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Microsoft Enables Windows 8 Beta on Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server (WHS) users can connect with the Windows 8 "consumer preview" beta, Microsoft said this week -- with a few conditions.

Using the Windows 8 beta with WHS is "not recommended or fully supported" and is just for testing purposes at this point, Microsoft said. The company lists the caveats in some Microsoft wiki pages for WHS 2007 and WHS 2011. The caveats also apply to using the Windows 8 beta with Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials.

WHS 2011 has four known interoperability issues with the Windows 8 beta, according to a Microsoft blog post. The top concern is to have .NET Framework 3.5 enabled on Windows 8, which is needed to avoid an "unexpected error." The power setting for client backups won't work right. Thumbnails in the picture folder won't display correctly when used with remote access. Lastly, there's a credentials issue with share folders that have joined a home group.

Windows 8 beta testers need to download a connector first before trying out Microsoft's wiki suggestions, it seems. Theo van Elsberg, a moderator in a Microsoft forum post, suggested that WHS 2011 users need to download Windows 8 client connector software first before adding .NET Framework 3.5. In a We Got Served forum, it's stated that this connector is available through the Microsoft Connect WHS portal.

WHS 2007 has two issues when linking up with the Windows 8 beta. For instance, a Windows Live ID credential "may not be recognized by Windows Home Server." Microsoft provides a workaround for the problem by providing instructions for adding an account to the Windows 8 client via the "credential manager." A second issue has to do with OEM client software not installing. Microsoft suggests installing particular .MSI files before the connector to address that problem.

It looks like Microsoft at least is planning for Windows 8 and WHS to work together in the near future, or whenever Windows 8 gets released. Speculation exists that Windows 8, because of its storage improvements, could serve as a replacement for WHS altogether. Most of that speculation centers on a storage virtualization technology in Windows 8 called "storage spaces." Windows 8's storage spaces feature allows mixed disk media to be used and creates pools of storage that can be expanded by simply adding disks on the fly. Storage spaces is described as a more sophisticated mechanism for pooled storage than WHS's former "drive extender" technology, which Microsoft has deprecated. According to Microsoft, storage spaces in Windows 8 was not intended to be a replacement for WHS's driver extender technology.

If it does turn out to be possible to use Windows 8 instead of WHS, some features might end up on the higher priced side, defeating the whole low-cost home server concept. For instance, some editions of Windows 8 will include a "DirectAccess" technology that lets users remotely connect within a corporate network. However, Windows Server 8 and Active Directory Domain Services will be required to use that DirectAccess feature, according to Microsoft's "Windows 8 Consumer Preview Product Guide for Business" document (PDF).

WHS users do have a low-cost remote access management option called Windows Phone 7 Connector. A release candidate version of the connector was released in June and version 1.1 came out in July. The connector allows users to manage WHS remotely using their phones.

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About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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