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In-depth Review of the Acer Aspire easyStore H340 Windows Home Server

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Up until now, there have only been a few really big players in the Windows Home Server hardware market – probably the biggest being HP.

Now, Acer steps onto the playing field with their Aspire easyStore H340 Windows Home Server.

At first glance this looks a lot like the HP MediaSmart Server, only shorter and fatter. It has a polished black finish and a front drive bay door that opens to allow access to the drive bays.

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SPECIFICATION

The actual specification of the H340 is as follows:

PROCESSOR
Intel Atom 230 processor

MEMORY
2GB of DDR2 DRAM

NETWORK SUPPORT
Built in 10/100/1000 RJ45 Ethernet

INTERFACES
4 USB 2.0 ports on the back
1 USB 2.0 port on the front
1 eSATA port (on the back)

INTERNAL HARD DRIVES
2 SATA 7200 RPM 640 GB drives
or
3 SATA 7200 RPM 1 TB drives

SIZE
20 cm (W) x 18 cm (H) x 12.2 cm (D)

Adding additional storage is a breeze thanks to the way Acer have designed the E340. You just open the front door, press the orange button the drive tray, slide it out, pop the new drive in, and slide it back. Simple. This is a very similar approach to that of the HP MediaSmart Servers, and one that I know a lot of people, myself included, love.

IMG_0289

UNPACKING AND CONNECTING

The box itself is quite small with everything coming very well packaged inside.

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The contents of the box include the H340 itself, the power cable, an Ethernet cable, some software CDs (the PC software disk, the server recovery disk, and a PC recovery disk), a warranty book, a user’s guide (a more complete guide is included on the CD) and a just for starters guide.

Plugging it in all shouldn’t take more than a few moments, now it’s time to switch it on and get it working.

INSTALLING AND CONFIGURING

The first thing that needs to be done after you have connected up the H340 to both the power and your home network, and switched it on, is to install the Client software on one of your computers. This performs two functions, the first of which is install the Windows Home Server Connector software on your computer but also to enable you to configure your new Windows Home Server, with details such as the server name and admin password (but more on that in a moment).

After you pop the Software Installation CD in the drive, you then follow the usual steps to install the Windows Home Server Connector software. I won’t walk through all those steps again in this article, but I have included the screenshots for those of you who might be interested.

starting software installation installation welcome installation welcome 2 installation finding and downloading welcome to the connector installation proceeding connector updates wake up options home server found

So once you have go to this stage, then its time to configure the Windows Home Server itself. You have to do it via this method because there is no facilities available on the H340 for you to plug in a mouse, monitor and keyboard.

Again, I won’t bother with going through each and every step, although again I have included the screenshots for those of you who might be interested :-)

WHS Setup 1 WHS Setup 2 WHS Setup 3 name your home server type in a password help protect WHS customer improvement windows error reporting WHS update WHS update 2 WHS update 4 WHS update 5 WHS update 6 WHS ready

Once you have completed these steps then you can log in to the Windows Home Server Console as normal.

WHS Console Login 30042009110433

The very first time you log into your Windows Home Server, you will see that the Hardware Health and Performance Monitor Service is not running. This is because it needs you to type in the password you created for the administrator account. Just type this in and then click OK to continue.

Health problem

USING THE H340

The first screen you will be presented with in the WHS Console is Computers and Backups view.

WHS Console - 1st view

You can also see what storage you have available on the Storage tab.

WHS Console - Server Storage

As the H340 comes preinstalled with Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, you will need to update to Power Pack 2 before doing much else.

Resources

Just go to the Settings tab, and click on Update Now to retrieve that, and any other updates that are available.

Resources - Post SP2 install

Depending on how many updates might be needed, this could take a little while.

There are a few additions to the H340 that are worthy of mention.

SYSTEM INFORMATION

This tab provides an all around monitoring mechanism to help you keep an eye
on the home server’s health and performance details.

You can easily monitor elements such as the version of the software, the current performance, fan speed and system temperature and change settings such as the brightness of the front panel LEDs and whether to remote awaken the WHS.

System Information - upper screen System Information - lower screen

HARDWARE HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE MONITOR

You can use the Hardware Health and Performance Monitor settings page to set a refresh interval for monitoring data, configure performance threshold settings, specify email destinations to which alerts should be sent when temperature, voltage, and fan speed abnormality is detected or the pre-configured threshold is exceeded.

Hardware Health Monitor Settings

IP CONFIGURATION

The IP Configuration settings page allows you to view the home server’s current IP configuration settings or change the IP configuration manually. This is a nice feature that saves you from having to use Remote Desktop to get access to these kind of changes.

