I was recently asked what Windows Home Server Add-Ins I us and figured it was a good topic for a blog post. So this morning I took a look and see that I have six loaded. I don’t use a lot of add-ins for two main reasons:
- In general I like my important systems to be as clean as possible. My Windows Home Server is no different. I don’t do a lot of hacks on any computer I use day in and day out. Adding a ton of WHS add-ins could potentially cause conflicts and reduce performance so I avoid anything I’m just curious about.
- I use my Windows Home Server mainly as a file server, not as an application server. While I do use it to “stream” video and music to other computers or my TV there’s some client (iTunes or VLC these days) reading the file.
So my Windows Home Server Add-Ins reflect this conservative philosophy and revolve around maintaining and monitoring the server. So on to the list:
Disk Management for Windows Home Server by Tentacle Software (Sam Wood) – I’m using version 188.8.131.527 (There’s a slightly newer version out). With the release of version 1.1 this became a paid add-in. I’m still on the 30—day evaluation but will be paying the $10. This has long been my favorite add-in and this latest version took it to a new level (sorry for the overused cliché).
The interface has been completely redesigned to present a great deal of information in an organized manner. The server hard disks tab will show the status of all drives in the system. (Click any of these images for the larger size.) Visit the website (linked up above) for details.
The Disk Management tab gives additional information about the storage pool and individual drives.
The wire frame diagram to the right in each screen shot is important if you’ve built your own server or have a server that doesn’t let you know which physical drive your dealing with or which drive has gone bad. The red drives are missing (or bad). In this case it’s no big deal because I’ve removed them from the storage pool. I just haven’t physically disconnected them or removed them from the wire frame configuration. The green drive is the selected drive when your managing it. You can build your own wireframe diagram or download one from the web-site. If you build your own you can contribute it to the community. For me, someone had already built one for my case by the time I needed it.
Highly recommended and worth the ten bucks.
Home Server SMART by Dojo North Software is a Windows Home Server add-in that reports the Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T) information from the hard drives in the Windows Home Server.
I came across this WHS add-in when I was having hard drive problems with my Windows Home Server. It made it easy for me to find the problem hard drive. We Got Served has a in-depth and accurate review of this add-in.
This is a free add-in. I have a certain affection for software that does a job simply and cleanly and this certainly fits that bill. Add to that the time this saved me troubleshooting my drive problem and I ended up throwing a small donation their way. So this one is also highly recommended.
Grid Junction by Kentdome Technologies is an add-in for managing a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Not much to say about this one. It’s free and it’s worked with the two different UPS’s I used it with. It records power events (such as brown outs) and properly shuts down my server when power fails.
Windows Home Server Toolkit 1.1 by Microsoft. Provides error reporting and troubleshooting guides. Good to have around in case it’s needed but not something I use with any frequency.
If you use remote console to connect to your server then the command prompt and event viewer options aren’t any benefit but their nice to have available on the console.
PerfectDisk 11 by Raxco Software is disk defragmentation software. PerfectDisk 11 for Windows Home Server is part of the PerfectDisk family of defrag software. It’s $40 for the WHS license alone but is also part of a couple licensing bundles. (Also look or wait for discounts, I bought it for about half price. Here’s a 20% discount through March 26th, 2010) It’s debatable whether or not defragging a WHS hard disk provides any noticeable benefit and the answer may depend upon how you use the WHS. I looked at a couple defraggers after finding that the built-in WHS defragger wasn’t usable for me (slow, manual and a big performance hit). I decided on PerfectDisk 10 awhile back, mainly on price.
I haven’t really noticed a performance improvement since I’ve been using a defragger. Perfect Disk 11 hasn’t impacted my performance in a negative way when it’s running. The exception being if I force it to keep running on a physical disk that a file I’m streaming is also on. But typically PerfectDisk will pause when disk i/o picks up.
If you want to defragment your Windows Home Server then I’d recommend PerfectDisk 11 based on it’s price and configuration options. But I’m no so enamored with it that I’d recommend it over a lower cost but comparable product. I’m also not convinced that defragmentation will noticeably improve performance on a Windows Home Server.
AdminiMe by ASoft is another paid Windows Home Server Add-In ($8). I did pay for it but based more on the feature list and a couple recommendations than actual use. In retrospect, if I had run the trial for awhile I may not have bought it. Early on I had some problems with it although that may have been due to other WHS problems. I find the interface a bit complex. I have the service turned off so while I have the add-in installed, it’s not really being used. I may return to it some day and find some benefit in it.
Those are the six add-ins I currently have installed. I also looked at Avast’s Antivirus software for Windows Home Server about a year ago. Avast has been updating their AV software but I think the WHS software is still at the older version. It’s also hard to find on their website so I’m not sure how committed that are to the product. The WHS AV software seems to have little to chose from, so if you want AV software for your WHS then check out the 60-day eval. I fall into the camp that doesn’t want AV on their WHS since I don’t want the overheard and I don’t use the WHS in a risky manner (no internet browsing or direct downloads). The Avast software seemed nice enough although a bit rough around the edges as they tried to shoehorn their product into the WHS console. The real-time scans didn’t seem to have a noticeable impact when I used the server. But the disk scans did cause a noticeable performance hit.
What add-ins do you use or recommend?