Microsoft Abandons Development of Windows Home Server Drive Extender

In a shock move, Microsoft today announced that it had abandoned development of Windows Home Server’s Drive Extender storage technology. The announcement comes almost eight months into a public beta of the next version of Windows Home Server, codenamed “Vail”, and will result in Vail, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (Codename “Aurora”) and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials (Codename “Breckenridge”) shipping without Microsoft’s advanced storage subsystem.

A blog post by Microsoft’s Michael Leworthy outlines today’s decision:

During our current testing period for our SBS 2011 Essentials and Windows Home Server code name “Vail” products, we have received feedback from partners and customers about how they use storage today and how they plan to use it moving forward. Today large hard drives of over 1TB are reasonably priced, and freely available. We are also seeing further expansion of hard drive sizes at a fast rate, where 2Tb drives and more are becoming easy accessible to small businesses.

When weighing up the future direction storage in the consumer and SMB market, the team felt the Drive Extender technology was not meeting our customer needs. Customers also told us that they wanted easier access to data stored on Drive Extender drives so they are able to view these files outside of Drive Extender. Therefore, moving forward we have decided to remove the Drive Extender technology from Windows Home Server Code Name “Vail” (and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials) which are currently in beta.

Drive Extender, seen by many as one of Microsoft’s most innovative engineering feats of recent years, was a storage replication system that managed Windows Home Server’s storage pool, allowing the use of any combination of internal and external drive types, removing the need for drive letters and providing duplication of files and folders to protect from hard disk failure. It has not been without its fair share of controversy, however – a serious bug in the technology was identified in October 2007 which caused data corruption in certain circumstances. It took Microsoft two months to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, and a further seven months to fix the bug.

Back in August 2008, Charlie Kindel, then General Manager for Windows Home Server at Microsoft outlined the guiding principles of Drive Extender, the spirit of which runs right across the platform “as a server designed for ordinary people”:

Windows Home Server storage system design requirements

  • Must be extremely simple to use. Must not add any new concepts or terminology average consumers would not understand. Simple operations should be simple and there should not be any complex operations.
  • Must be infinitely & transparently extendible. Users should be able to just plug in more hard drives and the amount of storage available should just grow accordingly. There should be no arbitrary limits to the kinds of hard drives used. Users should be able to plug in any number of drives.  Different brands, sizes, and technologies should be able to be mixed without the user having to worry about details.
  • All storage must be accessible using a single namespace. In other words, no drive letters.  Drive letters are a 1970’s anachronism and must be squashed out of existence!
  • The storage namespace must be prescriptive. In other words, our research told us that consumers want guidance on where to store stuff. Our storage system needs to be able to tell users where photos go. Where music goes. Etc…
  • Must be redundant & reliable. There are two components in every modern computer that are guaranteed to fail: fans and hard drives. Because they have moving parts,  Windows Home Server must be resilient to the failure of one or more hard drives.
  • Must be compatible. Compatible with existing software, devices, disk drives, etc…
  • Must have great performance.
  • Must be secure.
  • Must enable future innovation. Both the amount of storage consumers are using, and capacity/$ are growing at Moore’s Law like rates (while nothing else really is). This creates a discontinuity in the industry and an opportunity for innovation. The storage system must operate at a higher level of abstraction to enable rich software innovation (file level vs. block level).

Following Kindel’s departure from Windows Server organisation(to a new role in the Windows Phone 7 team), the clarity (and bravery) of DE’s design principles were compromised early in Vail’s development, admittedly with a number of resulting technical benefits. DEv2 offered greater compatibility for applications that needed to directly interact with the drive pool, created the ability for Windows Home Server to duplicate and move data when files were open (removing the file conflicts often experienced in v1), and improved performance by the removal of drive balancing. But those much needed improvements came with their own technical challenges and led to dilution of the core principles highlighted by Kindel.

Drive letters, that 1970’s anachronism, crept into the platform for the first time. Unlike WHS v1 which presented shared folders in a single volume, in Vail releases to date, shared folders became dedicated volumes with their own drive letter.


With limitations on shared folder allocation as a consequence (there are only 26 letters in the alphabet), pre-configured personal folders for each of the ten supported Windows Home Server users were cut from Vail, further compromising DE’s guiding principles. Whilst Microsoft have claimed that personal folders were rarely used, the change conveniently removed the need to reserve those drive letters for user accounts. Even more seriously, attempts to re-engineer Drive Extender for Vail led to significant limitations in the number of drives that could be supported with stability during the beta, and the move to storing data across multiple drives in 1GB chunks led to two major headaches. Firstly, inefficiencies in the release of free space back to the storage pool from data deleted by users led to Microsoft’s Home and Small Business Server team needing to call in defrag specialists Diskeeper and Raxco for third-party support. Secondly, with data now striped across multiple disks, Microsoft created an inherent weakness in DEv2 whereby a single disk failure could take out a significant number of files, depending on how many files had parts stored on the failed drive. Most controversially, in WHS v1, in the event of a system drive failure, files could be recovered by simply plugging a storage drive into another PC and copying the data from the drive. DE v2’s switch to a custom, block-based file system did not allow this ease of recovery.

Over on Microsoft’s Windows Home Server support forums, DE v2 has been subjected to continued criticism from beta testers since the release of the Windows Home Server “Vail” beta in April:

DEv2 uses technology that is as far as I know present in no other Windows distribution, seems more unreliable (as it uses data striping which decreases reliability) and uses a quite heavy additional overhead.

I am using WHS because of the Drive Extender, it [is] a unique solution that allows me to gather up all the junk that used to be spread all over my home network on different shares and box it all in  one easily accessible accessible location.   Now it looks to me like Microsoft is ignoring their current unique usefulness and going over to the mainstream backup and safety data storage.  This is all good, but its also something that you can get from 100 different vendors.

WHS1 with its ” just a bunch of disks”, works just fine however, WHS2 does not, as any disk that has failed under this system can’t be read by any other readily available system that’s “to hand”, for the average home user, to me this is a fatal design flaw.

