Setup: How to replace system drive and how Windows Home Server handles the primary hard drive. RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Instructions at bottom.


    First, some backgrounder information on how the Drive Extender storage system works.

    Windows Home Server, when initially installed on a machine, formats all internal disks.  On the first disk (we call this the primary disk) we create two partitions and format them with NTFS:

    C: (10GB) - used for the system
    D: (the rest) - the "Primary" data partition

    Subsequent disks are formated as one NTFS partition and are known as "secondary disks".

    The primary data partition (the second partition on the primary disk) is special because that is where Drive Extender starts working it's magic from. This is where all "tombstones" are stored. Tombstones are really NTFS reparse points that DE understands. They are tiny files that redirect to one or two "shadows".  The shadows are where your data really is, and shadows always exist on partitions other than the primary.  If duplication is on for a shared folder there will be 2 shadows. If duplication is off there will be 1.

    Any-hoo, during server setup (booting from the setup DVD) you are asked if you want to "New Installation" or "Server Reinstallation".

    If you choose Server Reinstallation we will re-install the OS on the first partition of your primary (first drive), but will not touch the second (the primary data) partition if it is already there (if it is not there because it is a new disk it will be created).  In this "Server Reinstallation" mode, setup will also NOT format any other disks (internal or external)…it just leaves them alone.

    Near the end of the setup process something we call “RebuildPrimary” will execute which goes through all of the secondary drives and rebuild all the tombstones that should be on the primary (but aren’t because it’s a new drive).  It turns out that in Beta 2 RebuildPrimary is invoked regardless of whether the primary needs rebuilding or not…we’ll address this later. 


    • We do not duplicate the backup database. The backup database should be preserved across a Server Reinstallation.
    • You must have duplication on for the data you care about to guarantee that you do not loose data in this process.
    • You must make sure that the duplication process has completed.
    • RebuildPrimary can take A LONG time because it has to look at EVERY file on the secondary drives and determine whether there is a tombstone for it or not, and create one if needed. 
    • After the process is complete you will lose all user account data, add-ins and other settings on your server. You will have to use the Home Server Console to re-create all of your user accounts. You will also have to re-set permissions on all your shared folders.

    Summary of instructions:

    1. Primay disk fails (or you want to replace it with a bigger one)
    2. Shut the system down, yankout the drive and put the new drive in
    3. Boot the system from the Windows Home Server setup DVD
    4. When it asks what kind of installation you want choose "Server Reinstallation"
    5. We will re-create the 20GB system partition as well as the primary data partition
    6. Drive extender will do what we call a "RebuildPrimary"
    7. When done you will have to re-create user accounts in the console, re-setup Remote Access, re-install and setup add-ins, and reconfigure any other setting change you may have done. 


    Thursday, February 22, 2007 5:47 PM

All replies

  • Hi Joel

    Nice FAQ. During an upgrade of Primary (system) disk, would it be possible to Ghost/Acronis or any of the disk imaging programs to replace the hard drive?

    Thursday, February 22, 2007 7:51 PM
  • Also, the system drive replacement does not have to be the same size, speed, or connection type as the original.  It does have to be the primary drive as noted in the BIOS enumerator.
    Thursday, February 22, 2007 11:56 PM
  • Joel,

    Thanks for the info.  When we get the next drop, will upgrade from beta 2 be supported?  I've copied (thankfully not moved!) about 100Gb of Music, and 800Gb of Recorded TV onto the WHS box, so I'm just wondering if I'll have to copy it all back again or not.



    Friday, February 23, 2007 4:18 PM
  • I don't get the option to upgrade - just new installation when I follow these steps. I replaced the original boot disk back in and booted off the dvd drive and get the upgrade installation option but a brand new disk does not have upgrade option available.
    Saturday, February 24, 2007 4:50 PM
  • Thanks for the information.

    I just followed your steps for a primary hard drive failure.

    I have all of my shares back but all of the files are 0 bytes.  So what do I do now?

