Continuing our series of “How To…” guides, this guide explains how to use an external hard drive to backup your Windows Home Server Shared Folders easily and without much effort.
So your important files are stored on your Windows Home Server. And to make them even safe you have enabled folder duplication just in case one of the disks fails. That is a very good, you never know when that might happen.
So what do you do if something actually happens to the Windows Home Server itself? Let’s say for example it gets damaged or destroyed. What happens then?
Wouldn’t you wish at that point that you had stored those important files someone else, other than on your Windows Home Server?
Well, you are in luck! Windows Home Server allows you to plug in an external hard drive and backup any or all of your shared files to that drive and then unplug it. You can then store that hard drive off-site, maybe in a safety deposit box, maybe at a friends house. The location doesn’t matter as much as storing it somewhere other than where you Windows Home Server is located.
Now if anything happens you can just retrieve the hard drive, plug it into any computer and access the the data as though it was any other drive. You don’t even need Windows Home Server to do it.
The only thing you need is an external hard drive that has enough space to store all the files you want. Obviously you can use more than one drive if you need to – just back up some files to one drive and then replace the drive and repeat.
You could also use an internal hard drive, but depending on your actual Windows Home Server hardware it may be a pain to add and remove the drives as and when you want to back up.
The following are the steps you need to perform in order to back up your files to a drive.
ADDING AN EXTERNAL DRIVE TO USE
Start up the Windows Home Server Console, as you would normally,
If you click on the Server Storage tab you will see all the drives you currently have attached. In the case of the example below, I have four internal hard drives.
Plus in the external hard drive. You will notice it will appear as Not Added in the Non Storage Hard Drives area.
You need to add it in order to use it. So, right click on the drive and then click on Add.
This will launch the Add a New Hard Drive Wizard, so just click Next to continue.
If you have ever added a hard drive to Windows Home Server you are probably already familiar with this wizard, only this time you are going to select the Use the hard drive to back up files that are stored on your home server option. Then click Next to continue.
You then have to decide if you want to format the hard drive or preserve the existing data. Now the choice is yours, providing the drive is large enough you could always keep multiple backups on it, but in the case of this guide I am going to format the drive so that it only contains today’s backup. Click Next to continue after you have chosen.
You are asked to enter a memorable name for the drive. By default ARCHIVE is entered for you. This is as good a name as any, but you could always change it if you wanted. Just click Next to continue after you have decided.
You are then presented with a summary – just click Finish to continue. Just remember though if you chose to format the drive you will lose anything that is currently stored on it.
The drive will then be formatted.
When that is completed you will see the New Hard Drive Successfully Added screen. Just click Done to finish.
As you can now see, the new external hard drive has been added to the Server Backup Hard Drives area.
BACKING UP YOUR FILES TO THE EXTERNAL DRIVE
So now that the drive has been added and is ready to use, you now need to tell Windows Home Server what files you want to back up to it.
Click on the Computers and Backups tab. You will now notice a new computer entry – your Windows Home Server. And in the case of mine, it is showing as Not backed up – which it would do as we haven’t run the back up yet!
Click on your Windows Home Server from the list, and then click Backup Now.
You will be presented with a list of all the shared folders on your Windows Home Server.
Work through the list and select the destination (in this case the drive called ARCHIVE) if you want to back it up. By default none of the folders are selected. If you want to perform the same backup at a later stage, you can select the Remember these settings for future backups option. When you have chosen everything you want to back up click the Backup Now button.
The backup will now commence – the time it takes will depend on the amount of data you want to backup, along with the speed of your external drive. You can watch the progress if you wish.
When the backup is complete, you will receive notification. Just click Close to finish.
As you will see, your Windows Home Server is now showing as Backed Up.
REMOVING THE BACKUP DRIVE
Now that you have backed up all the files you want to keep elsewhere, it is time to remove the backup drive from Windows Home Server. You could just pull the drive out but that is messy, and you really don’t want to do that.
So what you do want to do is click on the Server Storage tab again, click on the external hard drive and this time select Remove.
You will then be given the option of Temporarily removing it or Stop using it. In my case I want to stop using it so that I can just store it offsite for a rainy day.
Make your selection and click OK.
Now all you need to do is remove the drive, package it up to keep it safe and take it wherever it is that you want to take it.
ACCESSING THE BACKUPS
Now let’s say you want to access the backups for whatever reason. It is very simple to do and you don’t need Windows Home Server, so you can access the files from any computer you like.
Plug in the drive to your computer. In my case I am prompted with the AutoPlay dialog box. So I just click Open folder to view files.
You will then be presented with a folder with the date and time of the backup. If you stored more than one backup on the drive then you will see multiple folders here. Just double-click on the folder you want to access.
You will then see a folder called Shares – just double-click it to open it.
In this folder you will see all the folders you backed up previously, all neatly arranged for you. Now you can do whatever it is you wanted to do with the files.
And that is it. As you have seen it is easy to add an external drive, backup your shared files, store the drive someone else and access it again at a later date if you need to.
Offsite backup should be a very important part of your backup regime. Just remember that it is all well and good that your Windows Home Server is backing up your computers for you, but what happens to your stored and shared files that live on your WHS?
For the cost of an external drive, which is very cheap compared the loss of your most precious data, shouldn’t you be doing this now?