back to article MS drops drive pooling from Windows Home Server

Microsoft is killing off a popular feature in the next version of its Windows Home Server product, which is codenamed ‘Vail’. The software vendor said that it would get rid of its Drive Extender technology from Vail, much to the chagrin of its customers. Microsoft announced it would axe Drive Extender – which supports …


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  1. Mage

    Simple Solution

    Don't buy the expensive crippleware MS Homeserver

    Either buy a Generic cheap "NAS" box


    Buy a cheap PC and put Ubuntu Server on it (Or Linux of choice if more techy minded).

    This was always a pointless overpriced product with bugs. Now it's more overpriced and pointless.

    They are maybe going to copy Apple (again) and drop Server products :-)

    1. N2

      Couldnt agree more

      But this feature actually looks quite good providing it worked properly (don't they all).

      & as for protected folders in the event of a drive failure, just whats wrong with a raid1 mirror pair?

      1. A J Stiles

        Of course

        Of course it's a good feature. Unix-like systems including Linux and BSD have had something like it since forever.

        It's the computer's job to remember which physical disk a file is on. Not yours.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      One of the Open Solaris replacements with ZFS.

    3. Steve Carr 1

      Not true

      If WHS were expensive, maybe, just maybe, I could agree - but it isn't! My WHS box cost less than most RAID NAS chassis to buy, and yet does a heap more than pretty much any NAS box I've seen. It has a real server OS, and as a result is fully configurable. I run apps directly on it (my weather station software for example, a website staging host, a flash based internet music server, media server, etc etc) as well as using it for storage, backups and restores. All for under US$400 including hardware and software.

    4. sola

      Linux is perfect for home server duties

      and completely free and supported well by the coommunity

      What is the point in a paying solution for the home when a sufficiently good free alternative is there.

  2. Ian Stephenson

    Once again Microsoft takes careful aim....

    and empties both chambers straight into their foot.

    Sarah Palin icon for stupidity/foot in mouth please!

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "Sarah Palin icon for stupidity/foot in mouth please!"

      Nope - The Palin icon would be for shooting yourself in the foot. The Ted Kennedy icon is for veering off course. The Obama icon is for failing to recognize that you are in over your head.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Size is not everything M$

    “Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses."

    Any good sysadmin knows that a couple smaller disks will out-perform a single larger disk of comparable capacity due to better seek times and ability to retrieve data in parallel. If you are looking for speed, go with multiple drives.

    1. The BigYin

      Why would...

      ..."[any] good sysadmin" be even considering MS?

    2. Paul Leighton

      Not quite in context of the product

      To a certain extent you are correct when the full picture is using a form of RAID striping. WHS didnt split files accross drives, it just replicated them so you always only got the speed of a single drive anyway making your comment irrelevant.

      What MS have done here however is made WHS worthless. DE was the single best standout feature of any server I've ever seen. From a perspective of capacity and ease of upgrading hard drives using different sizes and even mix of connections to provide pooled storage with redundacy and upgradability without data loss was fantastic. I've used WHS for a few years now and was stunned by this decision.

      I will now be looking at alternaives for a replcement to my WHS soon. MS=FAIL on this one :(

    3. Anton Ivanov

      Not in Concat mode.

      Drive extension on HWS is concat (CDD), not RAID (MD). So it gives _NO_ performance bonus.

      This funnily enough has been touted as a feature even by someone on the reg reviews a while back - you can take the drive and supposedly stuff it in a windows box for recovery which you supposedly cannot with Linux based NAS.

      In any case - my take on this is "You get whatever Xmas you deserve". I will stick with my Debian file server setup thank ya. It is a combination of MAID and RAID to the tune of 5TB and counting.

      1. Number6


        So I take my ext4-formatted drive and stuff it in a Linux machine for recovery. How is that any harder, especially as I have more Linux machines than Windows ones?

        (not aimed at you but the reviewer who said it)

        1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

          RAID NAS

          But if your NAS has RAID to protect against a drive failure, which is what you get in WHS (but not by RAID), then you can't just stick the dive in a Linux box and get something off it.

          With WHS, every disk has full files, and the format is NTFS. Take any drive adn stick it in almost anything and you can read the files off it!

          1. Tim Bates


            Why can't you plug the NAS disks into a Linux box if they were RAIDed? 99.9% of the dual (or more) disk NASes that are within the realm of consumer affordability are running Linux, use "md" for the RAID, and usually use an ext2/3/4 filesystem.

            OK, if a disk fails, and the user created RAID0, they're screwed... But that's RAID 0, not the NAS or Linux's fault.

  4. DutchP

    Well then,

    just set up a Linux box and use LVM. Then go do something fun with the money you're saving

    Beer, because after you've set up LVM you have most certainly deserved one

    1. jay_bea


      I am running Amahi Home Server, which is a Fedora-based home server. Works well, comes with a range of additional applications, includes LVM / Greyhole pre-configured, and is free.

