My old Synology NAS for home use had started to show signs of wear and was in need of replacement. It had plenty of disk space and performed well enough – but the version I had lacked any real power or cloud connectivity. I decided it was time to repurpose one of my “home lab” servers to be a replacement and wanted to take a kick at the can of setting it up as a headless Windows Server 2019 File Server that I could connect up with Azure File Sync for some “cloud connected” storage. I came across a few interesting things took a bit of time to solve so I thought I'd share my experience making this server with you here – in case you come across these yourself in your travels.
Windows Server 2019 default install
In case you didn't know – it does not have a GUI. This can pose some challenges when you complete the install and need to fine tune and configure it. I'm going to be managing this system (once it's configured) using Windows Admin Center, but completing the setup will take a bit of wrangling. I'm not going to cover a vanilla install of Windows Server, so I pickup from just after the first logon where I have the opportunity to set the local Administrators password. The first stop in this manual install is your old friend SCONFIG.
As you can see – I have already enabled and configured some important settings here:
- I have changed the Computer Name (Option 2)
- I have enabled and configured Remote Management (Option 4)
- I have configured Windows Update to be Automatic and check for updates every day at 3am localtime (Option 5)
- I have Downloaded and installed updates (Option 6)
- I have gone ahead and input my product key and proceeded to activate Windows Server (Option 11)
This was the easy part – we have an (almost forgotten) tool with SCONFIG to get this part done. You'll notice I didn't join a domain – this is a simple NAS for some clients here in the house, I no longer have local domain controllers running for the family / lab.
Since this machine is essentially a Server and it will be running headless, it won't be going to sleep or turning off monitors as it's going to be headless after this configuration is complete. As such – I want to change the Power Profile to High Performance. It's a bit harder with no GUI, but you can use the PowerCfg.exe tool to do this. To list off your settings it's as simple as running PowerCfg /list and then you can copy the scheme GUID for High Performance and then run PowerCfg /Set 8c5e7fda-e8bf-4a96-9a85-a6e23a8c635c
Command Line Driver Installs
Once I got around to wanting to configure a Storage Space and tried to list off my physical disks with a Get-PhysicalDisk command, I realized that my HP workstation was still missing drivers for the controller card. Doing some digging, I realized that I needed to download the drivers from the HP support site, transfer them via USB stick on to the system – but they required a GUI for the install. I extracted the drivers into C:SWSetup folder and then found the docs about how to go about adding driver packages into the drive store. In my case – one command did the missing controller software install and updated my chipset drivers: pnputil /add-driver *.inf /subdirs /install
This server has an SSD for the main OS drive and a few spinning rust disks for data who had previously been part of a Windows Storage Space in an old configuration. I had to dig around to figure out how to clear out the old Storage Space information as it's stamped on each disk – so unless you are using pristine / unused disks – you'll want to remove any old unhealthy storage pools from the system. You can then delete them with a simple Get-StoragePool -HealthStatus Unhealthy | Remove-StoragePool. This should free up the disks to be included in a net new Storage pool and be configured into a new Storage Space. Storage Spaces is documented in the Deploy StorageSpaces on a stand-alone server doc from way back in the 2012 documentation space, but it still applies to 2019. You can list off your visible disks on the system even if you are repurposing hardware – you'll want to ensure you are clean and starting from scratch. List off your disks with Get-PhysicalDisk and you should see all of them with a “CanPool” status of True.
To create you Storage Space from the CanPool disks, first off group them together as a variable with $PhysicalDisks = (Get-PhysicalDisk -CanPool $True) Then you can group them together into a Storage Pool so you can make a virtual disk with the redundancy you like. First make the Storage Pool with New-StoragePool -FriendlyName Storage – StorageSubsystemFriendlyName “Windows Storage*” -PhysicalDisks $PhysicalDisks
Because I am using old disks of mismatched sizes and want to gain all the space possible for my resilient storage, I am going to create a RAID 5 equivalent setup using the ResiliancySettingName of Parity with New-VirtualDisk -StoragePoolFriendlyName Storage -FriendlyName data -ResiliencySettingName Parity -UseMaximumSize
Finally it's time to initialize the disk, create the volume and format the partition as NTFS with Get-VirtualDisk -FriendlyName data | Get-Disk | Initialize-Disk -Passthru | New-Partition -AssignDriveLetter -UseMaximumSize | Format-Volume -FileSystem ntfs
Local User Creation
Next up – making some standard SMB Shares that my workstations can access the stored data. Since this is for home use, I only have regular Users and if you remember – I no longer have a domain in use, so I will need some local accounts created. You can read the full New-LocalUser command reference from the doc page. I create a secure password with $Password = Read-Host -AsSecureString and then create the local account with New-LocalUser “Mackenzie” -Password $Password -FullName “Mackenzie” -Description “Son” -PasswordNeverExpires
I went ahead and created a user for each member of the family and myself and proceeded to make a note to visit each family members machine to map drives to the server using their unique local user ID in order to authenticate to the server. This part made me cringe as a consultant who has designed over 140+ Active Directory domains for enterprise customers over the years. Maybe I should make this simpler and create a local domain for home again – but honestly this is a small setup, not something for a small / medium business so I'll let it pass.
I create the necessary folder structure on the new E: drive, in this example it's E:sharesDocuments that I want to share out with Change access to the Users group and Full access to the Administrators group. You can read the full New-SmbShare command reference from the docs page. For this I use New-SmbShare -Name “Documents” -Path “E:sharesDocuments” -ChangeAccess “Users” -FullAccess “Administrators”
Once the shares were made it was time to transfer the data. I decided to keep things simple and simply mapped a drive from the new server over to the old NAS and then proceeded to robocopy the files down to their new locations. Needless to say – this took a long time, multiple days in fact – but we made it in the end. Because this was a simple NAS for home use, there wasn't a very complex security structure in place.
And we're done.
To review – I wanted to replace an aging home NAS device with a Windows Server 2019 file server running on some repurposed home lab hardware. Because Windows Server 2019 runs without a GUI I managed to figure out the following from the command line / PowerShell prompt:
- Configuring the basics with SCONFIG
- Changed the Power Profile to High Performance
- Added and Installed 3rd party drivers
- Deleted old Storage Space
- Created a new Storage Space / Virtual Drive / Resilient volume
- Created new Local Users
- Created new SMB shares
Now how about managing this server going forward? Well for that, you will have to wait for my next blog post.