With WHSv2, DE has now dropped, to all intents and purposes, to RAID-0 levels. ANY single drive, out of my 12 failing, and I lose ALL my data, at least for the aforementioned larger files. Bottom line is this is a lousy decision..and hopefully one that can be reversed.



  1. Brilliant article & analysis!

    This is a HUGE, HUGE step backwards. One of the only compelling reasons for home users to purchase Windows Home Server was the Drive Extender & Folder duplication technology. Removing these features makes the "new" version of the product completely useless going forward. I can't for the life of me imagine why Microsoft is gutting one of it's most compelling & well thought out offerings in the last 10 years. I know I won't be upgrading without these features.

    I'm especially confounded by the suggestion that this in response to customer demand/feedback. I can see the OEM's wanting this stripped out as they can upsell a replacement. But what end customer would have been clamouring for this to be stripped. EPIC FAIL Microsoft…

    1. I agree. Particularly with the customer demand/feedback. Oh please, as if end-customers actually set-up a steering committee requesting a RFC because, after doing some serious stress test in their bedrooms… THIS IS TOTAL AND UTTER BS

    2. Agree, after being somewhat disappointed by the limited functionality and performance of the HP-supplied add-ins to my Mediasmart Server, DE was the saving grace. Without the simple expansion and backup it provides, there was nothing left to justify my purchase. I would have sent the product back and gotten a simpler, cheaper NAS device. Without a comparable feature in Vail, I don't see what I'd be paying for. I don't really want a "Server" to manage at home, I want a storage appliance that makes life easier.

  2. For me the only thing that makes me love my V1 home server is the way I can chuck new disks at it. If I just wanted a shared drive or two, I would have bought a NAS, and had a lot less bother with it. Without the fantastic ability to merge all of the disks in to one and to make the system safe even if a drive fails, then there really is nothing that WHS has to offer me. I think Microsoft should stick with V1, relax some of the CPU and graphics restrictions on the OEM licensing, and get a nicer front end in. Leave the back end alone – it works fine for what it is meant to do.

  3. I'm not even sure I understand exactly what is afoot. To me, the criticism was not (never in fact) about the underlying usefulness of DE. The problem, as everyone, including commenteriat here pointed out, was the DEv2 moved DE from above the NTFS layer to below, rendering it impossible to recover disks with another Vail-formatted drive handy, and it was simply not worth it.

    Sitting where I'm sitting right now, in the past six months, we've gone from having three reasonably effective, corporately-backed, ways of combining arbitrarily sized disks – Drobo, DE and ZFS – to one, as both Microsoft and Sun/Oracle have given up on their respective efforts; and the truth is that the Drobo has proved to be notoriously unreliable, so the reality is we have zero options here. I realise that the future maybe in the "Cloud", but the usefulness of vast amounts of local storage cannot still be understated.

    This is a really bad move Microsoft, really, really bad.

  4. Wow. This is one of just a couple unique features that separate WHS from a myriad of free Linux-based alternatives. What a disaster! Count me out.

  5. Thumbs down on this change!! This make a major change in the appeal of WHS. Drive extender and folder duplication are the features talk up to people that are looking a backup solution. Now there gone!! I am building a new system for Vail when it come out and this just made my MB and drives chooses wrong.

  6. Well…I guess this means I need to start looking at moving in a whole new direction. DE was the best feature on WHS. Being able to put disks of any size in and folder duplication were key features for me. Without it, I see no need to even consider Vail.

    I have an original HP MediaSmart server that I love. It is 3 years old now. I was starting to consider moving to new hardware when vail came out. This is now off the table.

    Time to start looking at cloud storage more…or a NAS…or something else…but WHS is another Microsoft screw up. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory again.

  7. I just checked the date and it's not April 1st… This is a huge step backwards. This was the main feature setting Microsoft apart in the home server world.

    Looks like I'll be sticking with v1 for the foreseeable future.

  8. I have been keeping my eye on Vail to hopefully mitigate some of the issues that I have with WHS v1 – such as interruptions to HD media steams from demigrator.exe etc. ____This news is a compelling reason not to upgrade to Vail IMO. ____For my next build I might just segregate my storage completely with something like Nexenta, which I am (alas) completely unfamiliar with.

      1. all comments are still being posted on the WHS blog site – there was a small delay to move them all to auto-post

  9. Terrible decision. They should have just resigned Vail to a longer period in the pipeline to get it ready, not strip out one of the only features that makes WHS attractive in the first place. Not sure what my next step is for arbitrary drive size pool expansion now.

  10. The 'folder duplication' and 'storage pool' flexibility [i.e. adding drives increased storage pool] was the ONLY reason I HIGHLY reccommended WHS to my co-workers (many of which stated 'I have or will buy a NAS device, why WHS', to which I could counter-argue). If you take this feature out all-together, FORGET future versions of WHS. There would be NO reason to buy WHS v2 (even with all the cool internet access/streaming features). If this means the v1 DE technology would be used and improved upon, then it is not a disaster. If the former, then this is a disaster for WHS going forward.

    BTW, my WHOLE NETWORK is MS based (WHS, Windows 7 Media Center, Xbox 360, 1 Win7 Laptop, 1XP laptop) so I am a huge MS user/supporter.

  11. My decision to use whs V1, instead of the Raid5 Nas I already had was 80% based on the advantage of Drive Extender, and on the backup feature of whs.

    I would have expected Vail to include the following improvements:

    – Support for new drives over 2 TB
    – Windows Media Center
    – A better demigrator.exe
    – Backup for the server itself
    – More speed based on the new Windows 2008 R2 (great OS btw).

    Now I'm wondering if it's a safe decision to buy a tranquil PC extender with 5 Drives 2 TB old technology and live with my current configuration for another 5-6 years.

    I hope MS will rethink the Vail architecture from scratch and propose a better solution otherwise the WHS will be dead in a matter of 1-2 years, because of the price and feature of next generation of Nas solutions.

    1. Well, I would not read it this way. I would say that if DE V2 is gone, so is Vail…. I cannot see MS releasing a next generation WHS product without smart duplication features.