    2. Vic


      > Beer, because after you've set up LVM you have most certainly deserved one


      LVM is *trivial* to set up. Even if you're doing it from scratch - which most people won't.


  5. Phil Arundell 1

    What a bunch of idiots

    Drive Extender is the one compelling reason for using WHS over a "simpler" NAS solution and it works brilliantly: I've just set up a WHS on an old laptop I had and plugged in half a dozen external drives that I've accumulated over the years. The result was over 3 1/2 TB of space in one big lump

    Without Drive Extender, WHS is pointless complexity over a NAS, with it it makes complete sense

  6. Anonymous Coward

    oh well

    don't upgrade to the latest version then.

    Just because they release it doesn't mean you have to use it. You're not a slave you know.

    1. A J Stiles
      Gates Horns

      Ah, but

      Microsoft have thought of that! The current version of WHS will have some inherent limitation that will make it incompatible with something to come in future.

      That's why you have to upgrade Microsoft Office every time they launch a new version. They purposely change all the file formats, so your old copy can't load anything saved out of a new copy, and if you want to read any of your friends' documents then you have to upgrade your version. Or explain to each of your friends how to save in a format which is compatible with yours, and yes it's OK to lose some formatting and so forth.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down


        So why am I running Office 2003 quite happily at home as I refuse to move to that stupid ribbon bar thing until I really, like *really*, have to?

        It even still gets updates from Windows Update too.

  7. MattWPBS


    I got my WHS on the cheap anyhow (staff purchase), but the entire reason I've got one is that if a drive fails, then certain folders are protected.

  8. BarryDavis

    Use Linux will give you roughly the same experience under linux

    1. Trygve


      "What Greyhole isn't¶

      * Production ready! It's still in beta state. The current version (0.6) codename is It should work "

      I know WHS isn't the most reliable and bombproof solution in the world, but I think it's still in slightly better shape than Greyhole. Still, the project is hopefully guaranteed an influx of contributors now, so maybe 1.0 will be available soon.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        I'll take

        Linux 0.6 over Microsoft 1.0 any day. We all know MS doesn't even get into the game until version 3.

  9. M Gale

    Historic quotes?

    "Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses."

    "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

  10. NightFox

    No, no, no MS!

    Those suggesting a Linux alternative are missing the point - WHS was always meant to be something the average person with a bit of networking knowledge could implement, it wasn't meant to be a thing sysadmins could play with in their spare time. It was meant to be a set-up-and-forget solution offering not just NAS, but automatic backups of clients and a HD pool so you could simply add an extra (or replacement) drive and not have to reconfigure anything. It was about server-based home networking for the masses. OK, like many of MS's dreams it never achieved that, but the OS and the associated hardware was certainly up to the vision.

    MS's ridiculous comments about larger HD becoming commonplace and therefore replacing the need from drive pools has, thankfully, now apparently been rescinded - lifted from Paul Thurrott:

    The following quote from Microsoft’s Home and Small Business Server Team General Manager Kevin Kean:

    Drive Extender was a neat feature, but the implementation was off, and we discovered some application compatibility and disk tool problems related to its ability to correct data errors on the fly. We don’t want to give customers problems; we want to give them solutions. So ultimately, we decided that we needed to cut out Drive Extender. Removing Drive Extender will make file shares easy, and it’s possible to accomplish most of its features otherwise. For example, you use the server’s centralized backup or even RAID as an alternative to data duplication.

    1. Goat Jam


      Openfiler or FreeNAS, they are probably not quite as dumbed down as WHS but they are still pretty easy.

      However, AFAIK they don't have the thing where all your files are duplicated on different drives, though I may be wrong on that.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      So the solution is...

      Give them a harder time adding media?

  11. dogged
    Thumb Down

    Yup, dumb move.

    I've put WHS into a couple of tiny - 3 seat max - businesses as an automated backup/storage box and it worked very nicely. The fact that they could increase storage at any point without reconfiguring was extremely popular.

    Not so much on the Reg; every time there was an WHS box reviewed, you could hear the commentards howling about "WAT NO NAS THIS SUX LOL" from five sites away. So I guess those guys'll be happy now.

  12. Malcolm 1

    Design error

    According to Paul Thurrott it's because they tried to extend the functionality into the small business arena - but it couldn't cope for various reasons so they canned it across the entire product line.

    Massive shame really (and a massive cock-up from MS), I have been using WHS for some years and this is one of the killer features. If it is released in this state I will have to look to other solutions (Drobo?) when upgrade time comes.

    In reaching for the the (presumably more lucrative) Small Business environment they seem to have completely lost track of the original goals.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    2TB sufficient???

