Windows Home Server + Live Mesh = Nice

21 07 2009

What I’m about to discuss is not recommended.  I know that Windows Live Mesh is not designed to run on Windows Server 2003 or Windows Home Server.  So, if you do this, know that your mileage may vary (YMMV) and that you are taking a risk.  It is up to you whether that risk is acceptable or not.

Now, on to the good stuff…

Windows Live Mesh

If you don’t know what this free service from Microsoft is, you should check it out.  It is absolutely essential for anyone that manages multiple computers for their job.  Meaning either you switch between computers frequently (like when I go from my Tablet PC to my Netbook), or you want to ensure that multiple people have the same files on their computers without actually making any effort.

Live Mesh will let you set up folders on your computers that can be synchronized to multiple locations, or even online in the cloud in a 5 GB allotment of shared space that Microsoft gives you.  This really is a synchronization, so it replicates whatever is in a folder to all the computers that are set up to synchronize.  If you are looking to push files from one place to another and then remove them from the source computer, you should probably try something else (like SyncToy).

The other nice part about Live Mesh is that it operates in a peer-to-peer fashion.  That means if your computers can “see” each other on the same network, the transfer doesn’t go out over the Internet and then back to the destination computer.  Mesh can also function through firewalls whether your computers are on or off of a VPN (like Hamachi).

I notice that the transfers tend to go a little faster when you have Hamachi turned on, but it’s not necessary.

What about Windows Home Server?

Here’s the part I wanted to add to this scenario.  If I’m synchronizing important business or personal documents that must be kept up to date, I probably want to have a backup of these documents as well.  Obviously, they get backed up if my computer is part of the Windows Home Server pool.

But what about when I’m on the road and updating a document and WHS can’t reach out and backup my computer efficiently?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your files are automatically synchronized somewhere else in case of emergency?

Keep in mind, that shared space that Microsoft provides you in the cloud can also be used for this purpose.  As long as your files total less than 5GB, you can probably rest assured that your data is safe sitting up there.

But if you wanted someone to have access to the files back on your home network without giving them access to your mesh, having Live Mesh on your WHS box is a nice alternative.

Or, if you’re like me and convert recorded TV from your Media Center down to a WMV file and copy it to your WHS server, you might want to sync that video content to your computer on the road to make those plane flights less tedious… just sayin’.

You can also use Live Mesh to sync folders to your Mac-loving family members (currently a “Technical Preview”) or even sync content to and from your Windows Mobile 6.x device (pictures, documents etc.) without using ActiveSync!

How I set it up

Live Mesh requires 2 things to run:

  • A logged-in user on the machine running it
  • A supported operating system

OK, so that means you need to leave someone logged into your WHS box all the time for Live Mesh to function properly.  If you have WHS Automatic Updates enabled, you will periodically want to look at the status of your mesh or log into your WHS box using Remote Desktop to see if Live Mesh is running properly.  You could configure WHS to log a user in automatically, but that’s up to you.

Installing Live Mesh isn’t necessarily as straightforward as you might expect.  However, Microsoft has intimated a couple times that they are evaluating a way to integrate Live Mesh directly into WHS.  There is a nice tutorial here, but I take a few extra precautions (like setting up the folder in the WHS Console first).  So combine both of our methods to get the best of both worlds!

I used this workaround to get going (which worked a few months ago, but could change):

  1. Log into your WHS machine
  2. Add your WHS server to your Mesh using the web interface (you will need to alter your security settings in IE to allow browsing to www.mesh.com)
  3. Download the Live Mesh installation kit for Windows XP / Vista
  4. Right click the Live Mesh installation kit and change the compatibility settings to Windows XP
  5. The kit *should* install properly – but again, WHS is not officially supported, so if that changes, look below for some workarounds and return here
  6. For good measure, go to the shortcut for Live Mesh and change its compatibility settings to XP as well
  7. Configure it to start and log in automatically
  8. Leave a user logged in on your WHS machine (remember to check after Patch Tuesday)

Now, if the setup kit fails to install and complains about WHS not being a supported operating system, you can perform this trick:

  • Open the \Documents and Settings\<user>\Local Settings\Temp folder
  • Sort by date and find the most recent folders
  • Run the setup kit again
  • Let the error come up
  • Go back to the Temp folder and refresh it, you should see a folder with a date and time that’s very close to the current time (the fold might have a long or short nonsense name)
  • Open the newest folder(s), examine the contents and see if it contains setup kits, and copy the contents to another folder you can find later
  • Close the failed installation error message (that new folder that appeared in the Temp folder will disappear)
  • Now, go to the files you copied from the Temp folder and run the setup.exe or setup.msi from there (go back to at Step 4 above)

Once you are set up, and you successfully pair the WHS server to your Live Mesh, you should see several folders appear on the WHS desktop.

