Windows Home Server 2011 restore is just horribly flawed

I am a long time user of Windows Home Server (first version) and it saved me quite a lot times. Its restore had only one annoying flaw – that is it didn’t properly recognized my Realtek integrated netwok card (instead it tried to use drivers for another version and didn’t let me to select proper ones). So in order to restore I had to put in a recognizable network card and only then it worked. I guess a bit of hardware work here and there isn’t that bad for my strength after all.

Here comes Windows Home Server 2011 and my first restore experience. Initially it started very well, network card was properly recognized and I was happy. But then, oh well. I successfully connected to server and all went well until I had to select the partitions to restore. For beginning the partition letters were mixed up. Luckily I recognized the partitions by their names and their size. I’ve picked only the system partition to restore. When it should start restoring it worked for a minute and then yielded an unknown error has occurred. Gulb. After looking at the end of its log file it was saying that it can’t lock the volume for reason 5. So how come it can’t lock an unused partition. After googling I discovered that I am not the only one with this locking issue (https://connect.microsoft.com/WindowsHomeServer/feedback/details/665345/unable-to-restore-windows-7-client-with-raid-0). The workaround: delete the partition, create the partition and don’t format it. So I did. However, previously the partition was exactly 150,000 MB and now it shrunk to 149,999 MB. One MB shouldn’t make the difference, should it – the partition wasn’t full to the last byte? It turns out that WHS restore is so dumb that it will refuse the restore to this new partition due to the missing MB even though partition was used like 60%. And there is no way to make it bigger because next to this partition is another one and I don’t want to delete is as well. Very stupid and worse than WHS v1 was. Much worse.

So here is my plan now: attach an external disk, restore there, boot from external disk, manually copy the system partition files to original shrunk partition, make it bootable and run as usual. Will I succeed? I certainly hope so.

I am very disappointed in WHS 2011. The half of the key features (backup, restore) is seriously flawed.

Update: Even a non formatted partition can't be locked for some reason. I guess it has something to do with Intel Rapid Storage since the partition in question is a RAID1 one. Don't forget, it worked just fine with previous WHS.

Update2:

Here is the final workaround after a day of trial and errors:

  1. Restore system partition using WHS recovery CD to other (external) disk (I've mounted a spare disk in a Sharkoon dock).
  2. (optional) Again restore system partition to the disk above or some other disk, just to have a untouched copy.
  3. Boot from other disk - system is now bootable but not from original disk.
  4. Delete the original boot partition (the one that WHS can't restore).
  5. Install Acronis Disk Director 11 Home (it isn't free but I bought it just for this purpose and it is well worth it) and copy partition from step 2 (or the from step 1) to the original location (to replace the one you deleted in step 4). This software is required to copy partitions - I guess any partition copy software would do.
  6. Reset and boot the original system.

In case either other disk or original disk isn't bootable anymore you might do one of these:

  1. Boot from Windows 7 CD and try "Startup Repair".
  2. Boot from Windows 7 CD and do the "Custom Installation" on that partition. That will make partition bootable. Once it is bootable repeat the process described above.

I also think I know why WHS can't lock my original partition. It is most probably because it is located on Intel Rapid Storage RAID1. Note that WHS v1 didn't have any problem whatsoever with the same configuration. Bad bad WHS 2011.

I lost a working day and 24€ but at least I restored my workstation. Next time it will be much faster.

Let me know if it works for you.

Update: Here is the issue on connect (thanks to Henk Panneman for re-finding it).

Update v2: Issue disappeared again. Oh well, tired to fix the link again and again....