    I use an appreciable portion of a 16TB RAID array for a not especially large DVD collection. Add Blu-ray into the equation, and it'll probably need to become 24TB or 32TB pretty soon. A 2TB drive will rapidly fill up, and being unable to add another drive and have their storage automagically extend could well be a stumbling block for a large portion of WHS's target market.

  14. Fogcat
    Thumb Down


    Earlier this year I abandoned my ageing Buffalo Terastation as I was reaching it's 0.75TB (RAID5) capacity. After much musing on the replacement I went with an HP MediaSmart server with WHS.

    One of the reasons was that I couldn't afford to populate all the drive bays in one go and WHS allowed me to simply add drives as I went along. It now has 1TB and 2 x 2TB drives. Going for a "real NAS" and fitting 4 x 2TB discs in one to set up RAID5 go was too pricey and rebuilding the file system when adding a new disc seemed to be regarded as an "at your own risk" activity when researching, although I'm sure I'm about to be told I'm wrong by someone more knowledgeable.

    The only real complaint I have with my WHS box is that HP is waaaaay way behind in keeping it's included TwonkyMedia server up to date (yes I know there are ways to run a later version, but for the moment the extra effort isn't worth it).

    However with this decision by MS I feel the platform I bought into has been abandoned, I can't recommend it to anyone else anymore and I will now start thinking ahead to my next NAS box.

  15. Brian Gannon

    What ever happened to gramar

    It's OEMs not OEM's

    PCs not PC's

    FAQs not FAQ's

    Sorry but it just really upsets me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Hear, hear

      It enrages me also.

      1. Scorchio!!

        Mir auch

        Moi aussi. ;-)

    2. Magnethead

      What ever happened to "gramar"?

      It went the same way as spelling.

      1. Brian Gannon

        How to lose your own argument.

        Yes I spotted this as soon as I posted, sort of took the wind out of my rant somewhat.

    3. Arbuthnot Darjeeling


      to miss the point of the story.

      I'm a like, if y'can understand wha they sayen, get over it n'all

      smiley face

  16. ScottXJ6

    ZFS FTW!

    built my own 6tb atom powered opensolaris box.

    never looked back :P

  17. Dave Bareham

    As a WHS user

    I have an HP WHS for just over 2 years now. The original hardware design was (IMO) limited because it only had 512MB but apart from that I really like the hardware and the O/S. To me the DE isn't that much of a big deal. I love the fact that it does automatic backups of the Laptops, Media Streaming, Automatic sync of my photos to about 3 other places. Maybe it's just because we have been flooded that the backup features are more important to me than the DE.

  18. hmmm

    Like Xbox removing gaming functions

    In related news, Microsoft will be removing the gaming capabilities in future Xbox 360 releases. "Following extensive consultation with business customers we have decided to focus on the core Xbox social networking functionality" said Microsoft Senior Executive Vice President Mitch M. Mitchkinsonson. "We realise this will be a disappointment to some of our valued Xbox customers, but we feel that re-focussing on the core product competencies will syngergistically leverage our modalities."

  19. JohnG

    No active routing since Vista

    MS also removed active routing protocols from Vista onwards.

  20. Steve Carr 1

    Dumb, dumb, dumb!

    Over the years I've been a reluctant user of Microsoft software, and pointed potential users at almost anything other than the stuff from the boys at Redmond. That was until I discovered a magic wee machine from Acer loaded with Windows Home Server. Cheap as chips, it simply does the job it was designed to do. Add a drive, any size, internal or external, and add it to the storage pool - and the space appears and is usable pretty much instantly. Want to drop a drive out? Mark it as no longer in the pool, wait till the drive light changes colour, and pull it out. No disruptions, no drama, no waiting for a RAID array to rebuild in either circumstance. All while maintaining a single cohesive file system structure. What's not to like here?

    And now as someone else has said, Redmond has delivered both barrels into it's feet. sigh

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Just to be sarcastic...

    For MS to be pulling something that actually worked?

    Still it is Microsoft - and they didn't call it an upgrade, and stick a ribbon across it and charge you 2 times as much for the benefit.

    Time to beat the house elf.

  22. Stuart Ball
    Thumb Down

    Become a Laird, buy up Scotland 1 sq ft at a time.

    My view is that they are trying to use as much of the same base code for the next iteration of Small Business Server, and Home Server as they can to save dev money. As some have alluded to WHS has had some gains in the small business areas because of its automatic backups, sharing of data, and the ease of use. All of which appeal to "micro" businesses that have hosted email with their own domain, or more likely their ISP hosted mail.

    My guess is that they couldn't get Drive Extended to work with Exchange and SQL Server, which are core services in SBS, due to the way drive extended replicates and balances the data around the drive pool. That probably breaks databases.

