Yet Another Windows Home Server Disk Upgrade

Image of a hard drive platterJust last week I wrote that I’d just upgrade the drives in my Windows Home Server as I needed the space, and I really didn’t think I’d need the space for awhile. Well, I copied up a bunch of files and my free space dropped below 2TB which is where I start considering upgrading a disk. Now, 2 TB is a lot of space but it’s my threshold to consider upgrading a Windows Home Server disk because:

  • The smallest drive in the server is 1TB. In order to remove a drive I have to move all the files off of it, so I’ll lose 1TB of space during the upgrade.
  • The system drive is 1TB. I like to keep data files off the system drive if possible.
  • I use file duplication for all the data on the server. So that 2 TB of free space would only hold 1 TB of new files.

My server consists of 8 internal drives and 4 external drives. The external drives are in hot-swap bays and are a breeze to upgrade. Unfortunately I’d already upgraded all four of them. I’d have to shut down the server and open the case. Since the case is open I might as well plan to clean it out.

I use a Coolmaster 4-in-3 Drive Cage to hold 3 drives in the server’s 5.25” bays. I like it because it’s cheap and adds a fan for cooling the drives directly. But the part I don’t like is the need to pull it completely out of the server in order to clean the filter or replace any of the drives. The yearly cleaning was a good time to pull the cage and clean it out.

I decided to upgrade all three drives in the Coolmaster drive cage. I checked Newegg for drive prices and decided to stick with my Western Digital 2 TB Green Drives but I found them cheaper at Amazon than at Newegg. I also didn’t want to buy three new drives. Despite some predictions of drive shortages I figure drives will usually be cheaper, bigger and better in the future so waiting can only be good. I decided to spring for 2 new drives. For the third drive I’d move one of the external 2TB drives inside the server.

After I ordered the drives I began the upgrade process so I’d be ready when the drives arrived. With all this data it takes a bit of time.

  • First I made sure all my backups were up to date and I did a couple of test restore from each backup drive.
  • I turned off file duplication and let the server have the night to clean up the files. Having been saved once by file duplication I hate turning if off. But I didn’t want to replace the drives one at a time so I needed the space in order to replace 3 drives at once. If I was lucky the space would be freed up on the drives I wanted to remove, making the removal process that much quicker. The server stayed online during all this without any noticeable impact on performance.
  • The next day I went through the WHS disk removal process and removed one of the external drives. I replaced the drive with a spare 1TB drive I had so I could get some space back before shutting down the server.
  • I did get lucky and the three internal drives I wanted to remove were only 5 to 14% full after duplication was turned off. So over the next two days I ran the disk removal wizard and removed the three drives in the Coolmaster drive cage from the Windows Home Server storage pool.
  • Then it was simply a matter of waiting for the new drives to arrive.

The new drives arrived the next day so it was time to shut down and open up the server. This was straight-forward. Open the case up, remove the Coolmaster drive cage and go to work with the compressed air. It took longer to open up the drive cage itself so I could get to and clean the filter then reassemble it than it took to pull apart the server itself. I put the two new 2TB drives along with the 2 TB taken from the external cage as replacements for the three 1 TB drives in the Coolmaster drive cage.

Naturally this couldn’t be frustration free. I put the server back in its place and powered it up without a problem. I turned file duplication back on. So far so good. A couple hours later I check back and find some file conflict errors and that one of the drives had failed. Bad new drive biting me for not testing it first? Nope, the bad drive was the one that had been running just fine in the external drive cage. So I open up the server and check the cables. Everything seems fine but I shut it down anyway and reseat the cables, It’s just fine on power up and has been fine since. The problem drive has been busy as getting the duplicate files and it hasn’t had a problem.

It takes considerably longer to duplicate 6 TB of data than it took to remove the duplication. So it was a few days after re-enabling file duplication before it was finished. At least there wasn’t any noticeable impact on performance while it was going on.

I’m really hoping this gets me through the year without needing another upgrade. Should I need to upgrade I have the external hot swappable that I can upgrade without having to open up the server. At this point the server is up to 18 TB of disk based upon the manufacturers ratings. Although with overhead there’s only 931GB of usable space per terabyte so I have 16.7 TB of usable space. Considerably more than that floppy drive only PC I started with. (Yea, I’m old.)