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Best Setup for a home Server + virtual DVR


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Hi everyone,


I have been looking into setups and I came to a point where I am looking for some advice. The goal here is to have one physical machine work as the server for the house as well as the DVR (so only one machine is on 24/7). I figure I might as well go with R2, but I had some questions.


1. With the release of R2, I have heard some people saying that there are no more "Media" features even in essentials. How would I stream media now (say, a lot of .wtv and other video files stored in a folder, and want to access them from HTPCs), can I still share the folder/drive and stream the media? Can I share/stream libraries (like "Videos" or "Music") across drives? Basically, what does the loss of this mean? Is there a chance it might be better to stay with Essentials R1 for this purpose?


2. Building off of #1, now that Standard R2 has the "Essentials Experience", is there any benefit to choosing Essentials over Standard besides cost and lack of CALs?


3. There are three options I can think of right now


a ) Free Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 host running Server (Essentials or Standard) 2012 R2 VM and Windows 7/8 VM


b ) Server Essentials 2012 R2 host running Windows 7/8 VM << is this even possible given restrictions on Essentials R2 Hyper-V?


c ) Server Standard 2012 R2 host running Windows 7/8 VM


the reason I came up with (a ) is in case (b ) is not possible, or in case having a virtual server is really much better than a physical server OS. I do foresee a lot of problems with lack of GUI though in terms of practicality.


4. This is not really important, but has anyone experimented with how the "copy-once" flag works when it is recorded by a virtual machine? Can a flagged recording be played back by the host OS? Can a recording be "streamed" as if to an extender but to a real computer? (doubtful)


5. Lastly is there anything anyone can tell me about some of the domain features? Like can I make accounts so the user experience is consistent for each family member across different Windows 8 computers? Can I use active directory or something so that libraries (Videos, Music, Pictures, Documents) are consistent among users across multiple computers? Can I make it so that certain libraries are automatically stored on the server rather than locally? What about VDI?


6. Do I have to sign up for a static IP address from my ISP? I would like to be able to access the server remotely, does that make a difference?


Sorry to ask so many questions and to have such a greedy post. I look forward to contributing greatly to the Home Server Show community once I get this, my first home server project, started!

Edited by dandys
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That is a lot of questions, mostly because each one requires a bit of a lengthy answer.


1. what I've found is that the streaming feature in WHS is really only important if you want to have on-the-fly transcoding. For example, taking an ordinary AVI file and transcoding it on-the-fly so it can be viewed on an iPhone. If all you want (which is what I do) is to access media files from an HTPC and play them, then simply giving the User Account on the HTPC access to shares on the server works just fine.


2. For me, the real benefit of WHS, including the Essentials versions, is the ability to back up Client Computers and Restore them, particularly the ability to do Bare Metal Restores. As I understand it, Standard versions of Windows Server do not have Client Computer backup.


3. I agree that (a) would be a PITA because of the lack of a GUI. I don't want to go backwards myself. I believe it's been stated (by Drashna?) that it is technically possible, but probably not legal. Option © again loses the Client Backup feature, something I won't live without.


4. No idea. Sorry.


5. Yes, I believe virtually everything you ask about is possible by using a Domain and Domain Accounts. One of the main purposes of having Domains to accomplish exactly the kinds of things you want. Welcome to an expanded world :)


6. No, you can use DDNS. Many companies offer this service. Basically, a computer on your LAN (I like to have my gateway router/UTM do it) runs a very small program that monitors your external (WAN) IP address. Any time your ISP changes the address on you (shame on them :P ), the program finds out what the new IP is and updates the server at your DDNS provider. Thus, when you try to access your domain name you always get the current IP address. Of course, you do require an Internet Domain Name.


Hopefully, others with more specific expertise in each of these areas will chime in soon.

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  1. Yup, no media feature. So, install Subsonic (and use URL Rewrite to reverse proxy it: ) and Serviio, and you're set. And they work better than MSFT's code....
  2. No, not really, But you LEGALLY REQUIRE CALs for production use. And that's $40 per user, on top of the base price (~$800, IIRC), not to mention Remote Desktop CALs which are also $40 per user or computer.
  3. You can run HyperV Server 2012R2 as a base, or Server 2012 R2 standard as a base, and do that legally. But the ONLY LEGALLY ALLOWED method to use the hyperV role in Server 2012R2 Essentials is to virtualize Essentials, and ONLY that.


  4. I guess this depends on the PVR/DVR software your using. MediaPortal runs as service and can be connected remotely (via it's client or XMBC or the like), supports cableCARD IIRC, and should avoid that issue altogether.

    But I've moved to a less legit, but easier route, while still getting cable.

  5. Yes. Basically. Enable Folder Redirection (aka Implement Group Policy in the dashboard). This will make each domain account use the same user folders (music, documents, pictures, videos, downloads, favorates, etc) on each computer (by using a network path, which also sets up offline file sync, which is great for laptops). 

    Also, have you ever used "secpol.msc" to do anything on a client computer? You can do that via Group Policy so it gets rolled out to all computers. Also, you can do the same with registry hacks too.

    As for VDI... if you set up another machine, you could use RemoteFX to create "virtual desktops" (great for mobile devices). 

  6. Nope, definitely not. you can use the built in "remotewebaccess.com" domain, or use a GoDaddy/eNomCentral account, and it will configure everything for you, including periodically updating your IP address.

    But there are plenty of other services that can do that as well.

And for the HyperV thing, the only supported scenario is this:


Install R2 Essentials

Install the HyperV Role

Remove the "Essentials Experience" role.

Install R2 Essentials in a VM, using the same key,



This is the ONLY configuration that is permitted legally for hyperV and it's meant to be an OEM only thing. You are NOT authorized to run any other VMs in this instance of HyperV. It's meant solely for Hyper-V replication, so that if the hardware fails, you have an exact duplicate elsewhere that can be run with minimal downtime. Also to make migrate to new hardware painless.

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That would be the "less legit" method I use. And it works wonders. :)

And it's a great management tool, regardless.

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