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Microsoft confirms Windows Home Server is dead

HP Home Server

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 at 09:30

Microsoft has killed off Windows Home Server and Small Business Server.

Microsoft had been expected to shelve Windows Home Server since the end of 2010, when it removed a key feature called Drive Extender, a drive pooling system. The Windows Home Server package led a troubled life from the outset, arriving with a data corruption bug that Microsoft took months to fix, and a lack of support from hardware vendors.

In its FAQ on the changes, Microsoft confirmed the demise of Home Server, suggesting fans move to a new SKU called Essentials. "Windows Home Server has seen its greatest success in small office/home office (SOHO) environments and among the technology enthusiast community," Microsoft said.

"For this reason, Microsoft is combining the features that were previously only found in Windows Home Server, such as support for DLNA-compliant devices and media streaming, into Windows Server 2012 Essentials and focusing our efforts into making Windows Server 2012 Essentials the ideal first server operating system for both small business and home use — offering an intuitive administration experience, elastic and resilient storage features with Storage Spaces, and robust data protection for the server and client computers."

Indeed, Microsoft also suggested Windows Small Business Server would be replaced by Windows Server 2012 Essentials, saying it was based "on the design philosophy" of its predecessor, and brings the branding into line with the other products.

However, Essentials doesn't allow virtualisation and doesn't include Exchange Server or SharePoint Foundation - those on the Software Assurance programme with Windows Small Business Server will instead be upgraded to Windows Server Standard.

Small Business Server 2011 will remain available via OEMs until December 2013, while Home Server will be available as an OEM embedded product until the end of 2025.

Microsoft added that it had "simplified" its Windows Server lineup, with changes for the 2012 packages reflecting customers' move to the cloud.

The new SKUs on offer are:

- Datacentre, with unlimited virtualisation instances for $4,809 per processor;

- Standard, allowing two virtual instances for $882 per processor;

- Essentials, an SMB option with no virtualisation but cloud support for $425 per server with up to 25 user accounts;

- Foundation, a general purpose system with no virtualisation, available to OEMs only.

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User comments


Recently setup a Windows Home Server using a bargainous HP Microserver and it does the job of a media/file server rather admirably. Lack of Drive Extender wasn't an issue after I'd installed Stablebits' Drive Pool.

Currently have a SBS 2003-based server at work and guess we'll be forced to go to Standard when it comes time to upgrade as our net connection wouldn't be up to cloud gubbins and we need Exchange Server anyway.

By malfranks2 on 6 Jul 2012

How much?

So from paying £40 for a nice useful home server to paying around £300 for Essesntials... not sure I will bother. Pity as I like the backup options on WHS 2011. Oh well, have to explore the linux alternatives when I want to upgrade.

By baripollard on 6 Jul 2012

Shame 2

I really like my WHS set up and it's old enough to have Drive Extender, though I've never had to pool any drives myself (bought with two 1Tb drives). It works fine as a file server and for accessing files remotely.

I guess I can see where MS are coming from though, trying to simplify the entry level server product line.

By johnfair4 on 6 Jul 2012

It is disappointing

I will miss it. Having a household of 4 PC's including course work and working away from home a fair bit having easy automated backups (and a restore that is simple), files all stored on 2 spindles and a backup I can read from any PC with a USB to Sata adaptor if the hardware failed it was an easy product for a beginner to use. Remote access of your documents too. I'm aware you can do everything a different and cheap way but it was easy, and in the 18 months I've used it reliable, straight out the box system. I've used other backup software in the past which was less easy to use and caused more interference with working if they ran in the background. The cost of sensible hard drives makes it expensive to populate but then each PC in the house only needs an SSD and a decent network connection. I know from experience its not an easy product to sell and I can see why it has failed to become mainstream but it will be missed by the converts. Perhaps the drives will live on in a clever NAS that offers similar features with a bundle of sensible software but will it be as easy to use and relatively cheap?

By gcanton on 6 Jul 2012


How many home server solutions does Microsoft have, that we could confuse with WHS? But Home Server is not likely to die... It will simply live on torrent sites. While $425 Essentials gathers dust on the shelves.

By Josefov on 6 Jul 2012

That's a shame

I'm with gcanton, I bought a system from Tranquil, and SQA-5H, and whilst it wasn't the cheapest, it's been a brilliant solution. Automated backups, expanding the storage is a simple process, and it just works. It's the older version with Drive Extender, and has been hassle free. I'll run it into the ground, and then have to look at a NAS I guess.

By Stonedecroze on 6 Jul 2012

Exchange for small businesses

I am guessing that MS is pinning its hopes on Office 365. We recently looked at SBS to host our email, and the hardware requirements are ridiculous for shuffling a few emails and calendar entries.

By tirons1 on 6 Jul 2012

the best alternative

is probably FreeNAS: boot off a USB drive and run an iSCSI target - so you can attach the storage as a drive letter for a single computer, or just expose it as a 'network folder' using CIFS otherwise known as Windows networking protocol (and many other options available).

the storage protection stuff is in there as it runs ZFS which was Solaris' high-end file system.

alternatively try or

By gbjbaanb on 6 Jul 2012

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