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I've currently got an extra PC at home that I'm using as a file and media server. It's running Windows 7 RC4 right now, but I need to upgrade that before it expires, and I've got access to licenses for a bunch of options, but I'm not sure what to go with.

The three main options are:

  • Windows 7 Pro
  • Windows Server 2k8
  • Windows Home Server

The machine needs to share files/media and a printer, but any of the above options should cover that off. I may end up wanting to run a web and database server on the machine as well, but it'd be primarily for hobby use. The machines that will be connecting to it are a mix of Windows 7 and XP (as well as streaming media devices).

I'm not necessarily looking for a definitive answer of one version over another, but what sort of things should I be thinking about when I make my choice? Are there certain things that you'd likely want to do with a home server that would be significantly easier (or conversely, downright impossible) with one version or another?

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migrated from serverfault.com Nov 24 '09 at 21:10

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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Windows Home Server is the way to go. Easy setup, designed for exactly what you are trying to do.

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Drive pooling is wonderful for managing gigabytes of media files. No more wondering "which disk is (name of whatever you're looking for) on?" –  David Nov 24 '09 at 19:00
    
How is it different from RAID5/6 or JBOD on any other system? –  Dentrasi Nov 24 '09 at 21:25
    
Great comparison of RAID vs WHS DE here: fearthecowboy.com/post/… –  GAThrawn Nov 24 '09 at 22:41
    
Think I'll give Home Server a try. It does sound like it does a lot of the stuff I'd want, though I'm hoping it's not missing too much that I've come to like in Windows 7. –  John Price Nov 25 '09 at 21:00
    
I have used Home Server for the last year and will never look back again. My only real problem is running out of space. –  Diago Feb 19 '10 at 22:08

Windows Home Server is awesome as a home server (and I don't mean that ironically or in jest). It is setup out of the box to handle up backing up all of your computers, duplicating your data so it is always on at least two physical drives in the event of a failure (assuming you have multiple drives in the computer), streams to media devices such as the XBOX 360, and is all-around awesome. Download the trial and see if you like it here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/eval.mspx (note... the latest release is coming out today, so the download link temporarily doesn't work... it should be up in a few hours)

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Unless you already have backup handled for the other computers, I would go with Home Server. Server is overkill, and way too expensive.

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Right now I've got sort of an ad-hoc backup system in place using SyncToy and Mozy to mirror and backup specific sets of files. I may end up doing full backup images at some point (but I believe Windows 7 will handle that as well?) but need to invest in some more storage first. I have access to a free license for any of those versions of Windows, so cost isn't an issue for me (though obviously would be in the general case). –  John Price Nov 24 '09 at 18:35

Actually if you had Windows Server 2008 I would install that one since you will get the IIS7 webserver and be able to install SQL Server 2005 or 2008 on it for your hobby based web development. Windows Home Server probably won't let you do those things since it's really designed as a home file server and backup service.

Hope this helps some.

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