I recently built my first WHS for my own home using my old desktop PC and whatever bits I had lying about the place. I’ve build several high-end rack mount WHS boxes for clients before, but not one for myself!
During this setup process I discovered two WHS add-ins that have made my system all the more better. These are not new or free add-ins and some of you will be using them already, however as I liked them so much I wanted to mention them here on my blog.
The first is called Disk Management for Windows Home Server, by Tentacle software you can see their webpage here.
“Disk Management is an Add-In for Microsoft Windows Home Server. This Add-In is designed for users who need more detail about their server's storage status than what the standard Server Storage interface provides.”
- Detailed information for each disk in your Windows Home Server
- Real-time temperature and activity monitoring
- Capacity indicators for individual disks
- Customizable disk names
- Customizable 3D wireframe representation of your server
As soon as I’d create the 3D wireframe representation of my server and seen what information this add-in was now displaying to me in the WHS console, I bought a licence for it there and then! And also thought why didn’t Microsoft do this?
I can now see the used space on each individual hard disk, see temp stats, read/write activity indicators etc.
Overall an extremely useful add-in and worth the asking price.
The next add-in I wanted to mention is called Lights Out. You can find the webpage for Lights Out here which is a blog done by some German dudes, if you scroll further down this page however they have kindly also written in English.
Now usually I am pretty bad with leaving PC’s turned on and running 24/7. At work I’d always leave my workstation(s) running constantly whilst everyone else was expected to shutdown their machines down every night, must be an I.T. guy thing! And even at home I use to leave my desktop running all the time. However I must be getting more green as I get older or more likely the cost of energy these days has gone up massively and I’m thinking about my wallet more.
So I wanted some way to turn my “recycled” WHS off when not in use, thankfully there is a brilliant add-in as I said called Lights Out which fits the bill! No pun intended.
Below is a bit from their website:
Lights-Out – The name says it all
“This Add-In is used to put a Windows Home Server into suspended mode or hibernation and resume on user defined events.”
Mode of operation
“Lights-Out monitors several sources for activity. As long as one source signals activity, the server is kept running. When the monitoring detects no more activity, the server is disabled.”
Basically it detects when your Windows PC clients (WHS clients) are active. There is also a Windows Client bit of software that you can install, this runs in the system tray and allows you from this icon to suspend an wakeup the server manually. You can also add IP devices to be monitored. For example I gave my XBOX 360 static IP address and then added this address to be monitored in the Lights Out settings.
The best thing about this for me, apart from it automatically putting your WHS to sleep (suspend) and then waking it up again when any clients connect, is the Up Time Diagram. The screen shot on their website doesn’t have much detail in it, the one below is from my own WHS.
You can easily see what is active and when! Great for routing out any problems with something staying awake and what time it woke etc.
On the 12 and 13th of October you can see I had a problem and the WHS and HTPC (MCX01) were on most of the night. Initially I thought it was the HTPC not going back to sleep after the WHS backup. However after seeing the start and end time of the backup I ruled that out as the problem.
Noting they woke at 2:30am, I then changed the Media Center update task on my main HTPC to run at 7PM instead of the default which is 2:30am The next night on the 14th both stayed sound asleep!
Up Time Diagram:
I’m still on the free trial, there is a free community edition and a paid version, there is a matrix comparison here I’m not quite sure yet what will stop working when my trial runs out however.
The only issue I have with Lights Out, is that I have a monitor keyboard and mouse hooked up to my WHS that is in the office room. If I am the WHS console directly it keeps going to sleep on me automatically if no other clients are active on the network. I have to remember to disable the Lights Out first.
Overall it works well and its certainly worth checking out. I just hope both of these types of features will be native in WHS Vail or these 3rd party developers release new versions for WHS Vail.