Windows Home Server – Configs and Tweaks – Part II
After you have the WHS initial setup and configuration done, it’s time to do some tweaking and customizations. (If you purchase(d) the HP MediaSmart, the defaults are not bad. But, where would we be without tweaks and customizations.)
For this article, I’ll assume that you are a newcomer to Windows Home Server, with basic computer skills. If you haven’t installed the Connector on more than one computer, wait until later. You will need the Connector on at least one Windows PC.
1. Update your system from both MS and HP.
2. Install WHS Connector on each computer in the house, including all Apple Macs.
3. Configure your server to sleep (HP MediaSmart).
4. Set Backup Time Interval.
5. Set Password Policy for better security.
For Part II, we’ll cover:
6. Install your first Add-in, Advanced Admin Console.
7. Configure static IP using Advanced Admin console (for advanced users).
8. Configure some other good settings using Advanced Admin Console.
9. Configure Automatic Update time.
10. Set up user accounts, and guest users.
11. Configure Shared Folders Duplication.
12. Configure iTunes Server and Media Collection for iTunes (HP MediaSmart)
Install your first Add-in, Advanced Admin Console:
Download Advanced Admin Console from HERE and install it.
On your desktop, you should have a link called Shared Folders.
To install add-ins, place the .msi file in the Software\Add-ins directory on your home server using the
Launch the WHS Console and log in.
Click on Settings, Add-ins and Available. You should see the Advanced Admin console here. Click Install to install it. As you can see, I’ve already installed it, so I can’t show you where it is, but it should appear. (You see that I didn’t install McAfee. I’m going to be using Avast anti-virus, and plan to review it later.)
After you install it, the console will close. Log back in.
Configure Static IP (Optional; Advanced Users Only)
If you understand Static IP and know your DNS, you can set a static IP Address. If you are unsure of what choices to make, skip this paragraph, and proceed on down to the next section, Swap File, or all the way down to Set up users. If you are looking about how to set a Static IP, here is a hint: On the WHS Console, click on Advanced Admin Console. Click on Network Connections. Right click on Local Area Connection, and properties. Under Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), you can set the static IP and DNS.
Configure some other good settings:
Configure some other settings for slightly improved performance and security: Swap file, DEP, Automatic Updates. You can skip this section if you want to, and proceed to Set up users.
Let set a static Swap file (for both improved performance, and so that we have more available space on the C: drive to install programs.)
Under Control panel, again, double click System, then Advanced. Under Performance, click Settings. Now, click on Advanced. Under Virtual Memory,
click Change. Click on the C: [SYS] drive, Custom Size, and set both Initial and Maximum to 200, click Set. Click on the D: [DATA] drive, Custom Size, and set both Initial and Maximum to 4000, click Set. Click OK once.
Now we will enhance the security of the server. Click on Data Execution Prevention.
(“Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a set of hardware and software technologies that perform additional checks on memory to help prevent malicious code from running on a system.” — Microsoft). Select Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select: Click OK. You should once again be at Advanced under System Properties. DEP is turned on for Microsoft Windows programs and services only. I always turn it on for all programs. If a program crashes due to the DEP, Windows will let you know that it terminated for this reason, then you can manually add it in, if the program is acceptable. I’ve found that Command & Conquer 3 requires it on Vista, but that’s a different computer.
Configure Automatic Update time:
On System Properties, Click Automatic Updates.
We’ll change this so that the WHS doesn’t start an update and then reboot the server when we want to have it available. I am likely to be using it at the default time it checks for updates, so I change it. Think about what time you want the server to wake up in the morning. Ensure that Automatic (recommended) is selected, and then select a time about one hour earlier than you want to have the server available, then click OK. The System panel should go away now.
Set up user accounts, and guest users:
Note: As the administrator, either you need to know each person’s password, or have them present to set a password. This is not required, per se, but it is the best way to do things.
On all of the computers in your house (or business), make sure that each person has the same username and complex password on each computer that they need access to. For Windows Home Server, a complex password must contain at least three of the following four character categories: Uppercase letters, Lowercase letters, Numbers, Symbols (such as ! @ # . – +) … and is at least seven characters long.
(Explaining how change account names completely on the various account types on all of the supported operating systems is outside the scope of this document. Note that in XP, if you change the username, it doesn’t actually change the username, only what is displayed. A hint for advanced novices: try the command “control useraccounts2” on XP.)
You should create new user accounts with the same name on each computer – this is the recommended approach for non-matching user names. This is also the cleanest method, and gives the best results. On the old accounts, simply copy documents and such into a public folder, such as public, music, etc. Then log in with the new user account, and put the private documents into that folder.
At the WHS Console, click on User Accounts. Add. Input first, last and logon name (logon name is the username on the other computers).
If you want them to be able to remotely access the shared folders and/or computers, and you probably do, select Enable Remote Access for this user.
Click Next. Input the complex password for this user and click Next. Select the folders you want them to have access to. If you are unsure don’t make any changes, WHS sets some reasonable defaults. Click Finish. Do this for each user.
You may want to enable guest access on the WHS and on some or all of the computers in the house. This way, when I have guests staying with me, or friends over, they can access the computers and the WHS. I use the Guest access, as well as an account called “houseguest” for friends and family who are visiting me. To enable the Guest account, Click on Guest, and the Properties. Follow the instructions, like we did for regular users.
Shared Folders and Duplication:
On the WHS Console screen,
click on Shared Folders. If you have more than one physical disk in the WHS, you can enable duplication, so that in the event of a disk crash, you won’t lose the contents of those folders.
To turn it on or off, select the folder, and then click Properties. This is where you can check or uncheck Enable Folder Duplication. OK will set it and exit the properties for that folder. Enable folder duplication for all of your important folders. (If you can’t enable folder duplication, you only have one disk. If possible, please add an additional disk. Some WHS servers only support one internal disk. Add an external disk, and/or use on-line backup (not covered in this article)).
You can also set permissions to folders this way, so if you (don’t) want someone to have access to a certain folder, you can (dis)enable access. (Yes, “disenable” is a word, according to MS Word.)
iTunes Server (HP MediaSmart) and Media Collector (for use with iTunes)
If you use iTunes, you may want to have the WHS act as a server. This is a cool feature of the WHS and iTunes.
From the WHS Console, MediaSmart Server, Click on Server for iTunes and Configure. Select Enabled, pick a name (I used the name of the server, but you don’t have to, but I think you should.), require a password, if you so desire (I didn’t), and then set the interval. I think that 15 minutes is quick enough, you might want 5 minutes, or only once per day. Your choice. Click OK.
From the WHS Console, MediaSmart Server, Click on HP Media Collector. At the top, click Media Collector Settings. Under General Settings, pick your interval with the slider. Select the computers you want included and click Add.
At the top, select Music, and Enabled and iTunes libraries. Decide your organization, by Artist/Album or PC folder structure. Click OK. You can also copy or move iTunes music and videos to the WHS, but we’ll leave that to another discussion.