How To's & GuidesBacking Up Your Windows Home Server Shared Folders with...

Backing Up Your Windows Home Server Shared Folders with an External Hard Drive


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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.


Start up the Windows Home Server Console, as you would normally,

Launching the WHS Console

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.

WHS Console - Server Storage before

Plus in the external hard drive. You will notice it will appear as Not Added in the Non Storage Hard Drives area.

WHS Console - Server Storage - new drive not added

You need to add it in order to use it. So, right click on the drive and then click on Add.

Add the new drive

This will launch the Add a New Hard Drive Wizard, so just click Next to continue.

Add a drive 1

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.

Add a drive 2

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.

Add a drive 3

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.

Add a drive 4

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.

Add a drive 5

The drive will then be formatted.

Add a drive 6

When that is completed you will see the New Hard Drive Successfully Added screen. Just click Done to finish.

Add a drive 7

As you can now see, the new external hard drive has been added to the Server Backup Hard Drives area.

WHS Console - Server Storage after


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!

Computers and Backups tab

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.

Backup Options

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.

Backup selection

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.

backing up

When the backup is complete, you will receive notification. Just click Close to finish.

backup complete

As you will see, your Windows Home Server is now showing as Backed Up.

backed up


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.

remove drive

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.

removing drive

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.


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.

opening drive

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.

opening drive 1

You will then see a folder called Shares – just double-click it to open it.

opening drive 2

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.

opening drive 3

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?

Andrew Edney
Andrew Edney
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.


  1. Andrew,

    Good backup plan – how easy is it to have two backup external drives and rotate them?

    • Ian, you can add as many drives as you want and use them as you want. Just add them, and choose whether to format them or reuse them. Simple as that, works very effectively.

  2. I know this may sound alittle trusting but if you have more than 1 hdd in your home server, why would you want to backup to multiple externals when you can duplicate your information between hdd and then backup to one external. If one fails, simple replace it… My 2 cents.

    • Joshua, the idea of multiple external drives is so that you can rotate them. For example, if I had 2 external drives I could store one offsite somewhere, use the 2nd for the next backup, swap it with the first, and repeat. Its great having multiple drives in the home server with duplication but if the WHS is damaged or destroyed, or even stolen, I then know my data is safe and secure elsewhere.

  3. Andrew – thanks for the confirmation, and your reply to Joshua is exactly how I intend to proceed.

    Joshua – I started thinking about a separate backup when the power supply went on my WHS – replaced, but server u/s for several days. This is a (minor) example of what an off-site backup secures against…

  4. but what if the SYS drive becomes corrupt and unbootable, can I restore the ENTIRE WHS from this backup? or do I have to reinstall WHS, reconfigure and then restore my data?


    • Mark – no, this is just your shared folders backup – however if you run the Server Reinstallation option you can reinstall Windows Home Server and it should keep your data (assuming the data was still available on the drives).

  5. For a product that is focused on the home user, restoring the ENTIRE server is a daunting task. This is a serious gap in the over all strategy with WHS and one that will frustrate end/home users beyond belief when it happens and they 'lose' access to all their digital assets.

    I see this as a major opportunity for 3rd parties like Acronis of Symantec … but I don't see any specific products from them meeting this need.

    I've recently put in several Acer easyStore WHSs and the beauty with them as with the HPs is that you can install and config it, pop the HDD, image it, put it back in and let the users then do and be responsible for the data backup as you describe above.

    If things go really bad (or the box gets stollen) then you have a image with your latest configuratin and data that you can go back to. Monthly imaging becomes a billable service as is the restore if required if the end users desire.

    • Mark – restoring the server is actually simpler than restoring a normal computer without WHS. Providing you dont have a single drive WHS and that drive isnt fried, you just put the DVD in the WHS, choose Server Reinstall, wait a while, recreate your user accounts and reinstall your add-ins, and that is it. Your data is safe, it isnt deleted. The only way your data is at risk is if you are using a single drive and that drive dies, otherwise you are protected. I dont see this as daunting at all. Obviously if there WHS is destroyed or stolen that is a different matter.

