Mailbag 9th November 2010

  • Streaming Video, Music & Pictures from Windows Home Server
  • Home Media Server
  • Failing System Drive on Windows Home Server

It’s always difficult giving advice, but when giving advice, knowing someone is actually going to make a purchase based on my recommendation is always something that is unnerving! I would hate someone to make a purchase based on my recommendation, only to find it doesn’t fit their needs.

Personal judgement is strongly advised, if you have 500 DVD’s you are planning on archiving on your Windows Home Server, then a 1TB  hard drive isn’t going to suffice, think about what resources are essential to your needs and what you are going to utilise, plan for that and try and future proof at the same time. There is no point in getting 6 months down the line, only to find you need to spend more money on replacing something you should have planned better for initially.

The recommended specification below is something I would recommend to many average users; this is solely based on my personal experience with many users, which usually more than covers the use of an average family/household.

I am always interested to hear what hardware other users are actually using; leaving your comments below would be much appreciated.

Have a question or problem?
I can’t guarantee an answer, but I’ll try. Click “ask a question” above!

Streaming Video, Music & Pictures from Windows Home Server

Robert Asks:

What do I need in order to stream video/photos/music from WHS to my TV’s?

Many people are asking me this same question a lot recently and I am surprised if I am honest. The solution is either of two options, both of which have been in the marketplace for some time now, both has not been marketed very well to the masses.

You can stream media content via using a Windows Media Centre PC connected to your TV; the integration with Windows Home Server is now second to none, once you have setup the Windows Media Centre PC and installed the WHS console you will be able to play your movies, music and pictures direct on your TV.

Any PC running Windows Vista and above has the Windows Media Centre so

ftware installed as standard, just go to Start >> All Programs >> Windows Media Centre. If you install a TV/Capture Card with Freeview capabilities in to the PC, you will be able to watch TV directly though the PC, if you purchase a TV card with multiple TV tunners, you will be able to pause and record live TV.

A great source of information about Windows Media Centre is TheGreenButton.com; there you will be able to get advice on the right TV card for you.

The other option I mentioned is to use a media streamer; this is not as feature rich as the Media Centre but still very similar. The main features you don’t tend to get on media streamers are TV Cards/Tunners; basically it will give you the option of streaming movies, music and pictures via a wired or wireless connection.

Some media streamers have the capabilities of an inbuilt hard drive to store media on or you can plugin a USB hard drive; the one I can really recommend at the moment is from Western Digital called WD TV Live Plus you can find it here, it has a great range of file format support plus you can listen to almost any radio station using Live365, which is directly integrated.

Home Media Server

Dean Asks:

I’m thinking of installing a Windows Home Server, but impartial advice is hard to find.
Can you help, please?

This is a very good question, I get asked it regularly and the only thing I can say is “Horses for Courses” what might be ideal for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ideal for another. So I am going to give you the ideal average home server, based on my experiences with many users.

There are a few things that need to be taken in to account when planning a Windows Home Server build. I always try to keep in mind the main features at the behest of WHS, such as;

  1. Centralised Storage
  2. Individual Backups
  3. Remote Access
  4. Media Server

WHS centralised storage essentially means it will store and share all your videos, music and pictures efficiently as and when requested. For me this means the more storage the better and that means large hard drives. Many WHS builds have the ability to hold between 4 -6 hard drives including the system drive, most average users would suffice with 3 x 2TB hard drives.

Individual backups, again is all about storage and the more the better!

Remote access really only needs a good internet connection (which generally means it’s out of your hands).

Media Server can mean very different things when it comes to WHS. You could use specific addins to archive your entire CD and DVD collection; you could use addins to stream videos, music and pictures over the internet.

My ideal hardware would for an average WHS would be;

Processor – Atom 1.6GHz
Memory – 2GB
Storage – 3 x 2TB
Network Card – 1Gbps

Whichever use you make of it Windows Home Server can handle it.

Failing System Drive on Windows Home Server

Frank Asks:

I am starting to get warnings on my Windows Home Server home-build. An error is reported for the system drive about once a week. Repair is recommended with the caution that data loss may occur.

I have been performing the repair from the console and so far haven’t seen any problems. Any suggestions on how to tell what is causing this, how to fix it, or how to replace the system drive?

Failing System DriveThis is a real pain when these kinds of errors start, especially when it happens on your system drive. After having an email conversation with frank, I am aware that this problem has reoccurred and he has gone down the road of changing the system drive by following a post I did a couple of weeks ago, over at mediasmartserver.net with Alex Kuretz, you can check out my last post about this here.

Have a question or problem?
I can’t guarantee an answer, but I’ll try. Click “ask a question” above!

Written by
Matthew Glover

www.lpower.co.uk | Quality Laptop Batteries, 30 Day Money Back Guarantee, 12 Month Warranty.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Magnus says:

    How about the Xbox 360? Can’t it be used as a TV connected device that you can stream content to from WHS?

    • Yes the Xbox 360 would work as a connected device to the TV but would not give the luxury of recorded TV with Windows Home Server alone, you also would be able to stream Videos, Music and Pictures to the Xbox 360.

  2. Scott says:

    I was also having the failing system drive for quite a while. I looked in Event Viewer and found system errors pointing to the hard drive having a bad block. I installed the Home Server SMART addin and found that indeed, I had a read errors and blocks pending remapping. I had a spare drive of the same capacity and followed http://www.mediasmartserver.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=6826 to replace it without losing anything. Now my WHS is chugging along like nothing ever happened.

    • Holt says:

      Same thing happened to me with the 1.5 EADS-00P8B0 WD Green drive. Drive was operating at dial up speeds. No warnings from the console or the automatic checkdisk. Looked at the event viewer and saw where the OS recognized it was failing. Manual checkdisk and test with WD tools verified bad sectors. Home Server SMART showed this too. Took almost a week to let system copy data to replacement drive. You can’t trust that the console will actually warn you like it is supposed to. Maybe a weakness of the older server code base or the connector built on top of it. You have to know your system if it is a home build and use your judgment for failing Hard Drives, memory or any other component. Good test tools go a long way.

  3. […] is very similar to a question from Dean in the Mailbag last month, he wanted some impartial advice on purchasing a new Windows Home Server and what would be the best […]

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