Windows Home Server just saved my day
VMWare Virtual Server 1.0.5 ... free
Microsoft Windows Home Server (running under VS)... $~170
750GB disk used for storing backups ... ~120€
Recovery from WHS backup ... priceless
I've been running Windows Home Server for quite some time now. I use it exclusively for doing nightly disk image backups for all computers of mine. WHS' storage mechanism that minimizes the disk space required for backups and its speed are just amazing. Briefly: it doesn't store duplicate data - IOW, if you have two computers with same OS, only one file per computer will be stored as long as they are exactly the same.
And like my bicycle helmet I hoped that I would never actually use it for real (to restore a computer). However, I had to restore my production machine yesterday. An odd thing happened yesterday - my Vista x86 just froze, at least so it seemed but the music from Winamp was still playing thus I deduced there are problems with graphics and the OS is still running non-graphical operations. I tried to connect using Remote Desktop without success. The remote shutdown command didn't help either. The only action remaining at that point was hardware reset switch, which should be used as a last resort. I crossed my fingers and reset the computer. Then, during the boot time (which was kind of slow) Vista started checking NTFS integrity on my disk. Ouch, not a good sign. After a while I was able to log on just to find that there is no network connection anymore and there is a problem with my event log service: "There is a problem with Event Log service. Check event log for more details" - funny, isn't it. Catch 22 by all means. At this point I was left with three options:
- Format the disk and reinstall
- Try to repair Vista
- Restore from most recent nightly backup
Option 1. is not that bad as it seems. Reinstalling from scratch from time to time isn't a bad idea after all - a lot of mess gets cleaned. The downside is the amount of time required - a day or two at least and constant attention.
Option 2. is more tricky. When there are such problems that I was experiencing the repair is doomed to fail.
So I opted for the most appealing option 3. After few clicks on "Next" button, 10 hours and 400GB files restored, my computer was working like it was the night when the backup was taken. The restore was straightforward and relatively quick - copying 400GB takes time regardless of how you are doing it (my restore was doing something like >11MB/s) So, big kudos to Windows Home Server - it spared me a lot of work and time.
One mystery remains though. My BIOS was downgraded (sometime before restore) somehow - it was version F10 (I upgrade it form time to time) and after computer crashed it was F3. Truth is that I am not sure when it was downgraded, this is first time I noticed it (I noticed because F3 misspelled word RAID to RIAD).
Bottom line: always have a backup handy.