Windows Home Server Power Pack 3

Screenshot showing WHS Power Pack 3

Screenshot showing WHS Power Pack 3Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 was released Tuesday and I’ve applied the upgrade. While I didn’t have any serious problems it didn’t go exactly as planned. Just problems enough to cause some momentary heart palpitations.

As with any upgrade I make sure my backups are all in order before continuing then I do a pre-upgrade reboot to make sure there’s no errant or corrupted programs in memory. After the reboot I let things settle down and it’s about an hour before I fire up the WHS console go into Settings => General and click the “Update” button to get the update. There were a couple updates that came down along with Power Pack 3. The installs went fine and when the installs finished I clicked the button to restart immediately. That’s when things went off the script. The restart never occurred.

So after waiting about 20 minutes just to make sure it wasn’t still applying the patch I reconnected through the console. No problems connecting and no messages in the logs about starting a reboot. So I restarted again using the WHS console. This time it restarted on it’s own. But it never responded to ping and never became accessible over the network (never = about 20 minutes). Hooking up a monitor and keyboard showed a “service failed to start message” that I could clear with the mouse, but the keyboard didn’t work and the logon screen didn’t accept mouse clicks.

So I held in the power button until the server turned off. This time when I powered it on the start-up was successful and the WHS was available online. Now the problem was the lack of the expected message telling me I needed to upgrade the connector on my Windows 7 PC. The connector seemed to work fine and the console started, but it hadn’t been upgraded. The file in the Home Server Connector Software directory (in the “Software” share) had been upgraded so I ran the install from there.  It uninstalled the current connector and installed the new version without a problem.

I also had to manually upgrade the connector on my other PCs as none gave the expected upgrade needed message. All the upgrades went fine once I manually started the installation.

Once everything seemed to be fine I did another reboot just to be sure it started OK and it did. I went back into software update and found there were two more updates (one for search, one for the remote console) which required yet another reboot which was successful.

In going through the logs I noticed that during the first group of patches (which is when PP3 was applied) KB917013 was removed. This was a Microsoft search related update. There’s really no way for me to know if the failure to restart, or the lock-up on the restart was due to WHS Power Pack 3 or one of the other patched. In any event, there have been several successful restarts since then without a problem.

The screen shot at the top of this article shows the version information for Power Pack 3 – 6.0.2423.0. For the connector, since I’m on Windows 7, I checked the version by going into Control Panel => Programs to check the version as shown in the screen shot below.

WHS Connector showing Power Pack 3 version
WHS Connector showing Power Pack 3 version

Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 brings the following new features:

  • Windows 7 Library Integration – When the connector is installed on a Windows 7 computer the WHS share folders can be accessed through the Windows 7 libraries. I’d already manually added these folders to the libraries so this wasn’t much of a change.
  • When WHS backup is enabled the Windows 7 action center will no longer display a warning that Windows Backup is not used. This warning could already be turned off so the update just makes it automatic.
  • Some minor Windows 7 compatibility updates such as displaying Windows 7 as the OS in the Computers & Backup tab. While I never had problems with Windows 7 waking from sleep to do the WHS backup some did and this should no longer be a problem. I also didn’t have any problems running the WHS console under Windows 7 but now it’s officially supported.
  • Windows Search 4 is included and includes the standard line that it’s bigger, better and faster. EFS encrypted files are now supported.
  • Better media center integration and support. While I store my video library on the server and watch videos from it, I’m not a media center user although it does seem like something I should look into.

So, all-in-all, despite the speed bumps the Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 upgrade went fine. None of the new features are earth-shattering so I’ll see over time whether the better Windows 7 integration and improved search are noticeable in my everyday work. The complete release documentation is available from Microsoft.