Home Server on Windows 8 Pro

Greetings!

Probably, everyone would like to have their own home server, which would not only serve as a media server, but also allow it to be used as a file storage, Backup storage and print server.

On one of the wonderful autumn days, this thought also struck me. The fact is, there are too many devices in the house that they wanted to combine into something structured. It was decided to raise the home server. At first, I wanted to use Windows Server 2012 Essentials, which included products such as Windows Home Server and Windows Small Business Server, but after several hours of working with it, I realized that it’s too “fat” to use Windows Server 2012 at home . Then I decided to use the OS easier, namely Windows 8 Pro, the license for which lay idle.

Warning . I understand very well that raising a home server on Unix-like OSs might be easier, but in this article I want to tell how to raise such a server on a Windows 8 Professional client OS to an ordinary PC user (well, or almost an ordinary one), who never had experience with Unix.

All home devices were united in such a network (I hope I drew it clearly):
An old PC with the following characteristics was taken as the basis for the home server:

  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+, 2.7 GHz
  • Motherboard: Asus M2N-E (Gigabit LAN)
  • Power Supply: FSP ATX-350PNR, 350 Watts
  • Wi-Fi adapter TP-Link TL-WN851ND;
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • HDD: Western Digital WD2500JS, 250 GB
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X1600XT, 256 MB

The following components were purchased:
  • HDD x2: Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EZRX, 2 TB
  • Video card: NVIDIA GeForce 210, passively cooled

The video card was replaced due to the incredible noise already available.

After installing new components in the case and connecting to the motherboard, Windows 8 Pro was installed on a 250 GB hard drive. It was planned to store on this hard drive only the OS and some software.

Installation was carried out in absolutely normal mode. At the initial setup stage of the system, the computer name HOMESERVER was indicated, an administrator account (admin) was created with a complex password, and after that an account with the rights of a regular user (user), on which the password was also set.

Settings will be made under the user account, with the administrator password entered when changing system parameters. It’s safer.

Preparing File Storage



Windows 8 introduced the remarkable Storage Spaces feature (in the Russian version of Disk Spaces), which, to some extent, is a software analogue of a RAID array.

Storage Spaces offers to combine physical drives with USB, SATA, SAS, SCSI (and in any combination) interfaces into pools, and the pools themselves into disk spaces that look like regular logical disks for the user.

Storage Spaces can also be used to safeguard data using mirroring and the parity function. I will talk about this a little later.

To create a pool and disk space, go to Control Panel> System and Security> Disk Spaces and select Create a new pool and disk space . br@0/> .
A window opens in which you need to select physical drives to create a pool. Both formatted and unformatted drives are displayed, as well as with and without stored data. The system drive cannot be selected.

Attention! When a data disk is added to the pool, all of them will be deleted.



In my case, there are two disks with a capacity of 2 TB, which I will highlight. Next, click Create Pool .

Windows will prepare the disks and pool them. Unformatted drives will be formatted, formatted will be reformatted again.

After creating the pool, you will be prompted to create a disk space (or several), specify its name and associate the drive letter with it.



In the sustainability section, you need to select the type of stability. I chose a Double-sided mirror. With this type of resiliency, Windows will store a copy of the data on each drive.

For reference, Windows suggests choosing four types of resilience:

  • Simple . The stored information is distributed across all disks in the pool sequentially. The total capacity of the space in this case is equal to the total volume of all drives included in it. This type is analogous to RAID 0. It does not provide fault tolerance - in the event of failure of one of the drives, all information is lost.
  • Double-sided mirror . Recording is carried out simultaneously on each drive. This type of stability requires a minimum of two disks. In the event of failure of one of the drives, information is not lost. The total capacity of the space is equal to half of the total volume of drives. This type of resilience is analogous to RAID 1.
  • Three way mirror . Recording is carried out simultaneously on three drives. Data is saved when two drives fail. A minimum of 5 drives is required. This scheme has maximum reliability, but reduces the speed of reading and writing. The total capacity of the space is ¼ of the total capacity of all drives. The operation trailer resembles RAID 1E, but I'm not sure. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
  • Parity . Can be used from 3 to 8 drives. All drives except one are written data, and the last is written parity information (block checksums, calculated by the XOR algorithm). In case of failure of one of the drives, the missing data can be calculated. It is similar in reliability to a two-way mirror, but the amount of redundant data is 1 / N (the number of drives), and a two-way mirror always has ½. That is, the amount of space available for recording useful data in the case of using parity is greater. But since it is required to calculate checksums, the write speed is much lower.

One of the space parameters that can be set is its size. In my case, when using a double-sided mirror, Windows suggests setting its size equal to half the total capacity of the drives used. It seems logical, but in spaces you can use disks of different sizes, but “by default” the system will again offer half of the total volume, although the drives used would not be equal. Moreover, you can specify any size, this will not affect the functioning of the space ... For the time being. As soon as a smaller drive is full, the space will be dismantled and its functionality can be restored only by adding new drives to the corresponding pool.



