Recover.IT – HP EX490 MediaSmart Server

Yesterday, I noticed that the Windows Home Server icon in my taskbar was red.  I opened it up and saw some file conflicts – that is strange.  I could access the files in the server, so what is going on – then the penny dropped, it says that a disk drive is missing. I went out to the computer area and could see only one disk was lit up, the second one is not lit – meaning that it is offline. I went back to the console and shut down the server – which eventually it did, albeit slowly because it had stopped responding for a long time before I could hit the Shutdown button.


Some of you may have heard about Windows Home Server, many probably haven’t. WHS was a great product for its time – a semi-redundant network storage device that could be packaged like a NAS. I bought this HP EX490 MediaSmart Server back when it was available in 2009. That is the box on the right in the photo above, ok – a little dusty even though it sets on a shelf 2m above the floor.  It came with a single Seagate 1TB disk drive, and over the next few years went to 4x1TB drives, then eventually to 2x2TB drives. The files can be stored in folders that are shared out – and each folder/share can be configured to be redundant or not.

Ok – back to the problem at hand, one of the two drives – the Seagate 2TB had apparently stopped working.  After it had shutdown, I pulled out the second drive and connected it to my test/recovery machine. This second drive was able to spin up, and I ran a few commands on it, to determine what the issue with the drive was and then shut down. I didn’t want to keep the drive running until I had a way to copy its contents – having temporarily run out of disk storage space recently.

One of the commands that I run is “smartctl -a /dev/sdb” which on Linux will check the display the SMART data from the disk drive which is physically connected as /dev/sdb. The interesting things I am looking for are the Reallocated Sector Count and if any of the SMART attributes show that the drive has failed. None of them did and the Reallocated Sector Count was 14760 which is a little high – but this can be normal for the drive. The Power On Hours was 34,235 which equates to nearly 4 years – the drive itself is 5 years old. If I hadn’t used the drive straight away – this might be ok.

Of course, there were other values to be considered. Attribute 187 – Reported Uncorrectable was 0, 188 Command Timeout was 1, 197 Current Pending Sector Count was 216 and 198 Offline Uncorrectable Sector Count was also 216. Now – these last two are concerning – generally a non-zero number on these can indicate that the drive is having issues, and we should plan to replace it.

Smartctl also reports SMART errors that the drive has recorded – the main one occurred at 34,227 hours – like 8 hours before I noticed the problem and shut it down. This was error 8170 – WP at LBA = 0x00611d8f = 6364559 – this probably means that it couldn’t access this particular sector – which is a concern. What I need to do now, is to obtain or get a spare disk of at least 2TB and make a disk to disk copy of it – in order to ensure that my data is copied. I have a few 3TB disks lying around – maybe I can free one up for a little while. I think I will do that during the week.

Remember that I mentioned that we can specify some folders or shares to be redundant – meaning that the contents of those folders have copies that reside on the other disk? Well – not all folders were marked to be redundant, so if any of those folders reside on this particular disk might well be inaccessible. Fortunately, Windows Home Server creates a NTFS file system on each drive, so these drives can be connected to any Windows machine and be accessible – unlike some versions of RAID which can mean that the data is striped across each disk.

The other thing I want to think about is – what I would replace this WHS with. I currently run a virtual Freenas on ESXi server – but I was thinking about building a new standalone network storage appliance. Freenas is great if we can get the right hardware – such as ECC memory, a CPU and motherboard that supports ECC memory – and run ZFS but then I was reading about issues on ZFS – which caused me to look at what other people are using.

I could stay with Linux and run something like MergerFS and SnapRaid or I could go the Windows way – with Storage Spaces which is looking very tempting, except I don’t have a spare Windows 10 machine to play with – since the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1 was over a couple of days ago. Decisions, decisions…


Replace.IT – Laser Switch on my Makita LS1017L Sliding Compound Saw – finally!

A couple of months ago, I mentioned how the laser switch on my Makita saw didn’t turn on the laser. I had pushed a piece of foam between the contacts, which made the switch work. Well, it did work – for quite some time, at least until yesterday afternoon – when I was trying to cut some of the final pieces of decking board.

My deck was completed, and what I was doing was to use the decking board to place on top of my raised garden bed to make it look nicer and also to have a place to sit when working on the veggies. Anyway, it was getting late, so I left it until this morning.

I needed to cut a couple of final pieces of board, and the laser would not come on – so I got out the replacement switch that I had purchased back then, and opened the switch cover. The foam had become compressed after all this time, so was not doing its job – therefore it was better to replace it finally. After removing the two wires that have spade terminals attached, it was an easy matter to use a small screwdriver and unclip the original switch. The new switch fit into place with a slight bit of force, and then the two wires attached, and screwed the cover back on.

The laser came on – great – and I quickly cut the boards, and now – I don’t have anything to use the saw for. Well, I will think of something – maybe a bench seat to fit onto the deck, yes – that sounds good, as I have a lot of ACQ treated pine left over from the garden beds – which is another story.

Review.IT – HP 110 Desktop PC with no display

During the week, a friend dropped off a PC for me to look at. As I was now working full-time, I really didn’t have much of a chance to look at it until this evening. He had explained on the phone that it belonged to a customer that I had previously done some work with a year or two ago. The HP 110 Desktop PC is one of those that comes with a power adapter similar to those on laptops. The symptoms were that there was no display either on the VGA port or the DVI port. I suggested that maybe he could try a separate video card – however, unfortunately – this PC does not have a PCI or PCIe slot, none at all.


Anyway, I had a look – it had a bit of dust inside, not really enough to cause a problem – and sure enough, no PCI or PCIe slots. However, I did spy a wireless board plugged into a mini-PCIe slot. My diagnostic card comes with an adapter that can plug into these mini-PCIe slots. I unscrewed the single screw that was holding the wireless board, then plugged in my diagnostic card.


Since I had a power pack plugged in, the diagnostics card came to life immediately – showing me that the Reset line is active, and the 3.3V line is working. I pressed the power button, and the fans starting spinning – but the diagnostic card did not change at all. The Reset was still active – and until the Reset turns off, the PC cannot boot at all.

This is looking like a difficult repair, such that might not be worthwhile to proceed. Why? The reset line being low – could be a failure of the reset circuitry. It may also have to do with the onboard power regulators not providing the right voltages. It can also be a failure of the Northbridge chip – and can also be a processor fault. To diagnose this further, I will need to remove the motherboard out of the case, then search the internet for schematic diagrams that describe this motherboard – or a similar motherboard.

A new PC equivalent to this one together with a 20″ monitor can be bought for $429 from OfficeWorks – in fact this PC was bought from OfficeWorks a couple of years ago. Anyway, I will let my friend know and he can decide whether or not I spend any more time on this PC.

[Update]  I went back to look at this again.  It turns out that when the motherboard is off, it should only be the 3.3V Standby power that is on, however in this case – it is the 3.3V power and the Reset line shouldn’t be showing up at all until power is applied. Now, this is the first time I have diagnosed one of these motherboards – but even then, it should still behave like a normal motherboard. This seems to suggest that the fault is in the power circuitry – which is going to be difficult since we usually measure the voltages on the PCI slots, and now I would have to dig around on the motherboard.  Anway, just wanted to update this post.