Friday, July 29, 2011

Restore your System drive from Windows Home Server - a tip

My main office PC experienced a hard disk crash the other day. No worries, I said, that's why we've invested in the Windows Home Server backup setup, so that snags like this can be resolved with the minimum of downtime, right?


Four days later and several attempts at restoring (I could work in the meantime using my laptop) provided fruitless. I was close to giving up, formatting the new hard disk that came as the replacement and installing Windows 7 anew. I could not, however, ignore the "piss off" factor that was telling me I would not be defeated by a bloody program, especially since this is exactly why we had installed WHS in the first place - so we could restore anything, anytime.

Well, the problem was simple, silly and, as it turns out, easily fixable (aren't they all), but I couldn't really detect it as I never bothered sitting out the entire process (or timing it): When I would start the restore process, WHS would say that it would take about 3-4 hours to restore my disk. As such, I usually started this process at night, before bed, etc. only to find out in the following morning that it had failed with an "unspecified network error". 

The first time, I thought it was the Ethernet switch to blame, so I plugged the PC directly into the router where WHS is connected (topology not important, as it turned out).

The second time, I thought it was the (new) hard disk to blame, so I switched hard disks.

The third time, I decided to read all sorts of blogs and discussions which suggested I had to have the new disk formatted first, but without an assigned drive (C: or whatever), only mount it as an active partition.

The fourth time (I was getting close to throwing the thing out from the second floor window) I finally decided to give the error log some attention and the truth appeared in front of me: The "unknown network error" was in fact a timeout of the DHCP-provided IP address that the WHS Restore CD was getting for the PC's network card, as the router providing the dynamic IP was set (by default) to expire the DHCP lease after one hour (ONLY - what are they smoking?).

Setting the router to expire the DHCP leases after a week and restarting the PC finally got the restore process to finish properly and I am now writing this blog entry from my main office PC.

Let's hope others might read this and save themselves the grief.

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