    2. I was wrong… it seems. This message really sticks high to haven. I guess will have to skip a version or two until somebody at Microsoft wises up and fixed this fiasco.

  12. This is terrible news, but for long-time Microsoft watchers (and former employees like myself) it is not entirely unexpected.

    While I support the move to Win 2008 R2 (which is really an excellent server product), the DE2 technology wasn't even half-baked. It solved some reliability problems while removing important advantages. I felt it was more a reaction to OEM issues than end-user issues. Not a surprise when you consider who Microsoft felt was their #1 audience – the OEM manufacturers and (possibly) sytem integrators. Remember it was never marketed BY MICROSOFT to end-users. I believe this was (and is) a potentially fatal mistake.

    Reading between the lines, I think they are scrambling to put together a coherent story for their OEM partners. It now makes sense why HP is selling Drobo. I think MediaSmart has been put on ice. I also think there is a good (50/50) chance Vail will be cancelled altogether.

    I'm personally extremely disappointed, as I've based my home and small business around WHS v1 AND it's future development.

  13. I don't think this is possible due to the underlying MS Server 2003 code which can only address 32-bit drives. I think you can still find WD20EADS drives on the market, and the WD20EARS drives can be adjusted to work in a WHS environment with the use of a jumper. Going forward though, I don't know how long these will be available.

    1. Yeah, I have a WD10EARS with the jumper right now. Thankfully it hasn't been a speed issue though. But in the near future (once I get more work done on ripping my DVDs & start on my Blu-Rays) I'll need to invest in an eSATA enclosure w/ PM tech and then 2TB drives.

  14. So sad! This was a great product and loved by everyone who owned it. Now I don't know of anyone who will upgrade. Great way to kill off a line Microsoft, hopefully they will listen as they have in the past. Otherwise I can't see downgrading to the new version and will have to re-write all my reivews to steer people away from it.

  15. wow…FAIL____I've been a M$ fan for a long time. This has upset me more than anything. Makes me not want to buy a wp7 phone out of spite now.____What a waste of a good product. Maybe Balmer came up with idea on his own.____FAIL____FAIL____

  16. Dumb question: Isn't Windows Storage Server the same thing as "Breckenridge", or am I mistaken? I thought WSS 2008 R2 was already released a couple of months ago… Is that NOT using Drive Extender??

  17. Unbelievable!!! Could somebody drag Charlie Kindel, back to the WHS team? What is going on there, do they just get right of their main and unique selling point? Have some people completely lost their mind? I hope they do the only smart and good thing that come out of this: As suggested stop Vail, regroup and restart development using the core of server 2008 (or any next version they already started on) and use what was best of WHSv1. I feel sorry for all those WHS add-in developers that started working on new add-ins for Vail… Their work will probably need to be shelved for a while…

  18. I haven't been interested in Vail much since the beta was announced. Now I am quite content with WHS1 and will skip Fail as I skipped Vista. This is just another example of why I dumped the stock several years ago. A lumbering, blind Giant with a deaf Monkey named Balmer on it's back steering it by sound…

  19. Hmmm, now if Apple was to extend their Time Capsule product to backup Windows computers…maybe that would be a viable choice at this point. OK, seriously, I don't know much about Time Capsule, but it doesn't appear to be anything close to WHS (before someone starts taking me to task).

    All the same, it is a shame that this has happened.

  20. At least I give MS credit for acknowledging the obvious. With a simple NAS and cloud backup, I have what I need. But, I moved from FreeNAS to WHS years ago, and love it. But, now I will be moving back. In fact, I just abandoned my MCE to go back to Tivo, too. Anyone else think MS is crumbling? We got served, indeed.

  21. As far as i see it, WHS is dead if they don't implement some kind of DEv1 solution. Completely dead. Very disappointing.

  22. …mouth agape… slowly opening. closing. opening. closing… repeating in a soundless, uncomprehending stupor. Nothing emanating from a grotesquely twisted visage… and that's just Microsoft! I don't know what to say either. I am dumbfounded. I am found dumb.
    It's like watching a sinking of a state-of-the-art submarine in a perfectly calm harbor. Sinking for no good reason, other than somebody forgot to close the damn screen door.

  23. I guess I'll keep using WHSv1 for quite some time. How hard is it for them to include the original Drive Extender into Vail? I can't believe Microsoft got this far then just gave up…

  24. My mainboard died once. I had to get a new one. Plugged my home server disks into the new one, booted it up. After detecting drivers, all was up and running.

    Now imagine I had used the onboard raid. Chance of being able to get to my data? very low. The Identical Mainboard wouldn't have been available anymore.

    So this means an additional raid controller has to be bought. Twice, just in case it won't be available in the future anymore. And a typical such controller can plug in maybe 4 drives, not, say, 10, 20..

    this is so much crap. really, so much.

    1. This is why it's important to have a backup of your database. It's something that gets surprisingly little attention. Everyone talks of off-site backups of shared folders but not the data base. This would be good practice regardless of whether RAID or DE is used. Neither would protect against something happening to your home such as Fire, flodd, theft etc.

  25. I wasn't happy at all with the development of Vail. And even as the current Beta is I never would have upgraded to it. I don't believe they do really understand at MS what the users do want. But if we have to go back to the old way of using driveletters or look for raid systems, they indeed better stop!

  26. Looks like vail is fail. I bought an EX470 almost three years ago. Last year, it gave up the ghost, but not before I had backed up all critical data to Backblaze. I have not had the patience, time, funds to rebuild a server from scratch, but was waiting to see what Vail did before jumping. It appears that this is not an option anymore. I may just use a Windows 7 Ultimate box as my backup. With a myriad of file syncing apps out there and the ability to run media center natively, ability to remote into the box and the ability to back it up for $5 a month, it looks like it will fit all my storage needs better than Vail, et al. Too bad, I was a huge supporter for a long time.

  27. Shere madness. Removing DE is removing the prime reason most of us use and love WHS. Keep DE1 at the very least. About the only feature that I can think of that Vail will have that V1 doesn't that I want is a server backup. However, I would not pay the price of losing DE for that. There is no way I am going to upgrade now.