    Saturday, February 24, 2007 11:35 PM
  • I am doing this right now and one minor thing I noticed was that it didn't say "Upgade". The option was "New installation" and "Recovery".

    rgds /Bjarne

    Friday, March 2, 2007 10:36 PM
  • OK I can confirm that it takes a loooong time too rebuild primary but now I have a 250GB instead of the old 160GB. I did this mostly as a test.

    Some strange things:

    When looking at the Shared Folders in the console they are all empty but one (Software) but checking in the explorer it looks like all the files is there in correct directory. So the console reports a lot of free space.

    I have lost my backups.

    I needed to reinstall the Connector Software on the clients again. The originally installed didn't find the server.


    All for now...



    Saturday, March 3, 2007 2:37 PM
  • What happens if the Primary DATA partition becomes corrupt and you have to restore?  Can you restore from within WHS using some command?
    Sunday, March 4, 2007 5:26 PM
  • OK I now understand that this is a moderated thread but I will just finish my concerns...

    All the files that I believed was there but not using any space in the console was due to the fact that they was of zero lenght :-(

    So when replacing the primary drive I lost all files... Bug?


    Sunday, March 4, 2007 5:40 PM
  • I do not get the option to Upgrade.

    My Primary Master is an 80 gig, where WHS was installed initially.

    My Secondary Master is a 120 gig, part of the storage pool. I also have 3 drives of varying size located on an add-in IDE controller.

    I am unable to choose the "Upgrade" option, and my WHS had a catastrophic file failure due to my own stupidity.

    I have replaced the 80 gig with a spare 80 gig that is completely blank. Nothing on it whatsoever.

    The data on the storage pool is not critical, but I would rather not lose it, as I have a lot of it.

    Thursday, March 8, 2007 12:50 AM
  • I installed Windows Home Server on a PC with only a single 200GB PATA hard drive.  I have ordered a new Hitachi 400GB PATA drive that I want to add.  So far I'm only using 37GB of storage on the 200GB drive.  So I think this is the strategy that I use to upgrade the primary hard drive to 400GB and make the 200GB one the secondary:
    1. Install an old 40GB HDD that I have laying around as the second drive.
    2. Pull out the 200GB drive and replace it with the 400GB drive.
    3. Follow the steps that you outlined in your post.
    4. Pull the 40GB drive and replace it with the 200GB drive (Will this drive be automatically formatted and rebuilt?)
    If it's too much trouble, I can just put the 200GB as the slave, the 400GB as master, and reinstall Windows Home Server again and re-backup.

    Thanks for any advice.
    Thursday, March 8, 2007 4:04 AM
  • Joel, I am about to replace my primary drive (250GB SATA-II) with a 500GB SATA-II using a ugrade install of MHS

    In the instructions you gave I am assuming that at the same time as plugging in the 500GB drive I also plug in the original 250GB drive as this is where the tombstones are located and are moved from during Drive extender RebuildPrimary?

    Does this reinstall also remove the original 10GB partition on the 250GB drive?

    I understand that backups are lost, but, although you dont state it specifically , I assume that files within the shared folders are maintained on the original 250GB drive?

    Thanks for the help.


    Monday, March 19, 2007 12:15 PM
  • "The shadows are where your data really is, and shadows always exist on partitions other than the primary."

    If this is true, then how is the data being duplicated on a two drive system?
    Monday, March 26, 2007 10:10 PM
  • Joel,

    Excellent description and post. Helps a lot as thats what I have to do right now since my WHS web login quit working for me. Tried a few other fixes, but since it was working before I feel a clean reinstall will bring it back.


    The real reson for my reply is to ask if their has been any thought to add the System Restore function from XP and Vista into the server. I've done this to a number of Windows 2003 servers and it works very well 99% of the time. Excellent for rolling back any changes that mess up the system and would be very easy for a home user (mom & pop) to use. Shouldn't have to recreate all the users and seems like it would be a lot faster (doesn't apply if you are changing or increaseing the system drive). Anyway, I'll try to set it up next time so I don't have to go through the reload/upgrade process again.


    Thanks again. 

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 3:50 AM