IP Configuration IP Configuration 2 IP Configuration - advanced

DIGITAL MEDIA SERVER

Digital Media Server is an application compatible with DLNA 1.5 and runs on Windows Home Server to provide with content directory service which auto starts upon booting of the server system. With Digital Media Server enabled, other Digital Media Controllers and Digital Media Players based on UPnP structure can co-work with the application to help you browse, access and play media contents on Windows Home Server. Besides, it also makes possible for iPod, iTunes and Xbox360 users to share media files on Windows Home Server of their respective self-supporting formats.

Digital Media Server uses a database to manage media contents on Windows Home Server. It avails of the album, artist, genre and playlist information to sort music files. As for photos and videos, it uses folder mode to collect them.

The Settings for DMS (Digital Media Server) page allows you to enable or disable digital media server function and customise the sorting method of photos and videos.

With DMS enabled, digital media controllers and digital media players using UPnP (Universal Plug’n Play) protocol, will automatically discover, access, and play media files on the home server. It also makes possible for iTunes, PS3, or Xbox 360 users to share media files on Windows Home Server.

Settings for DMS

The home server supports the following digital media files:

• Music: MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, AC3, FLAC, APE, OGG, VOC, AIFF, AU, MID

• Video: WMV, ASF, MOV, AVI, MPEG, 3GP, SWF, FLV, RMVB, RM, RA, RAM, MP4, MPG, MPE, M2V, TP, TS, MLV, MKV, DIVX

• Photos: GIF, PNG, BMP, JPG, JEPG, ICO, TIFF, DXF, WMF, EMF, PICT, EPS, CDR

iTUNES SERVER

iTunes Server allows iPod and iTunes users to share and play music on Windows Home Server. To achieve this, the application creates a virtual music library on the local device and treats it as an iTunes repository, which makes it possible for music files to stream from Windows Home Server to Windows or Mac computers running iTunes.

Settings for iTunes

The H340 also comes with some WHS specific applications already installed for you. Both of these applications are available as Add-ins for non-H340 owners and it is interesting to see that Acer have opted to included them as built-in applications rather than Add-ins, so you cannot remove them from the WHS Console if you don’t want to use them. Lets take a look at both of them, shall we.

LIGHTS OUT

Lights Out is an application that was developed by a fellow WHS MVP, Martin Rothschink that allows you to set the home server into suspend mode or wake the system at a chosen time with the aid of a calendar event.

The default Uptime screen displays a chart showing recorded uptimes in the home server, such as when a backup took place, which home computer was active, or when the home server woke up from
sleep mode.

Lights Out

The Calender view displays the calendar window and allows you to add, edit, delete a calendar entry.

Lights Out - calender view

You can also change the default settings that are used.

Lights Out settings

In order to control the Lights Out functionality on your WHS, you need to install the client software that comes on the CD.

McAfee TOTAL PROTECTION

McAfee Total Protection provides virus protection to your Windows Home Server and its files.

McAfee Total Protection Service

You are given a free 6 month subscription to anti-virus updates, after which time you will need to pay for them or stop using it. If you want to remove it completely, unlike other Windows Home Servers that have it as an add-in that can be removed via the WHS Console, you will need to use Remote Desktop to connect to the server, then manually remove it using the Add/Remove Programs tool.

You can easily set up an scan schedule if you wish as well.

McAfee Settings

ONE-TOUCH USB BACKUP

This feature is unique to the H430.

The USB backup button on the front panel allows you to backup data from a USB storage device to the home server. Windows Home Server copies all files into the Publics shared folder first then classifies the files according to media type into their corresponding shared folders, namely Music, Videos, Photos. When Windows Home Server cannot determine file type, the file is automatically stored into the Others folder.

So all you have to do is plug in a USB hard drive and press the USB backup button on the front of the H340 to begin (it will now be glowing blue). If you have a lot of hard drives that are not external USB drives you should consider buying an adaptor, they can be very useful.

One Touch USB Backup

I did a little test and was very impressed with the results, and it was quite quick. This is much easier that plugging in a drive to your WHS, and then having to map drives and manually copy files over.

CONCLUSION

This is a very good piece of Windows Home Server hardware. It is relatively cheap, easily expandable and simple to use and set up.

My only real negatives are that it is not the quietest Home Server I have ever heard, but equally it is not the loudest either, and also that there is no easy way for the average user to remove the McAfee service without having to Remote Desktop onto the server, go to Add/Remove programs and manually remove it. Also, while there is an application to update various things on the H340, such as the BIOS, you need to install it on a client PC, already have downloaded the updates, and then point the application to the updates. I would have preferred to see something seamless from within the WHS Console that just required a click of a “check for update” button. Maybe that will come later with an update?