    About the only thing which would persuade me now is if they suddenly decided to build Media Center into WHS. I could just about stomach the loss of DE then but I don't see why I should have to.

    Saying that large HDs make the need for pooled storage less is rubbish. 4 years ago I had about 4 or 5 300GB HDDs and lots of my DVDs saved as WMVs to save space. If I ever upgraded a hard drive it was a real pain having to move all the files around manually and then change network paths accordingly. WHS V1 now handles all that for me and has supported me as I've grown my storage from 1.5TB to over 5TB and I had expected that to continue. There is no way a 2TB shared drive would now store all I need to.

    Microsoft do not seem to be putting the consumer at the heart of what they are doing – WHS has lost its way with Vail. Bring back the original Product Manager who had the true vision of what a consumer needs!

  28. This is a real shame. I have an original WHS v1 setup and really enjoy it due to its simplicity. Why have Microsoft chosen to re-engineer the solution when it works (if it ain't broke then don't fix it). I think I'll be sticking with WHS v1 and skipping the next generation of WHS unless Microsoft manage to sort this issue out and keep WHS as a simple consumer device.

  29. I've been a Windows user for years, recently I considered moving over to a Mac but the existing feature set of WHS V1 kept me loyal to Windows……maybe now it's time for a change?

  30. Considering the Amahi Team are hard at work implementing a user friendly version of greyhole, Microsoft would seem to be only serving the interests of OEMs by removing DE. How are they going to make a raid device user friendly to home users? I’l be sticking with WHS 1 unless DE1 at the very least is incorporated. I don’t see how Vail is a step forward without DE.

  31. i just rebuild my v1 whs. It has 24TB of disk behind it and works great. My killer feature is the backups. There is really no good way to back a windows box up easily. This was my killer function. I could turn my WHS into a lInux box in a heartbeat… actually linux admin by trade. but without the backup solution… hopefully v1 will be around for a while.

  32. Just wanted to add my frustration at this. What were they thinking?!?!? This is one of the biggest selling points! It gives the benefit of RAID mirroring without wasting disk space on files that don't need to be mirrored! It allows such easy installation of diskspace without having to reconfigure the RAID. I spend my time telling people how great it is. Well I guess I'm not upgrading. Might as well just use a NAS box now. There are other streaming software solutions out there so that's no big loss. As everyone says FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. …mouth agape… slowly opening. closing. opening. closing… repeating in a soundless, uncomprehending stupor. Nothing emanating from a grotesquely twisted visage… and that's just Microsoft! I don't know what to say either. I am dumbfounded. I am found dumb.
    It's like watching a state-of-the-art submarine sinking, for no reason, in a perfectly calm harbor upon a maiden launch. No reason other than because somebody forgot to secure the damn screen door!

    Oh boy (sigh). Yeah. REALLY? Yeah, really.
    So, what happened? In the 11th hour was something discovered about DE that scared the wooly socks off you guys (MS)?
    What was it?
    * Major corruption of files?
    * DE created a black hole and started sucking Redmond into it until little Jimmy pulled the plug and saved the universe?
    * Did it work too good?
    * Or perhaps was it discovered that "you could not profit enough from it" [sic]?
    * A little internal suicide maybe?

    I can only assume so, because I am sure you would not have pulled such a vital component to WHS without some really excellent, friggin darned good reason.

    So, where do we go from here boys and girls? At this late stage of the game/beta phase, I am assuming that Vail (at least) is dead. Surely you guys are not going to try and pawn off Vail, as it is now, as a finished product?
    My customers, nor I, will buy into that one… and I rather doubt anyone else will either, unless some genius in marketing is about to come up with some absolutely brilliant spin!
    As a devout WHS user, and advocate, I am rooting for you… but, you know… this sort of thing does not increase confidense in us out in the trenches. It seriously casts a pall and a really awkward silence on the whole relevance question. Is MS even relevant anymore? Just another thumbscrew in the obsolete, heavy, enclosure.

    MS, R.I.P.

  34. While I fully understand why so many like the DE function, and clearly for those not experienced with "real" servers and the attendant hardware it makes this SOOO much easier, I personally don't like it. I do not have need to run "many different discs of different sizes" and drive letters do not scare me. I run my WHS on a server, not a dumbed-down black box, and RAID is the only way to go (currently) for fully redundant and reliable storage, whether on a server or a NAS box. I have always found DE a royal pain, not to mention the Server 2003 limit on 2TB drives/partitions.

    That having been said I am clearly in the tiniest of minorities, and to take this feature/function out of a OS that is to be marketed to marginally computer-literate users is not only baffling, it is asinine! If WHS is ever to go beyond the computer-geek market segment that it currently resides in, and actually become the "center of your digital world", MS will have to IMPROVE on the existing system, not REMOVE key features.

    1. so you rebuild your raid all the time? i just buy the disk with the best cost/size ratio the moment i need more storage. i take the disk, plug it in, "add", done.

      DE is AWESOME and nothing like a raid.

      a royal pain? managing a raid, that is a royal pain.

      happily, you're still understanding our needs, even while not having that need yourself.

      1. In the last year I have had to rebuild my RAID only once, and that was not due to a drive failure: in adding a new DVD drive I dislodged an SATA cable and the array was degraded until I found the issue.

        Honestly I understand your point, as I mentioned, but I only buy enterprise drives and currently they are not much bigger than 750GB or 1TB in my price range. I am currently using a 4TB array in RAID5 and am about to add another. This is enough for me for the near future.

        1. As an IT manager I DO NOT WANT to continue at home my work. Before WHS, 3 years ago I had a raid card failure at home and it was a pain to find a new card and it took nearly 2 days to rebuild the array.
          Last year my whs had a drive failure (broken heads) and it took me 1,5 hour to replace it (1 hour was spent in going to buy a new whatever drive to replace the broken one) during which the rest of the family did not noticed anything!

          btw, enterprise highly prised drives do fail! of course they fail less but sometimes they fail!

