Microsoft Remove Driver Extender from Windows Home Server Vail

There was a time when I thought Windows Home Server Vail would signal the next major change in my home setup, I expected built in Windows Media Center Extender Server, Media Streaming, being able to fill it up with drivers and have it the centre of my digital lifestyle. This was over 2 years ago and since that time I have increasing lost interest in WHS, the Media Center functions never surfaced and there felt a general dumming down of the product direction. Today Microsoft have announced they are pulling the drive extender technology that made Windows Home Server standout from the NAS crowd in the first place.

The idea behind the driver extender technology was that you were removed from having to worry about individual drives and drive letters and instead you just had a pool of storage that you could keep adding disks and increasing the available storage. There was also folder duplication so you knew that if you had a drive fail your precious data was on another disk and you could just replace the faulty drive with another (There are other benefits too, best to read Andrew Edney’s post to find out the details)

By remove Drive Extender WHS Vail becomes just another NAS solution with a bit of media streaming added on top, I find it hard to understand Microsoft’s reasons for this its almost like they are done with the product and are just getting the Vail version out of the door and focus on business products, I certainly can’t see that many compelling reasons to build a new Vail box.

I am sure we will be talking about this on the podcast next week, Andrew has all the details on and judging by the number of comments on his post and the number of tweets flying around there are some very upset WHS enthusiast around

This is what Microsoft said:

When we first started designing Windows Home Sever code name “Vail” one of our initial focuses was to continue to provide effortless support for multiple internal and external hard drives. Drive Extender provided the ability to take the small hard drives many small businesses and households may have acquired, and pool them together in a simple volume. During our current testing period for our Windows Home Server code name “Vail” product, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.  Since customers looking to buy Windows Home Server solutions from OEM’s will now have the ability to include larger drives, this will reduce the need for Drive Extender functionality.

When weighing up the future direction storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs. Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) which are currently in beta.

Is Windows Home Server Vail still an interesting product for you? I would be interested to know what readers thoughts are.


Ian Dixon

Founder of The Digital and host of The Digital Lifestyle Show. Started podcasting in 2005, Windows Entertainment and Connected Home MVP. Lover of gadgets from the Raspberry Pi to the iPad, Android to Windows 8. Also a massive motor racing fan