As I said, after configuration, the use of disk space is absolutely transparent to the user.



Changing the location of Windows libraries



The next step is to move the location of the standard libraries Music, Images, Documents and Videos to the created Disk space. We don’t want to lose a lot of gigabytes of Lossless music, valuable family videos and photos in the event of a system disk failure?

First, create folders in the root of the disk space. I have created the folders Music, Video, Images and Documents. What will be stored in each of them, I think, is obvious. Next, right-click on one of the Windows libraries (in the right explorer pane) and select Properties .



In the window that opens, click the Add button and select the created folder in the root of the disk space.



Now it remains only to delete the standard locations of the selected library. The same thing needs to be done with the rest of the libraries.

Starting Media Streaming



Streaming media allows you to play multimedia files on devices that support DLNA. Among the devices that have support for this technology, there are televisions, various stationary DVD and Blu-ray players, smartphones, game consoles, computers and even refrigerators!

To do this, launch Windows Media Player and complete the initial setup. I chose the recommended options. Next, go to the player’s library and click on the Stream drop-down list . In the list, select Enable multimedia streaming .



In the window that opens, click the button Enable multimedia streaming .



The next window that opens will be the media streaming options window. Here you need to specify the name of the multimedia library, select the options for showing files with certain ratings to devices, and also select the devices themselves that will have access to the multimedia library.



After filling in the parameters, click OK.

Windows Media autostart when the server is turned on



Perhaps you ask what it is for. The thing is that it is the Windows Media Library that is used to stream media to other devices. How will this library be updated when new files are added if Windows Media is not running?

We will solve this issue using the Task Scheduler . By the way, a very useful tool with a wide range of parameters for launching and completing tasks. Windows itself also constantly uses the Scheduler to perform certain tasks, for example, to start automatic maintenance of a computer during a period of user inactivity.

Let's get started. Go to Control Panel> System and Security> Administrative Tools and run Task Scheduler as administrator.

On the right side of the window, click Create Task . The task creation window opens. Enter a name for the task, I advise you to use a name that allows you to determine what the task does without revealing its details. I have specified Windows Media Autostart. A task description is optional, but it would be nice to fill it out.

Do not forget to change the account under which the task will be executed, and therefore Windows Media Player will start.

To do this, in the Security Settings group, click the Change button. . A window will open in which you need to write the username. Type user and click OK.

Also in this group, set the switch to the Run for all users position , which is necessary for the task to start even if no user is logged in.





Now go to the Triggers tab . Click Start and in the window that appears, select from the dropdown list, select Start a task When you start .



Click OK and go to the Actions tab . Press button Create .

The Create Action window appears. Make sure that the Run option is selected under Action . Enter the path to the program in the Program or script input field. Click the Browse button and select the wmplayer.exe file , which is located in C: \ Program Files (x86) \ Windows Media Player in the 64-bit version of Windows or C: \ Program Files \ Windows Media Player in the 32-bit version . The remaining fields are not required.



Click OK and go to the Conditions tab . Uncheck Run only when powered by the mains , although this is not necessary. To your taste.

Go to the last tab Settings . Uncheck Останавливать задачу, выполняемую дольше: 3 дн .

Press button ОК и введите пароль от учетной записи user.



After entering the password and pressing the OK button, the task scheduler will inform that the account must have the “Log in as a batch task” rights .



Click OK and close Task Scheduler.

Open Local Security Policy (also in administration) on behalf of the administrator.

In the window that opens, double-click Local Policies , then Assign User Rights , and then Log in as a batch job .



Click the Add user or group button , just like in the Task Scheduler, enter the username and click OK. Check if a new item with the username appears in the list, and click OK. Now Local Security Policies can be closed.

Share folders



The next step is to open shared folders on disk space. This is necessary so that network users have the ability to read and write files to specific folders. We will open the general access to the folders Music, Video, Images, Documents, Backups and Other (the last two need to be created).

Right-click on folders and select Properties. Go to the Access tab .



Press button Общий доступ . The following window opens:
Enter the user name (user) and click Add. Then in the list below, we set the user permission level in Reading and writing . It remains only to click Sharing at the bottom of the window, enter the administrator password and click Finish.

Repeat these steps for the remaining folders.

Opening public network folders on client machines


Everything here is very, very simple. On the client machine, you need to open the folder with network computers (Network in Windows Vista / 7/8 or Network Neighborhood in Windows XP). Double-click on the name of the created server. A window will open in which you need to enter a username and password.



You must enter the credentials stored on the server. True, this is user and his password. Check Remember credentials and click OK.

Now on this computer you can read and write files located in folders on the server.



Configure backup to server



There are probably important files on every computer in the house. Windows has a great function, Data Backup , which creates a backup copy of the OS itself and the folders with the files that were specified during configuration. This function allows you to store copies on another hard drive or in a network location. I propose to configure the latter, since the reliability of data storage on the server is slightly higher, because it is configured to mirror data on a second hard drive.

