WHS + Power Pack 1 + HP add-ons = Unusable server

A week ago, Paul Thurrott and I were chatting about the installation of Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, HP's add-ons, and how he was having major issues with performance. Admittedly, I wrote it off as PE (Paul error) and went forward with the upgrade. Testing at every increment, everything seemed okay… until I installed the add-ons. HP's update (to be applied to PP1) comes with two additional add-ons:

  1. McAfee’s Total Protection Service (anti-virus/anti-malware)
  2. PacketVideo’s PVConnect Media Server (media sharing)

Let’s take a look at their minimum system requirements for each add-on.

McAfee’s Total Protection Service minimum system reqs. (snipped):

Intel® Pentium® processor or compatible 64MB RAM (512MB recommended for servers)

PacketVideo’s PVConnect Media Server minimum system reqs. (snipped):

Intel® Pentium® 4 processor or compatible (1.6ghz+) 512MB RAM

Oh, I’m good, right? Sure, ignoring the fact that the server, after a reboot and at rest, has only about 200MB of physical memory available. Installing the add-ons, turning a blind eye, resulted in several “side effects”. Damnit, I hate when Paul is right.

  1. Disk performance plummeted. As a result of the Twonky Server’s (PVConnect) media indexing task, that conveniently runs after installation, compounded by McAfee’s on-access malware protection (per disk-read basis), the disks in the server were being thrashed non-stop. This brought the performance of the entire server down to a crawl. The Slowskys would be proud.

  2. Slow Console. By slow, I mean excruciatingly slow. Starting the Console, defined as the summary screen appears on-screen, takes an average of 1 minute, but isn’t functional for another minute+.

  3. Unstable Console. If you wait long enough for the Console to load, you’ll notice attempting to use the newly installed add-ons is a frustrating experience. This is because the Console, for no obvious reason, will sometimes completely disappear (crash) when clicking the add-on tabs. When using the client software to access the Console, you’ll receive a similar symptom of a nice white screen.

As I have anti-malware/anti-virus software on my client machines and have no device capable of receiving media (yet), I had no real need for these add-ons. (If you're keen on installing anti-virus software, PC Tools has a free antivirus download that works well.)  To remove them, without using the Console which requires you restart it after each add-on uninstallation, I RDP’ed into the server and executed the following commands:

  • msiexec -x d:sharessoftwareadd-insTopWHSaddin.msi
  • msiexec -x d:sharessoftwareadd-insTwonkyMediaServer2.msi
  • shutdown /r

If you would rather keep both add-ons installed, I strongly recommend you a) install them at night and let them dice up your disks while you sleep and pray it completes by the morning (mine didn’t after two days), b) install more RAM, and c) tweak your pagefile configuration afterwards.