    Christen

    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 5:59 AM
  • Christen, Power Pack 1 will include the ability to easily back up your shares to external storage.
    Tuesday, May 6, 2008 11:40 AM
    Moderator
  • ...but not the client backups and the WHS config? Why???

     

    I guess I'm not the only one having lost a PC (due to hardware failure, fire, flood, theft or whatever). I don't like to spend days being absolutely sure that I have restored every valuable file to a new PC. The WHS backup of the retired/dead/lost PC doesn't add that much to the overall storage on the WHS (as most files are common with the other clients). I'd like to keep the client backups for several years. It's necessary to put the backup of the client backups offsite to be sure.

     

    Backup of the WHS settings is also important. Why should people be forced to redo much work if it crashes?

     

    Everything but a full backup solution (except the OS and application files already on DVD) is unacceptable in my opinion.

     

    Christen

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 6:04 AM
  • Windows Home Server isn't intended to be used as an archival tool for old PC images, Christen. That's pretty obvious to me. That said, early betas of Power Pack 1 had the ability to back up the backup database. The feature was eventually removed because too many issues were found with that functionality. It may be a part of a future update to Windows Home Server; the team is aware that the community really wants this feature and it's a sensible feature to include. I honestly can't say that it definitely will or won't be, though. In the meantime, the Home Computer Backup technical brief tells you how to back up your backup database manually.

    Backing up the settings for add-ins is something that add-ins can deal with themselves, by using a feature of WHS called an application folder. Creating application folders is documented in the SDK, and saving settings is one of the intended uses. If the author of an add-in chooses to store settings in a non-portable location (such as the registry), I'm disinclined to blame WHS for that, since there's a better way available.

    If you've installed software on your server that isn't an add-in, you are obviously responsible for managing that software yourself. Windows Home Server knows nothing about it.

    Once you've eliminated backups, add-ins and third-party applications, all that's left is the operating system and settings directly related to that (such as users). Those settings typically can't be separated from the operating system itself, so there's no point in trying to back them up. You'd never be able to restore them anyway.

    All of the above is not intended to say that you're wrong to want some additional functionality in this area; it's just to explain the functionality that is there, in case you haven't thought through your needs fully. If you feel strongly about this, I would recommend you go to Connect and either vote for one of the suggestions that's already there, or make a suggestion of your own, if you can't find one that you like.
    Wednesday, May 7, 2008 3:45 PM
    Moderator
  • 1. Archival tool for old PC images isn't what I asked for. I'm just responding to the fact that the client backups are already stored on our WHS. Keeping a few additional backups of older PCs wouldn't add much need for storage, as most files are common among the clients anyway. The reason why I am asking for this, is just the fact that there might be some files from the dead PC that I didn't think of when I restored all I could think of to a new PC. The deeper reason is the way files are stored under Windows. Most home users doesn't know where their Outlook Express emails are stored. So to be able to find them sometime in the future, I think it would be wise to keep the backup for some years (and delete it if free storage becomes an issue). If our house burns down, I don't like the idea of loosing all data. It's obviously wise to keep backups offsite, so that's what I'm asking for - all of it!

    2. I haven't installed any add-ins yet, so I don't know whether they will save files the way the WHS-team have meant. It seems wise to back anything up just in case. As the example with Outlook Express from Microsoft, files are saved in places users don't know about, so backing up everything is the safest.

    3. I can see that I am "responsible" for things, but I'd like the help of the system I've bought. I'm asking for a backup solution, and was thinking that was included with WHS.

    4. Saying that the other settings can't be separated from the OS sounds stupid to me. Is Microsoft saying that to enterprise customers also? When using Windows servers on a network, I'd guess you're not told that you will have to manually recreate all user accounts in the event of a disaster!!??

     

    So I'm looking for a better backup solution. Years of experience with computer systems have told me that we need backup. Never before have so many people tried to convince me into NOT backing up as in this forum. Face reality, admit full backup is necessary and try to make MS develop it ASAP.

     

    Christen

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 1:04 PM
  •  Christen A wrote:
    1. Archival tool for old PC images isn't what I asked for. I'm just responding to the fact that the client backups are already stored on our WHS. Keeping a few additional backups of older PCs wouldn't add much need for storage, as most files are common among the clients anyway. The reason why I am asking for this, is just the fact that there might be some files from the dead PC that I didn't think of when I restored all I could think of to a new PC. The deeper reason is the way files are stored under Windows. Most home users doesn't know where their Outlook Express emails are stored. So to be able to find them sometime in the future, I think it would be wise to keep the backup for some years (and delete it if free storage becomes an issue). If our house burns down, I don't like the idea of loosing all data. It's obviously wise to keep backups offsite, so that's what I'm asking for - all of it!
    You're describing an archival backup strategy; you want to keep backups for an extended period "just in case". Windows Home Server wasn't designed to cover every scenario, just the ones that cause the most pain in day-to-day life, and there are good reasons why I would not recommend relying on it for archival backups, even though in theory you could do so. For one thing, the storage efficiency of the backup engine means that the entire backup database is somewhat fragile. Damage to almost any component of the database will often destroy the entire database.

    Eventually, Microsoft may add the ability to back up the backup database. They have described a way to do so, though it's a manual effort, in the Home Computer Backup technical brief. The feature was intended for Power Pack 1, but was removed because it didn't meet the required quality bar. They are aware that the ability to back up more than just the shares is a high-priority item for the community. (It's not at the top of my list, but it's not far off...)

    All that being said, I'm not trying to convince you not to perform backups. I'm trying to explain the current capabilities and limitations of Windows Home Server, and offer some suggestions as regards workarounds that will allow you to achieve what you're looking for. If you want additional features, I strongly urge you to search for suggestions on Connect and vote, or submit your own suggestions.

    Thursday, May 8, 2008 3:45 PM
    Moderator
  •  Ken Warren wrote:

    For one thing, the storage efficiency of the backup engine means that the entire backup database is somewhat fragile. Damage to almost any component of the database will often destroy the entire database.


    I'm not happy to see this said. If the database is that fragile then maybe it shouldn't be depended on at all.
    Thursday, May 8, 2008 6:36 PM
  • Let me qualify that a little. If you do something which damages a component of your backup database, you may have to delete it. When you start getting database consistency errors showing up in your logs, or backups start to fail due to them, you're getting to that point. That possiblility is why I say that WHS isn't the solution if you want to archive backups for long periods.

    However, I have never had to do reset my backup database, except as a result of something that I did myself which I knew (or should have known) had a chance of causing problems with storage. And I've probably tested the limits of Windows Home Server as much as anyone outside Microsoft. I believe if you use well-chosen hardware (it doesn't have to be expensive) with stable drivers, and don't try to use your server to do everything under the sun, you will likely have a similar track record. In particular, I have never had a database issue on my production server. If I'm going to test something, I do it in a virtual machine first, then on test hardware. (I don't have a ton of stuff installed on my production server; the more software you install on any computer, the more likely you'll have issues with stability.)

    So yes, damage to any component of the backup database is a bad thing. Bear in mind how Microsoft intended WHS to be used, and you won't have a problem. Ignore all the warnings and go wild, and you're responsible for any unpleasant results.
    Friday, May 9, 2008 12:29 AM
    Moderator