Before you install Windows Home Server 2011, RTFM (seriously)

Summary:I'm about to install the final release of Windows Home Server 2011. Normally, I would just insert the DVD and follow the prompts. For some reason, I decided to read the release notes first. Thank goodness I did. You'll be surprised at what you need to do before you run setup.

Update 18-April: At long last, Microsoft has posted revised installation instructions for Windows Home Server 2011. The document contains a revision date of April 17, 2011 and no longer includes the odd instructions documented in this post, which were left over from the original beta documentation. In addition, a set of formal release notes for Windows Home Server 2011 is now available, documenting some more obscure issues that you might encounter. It also shows a revision date of April 17.

Update: Microsoft Program Manager Sean Daniel left a comment in the Talkbacks:

It seems that the documentation here is incorrect online and is a snap-shot of our first Beta documentation.

WHS 2011 will support a RAID configuration, WHS 2011 will support a mouse, monitor and keyboard (although this depends on your OEM license if you get your server via OEM), and it prompts you for your time similar to Windows 7 when you install the server that doesn't require you to change the time in the BIOS.

I'm about to install the final release of Windows Home Server 2011. I've been running the release candidate for a couple months with no issues, and I'm planning do a clean install, so I expect no problems. I've downloaded the installation image from TechNet, and under normal circumstances I would just start the installation and see where things go. But for some reason, just to be thorough, I decided this time to read the release notes first.

Thank goodness I was sitting down. I don't believe I have ever read instructions quite like those I found in Installing and Configuring Windows Home Server 2011. Follow along…

In a yellow box, under the bold heading Important, you'll find these instructions:

Before you install Windows Home Server 2011, set your BIOS clock to match the time and date for the Pacific Time Zone (PST) regardless of where you are located in the world. After successfully installing Windows Home Server 2011 and joining client computers, do not reset the time, date, and time zone on the Dashboard for another day.

If you do not set your server time to PST, you should not use the server or connect computers to it until the number of hours pass that equals the difference between your time and PST.

So, if you're in Australia and you forget this step, you need to let your new server sit for a full day before you do anything with it?

I had to look twice to make sure this wasn't an April Fool's joke. Nope, this document was updated March 30, 2011.

Most versions of Windows default to Redmond time, but this is the first time I've ever been told to change the time in the BIOS too, and to leave it that way while I connect clients. What happens if I don't? Unfortunately, the release notes don't say.

Are you planning to use a RAID array to work around the loss of Drive Extender? Think again. In a separate Troubleshooting document, this instruction is also in a yellow box under yet another bold Important heading:

Windows Home Server 2011 works best when each attached hard drive is accessed as an individual hard drive. Some computers and mainboards can be configured so that the hard drives are managed as RAID by the BIOS on the mainboard. For best results, you should turn off this configuration before installing Windows Home Server 2011.

Back to the installation instructions. I understand why it's necessary to disconnect any USB or FireWire hard disk drives. It makes sense to add external hard drives after setup is complete. But why this instruction?

After you finish configuring your server, shut down the computer; disconnect the keyboard, mouse, and monitor; and then restart the computer.

This one I actually grok. Windows Home Server is designed for headless operation. You're supposed to administer it remotely, using the dashboard from a connected client computer. But still…

You'll be doing administrative tasks from a web browser. If you're a Firefox user, pay attention:

If your web browser is Firefox, click F11 to ensure that the entire wizard page is visible on your monitor.

At least that one's documented.

And then finally, near the end of the instructions, this repeat of the opening theme:

The default time zone during Setup is Pacific Standard Time (PST). If your computer is configured to use another time zone, you need to change it back to the appropriate time zone after setup is complete and to ensure that the time is correct.

I am truly baffled that these oddball instructions made it into a shipping product. If anyone from the Windows Home Server team can help me understand what's going on here, please drop me a line.

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Topics: CXO, Hardware, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

About

Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications. He has served as editor of the U.S. edition of PC Computing and managing editor of PC World; both publications had monthly paid circulation in excess of 1 million during his tenure. He is the a... Full Bio

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