Windows Home Server : Admin Console Drive-By

3/14/2012 5:43:44 PM
You can launch the Windows Home Server Console from the Windows Home Server Connector icon in the taskbar notification area. (Remember that Windows 7 will hide this icon under "Show hidden icons" by default.) This icon is a colored square with a white home on it. The color of the icon relates to the overall health of your home network and home server: green is healthy, yellow indicates a warning, and red means something is very wrong.

The Windows Home Server Console, shown in Figure 1, is a unique application running remotely on the server. It's an odd little application.

You log on to the console with the Windows Home Server password you configured during initial setup. Once the (overly lengthy) logon process completes, you'll be presented with the UI shown in Figure 2. From here, you can manage and configure the various features of the Windows Home Server.

On a standard Windows Home Server install, you'll see a very simple interface with tabs at the top titled Computers & Backup, User Accounts, Shared Folders, and Server Storage. There's also a Network Healthy shield icon and links for settings and help.


Companies that sell prebuilt Windows Home Server solutions, like HP, often include other tabs in this interface. These tabs expose functionality that is unique to those products.

Figure 1. The Windows Home Server Console logon interface

Figure 2. The Windows Home Server Console presents a simple, multi-tabbed user interface.

The following sections describe what's available in every Windows Home Server Console user interface, regardless of how you obtained the server.

1. Computers & Backup

From this tab, you manage the computers connected to Windows Home Server (that is, the systems on which you've installed the Windows Home Server Connector software). A connected PC is one that will be completely backed up to the server by default, but you can configure this at the drive level. For example, you might want to back up only one hard drive on the system regularly, but not the other. By default, Windows Home Server will back up individual PCs overnight.

To configure backups on a PC-by-PC basis, navigate to the Computers & Backup interface in the Windows Home Server Console, right-click the PC you'd like to manage, and choose Configure Backup. The Backup Configuration Wizard shown in Figure 3 will appear, enabling you to choose which disks to back up and other details related to the process.

You can manually trigger a backup from the Connector tray icon on the client PC (as shown in Figure 4) or from within this interface. (Using the tray is much faster than waiting for the admin console to load, of course.) You can even trigger backups from other PCs if you'd like. Remember: Windows Home Server is all about central management of your PCs, so you're free to trigger backups and other activities from any PC that has access to the Windows Home Server Console.

Figure 3. The Backup Configuration Wizard

Figure 4. You can also trigger backups from the Windows Home Server Connector tray icon on your PC.

2. User Accounts

In the User Accounts tab, you can create user accounts that allow individuals to access various features of the server. By default, there is a guest account (disabled), but you will typically create accounts that map to accounts on the PCs you use, and thus to people in your home. For example, Paul created a paul account, assigned it a complex password (required in Windows Home Server by default), and gave it Full access to all shared folders (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Individual user accounts are configured via a simple dialog.

If you want to provide remote access, you need an even more complex password; and you can, of course, specify which users can access which shared folders (described in the next section). That way, your children, for example, could have access to certain shared folders but not others that you want to keep private.

3. Shared Folders

Here you'll see all of the shared folders that are configured on the server, along with a simple Duplication option for each. This option specifies whether data in that folder is copied to two hard disks for reliability purposes. (Note that you must have at least two physical hard disk drives in the server to access this feature.) You can add and configure shares from here and determine access rights on a user-by-user basis. The Shared Folders tab is shown in Figure 6.

4. Server Storage

This section of the Windows Home Server user interface lists all of the hard drives currently attached to your server, whether or not they're configured for use by the server, and other related information, as shown in Figure 7. You can add new storage to the server here or repair a hard drive that's encountering errors. (When this happens, you'll see a health alert in the Windows Home Server Connector tray icon on each connected PC.) You can also remove a hard drive using this interface if necessary.

Figure 6. This interface is a front end to all of the shared folders on the server.

Figure 7. Server Storage shows which drives are configured for use with the server and how storage is allocated.

What you can't do in Windows Home Server is specify where files will be stored. This is handled automatically by Windows Home Server. All you do is create shares, determine whether they're duplicated across disks, and then copy files to that location. In the Server Storage tab, the only thing you can do with a healthy disk is choose to remove it. Simple, right?

5. Settings

The inconspicuous little Settings link in the upper-right corner of the Windows Home Server Console opens the most complex UI you'll see here, as shown in Figure 8—a Settings dialog with eight sections by default, though preinstalled versions of the server may have more.

Figure 8. The most complex UI in Windows Home Server is accessed via an almost hidden link.

Default sections in the Settings dialog include the following:

  • General: Configure date and time, region, Windows Update, and other basic settings.

  • Backup: Configure various default settings related to PC backups, including the backup time window (12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. by default); how much time to retain monthly, weekly, and daily backups; and so on.

  • Passwords: Windows Home Server requires very strong passwords by default, because malicious hackers accessing the server over the Web could gain control over the system, and thus over all of your valuable files and, potentially, other PCs on your network if they were able to brute-force attack their way past a weak password. That said, you can change the password policy here if desired. We don't recommend it.

  • Windows Media Center: New to PP2, Windows Home Server can automatically configure Windows Media Center on your connected PCs to "see" the media shares on your home server. There's no interface to the Windows Media Center tab in Windows Home Server Settings per se, but rather some information about the update. But when you run Windows Media Center on a connected PC for the first time, you'll see the prompt shown in Figure 9. Click OK to install the Windows Media Center Connector.

    Figure 9. Windows Home Server includes Windows Media Center Connector software that provides a seamless interface between the content on your home server and Microsoft's premier digital media solution.
  • Media Sharing: Windows Home Server can share digital media files via default Music, Photos, and Videos shared folders. This interface uses standard Windows Media Connect technology to do so, so if you enable this sharing, PCs and compatible devices on your network (e.g., an Xbox 360 or other Windows-compatible digital media receivers) will "see" the Home Server shares and be able to access that content over the network.

  • Remote Access: In this important and sometimes confusing section, shown in Figure 10, you can turn on the Home Server's Web server, configure your home router for remote access and Web serving, and configure your custom domain name (

  • Add-ins: Here, you can install or uninstall any Windows Home Server add-ins.


    Microsoft maintains a list of Windows Home Server add-ins on its Web site ( but there's a better list on the Home Server plus Web site (

  • Resources: This last section acts as an About box for Windows Home Server.

  • Other settings: Depending on how you acquired your Windows Home Server, you may see other settings listed in this dialog. For example, the HP MediaSmart Servers we use have additional settings that are unique to HP's hardware; and some Windows Home Server add-ins place their own link here as well.

Figure 10. Remote Access is a bit of a black art, but Windows Home Server will try to automatically configure your router.
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