Restoring a system from Windows Home Server

Recently it seems that I’ve been banging my head against the ceiling of my 128GB drive in my laptop. My drive comes up red in Windows Explorer every now and then and red is the color that makes you panicky. And before you say, “128GB? How old is this laptop?” let me explain that it’s an SSD and that’s all I could afford at the time I upgraded the drive.

Bucknall data center - NOTNewegg had a deal on this week with the Crucial ReadSSD 256GB — the price has since gone up again — so I pulled the trigger and bought one. Twice as much space should do me for a while. The Crucial is a nice bit of kit with some really rapid read/write timings and TRIM support in Windows 7. I think all new SSDs now support TRIM, but my current Super Talent MasterDrive SX didn’t (actually there’s now a firmware update you can apply — which wipes all data, note — which adds that support) and I’d have to say that I’ve noticed the drive seems a little sluggish with writes.

Since I decided to restore from Windows Home Server and ran into a few little gotchas as I did so, I thought I’d write it all down for next time or to help you out if you’re about to venture down the same path.

I made sure I made a final up-to-date backup onto my Windows Home Server (WHS), removed the old drive, and installed the new one.

To restore a drive’s contents from WHS, you use a special Restore CD. Boot up with that and follow the prompts, basically. Although your WHS hardware came with a Restore CD, Microsoft recommend that you download the latest ISO file from their site before doing the restore to make sure you have the best version that will work with the (probably frequently updated) WHS OS on your box. Fine, did that, burned the ISO, got a new bootable CD.

Since this was essentially the first time I was restoring a drive completely from WHS, I also found a site that went through the steps in nice gory detail (or at least seemed to).

I booted up into the Restore CD and followed the first few steps. Just like in my noob’s guide, the Restore CD didn’t recognize my network adapter and you absolutely must have that set up otherwise you won’t be able to connect to your WHS. I clicked on the “Where can I find drivers for my hardware?” link. The help came up and explained that every time you make a backup, WHS saves your drivers in a special folder on the server for just this eventuality. No problem, then. I followed the instructions and copied the drivers onto a USB drive. After plugging it into my laptop, I clicked on the Install Drivers... button and scanned for them. Success, it found the drivers and...

...They did didn’t show up in the Detect Hardware dialog. WTF?

I tried again: no show. I was a bit stumped, so looked at the USB drive, thinking that perhaps the drivers had to be in the root instead of in the weirdly named folders WHS had put them in. However, something in those weird names gave me pause: the letters “64”. Sure enough, they were 64-bit drivers since my laptop was running 64-bit Windows 7. Therein lies Gotcha no. 1: the OS booted up by the current Restore CD is a 32-bit OS. It can’t use those 64-bit drivers. There is no 64-Bit Restore CD at the time of writing, although I believe that the new version of WHS will include one.

So it seems I had to get the 32-bit drivers onto this USB drive. I visited the Dell site and downloaded the 32-bit drivers for the wireless adapter. Dell’s driver downloads work by unzipping a bunch of files into a folder and then running an install program. In essence I got the download to unzip the files onto the USB drive and then cancelled the installer. The drivers were unzipped into some sub-sub-folder.

Over to the laptop again: reboot and get it to find/install the drivers. Success: the wireless driver was found, so it was onto the next step: searching for my WHS over the network. It failed. I tried again and it failed. I tried entering the name of the server: it failed. Bummer.

OK, then. Back to Dell I went and downloaded the Ethernet 10/100 adapter drivers instead. Same rigmarole (unzip to USB, stop installer) and then reboot the Restore CD. It found the new drivers and this time found the server. I was in!

And then I suddenly realized why using the wireless drivers failed: it wasn’t the drivers, it was the fact that my wireless router is protected with a password. This is Gotcha no. 2: the Restore CD does not prompt you for the wireless router password. You either turn off security on your wireless router (and presumably it all works but your neighbors have a field day stomping over your Internet access) or you use a wired connection instead to do your restore. Another advantage to wired is that it’s a bit faster, so that’s what I continued with.

After that it was all a bit of a downer: I partitioned the SSD, formatted, and the restore is still going on.

Album cover for Luck Be A Weirdo TonightNow playing:
Fila Brazillia - Lieut. Gingivitis Shit
(from Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight)

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2 Responses

#1 Paul Qualls said...
02-Jul-10 7:08 PM


Thanks for the very informative post on some of the commonly overlooked gotchas.. However, I have done several drive upgrades on a few differently configured system and I have had a 100% success rate with Acronis True Image. Would True Image have done the upgrade for you from a recent backup, or was there something limiting you from doing that like the SSD itself? I have never done a restore to a SSD, and now I have raised eyebrows about whether or no to go that direction.



julian m bucknall avatar
#2 julian m bucknall said...
03-Jul-10 1:33 PM

Paul: Well, although I used to use Acronis True Image regularly, I gave up on it in the end because it just wasn't good enough for a regular backup schedule. I wanted the ability to have my backup system maintain a set of backups (daily up to a week ago, then weekly up to a couple of months, and then a couple of months). In those days, True Image couldn't do it. So I bought an Acer Aspire EasyStore a year ago and haven't looked back.

Anyway, back to your point: yes, indeed, the image backup would have done admirably (and in fact I've used it like that in the past for drive upgrades). Restoring to an SSD is fine too: my laptop is humming away nicely here.

Now for the fun part: upgrading the firmware on my old SSD to add support for TRIM. Then to put it into my wife's old Dell XPS M1330, but this time to install Window 7 from scratch (I don't want to keep anything on that machine).

Cheers, Julian

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