Fun and Games With WHS 2011

Despite some quirks and shortcomings, my Windows Home Server system has been quietly backing itself up onto a pair of hard drives that I rotate to an off-site location.

But four days ago, the server backups started failing. The error being reported was “There is not enough space on the disk”. This was being reported for both the G: and the D: drives on my system.

WHS2011 106

Well, I could understand that being the case for the G: drive, since that had filled up with data leaving only 60 GB free on a 1 TB drive. However, the D: drive had nearly 385 GB free on a 405 GB drive.

I wondered whether in fact the disk being referred to was not the data disk, but the backup disk, WHS Data Backup #1, which only had a few GB free. WHS 2011 is supposed to purge old backups from the backup drives when they get full, but there seems to be no way to predict when it will do this – I’ve had backup drives bob along for months with only a few GB free.

I tried a few more server backups, but as you can see from the screenshot, they were all unsuccessful. I also swapped the backup drive for a second drive (WHS Server Backup #2b), but as you can see, server backups still weren’t working.

I began to wonder whether it was data drive G: being almost full that was triggering the failure, so I moved one of the Shared Folders from the G: drive to the J: drive. Unlike WHS v1, WHS 2011 does not have drive pooling, so you have to manage the storage as a bunch of separate drives.

Once I’d moved the Folder across to the J: drive (using the “Move the Folder” task in the WHS 2011 Dashboard), the G: drive now had 248 GB of free space, while the J: drive now had 714 GB of free space.

I tried another server backup. This was also unsuccessful, with an “Element not found” error (whatever that means) being reported on the J: drive.

WHS2011 107

I left the system running and waited to see whether the next scheduled backup (at 23:00) would work. That was also reported as unsuccessful, with all drives reporting a “The operation failed because another operation was in progress. Retry the operation” error.

WHS2011 110

Trying not to panic, I rebooted the system and tried one more time. Now I got a “The handle is invalid” error on all drives. Another mysterious and opaque message.

WHS2011 108

Finally, in desperation, I told WHS 2011 to remove the WHS Data Backup #1 drive from the server backup definition, and added it back as though it was a totally new backup drive. WHS 2011 formatted it, and I gave it the name of WHS Backup Disc #1a.

The next time server backup ran, the backup was successful. Phew!

WHS2011 109

I suspect I’m going to have to reformat the second backup drive, and add it back into the server backup task as a new drive.

I think things are back to normal again, but I have to confess that this little episode has shaken my confidence in WHS 2011 a bit.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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11 Responses to Fun and Games With WHS 2011

  1. Jeremy Stevens says:

    I have also had numerous odd issues with WHS 2011. However, it has been on the client end. A reload of the computer that was not backing up resolved the issue…. I am not sure, if the backup agent was the cause, or what. I know its not the exact same as your issue, but I wanted to give you a shout out, seeing how I have had issues with backups. The errors are so effing vague, that it really leaves you scratching your head, more than you were, before you look into the error… I know in the States, WHS is/was selling very cheaply. Last I seen it, it was $49. I paid $120 for WHS v1 in 2010, two years after its release…. I think MS (Not excusing, just an observation) when putting this together, about half way through develaopent, changed their minds on Home Servers complete, and decided to ship everything to the “cloud”. Probably not a bad idea, for the average consumer, but I have over 3 TB of data that I would have to pay thousands of dollars a month for storage, let alone bandwitdth cost. I suppose I could just put a full server together, and go that route in the near future……

  2. Jeremy Stevens says:

    Pardon my missplelings, and horrible grammer please…..

  3. Greg Mickel says:

    I have had extensive file and data experience with WHS 2011 and I have had the same problems with the server backup deletion system. It doesn’t work right! I just format my drives and goes a new. It should do it automatically and mine did at one time but it stopped. I have never gotten a answer from Micro-who on the issue. All we can do is try.

  4. Peter Ferguson says:

    Same problem here today. My 1TB HD for server backup is nearly full. So from what you have said all I can do is reformat and start again?

    • Geoff Coupe says:

      Peter, indeed, I think that’s the only option. I have the strong suspicion that since installing Rollup 3, the Server Backup function does not purge old backups automatically any more, or if it does, it’s not working as effectively as it did prior to the Rollup.

      The data that I backup using the Server Backup has grown to such an extent that it will fill up the 1TB drives that I was using in less than a week. Earlier this year (i.e. prior to Rollup 3), even when there was only a couple of GB free on the backup drives, the Server Backup would complete, and it looked as though it was purging old backups automatically. Now it will simply fail with the errors shown above.

      Rather than reformat the backup drives on a weekly basis, I’ve invested in a couple of 2TB drives for the Server Backup. This should mean that I’ll be able to carry on for some time before the drives get full. I’ll be interested to see if WHS will automatically purge old backups from these larger drives, or whether once they are full, I will have to go through the reformat route again…

      • Peter Ferguson says:

        I have 39 GB left on my 1TB disk. I will do nothing and see what happens. It reports Server backup completed successfully. I think I am set at 2 per day as I recall. I will keep you informed.

        • Peter Ferguson says:

          WHS 2011 tells me I now have 2.7GB left.
          “I hate to rain on you parade”.
          I love your turn of phrase but well you are English. I am “Smithkid” on “wegotserved” that you kindly replied to. My problem is that although WHS 2011 tells me my server backup is “successful” every day, I cannot tell if this so because any drive designated as a server backup cannot to be seen from the Dashboard. However if I open a remote desktop connection I can see the drive in explorer. I note that files are being added everyday. I will take note of the oldest files on the drive and see if they are being deleted.

          I have added a third hard drive to my server and can remove the drive that is full as the server backup and replace it with the new drive. Then rotate them in and out as they fill (and delete them) but it would be nice to know exactly what is happening to to the “full” drive.

          • Geoff Coupe says:


            You write: “any drive designated as a server backup cannot [to] be seen from the Dashboard”.

            That’s a bit odd, because you should be able to see drives designated as Server Backup drives under the Hard Drives tab on the Server Folders and Hard Drives window in the Dashboard. You should see a list of your OS and data drives at the top of the pane, followed by a list of the Server Backup drives that are currently mounted below that. Entries for the Server Backup drives will also list the capacity, used spaces and free space, just like the OS and data drive entries.

            Are you not seeing this?

            • Peter Ferguson says:

              Sorry, did not make myself clear.
              I meant you cannot see the files on the server backup drive. I am trying to workout what happens at each serve backup instance now that it is full. Are older files being deleted as new ones are added. I have taken a snapshot of the file contents and will check tomorrow to see what has changed.

              • Geoff Coupe says:

                Ah, OK, but I’m also confused when you say that “you can see the files in Explorer” via RDP. On my system, the drive does NOT show up in Explorer. That’s because, under normal circumstances, it’s a VHD format drive that is never mounted to be shown in Explorer. I can see the physical disc in the Server Manager Disk Management screen, and I can see the backups in the Server Manager Windows Server Backup screens, but that’s it.

                • Peter Ferguson says:

                  You are right again. It’s morning here now and I had a little wine last night (Pinot from Tasmania). I was looking at the client backup not the server backup which we now both agree cannot be seen when mounted as “the” server backup. So I am back to the position where I can only assume that what is happening is that older files are being delete when a new backup is performed. I am going to add another HD as a server backup, demount the first and see what happens!!!!!!!!

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