back to article HP MediaSmart Server EX490

Beyond the entry level market for NAS (network attached storage) there is the kind of buyer who has big server requirements within a small operation, and thinks they might get a great deal bigger later on. That's who HP's MediaSmart Server EX490 is aimed at. HP MediaSmart Server EX490 HP's MediaSmart Server EX490: looks …


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  1. christech81
    Thumb Up

    Missing details

    The server is extremely quiet and can be situated in a living room (mine is).

    The server is powerful unlike most NAS which use underpowered atom or custom processors.

    The data exchange rate is very good, expansion capabilites are excellent.

    The supplied software is very good and on the whole easy to configure, documentation is good too. The iPhone app is a bit slow and in some circumstances some extra tweaking of the configuration will help to keep it more stable.

    Internet access is easily achieved by signing up to a dynamic DNS provider (HP have some pre-set TLD names to choose from).

    Product has been around for a while and there is a more powerful specification available in the UK, the X510.

    Overall this is an excellent product and recommended.

    1. dogged

      Perhaps you can tell me

      Does the OS sit on firmware or HDD?

      If, purely for the sake of a theoretical situation, I were to get one of these, nuke the HDD and put linux on it, would that bother it unduly?

      Are there any weird and wonderful hardware drivers involved?

  2. mickm

    To save time!

    Why bother it runs windows, I can do it for 50p with a second hand machine and some free crap.

    Why bother making it compatible with Apple stuff its too expensive and only used by muppets.

    An Iphone, no wonder it doesn't work, its because of the antenna don't you know

  3. Mike Wood
    Thumb Up

    HP EX475 & EX490

    I have been using the EX475 and it can currently hold 17tb of Data, cant say anything bad, has recovered numerous files that have been deleted and even rescued a dead system Love it, but review is a bit late as there is a new WHS out later this year and the business version will have Active Directory built in.

  4. Annihilator Silver badge

    Oh FFS

    Yet another pretend NAS, with it's OS installed on the pretend proprietary data array (not RAID, because using a standard would be silly of course).

    1. Tim Hale 1

      FFS Indeed

      It's only a pretend NAS if a file server is a pretend NAS.

      The OS isn't installed on an array, proprietary or otherwise.

      And finally, the Drive Extender has a number of advantages over regular RAID, though it does have some disadvantages too.

      But why is this just being reviewed now when it was released at the tail end of last year? This is a good machine but I'm looking for it's successor!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intel celeron?

    I'm sure it's plenty good for this, but I thought intel had discontinued it. I had that in my 1st PC in 1997.

    1. Nexox Enigma

      Celeron Indeed

      Intel never lets a brand die - which is why you can still purchase Celeron, Pentium, Core 2, i3, i5, and i7 chips, and that's just their desktop range. If you include their various laptop and server brand names, the list becomes truely epic.

  6. rasmithuk


    'For this, you will need two or four identical drives'

    This is not required on Windows Home Server, only that you have sufficient space to store a duplicate somewhere. The disks you use can be any size you want.

  7. Brian
    Thumb Up


    Like the other commenters, I love this thing. You can't do what this box does in a free solution. You get backup deduping and bare metal restores that are rock solid. I had a drive loss on a RAID 0 set over the weekend. Bought a new drive, did a restore and I was back up in a few hours.

    I also agree with the first poster that a lot of the remote access funtionality was left out. It is also a terminal server gateway, so you can Remote into any RDP capable system from anywhere.

    The drive pooling is works great too.. there's no performance benefits to multiple disks, but for large cheap storage it works great. I'm at 12TB.. The early boxes EX475 and the newer boxes EX495 support SATA mutipliers, so an external drive cage via ESata port is also an option for expansion.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    le grumble

    This was looking promising until the WInders part. I don't have any 'doze anymore, and wouldn't want to pirate some just for this. A shame, looks like a nice unit, otherwise.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Great bit of kit

    I've had an EX470 which was an earlier version with a little less processing power and ram. I threw in a 1GB stick and its been fine since.

    In respect of some of the other comments though, its method of drive pooling (and per share configured file duplication if you want it) is not as good as raid in some senses but this is a home server and it does allow you to use whatever drives you have spare. Another upside is each drive is readable in its own right and should your server get trashed you can plug a drive into any windows box and access the files, although this will be lost in the upcoming version of WHS which uses a new filesystem instead of NTFS. Also the OS and all configuration sits on the first drive. You can upgrade it but if you plan to do so i recommend replacing it before you start loading data onto the server.