          If I have to stick with raid, configs and so on, I don't need a wHs, I can go with a free linux and some utilities …

          1. Honestly, all you guys sound like just the fact that you have RAID makes for long hours of work daily! Quit the crying for petes sake!! RAID is easy, and not the silly software RAID on motherboards either. Here is a hanky to wipe your tears…

            And what, Linux is somehow easier to use and more user/novice friendly??? PLEASE! Ok, so I can use linux if and when I need to, but why would I want to for the home environment?? Why not Mac, another incredibly minor also-ran in the grand scheme of things.

            The reason we are all here complaining is because Windows is the only realistic game in town. And now it looks as if they may have taken the only real selling advantage to IT and non-IT types alike and flushed it. Will it stop me from buying V2? Yes, unless they are giving it away. Will I continue to use and enjoy V1? Sure, why not? There is little not to like in V1 and that is speaking for my whole family and not just me, the IT guy.

          2. Ginger, you seem to be a religious zealot, who is interested more in the technology itself, instead of fulfilling customers needs. WHS was NOT created for IT techs, but for "simple" people, who do not give crap about how superior (or not) the underlying technology is.

            Yea, I worked on RAID, and I worked also on even BETTER storage technology (virtual ISCSI clusters from LeftHand Technology), but I the company had to dish out $60K+ for 2.5 TBS of storage. For Bill Gates this type of expense and required tech knowledge for support is not an issue, but for the rest of people(the ""soul of the earth", "the "morons" WHS is THE best solution.

            I am certainly disappointed (and not for the first time) by MS inability to execute. Microsoft management became way to lazy and incompetent in many areas (even running their financials,) which is clearly reflected by the company's stock poor performance for more than a decade and a half.
            I do believe that MS has to be broken up into smaller companies for the sake of the company and the future of technology.

          3. Raid is not easy. It requires a study on hardware, it costs time and money, it imposes limitations on the disks you will buy in the future.
            Raid is not the solution for a Home server as the one advertised by ms.
            How much will it cost and hardware raid for 10 disks?
            What if the card(s) fail?
            Will the next disk be compatible with the Cholesbury raid on will I have to destroy and rebuild to grow my storage?
            What if a disk fail? Will I have to buy exactly the same disk?
            What if the files disk/card is not available anymore?

            Implementing raid is not clicking 'selext/selext/select /build '

  35. I think the writing is one the wall. Vail will probably never make it to market. I'm at a loss as to where to go. There are alternatives but nothing quite so absorbing for the real enthusiast. My v1 is getting pretty old now and my hardware plans were based on the Vail roadmap.
    Time to start planning a whole redesign at home 🙁

  36. Wow, they actually stealth-edited the original blog post so it doesn't mention software RAID anymore. Does anyone have a screenshot or mirror of the original text?

  37. I will agree with Mark G that several of my latest purchases for my WHS were based on future needs of Vail, namely 64bit and it larger availablility of RAM. If Vail fails to materialize my system will be considerably more powerful that WHSv1 could ever utilize. Serious waste of money and I will not be all that happy. Guess one should not use a crystal ball when dealing with MS.

    1. Did the same thing, myself. }/
      Got another server, this time a 64b server, in anticipation of the Vail release.
      Hmmm… Vail.
      Submission; decline; descent.
      To let fall; to allow or cause to sink.
      To lower, or take off, in token of inferiority, reverence, submission, or the like.

      Why is that, now, such a tragically appropriate name?

    1. There is little point in paying for new RAID cards as there is a glut of slightly older models available on eBay and elsewhere. I recently purchased 2 16 port SATA2 3Ware controllers for about $150 each. These were PCI-X so were a bit cheaper so figure about $100 more PCI-E models. Unless you REALLY need SATA 6.0 you will not see much if any benefit to using one on a WHS, and certainly not enough to merit spending all the extra cash on drives and the controllers. IMHO in any case….

  38. What a shame! I invested in new hardware, just by the thought of having DE features on a 64 bit OS and it's abundance of RAM. That's how confident I was about MS working on a perfect home user solution. And now this…

  39. This is shocking! I was quite excited for the release of 'Vail' to replace our current WHS.

    This combined with the complete lack of Media Center integration makes me wonder who are they targeting with the new release. It's definitely not me, my family or any of my acquaintances.

    Now that I won't be building a new WHS I guess I can go buy the iPad my wife has been pining for. Thanks M$, you've made my wife happy!

  40. If DE technology/philosophy is removed from WHS then it's main benefit is lost. DE is the only thing that elevates WHS above the many Linux alternatives or indeed a NAS box or Linux running on a router!

  41. Talk about kicking oneself in the teeth. This a massive step backward… In particular I think this is the key differential advantage of WHS. I understand that giving a solution that work for many but fails for some isn't something that a company like Microsoft can afford. However, if that is the case then the initial release of DE was stupid. Never EVER release a paradigm shifter in technology, only to pull it of saying "ups, sorry… not going to work. I mean, not for everyone.. eh… business, you know".

    You know what the most pathetic part of this announcement is? DENIAL. Microsoft is basically using a lot of rhetoric and stratagems to BS the WHS community. do they rally think they can just remove all the petals of a flower and sell it to the customer, claiming that "the stem is really the best part of it"?

    Count me out! And while I'm on my rant, Gates please come back… The current leadership is worst than an STD.

  42. I'm pretty disappointed as well. I was looking forward to the new DE functionality as I felt it took up too much overhead diskspace. But if all the software offers is backup and webportal, they are really missing the boat.

    Before this I was looking at UnRaid as an alternative for storage. Anyone set up an UnRaid server? Any other NAS type solutions for the somewhat technically inclined?

    1. Josh,

      I have unRAID setup. Very easy, takes 5 minutes tops. There are user plugins which aren't difficult to setup either. I have PS3 Mediaserver, Transmission and Subsonic all running at the moment.

      I was dissapointed with Vail from the get go. Seriously was does dashboard need to bring a computer to it's knees to load. Pathetic; dashboard should have been a HTML page just like unRAID and Freenas use.


