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.

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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.

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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.