      • No arguments at all, it's just that all of a sudden you're no longer talking about a 'simple' end/home user solution. … you're now 'encouraging' your WHS target audience to consder backing up their backups which increases the complexity from their perspective. Wasn't that what WHS was supposed to solve in the first place ? 😉

        • Mark – I think that Microsoft could have done a better job explaining the "risks" to users rather than giving them the impression that WHS is the backup saviour of the world. That being said though, it really isnt that difficult, and is easier than the user having to reinstall the OS, drivers, software, settings, etc, etc. Who knows what Vail might bring 🙂

      • I realize this is an old thread…

        Your comment about putting in a DVD into the WHS… ??

        How do you do that? There are no bays for a DVD device.

        I'm confused.

        If the only access to the WHS machine is via a client machine… how does one reinstall WHS OS onto the WHS machine if it has no OS (assuming the WHS machines HDD crapped out and you had to install a new HDD)? I must be missing something. Am I the only one?

        In regard to backing up shared folders off the WHS machine… don't know if I am doing a bad thing here, but I installed SecondCopy on the WHS (via Remote Desktop), which runs in the background on WHS and backs up all the shared folders to various NAS appliances and external drives on various workstations on the local network… which works great, so far.

        • Aron

          Sorry, I didnt make myself clear – you reinstall WHS by putting the WHS DVD into a computer on your network and running the software over the network from the computer to the WHS. Take a look at the Server installation and server reinstallation articles in our How To section for more information.

          As for SecondCopy, if it works and you have tested your data to make sure it is ok, then great, use it 🙂


          • Well,

            I've made CRC comparisons, and it all look solid. …sooo.

            I like the SecondCopy method because you can set the resource priority to low which makes the backup slow but the server shows no sign of lag.

            And even though file-to-file backup (no compression. no one huge backup file) means more hard drive space, access to the backed up files is immediate, without having to go through the painful restoration process. And once the complete backup is completed, the daily backup is quick because it only gets any new files (like an incremental).

            Anyway, thanks for the reply. I just find it hard to believe that you can install the WHS OS onto a blank HDD in the WHS appliance without some way of communicating with the WHS appliance (since it would have no OS). I guess until I actually have to do it, I won't know for sure.

            Take care.


            • Aron

              To answer this:

              I just find it hard to believe that you can install the WHS OS onto a blank HDD in the WHS appliance without some way of communicating with the WHS appliance (since it would have no OS).

              Basically, each WHS hardware has a different way of starting the reinstall, or install process if you cant connect a mouse, keyboard and monitor (so basically any WHS sold today).

              For example, the HP units you have to press a little recessed switch before running the software on a client, this makes the WHS look for the process from the client and start the process off.

              Hope that makes sense?


  6. The downfall of this backup is it does not backup the backup files of the workstations. It only backs up shared folders. I major oversite.

    • Danny – you can actually back up the backup files of the workstations. If you look at the Backup Technical Brief from Microsoft there process is detailed in there (from memory).

  7. Thanks Andrew. Here is the link for the document;

    Mark, as much as I like Acronis I'm going to suggest your solution is too expensive. The Acronis backup for server costs considerably more than the Acer Easystore and defeats the purpose of having an inexpensive backup solution for a small office.

    • Exactly! That's my point, I'm glad you agree.

      A _full_ (1 button like) backup/restore solution should be included … but isn't. I wouldn't be surprised (and would hope) to see a simple and integrated solution to this at some point in the future.

  8. If I use two external hard drives to ensure I've got offsite backups (one is offsite, the second is home to be used for a backup), is WHS smart enough to know that the hard drives have different backup files on them that staggered one week apart, and can figure out the delta on what needs to be added to the backup that's currently attached to the server (I'm assuming that WHS does incrementals after the initial backup)? Make sense?

    • This was posted by a fellow MVP in the support forum:

      The backup is incremental in respect to disk usages but always creates a new sub directory on your USB drive with all files. The sub directories name contains date and time, so you can very easily identify the latest backup. In each sub directory you will find a copy of all new or changed files together with the files already backup up. This is done by creating hard links to the existing files. These files simply have two or more names and show up in each sub directory of the backup.