Obviously the H340 doesn’t have the same level of additional software that say the HP MediaSmart Servers have, but this may not be an issue for you. If you just want a WHS to backup your computers and share you files then you cannot go wrong here. If you want lots of additional built in features then you should compare it with the HP MediaSmart EX485 and EX487 servers and decide if the extra money for those machines is worth the additional features.

For anyone who is interested, here is a comparison shot of the H340 and the HP MediaSmart LX195 Server (both the same price). But you should remember that the LX195 only has, and can only have, one single internal hard drive. To read the full review of the LX195, click here.

IMG_0297

For me, the killer feature on the H340 is the one-touch backup. It is very simple to just plug in your USB hard drive and press the button to start copying your data over.

I also really liked the fact that this is one of the only Windows Home Server’s I have seen that has come with an actual manual with simple step by step instructions for the average user to be able to get up and running quickly. Thanks Acer, but that also means that H340 owners probably wont need my book 🙂

Acer Aspire easyStore H340 Windows Home Server is available now in the US (around $399)  and also in Germany and Holland. The price in Europe is €399 for 2x640GB model and €499 for 3x1TB model. Certainly the better bargain is the 3x1TB model.

No firm release date or pricing for the UK, but expect this information shortly.

Andrew Edney
Andrew Edneyhttps://moviesgamesandtechcom.wpcomstaging.com
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.

342 COMMENTS

  1. Andrew, THanks for the in depth review. Do you have any of the pictures of the system board of the H340? Do you know what kind of connector(s) is/are on the system board? Do you know what model is the system board used in the H340?

    Any of this info would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,

    krzys

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I ended up purchasing the Acer H340 a few weeks ago and it is working brilliantly for me. I was wondering how I could remove the McAfee Total Protection, so thanks for those insights.

    I find my unit is actually quite quiet, I have it right on top of one of our work desks and it is quieter than a couple desktop PC's in our office area.

    I put some info together about Windows Home Server as well and will definitely link back to your site as you have some great info here, you can read my information at http://www.squidoo.com/windows-home-server-info

    Regards,

    Bill

  3. Hi Andrew,

    Great reviews of the two systems I consider, the Acer H340 or HP487. I have read some stuff about the different systems but still it's hard for me to actually tell the major differences. The HP-machine seems to be a bit more powerful, better processor (i.e.64-bit optional) but otherwise the performance seems to be pretty much the same. That leeves me with differences within the additional software that follows the packages. HP seems to include more stuff like possibility to upload pictures to flicker, facebook but that feature does't fancy me. I'm more interested in backup purposes, streaming capability (dnla and especially the different formats that can be handled) but here it gets hard to grip the differences. Do the included software actually differ that much or do I miss something ?

    Is it so that the software from HP allows more configuration possibilities than the Acer ?

    Can't I access them directly in WHS-software anyhow even though it can be a bit harder for the newbie ?

    Do I miss anything else of importance regarding the hardware ?

    A lot of questions but I would really appreciate some help to sort them out ?

    Regards,

    John

    • Hi John, thanks for the comments and questions. I suppose it really comes down to you and how much you are willing to spend. To be honest, given your statement about media I would suggest you opt for the HP because of the various streaming and media conversion software included with the EX487. There is more media related software and other software with the EX487, but the 487 is more expensive.
      I wouldnt say that there were more configuration possibilities, just that you get more built in software with the EX487.
      Certainly the EX847 is likely to be better suited to the next version of WHS – which is going to be out next year.
      Shout if you have any more questions.

      • "Certainly the EX847 is likely to be better suited to the next version of WHS…" Please qualify why you say this. The Atom processor is 64bit. I know nothing about the next WHS, is it expected to add more bloat? If its based on Windows 7 I would expect it to actually run faster on current hardware. You seem to imply the next version will need more power computers.

        • John – the details on the next version of WHS are not public and so I cannot comment on what will and wont be included, indeed they are still working on it and an announcment probably wont be until early 2010. Im not saying the the H340 wont be able to handle it, or that its processor isnt good enough, but given the choice between the two machines, which is where your original question came from, I would say the HP is the safer option.

          • Drew – I used to always worry about making the best purchase decision for the future. But with the current economic situation I now worry more about the present and what is needed right now. The fact is that this Acer can be found for $350 (or less) makes it an amazing value. I believe all of the small conveniences that HP offers prepackaged can be found in addons (sans the sexy blinking lights). Those enthusiasts who look that far into the future (WHS 2010) will also be the ones who can modify their WHS to be anything so why pay the premium HP is charging for their own customizations? And my last point is that there is already dual core atom processors available and in the 2010 time frame i'm sure a much more powerful Atom DIY upgrade option would be available.

