Unable to find home server (aka: Adventures in restoring your computer)

While preparing my primary desktop for adventures wth MacOS I had to change my SATA setting from IDE to AHCI.  Should have done that when I installed Windows in the first place, since AHCI performs better – but didn’t know that then.

Anyhow, just changing that in BIOS will cause your Windows environment to crash from lack of it starting the AHCI driver.  There is some vodoo magic one can do with regedit to fix this after the fact, but my attempt at doing so broke my install.

So… last night I reinstalled Windows 7 from scratch and then used my friendly Windows Home Server to restore my missing files.  That went ok, its a simple drag and drop, but I was missing all my application data (things like all my Thunderbird accounts).  Played some more and found the hidden files needed to restore those and others (thank goodness), but when I was done the system was still “funky”.  I found old versions of windows installed which could not be removed (“no longer at same location”), and what was really weird:  I couldn’t open “My Computer” or “Recycle Bin” or any of the pictures on my desktop.  I could open Excel files, Acrobat files, and many other things.

While researching how to get around that, I came across an article on using Windows Home Server to restore and entire computer.  I had a great recent backup, so started down the adventure of trying this.  Finding and burning the current CD from Microsoft was straight forward.  When I booted it, it found my NIC and hard drives, but could not find my Home Server.  More googling suggested all types of weird things like changing the case of the server name, none of which worked.  One post indicated he installed a different NIC in his machine and all was well.  Others talked about loading the most recent disk and nic drivers on a USB thumb drive, and that the restore CD would scan and load the drivers.  The last sounded reasonable, so I loaded both the motherboard and NIC drivers straight from the motherboard manufactures web site onto my USB thumb drive.  Rebooted the restore CD, asked it to scan for drivers, and it did so, found some, and I thought all was well.  Alas, it still could not find the Home Server.

Having a bunch of computers at the house I keep a couple of spare NICs just in case.  It was time to unwrap one.  Did so, installed in the desktop, and tried the restore CD again.  No joy, it didn’t detect the new NIC.  Added the drivers from the CD to the USB thumb drive and tried again.  Booted the restore CD, told it to scan, and it found the new NIC.  Better yet, it quickly found the Home Server!

I’m reformatting the hard drive just to make sure everythign is clean as I key in this post, but I have high hopes.

Update:  The restore worked perfecting, taking just a bit less time than the format itself.  This placed the system back in “pre-AHCI” mode.  I took another look in the web and found that there were (2) registry entries I needed to change.  Did that and everything booted like a charm.

I now feel VERY good about having invested the time to place a Windows Home Server on my network.  Highly recommended if you have several Windows boxes or just want to have a nice way to recover one and provide yourself daily file restore capability on the side.