      Hope that answers the question?

  9. Andrew,

    Great post. I guess the question is….once I backup my shared folders from my WHS to an external hard drive, and my WHS dies – or in my case am replacing a homebrew built server for the HP media smart version – how do I restore the files that are now on my External HDD on the new HP MediaSmart Server?

    Is it straight forward?

    Also….is it possible to have two WHSs on the same network? If so, how difficult would it be to have 1 WHS backup the other WHS, so if something were to happen to 1, there is always a redundant backup of that one (perhaps in a different room or even floor)?


    • Actually, or just have each of the WHS boxes backup different things on the network. Maybe one is the backup server, the other is the media server?

      I am stuck with two WHS boxes, am trying to see how I could potentially use the two boxes, rather than have 1 legit license sitting down idle.

      • Marc – yes, you can have the two WHS doing different things. The only constraint is that you can only have 1 computer backing up to one WHS.

    • Hi Marc

      question 1 – just plug the drive in, dont add it to the storage pool and just copy the data off, or plug it into a computer, and copy / paste from the drive back onto the WHS. Very easy – time consuming though!

      question 2 – yes you can, but it isnt easy to have one back up the other though, in fact, im fairly certainly you cant do that!

      • How do I copy the data off? Do I have to remote desktop into the WHS and do it there? Or can I do it from the WHS Console?

        If so, where in the console can I actually go to the drive and do that?

        I would rather plug the drive directly into the WHS and do it on the WHS rather than going via a computer, because we are talking about 0.5TB of data.


        • Marc

          If you want to do it directly to the WHS, plug the drive into the WHS, use remote desktop to go to the WHS, go into drive management in windows and assign the drive a letter, then open the drive, copy the contents and paste the contents into whatever shared folder or folders.

          you cant do any of this from the WHS console unfortunately.


          • Thanks Andrew.

            That's what I had initially suspected.

            I remember trying to access the shared folders from the remote desktop but couldn't find them….for some strange reason. I will try again, and if I have any problems, I will let you know.

            Thanks again 🙂

  10. Andrew, this page was great. I added an external hard drive this morning and, thanks to this page, began my first backup. It's running right now. One thing I'm not clear on: what's the difference, really, between "Temporarily remove it from Windows Home Server" and "Stop using it for server backups"? Since I plan on using this same external drive in two weeks to take another backup, shouldn't I choose the former option, not the latter?

    One other question: Since I'm storing all my data on an external hard drive I'm going to store at my workplace, it'd be nice to encrypt the hard drive so if the cleaning crew rifles through my drawers and finds this, they don't walk away with all my personal data. How could I encrpt my hard drive before I actually store it away?

    • Hi William – glad it was useful 🙂

      To be honest, if you plan on reusing the drive on a regular basis, like you suggest, I owuld go for the temporarily remove option.

      As for the encryption question, I completly understand where you are coming from, and I have discussed this with the WHS dev team, so who knows, maybe in a later version they will support this.

      For now, you could use something like PGP or Bitlockers to encrypt the drive, and then decrypt it later, reconnect, do your backup, and then encrypt again. Time consuming but safer!

      Personally I back the data up, connect it up to one of my desktops running Bitlocker, encrypt it and store it. Works perfectly. And if you have Win 7, Bitlocker on the go is very cool and simple!

      Let me know how you get on.

  11. Andrew, I decided that I'm okay with whatever risk I'm incurring by storing my data offsite in a locked drawer at work (which has good security itself). I hid the drive in the drawer so if someone did break in my desk drawer, they might not find the drive anyway. The super essential data on the hard drive is already encrypted as a file — like the file I use to keep my passwords. There's only so much I'm willing to do. At least now I've got offsite storage of all my data, including all the digital photos I've taken over the last seven years. That's a big step forward for me.

  12. Hi Andrew – maybe it's covered elsewhere, but I don't see where it's possible/easy to replace the WHS system drive. I built a WHS out of a Vostro recently. Didn't plan on needing more than 80GB for the sys drive, but with the folder dups on it has eaten that up in a hurry. Thoughts?