            My recommendation to any and everyone who want to purchase a pre-built WHS, pick Acer. And to the Power Users I suggest DIY killo-watt crunching servers.

            There are a few things I can think of which would cause WHS 2010 to need more processing power. The main being video re-encoding. And the most entertaining thought about that is a graphics processor is ideal for the job … but then WHS turns back into a powerful workstation and not a headless home server … HA!

            I hope I don't come across as arguing. Thank you for the reviews, you have been very helpful.

            • Hi John – thanks for your comments, I have to agree with you, if you are thinking about today and the near future, and you want the best value for money, then there is nothing wrong with the Acer at all, it is a very nice bit of kit (if you can actually get one!). There will always be something "just around the corner" so thinking about your needs today is a good idea! And as for coming across as arguing, not at all – you have some very valid points that I am happy to see someone make 🙂

  4. Andrew,

    Thanks for developing this review. I appreciated it…along with all the screenshots.

    I currently have a Infant ReadyNas NV+ which has been great…but I know find myself looking for additional functionality…like for example using a NAS/Server device to host Hulu for example for service out to a TV.

    I didn't see any mention of installing extra programs on the server. Is this possible with this hardware?

    • Mike – like any Windows Home Server, you can install any number of add-ins depending on your needs. You can also install additional software on the server, but you need to ensure it is compatible and doesnt break it!

  5. Do you ever perform any performance test on your hardware reviews? What kind of a review is this a NAS without any MB/sec or IO/sec test?

    • Firstly Windows Home Server is not just a NAS, it is much more than that. As for performance testing in the reviews, performance is based on so many factors, including individuals personal setups and networks that I felt it wouldnt be practical in the review to include performance metrics other than to say what the specification of the hardware was.

  6. Hi, I am really curious about what I can get from HP for the so called media-smart softwares. There is very little information about these softwares on the web and it looks the only way to know is to really get a WHS and see what is inside. Could you please explain this a bit? Especially those related to media streaming. Do you think it is feasible that most media streaming function offered by HP is also feasible with other WHS add-on? Thanks!

  7. Any idea when these are going to be available in the UK?

    I've been looking for a hot-swapable WHS for about 6 months now….First I got excited when I heard about the HP 485/487, but they aren't released here….Now the Acer seems to be the same – available in US, JAP and EU, but not UK!

    • Dave – still no official release date here in the UK, although you can get it in some parts of Europe. The HP machines will be available in the UK later in the year though, probably around October / November time.

  8. Can the Acer backup Mac? The unit at the local store appeared to have a cover for a low profile slot? Any knoeldge about this?

  9. Great review. Liked the "screen shots". I'm awaiting delivery of my Acer unit. The "screen shots" gave me a good insight into the setup process (and answered a lot of questions that other reviews didn't).

    Thanks,

  10. I've been reading up on this machine and was concerned about how much storage I could add. I've seen the cap vary between 4TBs and 7TBs. I'm just wondering if the storage cap is a hardware or software cap. The one TB it comes with should last awhile but a year down the road I might want to install a larger drive.

    I also wondered if anyone has tested the Gigabit network capabilities. I have not doubt the port is as it says but can the machine actually handle the throughput?

    • Hi Dan – Im not aware of a bap between 4 and 7 TBs. There are four drive bays, so with todays hard drives that 4 x 2TBs, plus there are a number of USB ports for external drives and also an eSata for as well. I would day that you are only limited by the number of drives you can connect. Ive tested the network connection on my home network which is gigabit and I havent had any problems at all. Hope that helps?

  11. Just rec'd and put my Acer on line in the last day. Has two internal 1TB drives in it. Works fine. Like the "System Information " sub-menu. It gives you some idea of what is going on internally in the server. Also like the "lights out" add-in . Gives a good picture of what is going on with the server and the computers on the system.

    One aspect that takes a little getting used to is that when the server is busy doing a background task (ie like pulling files off a USB device using "one touch", balancing storage when you add a drive resource, setting up another computer with the connector software etc.) it is not obvious why the server is not available ! You have to infer the reason by looking at the CPU activity graph or just "eyeball" the ethernet link LED on the physical unit.

    Otherwise it is great.

    One little problem I had with the supplier (newegg.com) was that they furnished a WD10EAVS (8MB cache) vs the ordered unit WD10EADS (32 MB cache) drive for the 2nd drive in the unit. Haven't heard back from them yet as to how they're going to resolve the issue. Will advise when I know.

    Paul

  12. Need to remove a hard drive from storage. Went through console to do it . Doesn't allow selection (choice greyed out).

    Checked the manual (no addn'l info).

    Need to remove this drive to return it to newegg.com. Wrong drive was shipped 8 MB cache vs. 32 MB Cache!

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Paul