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Has anyone out there run Windows Home Server for a while? I'm building a NAS box and I'm wondering if its features are compelling enough to warrant purchasing rather than the open source alternatives (ie, FreeNAS, OpenFiler)

Also share if you have any issues accessing from non-NTFS sources, Mac, Linux, etc.

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If your running a mainly Windows network, I say go for it. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 16 '09 at 5:04
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If only those wonderful HP home servers were available here (Switzerland)...... I still don't understand why companies still (in this day of global economies) stifle certain regions of the world by not bringing their products there...... –  marc_s Jul 20 '09 at 11:22
    
Retagged per: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11543/… –  Bob King Aug 3 '09 at 13:21

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I've been using WHS for over a year now, having first built a WHS server for my parents, before building one for myself.

The first benefit of WHS for me has been the automated backup of PCs joined to the server. Shortly after I built my server, the hard drive in my old Vista x64 box gave up the ghost completely. All it took to get it back was putting in a new hard drive, booting off the WHS recovery disk, supplying credentials to the WHS and then waiting for it to restore over the network.

As mentioned by David Frautnick, there is a growing community of developers creating new add-ins for WHS, for a good listing of the wide range of add-ins and other WHS related topics, have a look at We Got Served

Another benefit I completely forgot about is that any music/photos/videos you put in the shared folders are accessible from DLNA clients, i.e. networked AV receivers - means you don't need a computer in the living room to listen to your music stored on your server.

And another thing, with a WHS server, you can also sign up for a .homeserver.com subdomain via which you can remotely access your home server and remotely control any PCs connected to the WHS server (if they're on of course).

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I'm sold, thanks, demo-ing now. –  hyperslug Jul 29 '09 at 0:55

I've been running both FreeNAS and WHS (the 2003 version) for some time now. I would strongly advise against WHS for new customers, as Microsoft has removed the most compelling features, the ability to seamlessly add storage at any time, and the automated data duplication. If you need a remote access gateway to your home PCs, then get the least-expensive WHS box you can. For everything else, FreeNAS is going to serve you well (including shared documents; how hard can it be to set up your documents folder to \freenasserver\shares\documents after all, if you know how to build a network?).

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Nothing has been taken away from WHS v1, it's still just as great a product this week as it was a month ago. It may look like MS are ruining WHS v2, but that really doesn't matter when they've already committed to keep v1 in mainstream support until 2013. –  GAThrawn Dec 1 '10 at 21:03

One of the overlooked advantages of WHS machines is the exceptional flexibility, even beyond add-ins. While it's not supported by any of the WHS hardware vendors (that I'm aware of), you can remote desktop into a WHS box and you essentially have a full Windows Server 2003 environment to work with (taking into account memory and processor restrictions with your particular hardware). On my MediaSmart, I'm running the Windows Server DHCP server, some automatic disk cataloging software, and even a Linux virtual machine with VMware Server.

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Interesting, like having Server 2k3 without the price. I just read that it supports IIS6. Any experience with that? –  hyperslug Jul 24 '09 at 1:46
    
Yes, I've only used the FTP server from IIS6, but it's there. –  arathorn Jul 24 '09 at 1:50

OpenFiler is a great product, but I would highly not recommend it for the average home user. It isn't going to work how you expect, it will require much more configuration and it doesn't support "home" user features. It is made to be an enterprise level NAS -- that's all.

FreeNAS is easier to configure than OpenFiler. If all you really want is NAS, I say go for it, it will completely meet your needs. There are also other free NAS solutions, but really OpenFiler and FreeNAS seem to be the best.

If you want more of a server and NAS type of deal where you can install some more software and have it act as more than a NAS, I'd probably go with WHS. That is not to say you can't install software on FreeNAS, you can, but that doesn't align with the goals of the FreeNAS project.

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I'm running WHS specifically for the automatic backup. I haven't seen another solution that is smart enough to back up files once that exist on multiple machines. I have a 1TB drive backing up six computers, which is pretty near capacity so I'm not able to do much in the way of shared files, but it's easier to remember that shared documents are on the server instead of trying to remember which shared docs folder on which computer has the file I need.

I've restored computers using WHS twice now. The first time was not fun (had to isolate the workstation and server on their own dedicated network with a spare router), but the second time worked like a charm. In one hour I was back up and running.

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I have been using WHS for over a year now and I really like this product. I use it as a media server to store all of my movies, music, and pictures. I have several Xbox 360s that I connect to my WHS to view and listen to all of my media content. The built-in backup feature of WHS is also quite handy as I've had to restore files on several computers. I also run my home automation software (HomeSeer) from my WHS. It really has become the hub of my house. Another compelling feature is the plug-in capability for WHS. There is a growing community of developers for WHS plug-ins that do numerous things, such as cataloging your media, performing offsite backups, and a plugin to allow you to view WHS content on your Tivo. I would argue that this product is one of the bright spots in the Microsoft catalog.

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