Windows Home Server "Vail" Launched In Beta

Windows Home Server is right there with Windows CE atop the list of "Microsoft's most under-appreciated operating systems." The OS has been around for a few years now, with HP's line of MediaSmart servers being the closest the system ever came to hitting the mainstream. A lot has changed in the way people view media and consume content since WHS first launched, and it's about time Microsoft took it upon themselves to give the software an update.

Today, that's exactly what is happening. The new version of Windows Home Server has been revealed (code name "Vail"), and it promises to bring a bevy of new changes that'll surely appeal to anyone interested in using a Windows-based system to effectively manage their media. Currently, the company is still actively developing the final product, but four major changes are apparent today:
  • Extending media streaming outside the home or office
  • Multi-PC backup and restore
  • Simplified setup and user experience
  • Expanded development and customization tools for partners

The company is making the public Beta available to download today, but it's only for 64-bit users. That's intentional, and moving forward, it sounds like 64-bit will be the supported architecture. Microsoft cautions users to install this on a secondary machine in case things go awry, and installation of Vail will require users to completely wipe their machine first. Speaking of a machine, you'll need at least 1.4GHz, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. Also launched today is the new SDK, which gives developers and partners even more ways to customize the OS and add new functionality and services to Windows Home Servers. If you have a spare machine laying around and want to dig into media management, why not give it a try? Microsoft's looking forward to the feedback as they trot towards a final release.

Before we go too much further, however, we want to pass along a couple of very important hardware-related tips on installing the Vail Beta:

  1. In Vail, we’re moving to a new underlying server platform that will only run as a 64-bit OS. We do not recommend running Vail on a 32-bit PC or existing Windows Home Server systems (even 64-bit Home Server systems) because there may be compatibility issues with some OEM drivers.
  2. Since it is still in ‘beta,’ please install the Vail code on a secondary computer as opposed to existing Windows Home Server v1 OEM systems (not even 64-bit systems) If you do install the beta on an existing system, you may experience a number of problems, including the inability to run WHS v1 add-in applications (even those provided by OEMs). Installing on a secondary machine will help ensure the best possible user experience, and we would like your feedback on what this scenario is like.
  3. Installation of the Vail OS on a PC will also require users to wipe all data from that PC or device.
  4. The hardware requirements for Vail call for a 1.4 GHz x64 processor, 1 GB RAM, and at least one160 GB hard drive. Full details and additional requirements will be posted on the Microsoft Connect download site.

Also, if you are a developer, this beta includes a new software development kit (SDK) that gives developers and partners even more ways to customize the OS and add new functionality and services to Windows Home Servers. Download the SDK here.

So after you check out all of the great features in this public beta, you’ll probably want to know when the final version of Vail is going to ship. We’re not ready to discuss delivery dates yet. We want to ship the best possible product, and as that old commercial went (sort of), “we will ship no Windows Home Server before it’s time.”