    • Jay – not directly from the WHS using the built in features, no. But there is nothing to stop you from backing it up to a drive and then copying it to tape, although I imagine that kind of defeats what you are trying to do.

  13. Hi Andrew – I have to say thanks a million time over for what you have contributed to the community. I am fairly well schooled in all things tech and computers but I never entered in the server territory till recently.

    I have Google'd stuff countless times in the last couple of months and have quickly become a semi-pro level home server guy and very advanced PC person. Many of the things I have learned have been from your write ups. People rarely take the time to show full appreciation and that is important to me. So thanks again sir, you're very appreciated in this arena.

  14. Is it possible to use a RAID1 setup with the system drive to defeat the need to reinstall WHS after a main drive failure?

    • Eddie – WHS doesnt support any RAID setup. That is not to say you couldnt get it to work, just that it isnt supported and its not something I have personally tried.


  15. Andrew – this article and thread answers a lot of questions, but may I add one? I have an ACER H340 with 4x1TB drives. I am new to WHS, but really like the advantages.

    I have stored tons of recordings (some of them unrecoverable live-recordings) and HDTV Satellite Receiver recordings. So I really need to back them up safely. The downside: since in WHS (at least on my H340) the video folder is, let's call it, "virtual", it has already exceeded 2.5TB. Its data of course is spread over multiple drives inside the H340 (and I have not switched folder duplication on purpose). In other words: I see no way to back this up.

    The only thing I can provide are four single 1TB-HDs in an external case, that can be adressed individually – this case is attached via eSATA, and its controller like the one in the H340 is port multiplying capable. That means: I can present my H340 with 4 new drives, that I can add to the pool, but how will it distribute the contents of a 2.5 TB folder???? As I understand your article, I can just assing the video-folder to be backed up to a single drive, and this exceeds the limits of a single drive.

    Any recommendations? Thanks!

    • Hi Joe

      Glad I could help 🙂

      I think the easiest, although not the flashest way of doing it is to manually copy up to a 1TB of content onto each drive. You could sort them by date as well so that you knew what had changed from your last backup.

      Dont add the drives to the pool, just have them attached the server, go in via Remote Desktop, and then copy the data from the shared folder to the relevant drive.

      There may be another way to automate it with software but I havent found anything so far.


  16. Once i use an internal drive as a backup for the shares, do I manually have to run that backup or does it run nightly along with the other scheduled pc bakcups?

    If it doesnt run nightly then duplication would be better for the redundancy factor than having a backup that no one ever logs in and runs…It still would be dependant on the user running the backup now choice correct?

    • Matt – you will have to run the backup to an external drive manually whenever you want to do it.

      The whole point of backing up to an external drive to really to store that external drive somewhere else away from your home server in case of something happening to it – duplication wont help you if the server is damaged or destroyed.

      The only people who can run a backup to an external drive are those with WHS Console access.


  17. We use a WHS at a small business and backup to external drive every evening. The backups are taking longer and longer to run. Tonight took over 90 minutes (via USB). We have an EX470 which I think has an esata connection in the back (i'm no longer at the office to check this). So I'm wondering if that port can be used and would it be faster? Thank you (all) in advance.

    • David

      I dont have an eSata drive available with me at the moment, but it should work.


  18. Is there a good way to automate backups of the WHS to an external drive/s? a scheduled ntbackup or second copy, perhaps?

    • Hi Louis

      There are probaby some tools that will work, but nothing I am familiar with or that is supported on WHS.

      Why not ask the question in our forums?


  19. Hi Andrew,

    btw – your site is great! – I haven't found a comparable place with this kind of dialog and info around WHS stuff I care about. I have a question, which I think is kind of explored in the thread above, but a clear answer hasn't emerged for me:

    I am planning to get a SATAUSB external dock for an internal 1TB drive which I plan to connect to the WHS via the method you describe above. Ideally I would like to be able to dock the drive, and have a backup routine run once I do so, without having to go into the management console (except for initial setup). Once the backup is done, I pop the drive out, and take it offsite. Is there a way to accomplish this? Any guidance appreciated.

    • Hi Tony

      Im not aware of an easy way to do this – you might be able to write a script or something but I wont be of any help there.

