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The short version

Last week my laptop crashed and I needed to restore the hard disk. I make a backup everyday automatically using my Windows Home Server (version 1). I took the PC restore disc and booted the laptop and although the restore would start it would never complete.

Windows Home Server version 1 is not reliable enough for PC backup and if you’re using it you should replace it immediately. A possible alternative is a Acronis True Image which will be discussed further in a future post.

The long version

Restore software should just work; this was the promise of Windows Home Server but it is one that is no longer delivered. There are numerous problems reported on the Internet.

The network driver issue

One problem is that Windows Home Server version 1 was created for 32-bit Windows and I am now running Windows 7 64-bit on all my computers. Windows Home Server makes a copy of all your PC drivers to the server but these are 64-bit drivers and Windows Home Server restore is a 32-bit application therefore even if you copy these drivers onto a USB drive which you plug into the laptop when the restore application prompts you to do so you will not get a network connection to the backup archive on the Windows Home Server.

You must download 32-bit Vista network drivers from your PC manufacturer’s website and put these on the thumb drive instead of the 64-bit drivers

The stopping issue

The restore would execute for about three hours and then simply stop with no message.

Others have reported that when it stopped they got a “network error” message. Possible fixes include,

  • Ensuring that you have an Ethernet cable from your PC to the same switch as the server
  • ensuring that your DHCP leases are set to several days and do not expire during the restore.

I have fixed IP-addresses and a fast wired network therefore I think this is a software bug in the Windows Home Server, either in the restore routine or corruption of the actual data.

Alternative restore techniques

Direct connection to the server

There is an alternative that may work for some people but did not work for me. If you put the disc to be restored in a USB Drive Dock which you attach to the server itself you may be able to use the clientRestore.exe software present on server to restore the backup to the attached disk without going across the network.


Although it was not possible for me to restore the disk image from Windows Home Server it was possible to restore individual data files and directories providing that I did not try to copy too many files at once. Therefore the approach that I took to restore my laptop was to do a fresh install of the operating system (to a newly purchased disc) and then manually copy all my data onto the laptop and reinstall all my applications. This will be discussed in a future post