  43. Ironic., a month ago, I was at a crossroads. I needed to revamp the data storage for my business. I was looking at a quality NAS, but the more I considered the possiblities, the better WHS looked. I almost bought a HP EX495, but I decided what the heck, build my own. Now, 6 days after I got it working, Microsoft goes in a different direction! When I saw HP start selling Drobos, I had a bad feeling then and it seems the writing is on the wall. Just watch and see how they spin this as what the customers want! The one good thing is that all I have to do is load an OS onto the machine and use it as a regular computer.

    1. My highly uneducated theory is that MS saw micro businesses like mine (and yours?), looking at WHS as a viable server alternative, effectively cannibalizing their business server market, and decided to effectively shut it down.

      MS cares little about the effects on its customers as witnessed by the pending shut down of MS Money.

      It is a shame that they are effectively a monopoly, not subject to the disciplining rigor of the free market. There are a lot of experienced IT pros and enthusiasts on this Forum and even THEY are rendered completely helpless via the decisions made by MS. ITtshouldn't be that way.

      Forgive the broad, probably uninformed commentary

      1. I think you nailed it. They foresaw WHS eating away profit on the SBS end of things so rather than sell a robust product aimed at the home that some businesses might use rather than their more expensive product, they'll simply eliminate the home product.

  44. Well, that simplifies matters. I had been developing plans for eventual migration to Vail. No need for that now. Better start considering what to use when WHS 1 comes to end of life.

  45. I agree with scapping DE2 as it performed poorly, you couldn't pull the drives and plug them in any computer to get your data, and it had high overhead. They should have embraced a more raid like solution such as unraid or flexraid. You can still use drives of any size and add them to the pool as you wish.
    So now i'm thinking Server 2008 along with Flexraid.

  46. We can only hope that it will not be soon, as they are still selling and supporting it now and generally will continue to do so for many years after the product is retired. Look at XP as an example as it was retired with the release of Vista and will continue to be supported until 2014. I am still hoping they will just take more time and get it all working properly, DE and all. I really need the 64bit support….

  47. ok… does everyone love DE? I have found it sucks for streaming video and with the new capabilities I was hoping for even more internet based streaming.

    I don't use the capabilities of DE in my V1 box and have hardware raid with about 16 TB of storage. Using hardware raid 6 was my plan when migrating to a V2 setup, may 60 for some of the speed improvements.

    I am more mad as this is going to delay the release of the product. I was hoping for a December launch but that is not going to happen and now I bet we are looking at March for RTM.

    1. well, thanks to DE i DON'T have to have a 16TB setup. I have an infinite TB setup, that grows with my needs. a much cheaper, much more flexible investment.

      And yes, I can watch 1080p bluray rips just fine. There ARE known performance issues with DEv1, which would have been fixed with DEv2. but even with those issues, the advantages of just buying a new disk as needed, and just buying the most cost efficient disk at that moment is definitely worth it.
      else, i could just've bought a NAS

  48. VERY bad decision Microsoft! As many have already said, DE and folder duplication were, for me, two of the biggest selling points to WHS, along with automatic PC image backups. Without it, WHS would be MUCH less attractive. For those of us with multiple drives in our storage pools, the upgrade to Vail would seem to be very disappointing.

  49. My guess is that the root of the problem is even deeper, the merging of SBS essentials with WHS. For anyone who has tried to install "typical" small business applications directly on WHS has seen the difficulty created by drive extender.

    I agree without the comment that they should deliver SBS essentials and then relook at WHS, it is a different market.

  50. You got it all backwards man. WP7 has all the momentum going for it. Developers love it because is so easy to code for cross platform. 2011 Samsung will put Windows Phone on 63% of its smartphone releases. Android follows in a distant second with just 32% and Bada at a tiny 6%.

  51. In this IT world nowadays things are getting more and more complex. And it's such a welcome sight to see something that's simple and clear for everyone. That was the drive extender technology. I believe it's more difficult to come up with something simple and effective than it is with a complicated one. True craftmanship comes with simple solutions, easy to use by everyone. Apple knows that too well. They should, too.

    They are loosing buyers with this. And I'm not talking about your SBS customers that hire a admin to do the IT job. I'm talking about kids, grannies, parents and myself, people who don't have to be an MVP to figure out how to use WHS. People that need convincing that THERE IS a solution to their needs. Or at least it was up until now.
    SBS clients are way fewer than the market potential of home users you could win. I bet Windows 7's success is dued mainly to private customers buying it, rather than corporations embracing the new system. They must put the Drive Extender back in. It was a good thing. And you don't change a good thing until you get a better one.

  52. Hi Guys,

    I don't know what to think at this point.. I was really interested in WHS and it's offer of technology, but when i started using it I was sorely disappointed.. I store alot of things on my server and one of them was install cd's. If you take any install CD that have multiple directories and copy it to WHS.. you will not be able to read the data.
    I tried this several different ways even turning off Drive Extender.. I finally gave up and went back to win2k3 and RAID.

    I cannot afford to lose data, not the 6+ hours to copy it back and forth.. I sent them notices even after the supposed fix.. it is not fixed…I lost data and was pretty mad..
    I think this DE is a great idea… but they have not fixed the bugs in it.. if you don't have long file and folder names and multiple levels deep you are ok.. This is a key piece and why most of are / wanting to use it, with it being gone.. what will be the point..?
    I was relaly hoping the next version things would be fixed.

    Anyway.. it might go the way of WinFS….

  53. That's a huge shock!
    I'm using WHS v1 for quite some time and I really hoped that Vail would be the dream product to upgrade to. What a disappointment….

  54. Let's look at this from the "glass half full" perspective. Many products (HP EX49X) got MUCH cheaper in anticipation of a new Vail based products, and will get even cheaper in next few months. We will be able to upgrade our old EX47x machines and still be able to protect our data…..In a meantime, few heads will roll at Microsoft for a major marketing f.&%&k-up, and in a year or two things will get to normal, so for the time being let's sing ….. "Don't worry, be happy…." B)

  55. As an early Beta tester then adopter through all the traumas of WHS v1 through to using the product as the hub of my home systems to testing (but not with any enthusiasm) "Vail" I must say that MS has lost it!

