Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials backups and bare-metal restores are faster than WHS2011 or WHSv1

Posted by Paul Braren on Jul 12 2012 (updated on Aug 21 2012) in
  • ESXi
  • HomeServer
  • Storage
  • Virtualization
  • Windows
  • Perhaps the recent news of the death of Windows Home Server was overblown a tad. Most of the bare-metal backup and restore capabilities do live on, and the technical underpinnings of Windows Server 2012 Essentials do seem to be a step forward as far as performance, which is also good.

    • WHSv1 was fast, but had issues with recovering from any issues with the PC Client Backups database.
    • WHS2011 was more robust, with better error recovery, but took very long for first backup and subsequent backups, and file restores.

    I even opened an MSDN trouble ticket and a bug report, learning more about how the backup database actually works along the way. And I learned that you don't really want 25 PCs to back up daily with WHSv1 or WHS2011, if they have decent amounts of data. Things get dicey once your PC Backups folder gets past about 3TB of data in there, really because of the SIS/de-duping that I absolutely require in a backup product.

    So WHS2011's dirty little not-so-secret was that it was often 2-5x slower than WHSv1, on the same physical or virtual hardware. This behavior was pretty well documented on numerous forums and Microsoft Connect, such as here and here.

    I'm very relieved to say that my intial tests of Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials are going well on this day of it's release. Perhaps much of those performance issues are now behind us. No idea if Storage Spaces will be any good once released, and there's reason for concern here, we'll have to wait and see. Storage Spaces is not something you need to use if you don't wish to. And of course there is always local RAID storage to leverage, and that's where things are looking good, 

    I performed a backup of a virtual machine (12GB of data on a Windows 8 Release Preview build), took 10 minutes.


    and I backed up a physical laptop (60GB of Windows 7 on ThinkPad T60). 

    Here's the results.
    A bare-metal restore of 12GB of a Windows 8 VM in under 2 minutes.
    A bare-metal restore of 50GB of data to a ThinkPad in 45 minutes.

    I'll admit, this was on a RAID0 of 2 SSDs:


    but still, wow, finally the CPU on the server is actually a bit busy, as it processes/un-dedupes the backups database on the fly, sending the bits out.

    WHS2011 would just sit there, loafing along at under 10% CPU, disk, and network, seemingly internally throttled somehow.

    The results aren't terribly scientific, but a quick look at the below video, and I believe you'll agree the performance does appear to be pretty impressive.

    The restore to the laptop took longer of course, but at least the results still look like I may actually have a faster way to go forward with my massive 4TB of backup data, from 12 PCs I back up daily (some over VPN), described at, and seen here:


    Also seen are bad Sundays, where the weekly clean-up task takes so long, that most machines are left powered-on, queued to backup, but unable to complete much of anything, because the weekly daily backup because of the weekly "Cleanup" and "Consistency Checker" tasks in the Task Scheduler taking >12 hours to complete:


    What had me worried is that backing up those machines overnight was often a problem on WHS2011, but had worked fine on WHSv1. At least now perhaps there's hope my overnight backup window can be shortened, should I choose to use WS2012E (Windows Server 2012 Essentials), once released it's out of beta. According to the Microsoft Fact Sheet, it'll also have better >2TB drive handling, native/easy VPN support, and hopefully faster single file restores as well.

    Then again, I still need to work out a way around or past the price, and the whole domain login issue, of course...


    Live demonstration of backup and bare-metal restore:

    Jul. 12 2012 Update:
    Wow, daily backups of physical laptop (with Kingston SATA2 SSD) take under 1 minute!

    Jul. 13 2012 Update:
    Physical W520 laptop with just Windows 8 installed, the first backup 10 minutes, full restore about 15 minutes.  Daily backups only 30 seconds!

    Jul. 15 2012 Update:
    Testing still going well!

    New test backup and restore video now ready, skipping right ahead to a look at Task Manager during a first backup of 2 VMs, one on a 1TB 7200 rpm drive (disk does around 60MB/sec), and another on 2 SATA3 SSD drives (about 10x faster), resulting in fast results for both backups:

    Aug. 21 2012 Update:
    See also