What is Home Server Recovery, what happens if the C: drive physically breaks? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Windows Home Server Recovery

    Hey everyone, our recovery solution has generated a few questions that I hope to help answer.  Many thanks to Tom for alerting me to the confusion J  Please reply if I’ve missed something or if you need clarification.

    Because Windows Home Server (WHS) doesn’t have a keyboard or monitor recovering the C: volume from forgotten passwords, broken media, or (in my case J) serious user error involved.  Our users won’t be able to press DEL during boot up and reload off DVD.  In fact, WHS won’t even have a DVD in most cases!

    We needed a solution where recovering a working C: volume would be understandable to our end users while remaining robust enough to handle physical media failure.  Our solution was to take an “image” of a freshly sysprep’ed (http://oem.microsoft.com/script/sites/public/sysprep.htm) install and ask our partners to pace this image on a DVD.

    The basic idea behind sysprep is to remove all install/machine information specific about machine, to preserve installed software, and then to shutdown.  Once shutdown the hard disk can be cloned and used on multiple computers using disk cloning hardware or in our case the WHS Recovery software.  Once the machine boots it will be assigned unique information and will need to be activated.  The cool part for OEM’s / System Builders is that once booted it will still have all installed software and settings that were present at sysprep time.

    What is the end user scenario look like?
    First, hopefully, few people will be in this situation as some settings/configuration may be lost.  Recovery looks like the following:

    1.       Shut down server  

    2.       Push button on the front of the device

    3.       Power on & wait 5 minutes or so

    4.       From a client computer run the OEM’s Recovery UI to reimage the C: volume to its original factory state

    5.       Reboot and notice that all add-ins are uninstalled but data remains

    Users will run recovery should the server password be forgotten, the disk fails, or major software errors have occurred.  After recovery any settings not made at sysprep will be lost however WHS will do it’s best to recover data located on the D: volume. What this means is the machine will boot into a fresh WHS install while restoring files left in shares as well as the backup database.

    Any software that was installed after sysprep (for example extensions and plugins) will have to be reinstalled – typically I’ve found this is easy as the \software share will remain and therefore reinstallation is as easy as going into the Add-In tab on the WHS console.

    System Builder / OEM Tips:

    ·         When building additions please keep data in the Application Folders (via the SDK)

    ·         Please make sure your additions operate properly in the event one or more of their configuration files turn up missing,  this can happen if multiple disks fail

    ·         Please don’t put binaries (exe/jar/dlls) in an Application Folder – the application folder may or may not be present after a recovery,  if multiple disks broke this could be the case

    I hope this clarifies what our recovery software does – if not please feel free to ask for clarification Smile

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 8:52 PM

All replies

  • Why not RAID-1? (drive mirroring)

    This one was a tough us on the WHS team, we struggled in our first Beta (it used RAID-1 on the primary volume)– from where I’m sitting RAID-1 mirroring rules, it’s easy to configure & understand, and it beautifully handles physical disk failure.

    The problem with RAID-1 in a headless machine is it won’t handle forgotten user passwords, broken settings, or multi disk failures.   We’d still need a headless recovery story. 

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 9:00 PM
  • Thanks for clarifying, Chris.


    So, if an OEM adds additional packages/customizations "in the box", do I read the above as stating that the OEM is responsible for creating a new sysprep image (== "stock" WHS + any OEM enhancements) and ship copies of THAT with the hardware?


    As an example: suppose part of my value-add for my WHS systems is that I pre-install and configure SharePoint so that home users can have a richer per-user web site.  Maybe I add some custom SharePoint themes, throw in some other add-ins, etc.  Can I/should I/must I then make a sysprep image from my "golden install" and ship that with my product?


    Or, is it your expectation that the "real" recovery image is what OEMs will ship, and any/all add-ins and customizations OEMs do will be in the form of packages that can be added in using the GUI?  If that is the case, it severely limits the kinds of customizations you can make within that framework... SharePoint, for example, would make one big mother "add-in"...




    Wednesday, June 13, 2007 11:41 PM
  • Hey Tom,  you're correct - you install on a computer similar to what you'll be selling as an OEM/System Builder.  You then install WHS and then install any software that is included in your bundle.  Once you're done you make a sysprep'ed image for cloning onto the machines in your factory (or at your store if you're a System Builder).  Take that image and burn it onto DVD for distribution to your customer,  if they have a problem they reimage and your apps will be reinstalled


    note that installing software before sysprep is optional,  but as an OEM shipping a headless machine you must make the syspreped image (else your users will be in trouble if the primary disk broke)  Smile


    make sense?




    Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:26 AM
  •  Chris Gray (WHS Team @ MSFT) wrote:

    Once you're done you make a sysprep'ed image for cloning onto the machines in your factory (or at your store if you're a System Builder).  Take that image and burn it onto DVD for distribution to your customer,


    Is Microsoft changing the rules about recovery media or is this WHS specific? I was informed that System Builders were not permitted to create external recovery media for their customers.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:47 PM
  • I've followed the OEM OPK instructions and now have a syspreped patition.table and volume.image files for by base install on the Intel headless server but I'm having trouble building the recovery application. We didn't do any updates or add applications pre image just kept it at power pack one and added the msi's to the add-in folder.

    Does Microsoft have a generic preconfigured DVD image that system builders can bundle with their image.  Or do I have to configure the WHS_RESTORE_DLL.DLL to get this to work?
    Friday, May 15, 2009 9:17 AM
  • Martyn, as far as I know you (as the system builder) are responsible for building the recovery disk, including any required configuration. If you're using the Intel box, though, doesn't Intel have any guidelines for this? I'm pretty sure that the box will support it. (I don't have one, so don't know for sure.)
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Friday, May 15, 2009 3:51 PM
  • > I'm having trouble building the recovery application

    What kind of issues are you having?
    Monday, May 18, 2009 11:26 PM
  • Basically no idea where to start or how involved it has to be.  If I could find some sort of referance application to build from that would be ideal as it is the basic image with no customisation.  Once it's working we can build up from there.
    Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:44 AM
  • Thanks for this very usefull information.
    I wonder, can this procedure also be used to replace the primary disk with a new and bigger one safely, before a disaster happens?
    If so, that would also be a very good side effect. :-)


    Sunday, August 8, 2010 9:38 PM
  • Yes.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, August 9, 2010 12:38 AM
  • Ever get a reply on this?
    Wednesday, October 19, 2011 1:33 AM