    The whole point of running WHS (for me at least) is its transparency. Add a disk remove a disk with ease. Folder duplication protects valuable data "twice" (as it were) plus simple additional backing up as well. I can't over-emphasise how important the simplicity (for users) of Drive Extender is.

    I understand that many of these features are still there in Vail, but as a full-time Network Manager I spend most of my working life trying to avoid the banalities of Drive Letters. Indeed how does MS's sudden enthusiasm for them mesh with the storage model in Windows 7 (and presumably W8) where "Libraries" spread across one's network are the thing?

    I'm sorry MS but this is a retrograde step, and I for onbe am unlikely to want or need WHS V2 Vail when it is released. A decent storage Media Hub was the logical development oif WHS V1 and Vail delivers less functionality in this respect than V1.

  56. I liked DE so much I was hopping to would become a feature in Win7 when it came out. Looks like I'll be staying on WHS v1

  57. This story has spread like wildfire and I've yet to see someone respond positively to this news. An idiotic decision of Kin-like proportions. Not only am I put off upgrading, I'm considering ditching my V1 WHS for something with a future, like Drobo.

  58. Horrible news. I was looking forward to Vail, but I just lost my enthousiasm. DE was a good thing. It's shameful that there is no interest in Home users at all. The fact that SBS customers dictates the next features in or out of the WHS server system proves there has never been a real interest in "home serving". It's just a byproduct. They should really terminate the entire project instead of marketing it as a "home server". Because they aren't listening to home users at all. Add-ins development will be VERY much affected by this big dissapointment.

  59. Clever marketing ploy to sell off last stocks of WHS v.1?

    I have been running the trial v1 and reinstalling every month waiting for Vail to come out of beta or improve a little.

    Today I just bought v.1 and will be sticking with it

  60. I've been reading WGS for over a year everyday now and this is the first time I've felt the need to comment. I have been following the development of Vail ever since it was announced with anticipation. This is HUGE disappointment. I was phyched to buy new hardware and upgrade to WHS vail when it finally released but taking this feature out has made Vail a downgrade from WHS v1. Looks like I'll stick with v1 until a PP adds this functionality back into Vail.

  61. Now I feel even better moving from lousy WHS to SBS7… DEv2 sucked to everybody that really understands file-systems.

  62. Booooooooooooooooo!!!!!

    Can Microsoft not do anything right?! I'm so disappointed by this news I'm really not sure what to do. I was so looking forward to Vail (especially for the 64bit, advanced drive, and larger memory support). But I value the Drive Extender most of all. I'm miserable now.

    Why couldn't MS just port the damned 32bit version to 64bit and stop screwing around?! That in itself would've been a big improvement. Without DE, the future of WHS is over IMO. Many will abandon the platform and move to RAID, NAS, Linux, whatever…

    I really hope somebody at MS reads all the disappointed posts on this site. They need a good smack in the head and realize that nuking DE in Vail is a horrible decision and they should retract that decision. But then I don't think MS is very open minded, especially to feedback from dedicated customers of a relatively "boutique" server offering like WHS that probably doesn't rake in big profits for them. It's all about the bottom line with them (period).

    I suppose I can stick it our for a good while longer with v1 WHS, but I really wish I could back up Win 7 machines. Anyone think that could be possible with some hack/plugin/whatever?

  63. So WHS is dying, MS really screwed up again.. Too bad for the add-in developers that invested their time in the project.
    Perhaps Vail will turn out to a great SBS, I don't really care anymore.

  64. I agree with the majority here. The reasons why I went with WHS v1 were Drive Extender and the client backups, with Drive Extender being primary.

    I've built my own RAID boxes in the past and I can do it, but WHS made it easier – both to implement and manage.

    Guess I'm sticking with WHS v1 for the foreseeable future… Dang, I was really looking forward to the GPT support in Vail. If WHS v1 supported GPT for its drive pool, I'd have everything I want.

  65. The decision to upgrade or not upgrade is pretty easy:

    No drive extender – no upgrade no matter what other features are

    Drive letters instead of shares – no upgrade

  66. Why did i choose WHS v1?
    It was simple.
    Allowed me to increase storage as needed. and duplicate.
    File storage, I rarely keep anything on my pc now)
    Streaming to other devices in the home.
    Remote access.(not used all that much)

    those are the reasons why i built a WHS.
    Inregards to vail, back up and media streaming over the internet with silverlight wont be a selling point for me, if it cant do the above, wont be upgrading..

  67. Vail DE v2 was epic fail anyways… Played with it extensively in the beta. Poor performance, poor disaster recovery, just not reliable… DE v1 was okay, but still screwed me multiple times with partial hard drive failures, making cloning very difficult and smashing IO 24×7 almost with it's balancing.

    Just get a server box that can do raid, and run RAID-6 or RAID-5, or even RAID-1… Then back it up to an external drive. Expansion of drive space is possible with some raid cards if you need that feature.

    I'd recommend against one massive volume anyways, break it up into videos on one volume, photos on another, music on another.

    You will probably be able to convert your disks to dynamic in VAIL and extend them across multiple volumes which is safe as long as raid is underneath.

    Example that works today in server R2… one RAID-1 of 2x 2TB drives. You have 2TB volume. When this gets full add two more drives in another RAID-1, and then convert to dynamic and extend the first volume across the second.

    This way you get large volumes with underlying raid. You can lose one drive in each array group before losing access to everything, so it's still safe. Plus you should be backing up anyways. Plus there's no massive IO loss due to demigrator crap, or a funny file system, etc…

    1. Bob:

      You are a techie geek.

      A LOT of WHS users are not. Your solution only works for a very, very, very small subset of the WHS user community.

      This still is the death of WHS. The home user, small business non techie community is now left out in the cold.

      About the only thing left for them is to buy multiple 2TB drives and start agian doing manual backups. More manual work.

      Bob, this community does NOT want to become RAID experts.

