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WHS 2003 issues — looking for suggestions

November 23, 2011 6 Comments

This is actually a problem I’ve been dealing with — or, more accurately, ignoring and working around — for a few months, at least, so I thought I’d put a post up here to see if anyone has come up with an actual fix.

Back in July 2010, I bought an Acer Aspire easyStore Home Server running Windows Home Server 2003, primarily two solve two problems: (1) run nightly backups of all my Wintel PCs; (2) provide a common media file repository for myself and my wife (who runs Macs). After a few bumps, it worked just fine and has been working fine since.

Except that a few months ago — which at this point may mean something like this past summer or even late spring, given how time flies — I noticed that I could no longer run the WHS Console app from any of my PCs (all running Win7 Pro). Any attempt to do so resulted in an error box with the message:

This computer cannot connect to your home server. Check your network connection and make sure your home server is powered on. If your home server has recently restarted, try again in a few minutes.

Here’s what’s strange: the server itself still shows up in the Network panel, I can still access all the shares, and I can still log onto the server via the Remote Desktop Connection application (and, by the way, run the Console app there, on the server itself). I can ping the server in a console window via its name and its (fixed) IP address. And the automated backups keep happening (though more on this below).

At roughly the same time — and it may have been exactly the same time — I began to get certificate warnings when I used RDC to log into the server. This is a well-known problem with a kludgy work-around (configure RDC to ignore certificate warnings). That problem appears to be associated with Service Pack 1 of Windows 7, and I suspect the Console problem showed up at the same time as well.

However, to date, I have not found a workaround to the Console problem. What’s more, I’m starting to have backup problems. In particular, one desktop system stopped backing up. In an effort to fix that, I uninstalled the WHS Connector Software and attempted to re-install it. No go — I get this error during installation, after entering the server’s admin password:

This operation cannot be completed at this time.

Please try again later. If the problem persists, please contact Product Support.

This appears to be a well-known, if intermittent, problem, but one for which a variety of suggested-but-not-necessarily-effective solutions have been offered. I started to tackle the problem again this morning, trying some of the solutions, and found some other oddities:

  • Even though I can see my server (which we’ll call foo-bar for now) in the Network panel, can access it, can ping it (by name or by IP), and can remotely log into it, I cannot bring it up in a browser, e.g., http://foo-bar or even http://<fixed IP address>. That last one is particularly surprising.
  • Yesterday, I brought down and then brought back up my entire home-wide network (modem, router, access point, lots of computers and other network-accessing devices). I noticed that the Acer server box took forever (probably 15+ minutes) to reboot itself and reappear on the network.
  • I’ve been getting flaky behavior from WHS itself over the past few months when I remotely log in (which I don’t do that often). For example, when I logged in today, I got three standard Windows “unexpected error – send info to Microsoft?” boxes, all associated with the backup utility.
  • I did bring up the Computer Management panel on the server, thinking that the inability to browse to the server may depending on something running here. I did find that IIS Admin Services was not running and would not start, even though its two dependencies (RPC and Security Accounts) were, in fact, running.

I suspect that what I may actually need to do is reinstall WHS 2003, but that means that I will have to (for safety’s sake) back up the (non-automated) shares. Not a bad thing to do anyway, but not how I envisioned spending my Thanksgiving weekend.

What struck me while researching on-line is how many people had posts that said, in effect, “I did this and it fixed everything”, followed by posts saying, “I tried that and it still doesn’t work”. Similarly, not everyone running the same systems gets the same problems. It goes to the heart of the underlying complexity, uncertainty, and — to a certain extent — unknowability of the systems upon which we depend.

That said, I welcome suggestions. 🙂  ..bruce..


About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

Comments (6)

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  1. Rebuilding a WHS 2003 box, part I : Bruce F. Webster | March 20, 2012
  1. ebaypoet says:

    I experienced remarkably similar issues with my Easystore H341 system. Console connections started failing, backups (one PC in particular) didn’t complete. I could remote into the box, but was confronted with a litany of of “unexpected error” messages that were frequently days old. I thought maybe I had a bad drive, ran chkdsk and cleaned things up. But eventually the failures repeated. Ultimately I decided to go down the WHS 2011 upgrade route (which is not terribly difficult with the Aspire’s.) I’m not using the drive extender functionality on WHS 2003 in any case. 1 week in with WHS 2011 and everything is functioning quite well. Performance on the box itself is much improved. Worth considering this option if you’re going to go to the trouble of restoring to a clean WHS 2003 box anyway.

  2. bfwebster says:

    I’ve considered upgrading to WHS 2011, but haven’t been sure how much trouble it will be. Still, given your comments, I will likely go in that direction if I decide I have to restore the box.

  3. Bitback says:

    Issues with certificates, and ‘flaky’ performance tells me that a re-install is in order. The Acer’s server disk should walk you through it – I did it once and it took quite a while to update itself (part of the process), and I had to restart it once.

    If you do reinstall and it looks to be working – use an imaging software and image the C drive. So if it happens again, you can just reload the C: drive image and be on your way.

    If you rely heavily on Drive Extender you may want to wait on 2011. There are several drive extender add-ins, but they are not quite up to par yet.

    Or you can go RAID 5 with 2011, depends on your tastes.

    I love my acer boxes, been running 3 of them for 2 years without any issues, luckily. I have moved on to WHS 2011, but I used an HP Proliant Microserver. Adding RAM and OS cost around $550 and it’s a really solid piece of hardware.

    Good luck!

  4. rkaczano says:

    I have been having a similar problem with my WHS Acer Aspire 340. However I cannot access my files. I originally thought it was a router issue (See my post on the D-Link site:

    I also emailed Acer for advice

    I have thought about a reinstall or an upgrade to 2011 but I am not sure if this will create more headaches.

  5. Asgeir Sævarsson says:

    Hi Bruce,I have WHS v1 since 2010 and been running without problems for nearly 3 years,but then all of a sudden it is almost as if the server has cought the flue and not getting any better.I have almost the same diagnostic as you mention but on a self build system without any addins.My soulution go for Windows 8 and change it to a server,that system is problaby better than win server 2003 which is very very old system.

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