This part is crucial:

You do NOT want to have your mesh folders located on the desktop.  To change this, do the following:

  1. Open the Windows Home Server Console
  2. Go to the Shared Folders tab
  3. Make a new Shared Folder called “Mesh Folders” (or whatever you like)
  4. Set up folder duplication, permissions etc. to your tastes
  5. Close the Windows Home Server Console and go back to your Desktop
  6. Right click the Live Mesh folder you want to replicate to your Windows Home Server
  7. Select “Sync with this computer…”
  8. Click “Browse…”
  9. Select the folder “D:\Shares\<Folder You Made In Step 3>”
  10. Select that folder
  11. Live Mesh will then place the synchronized folder underneath that new shared folder

Live Mesh should start synchronizing your folders!

Please note that this could all change as Live Mesh is a beta product and Microsoft may decide to change how Live Mesh deploys and how it interacts with unsupported operating systems like WHS!  You have been warned…

P.S. Absolutely DO NOT use Live Mesh to synchronize your OneNote Notebooks!  Learn how to do that with WHS.

P.P.S. One application I am going to explore with Live Mesh is backing up my WHS Backup Catalog to another machine so that in the event of a primary disk failure on my WHS box, I can rebuild it.  I haven’t done it yet, but will try someday soon.

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9 responses

22 07 2009
Windows Live Mesh on WHS « MS Windows Home Server

[…] All the details are available here. […]

22 07 2009
Mike

I installed Mesh on WHS a while back. I used the /force option to get it to go.

Now, I’ve got everything important in at least 3 locations! Laptop or Desktop + the WHS (with duplication).

Next up, I’m going to use SyncToy to copy everything to an external USB disk which will live off-site, either at a friend’s house, or at work. Full DR.

Mesh also gives the AWESOME capability of remote desktop into XP and Vista Home editions.

22 07 2009
spackle

I was thinking something along those lines. I want to back up the WHS primary partition / backup catalog to an external disk and put that somewhere safe too. I know some of these cloud-based backups are pretty seamless as well (JungleDisk-type options). But your method is more within your direct control.

The Remote Desktop support for remote machines is nice. With Hamachi I have 3 options now… WHS and Mesh can do remote login, and I can do RDC or VNC directly via Hamachi. There is a plugin for WHS that can wake any sleeping WAN connected machine for RDC as well.

I’m also using Mesh to sync other files with a friend’s Mesh as well. That’s pretty neato.

Thanks for stopping by!

23 07 2009
The Home Server Show 50 - Power Pack 3 for Windows Home Server in Depth

[…] Live Mesh install on Windows Home Server […]

24 07 2009
The Home Server Show 50 – Power Pack 3 for Windows Home Server in Depth | Datasafe Eurosafe

[…] Live Mesh install on Windows Home Server […]

25 07 2009
Live Mesh – anything interesting? | Random OS Ramblings

[…] upon a new service from Microsoft – Live Mesh and how to use it with Windows Home Server (Spackle: Windows Home Server + Live Mesh = Nice). Live Mesh is a synchronization service managed via a web interface where the computers included […]

27 08 2009
Clark

Having problems…

Install went fine on WHS machine with PP3 beta installed. I made sure all of the .exe files are in XP compatibility mode.

I was able to setup many different folders to sync with.
Remote access into the WHS via Live Mesh works fine.

However, my Live Mesh tray icon keeps saying “Live Mesh is Starting”…
None of the folder shares that I setup will sync at all.

Any ideas? Thanks

28 08 2009
spackle

I think I had that problem at one point as well. I had to uninstall Mesh, remove the server from the Mesh, and then reboot, reinstall, reconfigure.

I believe it may actually be a problem with the Mesh configuration vs. the machine’s memory of being in a mesh.

Perhaps remove the machine and re-add it to the Mesh first. It’s a pain, but after doing something similar, I haven’t had an issue.

Windows XP gives me more issues actually with Mesh. It doesn’t like suspending and resuming.
Good luck!

29 03 2010
stijn

Thanks for all the advice guys. I installed my folders to be saved on my homeserver D: partition, but it seems LM still creates huge temp files on the C: system partition. Anyone seen that happen?

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