Home Server 2011 and its Backup Madness: Complete and #epicfail so far

imageI’ve used to be Developer Evangelist at Microsoft. It was not that long time ago. But even then I was getting quite mad, when I had to fight with the stupidity of crazy (and/or incompetent) people or decisions. Yes, it happens, it’s 90K+ employees, there’re some stupid there, and since most of the people there are quite smart, the stupid ones are easily noticeable. Their decisions – too! So about one of these decisions I’m about to rant today!

Recently I bought Windows Home Server 2011. This is Windows Server 2008 R2 based, fine tuned for home users server operating system, which comes with lots of goodness for everyone, who needs reliable server at home. WHS 2011 is a direct successor of Windows Home Server, which is Windows Server 2003 based.

I was eagerly waiting for this upgrade. My previous WHS, although running good enough, was quote old as technology. My friend Jivko, an old-timer-Microsoftee warned me that I might be having troubles with WHS 2011, but I was very devoted to upgrade. So I obtained Windows Home Server 2011. Unfortunately it does not sell in a box, so the only way to get it as software is either to break the license agreement (“buying” it from a company, which on the first place is not allowed to sell it in a box), or get it as a gift from someone. Fortunately, I have plenty of such “someones” who’d gladly gift me with it. Thank you, you special person, once again!

“Upgrade” of WHS actually does not exist. The only way to “upgrade” is to backup your precious data, install the OS, then copy back the data once you reconfigure the storage. Old WHS had “drive extender” service, which allowed you to plug any drive and use it as storage, but because Microsoft never succeeded to make Drive Extender bug free, we (I was “we” at that time) just decided to scrap the whole thing out of the WHS 2011. Another Crazy Decision (if you ask me), most probably coming as a result of mad discussions in a mad times. Of course, there’re some 3rd party options surfacing, but it’s not Microsoft, you know…

So I copied the data, reconfigured my storage (I had to configure a RAID0 array now), added a new drive to my server and installed WHS 2011. It installed like a charm (I told you, it’s WS 2008 R2 based setup, works great!). Then I copied the data, created my family members’ accounts and it was ready to go. The whole process forced my server to be offline for like 4 hours, and in total got 6 hours of my time (4 hours backup, setup and data restore, and 2 additional hours of management). Not bad, if you ask me! No hardware issues whatsoever, no weirdness, worked like it was supposed to work.

The new WHS 2011 console (called Launchpad) is much, much better, although they might have added an option to get rid of this sick “offline mode” popup message, when I have to login on  my laptop while at work. Come on, colleagues, we’re 2011, popup messages are soooo 2001-a (even today you can see a proof for that on any Apple iPhone Winking smile).

imageAbout a a month after the upgrade my special, super-duper-Western-Digital-3TB-USB-Hard-Drive finally arrived. I was one happy person, since now I’d be able to backup all my precious data on an external drive and be more secure from sudden disk failure. You know: it’s not a question will a disk fail, it’s a question of when it will fail! So my server backup was more than necessary, in order to secure all my home PCs backups and my server data too. The 3TB drive was great choice for keeping all my files, pictures and backups, so I was quite happy.

Alas! Someone (I suspect a PM!) at Microsoft failed me!

After I plugged the drive and configured my backup, all went smooth and nice. The first backup was scheduled for the night, so I left in the bed with the expectations that I’ll see everything OK on the morning.

Nope! Ain’t gonna happen! No candy for me!

On the morning (actually, on the 2nd morning after that, I forgot to check on the first one), I logged to my WHS 2011 box to find out that I had… 3 backup failed messages in my log. Backup Failed, Backup Failed and Backup Failed. This is straight from my Event Log:

The backup operation that started at ‘‎2011‎-‎XX-‎XXT15:10:45.877458300Z’ has failed with following error code ‘2155348010’ (One of the backup files could not be created.). Please review the event details for a solution, and then rerun the backup operation once the issue is resolved.

I started to dig around. I thought the drive is DOA. But no, the drive was alive and kicking, so that would not be it.

I kept searching… until I found it. It turns out that Microsoft, in our (I was still part of it at that time!) great wisdom, failed to create an OS, which is capable of backing up to drive, which has 4096 bytes per physical sector. And this precious USB drive is one of these, it’s 3TB capacity, after all, how can it squeeze it in 512 bytes per sector without being thicker than 17” automobile tire?

So I started to dig more. First I found KB article 2510009: Information about Microsoft support policy for large-sector drives in Windows. It led me to KB982018, an update that improves the compatibility of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Advanced Format Disks, which was promising to fix the issues on my server. Alas, the update was already installed, so it seemed my case is in the “Known compatibility issues” part of the KB 2510009:

If you are using a logical sector drive of a size other than 512 bytes, Windows system image backup and restore operations may fail, and you receive the following error message:

One of the backup files could not be created.
Details: The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.

Error code: 0x8078002A

At least from the updates I was able to find my hard drive capabilities (not that it helped):

C:\Users\XXXXXXX>fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo F:
NTFS Volume Serial Number : 0x9220d6de20d6c7fd
Version : 3.1
Number Sectors : 0x000000002ba95fff
Total Clusters : 0x000000002ba95fff
Free Clusters : 0x000000002b00fd8f
Total Reserved : 0x0000000000000000
Bytes Per Sector : 4096
Bytes Per Physical Sector : 4096
Bytes Per Cluster : 4096
Bytes Per FileRecord Segment : 4096
Clusters Per FileRecord Segment : 1
Mft Valid Data Length : 0x0000000000100000
Mft Start Lcn : 0x00000000000c0000
Mft2 Start Lcn : 0x0000000000000002
Mft Zone Start : 0x00000000000c0000
Mft Zone End : 0x00000000000cc820
RM Identifier: 0621AB62-D248-11E0-96F1-00155870BD33

The yellowish part is the one, which screwed me up. Also the BPS value should not be 4096, but WHS 2011 does not allow (or at least I found no way to make it) to change that, when you’re setting up disk backup. If you’re really eager on the low-level stuff, you can review the MSDN article “512-byte Emulation (512e) Disk Compatibility Update”. I’m technical myself, but I had no nerve to read it thoroughly. WDK stuff, yuck! I need no reasons why this is not implemented like in other OSes, I need the fucking drive working, alright?

And that concludes it. So far (approximately two months after the upgrade) I still have not had a way to make successful backup. In my to-do list I have the following:

…and my options end here.

I’m still quite pissed off, and I beg all my colleagues at the Big Brother to excuse my frustration. But I had to take it out of my system. I have not yet asked the best Windows Server expert I know, since I had no way to get in touch with him, but I doubt he’ll be able to help me fix this issue. By any means, if I succeed to fix it, I’ll follow-up with a post here!

imageMeanwhile, I’m researching stuff like “Media Server in a cupboard”. Sick, I’m telling you! I do not want to go there, but I might need to, if I want my data safe! And Ubuntu is the last thing I want exposed on my firewall… I just do not have the time (and effort needed) to keep it up to date and tremble all the time if someone has not Zero-dayed such installation.