    You probably could put Linux on this but its a headless server there is no monitor connection unless you look up the hacked together cables that some people have made. Its built/rebuilt via a network enabled imaging package. This might cause you some difficulty in actually getting Linux on there or troubleshooting it if you have an issue

    Pros: You can run windows services off it, I have mine configured as a shared print server, bind DNS server (because ISP dns servers are flakey), Teamspeak3 server for gaming, it also runs uTorrent and i've even put a dedicated game server or two on there at times. HP also build there hardware to be friendly to being taken apart and dont invalidate your warrantee if you want to upgrade the RAM. I bought mine as an ex-display with no drives, drivetrays, cables and no software. I had my own spare drives and cables and HP sent me out drive trays and software for free. The remote access works great if you make sure your router is forwarding the ports correctly


    Its features list being able to stream your video files but this is not done via on-the-fly conversion. Instead it runs a video converter that will create streamable copies using up additional space. It does this by default for your entire video library which is downright annoying. Also the media sharing options are a bit all over the place. Itunes/Windows Media/Inbuilt uPnP media server are configured separately and the windows media network sharing service is just a horrible performance killer

    Overall though, its a cut down windows server and that has advantages. Disable the stuff you dont like and enjoy the fact that your high powered gaming rig doesnt need to be online all night for the sake of some low speed downloads that you want to leave running, Not to mention offloading your storage onto one of these means you dont need masses of storage on your PC and can switch to SSD disks

  10. Mark 65


    Scan has a QNAP 419P for £405 and a 1TB drive for £48. For that you get a proper NAS with RAID 0,1,5,6,5+SPARE or JBOD, DLNA server, bittorrent/ftp/http downloader, iSCSI, iTunes server...the list goes on.

    The HP looks OK but, when you consider that it requires a windows machine to setup and runs home server, the price should be a hell of a lot less.

  11. xj25vm

    I see ...

    ... just what the world needed. Another NAS/file server product, based on proprietary protocols and standards. My question is - if that motherboard dies - can you just pull out the hard disk(s), plug it/them into a 'normal' computer and extract your data - or you're stuffed because of their proprietary RAID-like (but-not-really-RAID) format? And please don't suggest buying another one of these to solve your problem - because in few years time there might not be one for sale (or a follow-up/compatible model), the line might have been discontinued etc.

    Also, even if (theoretically) you can extract the data - I assume you wouldn't be able to just plug the hard-disk(s) into another proprietary NAS from another manufacturer and be on your way in 15 minutes with minimum re-configuration (like you would be if you ran a Linux RAID box, for example). You would have to sit and wait while everything is being copied over, then go through re-configuring your new (and different) NAS product all over again.

    OK, I'll grant you that for those who don't want to get their hands dirty with configuration files and real RAID - it is less technical to use (until you run into real trouble). But please, do make the point that going down the route of a Linux (or some other *NIX) RAID system based on regular/commodity hardware of some sort has the advantage of a much broader compatibility and flexibility - and quicker recovery time in case of (specially) hardware failure.

    1. Brian

      Not so proprietary..

      The reviewed model is a 3rd generation. I had a first generation system and it failed. Everything plugged right in to the newest model (EX495) and everything was located just fine. But, even if the new system wasn't compatible for some reason, the filesystem is just NTFS. Nothing special there, just put it into any OS that can mount NTFS and do whatever you want with the files.

      You stick with your RAID though.. and when you run out of disk space and have to add more drives, have fun with that too. The drive pooling in Home Server is an excellent alternative and still offers redundancy if you want it.

      I have ran into other real trouble too.. I have a server (not my ex495) with a 3ware 9650-8i controller and one of my WD Raptor drives went out that was part of a RAID 0 set. Thanks to the home server's bare metal restore option, I was ably to get my server back up with no loss of data.

      Last thing.. you can run Home Server on any pc-compatible hardware you want. The HP unit is just a nice complete package. If it fails, install Home Server on cheap-o PC and put your drives into it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Trouble is..