    I seem to recall an earlier issue with the Drive Extender fixed in Power Pack 1 regarding Access databases.

    I use WHS, I think it rocks. But I get mine through Action Pack subscription, I do think it's overpriced though.


  23. Goat Jam

    O RLY?

    "also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate"

    Now that's funny, because where I'm at hard drives have been stuck on 2TB for quite some time now.

    In fact I think I remember reading that there is some sort of technical impediment to going larger and some sort of completely different encoding technology is required to increase capacities.

    I myself run a 4Tb LVM made up of 4 1tb drives, I can't imagine I am Robinson Crusoe in that respect.

    Another big fail from MS. Get over it fanboys, this is what happens when you lock yourself in to a pretty looking closed source prison.

  24. janimal
    Gates Horns

    Just another example...

    MS do this all the time, introduce a proprietary product or file format or language extensions and then pull support out from under your feet the moment they see an alternative money making scheme.

    I really don't know why anyone is surprised.

    The only thing that does surprise me about this is that it actually sounds like a really good product for home use on a win box.

    Given their new found love of the OSS domain perhaps they should open source the code?

    Must go, I have to blag me one of that flock of pigs roosting in the trees yonder.

  25. Scorchio!!

    Bad marketing?

    So here we are in a recession. Some of us - and I stress it's not me - will be hard up, and M$ say "freely available"? To people without work and money this is going to have the same ring, exactly the same ring, as "let them eat cake". Sure, the monarch in question didn't know that the French people didn't have cake and was answering the question literally, and that is my point.

    It is this kind of carelessness that will lose M$ customers, especially given the advances in other operating systems, including Linux.

    M$ can't afford to have this easy come, easy go attitude, especially during a recession, especially when competitors are nipping at their heels. I am amazed at their attitude, and I say this as someone who has just bought a bare metal notebook and installed Linux on it. Clearly I am reconsidering Microsoft's role in the world.

  26. TeeCee Gold badge

    Sounds like JBOD.... it sound like it's not full raid and just lumps a filesystem across disks.

    So build the thing on a RAID mobo and configure your disk as a JBOD set of one. When you run out of space, plug in another disk and add it to the JBOD set using either the BIOS utility or the (usually provided) GUI utility / browser interface. Most mobo chipsets these days will happily span a JBOD set across internal and eSATA disks too, if that floats your boat.

    Then run up the Windoze storage manager and increase the FS size to fill the shiny, new additional space you'll find on your "disk".

    That particular method of skinning this cat is not dependant on how M$ feel this week.

    1. hmmm

      Sounds easy

      Would you mind if I gave you a phone number and you can explain that to my parents? If you could also take their support calls I'd appreciate it.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Sounds easy

        Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

        I don't see any piggin' difference in complexity between telling the Server OS to use extra disk A and extending the file system across it and telling the RAID software to use extra disk A and extending the filesystem across it meself. The only slightly clever bit's in the initial build and I doubt your Mum is going to be deciding on the hardware and performing the initial OS install herself, is she?

        Apples are still apples, regardless of whether MS or a third party wrote the "bundle these disks together to look like one big one" bit.

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge


      Not only is there no replication but if one drive goes MIA it takes all your data with it. Maybe bearable for systems used purely for backup but the point of WHS is supposed to be that it's much more flexible than that.

      1. SpottedCow


        Not true. WHS uses "Folder Duplication" --you can turn it on for individual folders, or entire drives, and it will keep shadow copies of your files on additional drives, so if you lose a drive, you do not lose data.

        It's actually quite a well-thought out setup. You get to choose which data is important enough to you to keep dupicates of. You can also assign any drive you add to your WHS box as a "backup" drive (as opposed to storage), and back up your entire WHS box to it, or just selected parts, and you can do it easily. I have a 2TB drive connected via eSATA to my HP MediaSmart server, so I can grab it and run should the house catch fire.

        After all, RAID isn't a true backup either. Screw up a file, you've screwed it up on any mirrored copies as well. Windows Home Server is incredibly easy to use. Someone with just a small amount of tech-savviness can go out and buy a preloaded WHS box from HP, Acer, or Lenovo, and have it up and running quickly. People who are saying "Go Linux", "Go RAID", or "Go with this exotic file system" instead are missing the point, and have probably never run a WHS box so they don't realize how nice it is to work with. MS made a huge blunder with this choice, make no mistake.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buy a WD external NAS World Edition and add usb drives to it.

    Hi, you don't need it anyway just get WD solution, add all the drives in daisy chain mode.

  28. david 12 Silver badge

    MS claims RAID not as good as Drive Extender:

    How long will this MS technet URL remain valid?

    "why raid is not a consumer technology"


    Quote: "Why doesn't Windows Home Server use RAID?". The simplest answer is RAID sucks as the basis for a consumer storage product"

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