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Building Windows Home Server Vail – Installation steps


For those of you who haven’t gone down the path of discovering how cool Windows Home Server is yet, but still find yourselves intrigued by the obvious excitement many of us in the industry have about this fine piece of technology, this is a very easy way for you to test it out…for free!

The next iteration of Windows Home Server, coined “Vail”, can be found on Microsoft’s Windows Home Server beta site, located on the Microsoft connect site (  On this webpage, you can download your own copy of the soon to be released version of Windows Home Server as well as other programs you might be interested in becoming part of the beta testing team on. This gives you the opportunity to really play with the technology and see if it’s a solution that works for you before you go out and spend money on it. Besides, at this point it makes no sense to go spend money on a Windows Home Server while the new version release is so imminent.  Even if you’re building your own Windows Home Server from scratch instead of buying one of the good (but slightly out-dated) options like the HP MediaSmart or Acer Aspire easyStore, save your money on the OS and hold out for Vail, it will be worth it as you’ll see in our continued articles about the subject.

Hardware Requirements

Speaking of building your own, keep in mind that Vail is based on Microsoft’s Server 2008 and therefore is 64-bit.  Make sure your CPU is 64-bit before going to the trouble!  Beyond needing to be a 64-bit proc, your going to need, at a minimum:

The following minimum requirements are subject to change.

  • Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” is a 64-bit only operating system
  • You can install the server software either manually or unattended, although in the vast majority of cases it will come pre-installed on OEM hardware
  • System requirements:
    • 1.4 GHz x64 processor
    • 1 GB RAM
    • At least one 160 GB (or larger) hard drive
  • NTFS is the only supported file system
  • Supported networking configuration:
    1. Your server computer must be connected to a router via a network cable
    2. The router works best with a UPnP ™ certified device, but it is not required
    3. The router works best in the 192.168.x.x subnet, but it is not required
Getting Started

After booting the computer with the BIOS settings correctly configured to boot off either the DVD or USB drive (depending on the type of media you have the Vail install files on), press any key when the screen says “Press any key to boot from CD-Rom drive…”

Once you do this, the following window appears as parts of the OS installation files are loaded into memory:


The next screen you see is your Install screen, where you have a choice to pick either a New Installation (most likely your choice) or to Repair an existing installation:


Most likely you’ll be choosing “New Installation” where you will be brought to a window in which you select the hard drive you want to install Windows Home Server onto. We used the minimum requirement of 160Gb for this example only as a demonstration.   If you’re building a Windows Home Server, I’d say stick with 1TB drives at a minimum.  As you add each new drive, Windows Home Server will automatically add it into the storage group or backup group depending on what you choose:


Check the box indicating that you understand that this drive will be wiped during the install and click “Install”.


Setup will commence and you can watch the progress on the screen that comes next:


Setup will reboot your machine a couple of times, don’t panic, and also don’t press any key if your BIOS prompts you to “press any key to boot from your CD-Rom drive”, you won’t need to do that again…


just let it boot and continue it’s process….


and continues…


Until, after another reboot, you come to this screen below:


Choose your settings appropriate to your country.


More common sense settings…


Accept the license terms after reading all of them.  Come on, you know you all do!  Winking smile


Remember that website I told you about?  You need to get your product Key from there also!  The link is on the left hand side of the page as shown:

WHS Vail Product Key

Next, name your server and create a password….


I typically choose “Use recommended settings” for updates.


The server goes through some more work…


And finally…the final boot!


In the next segment of this series, we will discuss best practices of configuring a Windows Home Server, adding additional drives, and much more!  While to many of you this step by step may have been overly simplistic, my desire was to enable ANYONE to be able to use this guide and successfully build their own Vail Windows Home Server!  I hope I’ve been able to accomplish that!


About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

  1. serverguy

    I have been running WHS V1 on an old gaming rig of mine. The current configuration is :

    AMD Athalon 64X2 3800+ (Manchester) Socket 939 Processor

    ASUS A8N32-SLI-Delux Mobo,

    3Gb Corsair PC3200

    5TB of varying drive size on both external (USB) and internal drives.

    My question is this. I primarily utilize the server to stream video to any of the 5 computers or 2 HTPC's that I have in my home. I have yet to experience any shuttering or lag in the video even when there are 3 separate movies streaming to separate machines at the same time.

    VAIL has piqued my interest because of its web access features.

    I am contemplating building a new VAIL machine, but would like to get an experts view on it first. My second option was going to be a full upgrade on the drives (3x 2TB internal) and a fresh install of vail.

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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