        Having sifted through a lot of reviews and comments on this model a fair number of people report exactly the same - that the unit fails. Given the intended usage, it seems to me that stability and robustness should be higher up the priority list - making a lot of the above discussion a bit academic and pointing toward something a bit more reliable like a QNAP box.

  12. christech81
    Thumb Up

    Still a great NAS !

    Thought I'd catch up with this thread to see if there have been any other posts.

    Interesting comments, I've used products from QNAP, Thecus, Synology and this has to rank as the best for disk performance / data transfer, ease of use, setup, hardware design. Other manufacturers use proprietry file systems too (the concept behind Netgear's X-RAID is good).

    I don't use the software raid; prefering to back up all my important files on external drive(s). Even it the machine had raid I'd stick to using raid 0 for performance or raid 1 for safety. Has anyone ever had to rebuild a raid 5 machine with dedicated hardware - it's painful !

    Overall I'd agree with Anonymous Coward Great bit of kit #

  13. multipharious

    AV situation warning...

    If you buy a Home Server, you will find it is a nice simple add-in to your home network, and the remote access functionality is interesting as well. Easy setup...blah..blah..blah. Still does not get around the local or physical loss if something bad happens in your home.

    My two cents/pence here: Watch out for the snake oil salesmen in the AV market. There is a vendor out there (Avast) whose uninstall is (was?) so dirty it is hard to believe. Perhaps they corrected this, but where you see one problem... I rebuilt my Home Server after significant problems with an expired Avast demo. I had decided I did not want them, and let it run out. Fine until they locked the Admin console. Excuse me? Disable your own software if you want, but leave the host alone. If you really want/need AV, and things are being downloaded directly from the Internet to the WHS, then consider a major AV brand and spring for an actual server license. In other words don't just test a few. The Avast "value add" is that they scan the clients on the network. No thanks. I do not want post infection detection. I also am not putting anything on the server that has not gone through a client with current defs.

    I now immunize the herd and leave the server alone. Be aware though for now the rat screw of a lack of an AV support situation might push you into making a poor decision to put some garbage on there. Resist that urge.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      A NAS that needs AV?

      So what we have is a tarted up windows box basically? So things like AV are necessary?

      I use a Thecus N5200 and its fine, works with various OS since it has a web page for configuration, you can do a RAID expand (if you started with less HDD than the 5 it holds), and you get iSCSI if you want (though to be honest there are few things that a home users will do that needs that).

      I can see the HP being of interest for home use due to the media stuff, but for a business just say no...

  14. gratou

    RAIDZ... the only good way to protect on'es data.

    Granted, adding disk space is a pain.

    Very-best-data-safety vs ease-of-use, one must choose.

  15. Steve 132

    Data Recovery

    If the whole unit fails you can pop the drives into any Windows or Linux machine and recovery all of the data which is held on a "Shares" subfolder, the only issue being that because it shares folders across all your drives, you may have a fair bit of consolidation to do. This is much simpler for the target audience than normal RAID where you tend to have to restore using the same RAID controller.

    Because Windows is handling all the duplication though, it runs into occassional replication issues common to all WHS servers, so it's not perfect.

    One thing I'd add is that I have to switch off the truly dreadful version of Twonky MediaServer that this ships with, as it has a known bug that means it runs at 100% CPU for days as it tries to build up a media database. I got the iPhone integration working briefly, but gave up and started using AirVideo, which allows on the fly transcoding (rather than Twonky insisting everything is re-encoded and so uses up to twice the disk) and is much better all round.

  16. shawn500
    Thumb Up

    So far so good

    So, i agree with a lot of comments, that this review now, is rather "late" for this particuliar model. But, since I really did not have the budget for more that what this model costs and could not afford to have a solid backup solution (at least better than I had), this thing is amazing.

    It arrived yesterday and although i have not done the backup of my pc yet, i have most of it all figured out. It really is ready to go.

    One feature I love, is the backup to the backup. I had ext 1tb drive taht the power supply went out on. That drive happeded to have a lot of pictures in which i had no other copy. I simply took the external apart, popped the drive in, designate it as a backup and retain the data and i was good to go. I remoted in to the Server and am in the process of copying the data to a new external now.

    the price of the unit with the ease of getting to that day was worth it alone.... now once i play with the media server stuff, i bet i'm really going to be happy.

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