Let's get started. Open the Control Panel , select a view of all the elements of the control panel and double-click Windows 7 File Recovery (Windows 8 has exactly the same name). The Backup or restore files window opens.



A window will open to select the location of the archive.



Since we want to save the archive copy on the server, we need to click the Save to network button .



The archives will be stored in the Backups folder created above; sharing with the record is already open. Using the Browse button, specify the path to the folder or write manually. In the User field, write user, and in the Password the password corresponding to the account.

Click OK. In the next window, you need to choose whether to let Windows select files for archiving or not. I decided to give myself the choice, because I do not need a system image.



Click Next.



Since I do not need a system image, I unchecked it. Also in this window you can select additional folders for archiving. Click Next.

In the next window, check the specified archiving parameters and change the schedule if desired. For myself, I indicated weekly archiving on Sunday at 3:00.

Check all the data again and click Save Settings and start archiving .

Sharing a printer



Perhaps you have only one printer in your home, while several people want to use its services at once. To solve this problem is very simple! Just connect the printer to your home server and share it. After that, all the computers in the house will be able to print on this printer.

The first thing to do is connect the printer to the server and install the driver. I used the Samsung SCX-4100 MFP. After installing the driver, open the Control Panel , select the display of all the elements, then go to the Devices and Printers section .

Find the printer you have installed and open its context menu. Select Printer Properties.



Go to the Access tab .

Check the box next to Share this printer . Next, enter a name for the printer, which will be visible to other computers on the network.

If your network has computers with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows, I recommend that you click the Additional drivers button in this window .



In the next window, you need to select the driver for which bit depth to install. Since I already have a driver installed for the 64-bit version of Windows, I check x86 (32-bit). In your case, everything can be the other way around, but it does not matter.



After ticking, click OK. A window will open in which you need to specify the path to the driver. If the drivers for your printer are supplied as a single installation file (* .exe), then try to extract files from it using the archiver, or perhaps the installer extracts them to the Temp folder, for example.

Specify the path to the driver of the required bit depth and click OK. Wait for the driver to install and close the Printer Properties by clicking on the OK button.

Now try to connect the printer to a network computer. Open the folder that lists all the devices on your network, then open your server. In addition to open network folders, a printer appeared with the name indicated above. Open its context menu and select the Connect item .



Windows will ask if you trust the printer.



Press button Установить драйвер . After that, Windows will automatically download the necessary driver from the server and install it.

Done! Now you can print to the printer from another computer, while the printer is not directly connected to it.

Remote Server Management



Since this is a server, it does not need a monitor, keyboard and mouse (otherwise, it would have turned out to be a regular PC). But how to perform additional configuration without all this? For this purpose, Remote Desktop Connection will be used .

Let's get started. к настройке. Go to Control Panel> System and Security> System , then in the left part of the window select Remote Access Settings .

Set the switch to Allow remote connections to this computer , and also verify that a check mark is selected under the switch.

Next, you need to allow the user user to connect through the remote desktop. Press button Выбрать пользователей .



In the window that opens, click Add. In the new window, enter user and click OK.



Verify that user appears in the list. Click OK. Also close the System Properties window with the OK button.

After setting these parameters, you can connect to the server from any home PC using the Remote Desktop Connection program or using another RDP client.

When connecting, you will need to enter the server name, username (user) and its password. Then you will see the server desktop and can configure it remotely.

Server security



This is one of the most important points. Since the server uses Windows, this means that the server has a risk of infection with viruses, of which there are an incredible amount. How to secure the server?

Turn on automatic windows updates!


Microsoft is constantly releasing security updates for Windows that close security holes (and sometimes open new ones). If all updates are installed, computer security is at a higher level.

Open Windows Update , then on the left side of the window, select Settings . Make sure that Install updates automatically (recommended) is selected in the drop-down list . Select this item if not selected, and press OK.

Antivirus protection


For more complete protection of the computer (server, in our case), you need to have an antivirus.

Windows 8 has integrated Windows Defender integrated security system, which included the excellent Microsoft Security Essentials product. Windows Defender works in Windows 8 immediately after installing the system and does not require manual activation and startup.

If you want to install another company’s antivirus, the built-in Windows 8 will automatically turn off.

Windows Defender automatically updates its virus databases as soon as they become available (usually several times a day). Manual update is not required.

Common Rights Account


Immediately after installation, an administrator account and an ordinary user were created. To work with the server, clients use the latter option. This will not allow changing critical server settings and gaining access to system files without knowing administrator credentials.

Summary



The article turned out to be quite voluminous, detailed, and, hopefully, interesting. I tried to share my knowledge with you, told how to raise a home server on Windows 8 Professional and set up computers to work with it. I will be very happy if I helped someone with this article.

Please share in the comments your opinion, additions, comments and other useful things.

With you was Roman Gladkikh.
See you!