      Maybe post a question in our forums, someone else might have done it already!


  20. Thank you for a teriffic description of the procedure!

    In the section on Removing the Backup Drive you describe how we get a choice of Temporarily removing the drive from the home sever OR to stop using it for server backups. When I go through these steps, the option for Temporarily removing is grayed out. It has happened to be twice now, in one case with the drive installed in the bay and in the other case installed externally via eSATA. Any idea what may be causing this?

    • Hi

      To be honest, no, I dont know why it is doing that.

      Can I suggest you visit our forums and post the question there to see if anyone else might have experiencd it and could help?


  21. Hey Andrew, thanks for the tips. It is very useful. I now have an option to backup my valuable personal data to another drive. I found that backing up through the USB is a bit slow for TB's of data. I am glad I have extra SATA slots in the home server to connect a backup drive to it. Great job bring us all the good WHS tips.

  22. Andrew,

    The way I've been backing up my important shared folders for offsite storage is remoting in and using Powertoy 2.1 to sync folders to the external USB drive. Is there any reason that my way isn't as good? The only thing I can think of is that I can't use a console session.

  23. Hi Andrew,

    I have been backing up my home server to a 1TB external hard drive since I got it. However, as I store all of my videos/music/etc. directly in the shared drive I recently had one of my shared folders go over 1TB. After reading thru the comments here, I decided that rather than do I manual copy I would get a 2TB external drive and utilize it for the 1 folder. However, when trying to backup within the console, it is running for an extremely long time. I was ok with this until I canceled the backup and checked that after 10 hours of running, it had only moved 7 Gig to the external backup drive. I tried this several more times with the same results as well as reformatting the new drive to be sure. Any thoughts?

    • Hi James

      hmmm, that is a very long time for such a small amount of data.

      Nothing springs to mind, why dont you post the question in our forums?


  24. Regarding the comment by Andrew Edney "No, it can only backup to physical drives attached to or internal to the WHS itself."

    I've been trying to search around. I would like to use one bay in my Acer H340 as my 'backup' drive where I rotate two internal drives in and out (hot swapping them) instead of dealing with external drives/enclosures.

    Is it possible to do this? I've searched around everywhere on google and must not be using the right terms to get what I want (and I don't want to buy external drives to test it out only to discover it doesn't work. Thanks in advance.

    • Terry

      Yes, you can use internal drives as your backup drive. However, I would caution on the "hot swapping" element. Personally I would shut down my WHS, remove the drive, swap the new one, power up again, etc rather than use hot swap.


  25. How does WHS handle it if a shared folder is larger than the hard drive…for example, suppose I have a 3TB shared folder of videos…obviously there aren't 3TB consumers drives yet. How would you back that up? Would it ask you insert another hard drive?

    This isn't just an "i'm curious" question — I'm considering using WHS to store video I stream to my XBOXes and I definitely have >2TB of video files.

    • To be honest I havent tried backing up a shared folder larger than the disk I am trying to backup to!

      Why not ask this question in our forums so that others might be able to respond?


  26. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for answering a lot of questions. I have a couple more for ya; I'm hoping it's a pretty simple solution.

    I bought the HP LX195 homesever that only comes with 1 HD; I can't return it and would like to have another hard drive backing it up. If I buy an external hard drive the same size, what steps do I need to take to back to whole hard drive at a scheduled time and day?

    I take it I'll be adding the external hard drive to the server back up hard drive area. From there, is it easy to back the whole hard drive other then just the shared folders? Do you have any tutorials to follow to do so?

    Please let me know!

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Phillip

      There isnt a simple straightforward way of backing up the whole drive unfortunately.

      You back up the shared folders as per this article.

      If you want to backup your computer backups, then this is a manual process.

      Take a look at the Microsoft Technical Brief on Backup and Restore on what to do. You can download it from here:


  27. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for the quick reply. I suppose backing up the folders should be okay. A couple more questions if you don't mind:

    1. Is it only the shared folders that I am able to back up? Is it possible to backup all the data for all users?

    2. Is there an option to schedule this backup automatically?