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Enhancing your Windows Home Server functionality with Add-ins

23

Thanks to Microsoft for Pic

With as busy as people seem to be these days, it’s easy for me to understand being tempted to just throw in one of the many NAS (Network Attached Storage) solutions out there that support UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocols.  Briefly, adding UPnP support allows a device to be detected on a home network by PCs and Laptops of just about any flavor, hence the “universal”.  This means that you can load up all of your digital media, like music, pictures, movies, and even file shares on these devices and access your data from just about any type of device you can think of; from PCs, to Laptops, to Macs, all the way to your cell phones, iPods, and iPads!  There are literally a plethora (that means a lot) of different brands and platforms to choose from and to be honest, many do the job quite well.

Sometimes I wonder however:  If people actually knew what can be done with a Windows Home Server, and really how easily one can be set up, would they still bypass the added benefits of a fully functioning Windows Home Server? I hope to cause you to ask that question yourself.

One of the stated missions of this website is to create a community that shares knowledge and ideas for the purpose of educating the masses on what kind of Integrated Systems that can be experienced within their homes and that most are likely very close to having already! Our goal is to help you understand what you can do with all the various systems already in your home, and then help you integrate them into something really fun and functional!  Sometimes by adding in an extra piece here or there.

In this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve already taken the time to read the Introduction to Windows Home Server article that we posted not too long ago and take you a bit further into really enhancing and extending your Home Server’s capabilities with “Add-ins”.

BTW, as a very quick aside, did you realize that you can download WHS for free to check it out for yourself?  If you’ve got an old computer laying around with semi-decent specs, you can download the current version of Windows Home server here or even sign up to test out the beta of the newest Windows Home Server version (code named “Vail”) by going to Microsoft Connect and creating an account here.   I would stick with the existing version for now unless you’ve got a fair amount of technical skills.  While we’ve already introduced “Vail”, we’ll be covering it  in more depth very soon!



Now, back to “Add-ins”.  Add-ins are typically 3rd party applications that have been designed to enhance and expand your Windows Home Server’s capabilities, you can find a list of the most popular ones here on Microsoft’s Add-in site.    These Add-ins give your server all kinds of great features; from giving your more control over the inner workings of Windows Home Server itself like:

Windows Home Server Disk Management
Windows Home Server Disk Management is an add-in for Microsoft Windows Home Server. This add-in is designed for users who need more detail about their server’s storage status than what the standard Windows Home Server Storage interface provides.

Advanced Admin Console
Advanced Admin Console allows you to extend the Windows Home Server console to various parts of your Windows Home Server’s administration controls, giving you access to many server functions that would only be available if you remote accessed into the server itself.

Diskeeper
Diskeeper 2010 HomeServer elevates system performance, debugging fragmentation-based problems as they occur, without ever compromising vital system resources, even when the whole family is connected to the computer

These are just a few of the system management type of plug-ins available to you, many of them for free! And while “system management” is important and can even be somewhat entertaining to the geeks of this world (you know who you are!), there are a bunch of Add-ins that do REALLY COOL STUFF! Take for instance:

D-Link D-ViewCamThe D-Link D-ViewCam is a software add-in for Windows Home Server that provides instant access to your live camera feeds and all the surveillance video already saved to your server. Compatible with the D-Link Network Cameras models DCS-920, DCS-1100, DCS-1130, and DCS-2121, this add-in allows users to easily manage their recording, streaming, and camera settings-all within the Windows Home Server administrative Console. Manage and access up to four live camera feeds from home or even remotely via the web.

mControl
mControl is software for your digital home. From your Media Center PC, via Internet Explorer or through your Windows Mobile device, you can control all aspects of your home with a touch of a button.  Can you say Home Automation?

and perhaps my favorite:

My Movies for Windows Home Server
My Movies for Windows Home Server provides automated disc copying of CD’s and movies from attached USB drives, adding meta-data to copied discs, or movies already stored on the server. All metadata is made available to Media Centers and other devices.  This Add-in absolutely rocks and we’ll be doing a review of it coming up very soon.

Whew!  I have just covered 6 of my favorite Add-ins from a list of 22 of the most popular listed on Microsoft’s site, and there are so many more out  there that give you so much power and control over your Home Technology and Entertainment environment.  In the interest of time and not killing you with information, I’ll just finish out by emphasizing how easy it is to set up a Windows Home Server in your home by building your own from spare parts like I did,  or by buying one specifically designed for this purpose like the HP MediaSmart (check out Buy.com) and then installing some Add-ins to give it even more features and functionality!

I encourage you to take some time and really check out Windows Home Server, including the newest version “Vail” that will be out soon.  The amount of work setting one up and configuring it to your tastes is very much worth it when you take into account the features you would lose out on by going with just a UPnP supporting NAS.  This is YOUR home after all!

Believe me, the benefits you receive when you have it all set up will be well worth it!  I personally wouldn’t go back to anything else!

Stay tuned for more on Windows Home Server, including reviews of “Vail” and our favorite Add-in “My Movies”!

Thanks for reading!

About the Author

BillyPut simply, Tom (a.k.a Billy) loves technology! He’s been involved in the IT world since leaving the Navy in 1992 and has moved his way up to the top on the systems engineering side. After taking a short deviation into home automation, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating an environment of complete integration at home. If there is a way to make the various systems in his home more seamless (even if they weren’t originally meant to talk to each other) he’s up to the challenge of figuring out how to make it work!View all posts by Billy

  1. Andrew Edney
    Andrew Edney07-28-2010

    Thanks for the list of your favourite add-ins. Tim has done a number of articles and videos on mControl that you might be interested in over at http://usingwindowshomeserver.com

    Andrew

  2. Bob
    Bob07-30-2010

    Thanks for the list Tom a.k.a. Billy!

    Personaly I have 2 additional ones that are nice to haves.

    Both from asoft (http://www.asoft.be): adminime (monitor your server and warns you in case of issues) & autoexit (shut down machines all over your home directly from within the console).

    And I can only agree that MyMovies & Diskkeeper are great to have, they are also on my favorites list.

    My 2cts,

    Bob

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