  68. Gutted.

    Am new to WHS, only just built my first ever machine (expressly to run WHS/Vail), got it all up and running…and now this.

    Truly gutted.

  69. I would encourage everybody reading these articles (as Terry Has) to head to Microsoft Connect/Windows Home Server web site and set up an account. Comment on your displeasure with the recent decisions. This is a Microsoft website that's express purpose is for 'user feedback for improving Microsoft products'. As of now, over 3000 comments have been left specifically about this issue. The quantity of comments dwarfs any other issue currently on the site. The passionate comments are rolling in from the WHS community who believe that this decision rips the very heart out of the product we have rallied around.

  70. I just have to add my support here, and say that the major reason that I have a WHS is the simplicity and expandability that DE gives me. Without this I will not be upgrading to Vail, END OF!

  71. I don't understand why everyone is upset. As soon as I learned about DEv2, I accepted the fact that I'd simply stick with WHS v1. I don't feel like I've lost anything, because I wasn't going to use v2 anyway. Sure, v1 has some issues that could use some work, but for the most part, it does the job. Someone has even posted a guide on using GPT partitions in v1 ( Seems to me that MS has more to lose here than the user base. So what's the big deal?

  72. I’ve been a dedicated Microsoft user since Windows 3.1. I was an early adopter of WHS and commended Microsoft for the simplicity of Drive Extender. I use it as backup storage and a media server for a home theatre. Without Drive Extender, this becomes a whole lot more difficult when you have to point users and applications to various different drives. The simplicity of a single storage volume was the key strength of WHS. Without it, I see little reason to use it.

    The sad thing is the stability of my WHS has been as close to perfect as can be. I’ve never had it crash, or needed to recover data, and that’s form almost the release date of the OS. For me a truly exceptional release from Microsoft. If Vail has Drive Extender, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat, if not; I’ll build my own Linux box for free.

    I’m still hoping Microsoft will change its mind, but how long can I wait since I am at present in dire need of increasing my storage space. I was only holding off for Vail.

  73. I've been using WHS since it's initial beta and one of the key features was de. WHS v.1 "just works". It works for the home user who wants to tinker and the home user who just wants to back up their computer and have access to their files. I will not upgrade to Vail. Why would anyone purchase a product that has been stripped of one of it's key features? MS has really messed up a innovative piece of software.

  74. I came really close to tears when I heard about the dropping of Drive Extender. I have been touting the product to all my clients for years. In fact, I have been replacing old RAID machines for years now. WHS is simply the best solution for the (very) small business, which is the vast majority of businesses in the country. WHS is wonderful because it is easy for my clients and does away with RAID cards which takes out a point of failure AND a heck of a lot of cost. Also, it reduces their maintenance cost because you can simply slap any old drive into the system whenever you want and there is no darn “volume” to rebuild.

    THIS IS A HUGE MISTAKE! I’m freaking out for a good reason!
    What if Microsoft stops updating WHSv1?
    What if I have to go back and rebuild my clients with very expensive SBS software? How is this going to make me look?
    How are my clients going to afford that?

    For God sakes, put the DE V1 into VAIL and don’t destroy one of the best products you have ever come out with….don’t destroy the WHS community…don’t destroy your users, clients, and MCPs.

  75. Wow, I'm not an MS fan, but I've been a WHS cheerleader. They are taking away everything I love about it – no drive letters, user folders, duplication, easy pooled storage. Dumb, dumb move.

  76. This is HUGE. I am new to WHS, having used it for only seven months, but I have already had my system drive fail, four months ago.

    I was immensley pleased and amazed when I replaced my system drive, reloaded to OS and found ALL MY DATA was still there. I did not realize this was due to Drive Extender. Now I understand it is, and it is the strength – heart as Terry said – of WHS. Why in the world would MS abandon DE, and us users?

  77. Horrible decision. Not sure I understand what they thought WHS would be when they started and why the sudden change of heart and abondonment. They did take away one worry of mine, which was migrating 10Tb of data to Vail. Guess I'll just stick with WHS 1.0. Save me the time and money of upgrading and buying hard drives.

  78. epic fail, no WHS v2 for me. GOing to move my WHS v1 to Unraid and be done with it, no virus worries so no worries on updates, software runs on a jump drive, very disapointed in MS.

  79. Just want to move from a NAS to start building a WHS based on trail version of Vail. And consider to buy a version of it on release. But I don't know if it's still a good plan, because my NAS already use raid settings and is very simple in use. For me it's important that Vail does NOT FAIL!
    So if this is such a BIG Change (Mistake?) to "all" users I don't know if using Microsofts WHS is a good Choise as a OS for my selfbuild server…..

  80. im seriously sick of the battery on my android going down so fast, seriously annoys the heck outta me, see what happens, find a good site and BAM my battery is dead, so yeah, i luckily had enough battery to read this and post the comment haha, i have no life. yay me!

  81. It is all coming back – do You remember the VHS, VCR and Betamax – and the first place goes to ……….VHS (the system that had the worst quality).

    Feels the same this time – You got a well working system and then no more, the more consumerfriendly NAS wins. I don't know who's wrong or right but for me it's a big loss to lose the development of WHS. Is it R.I.P.??

  82. "Make no mistake, Drive Extender was the beating heart of Windows Home Server, and without it, I’m really not sure what’s next."

    This sums up my point of view, too. 🙁

  83. At this point, I was hoping to find a way to either migrate the WebFolders4WHS add-in or duplicate what it does to Vail's IIS; the integrated media streaming/transcoding aspects of Vail really appealed to me (especially with the fact that it leverages the server's existing security and encryption)….

    …but at this point, I wonder if it wouldn't be better to just try porting over Vail's web media streaming/transcoding to WHSv1 or to duplicate that on a WHSv1 built on a 64-bit version of Server 2K3.

  84. This is an awesomely stupid decision for MS. DE is the main sales feature for WHS, and even better you can recover the data if the main WHS drive fails by plugging it in to another system, something I have already HAD TO DO. Without this I would have lost a great deal of data.

    How can you talk about UPGRADING to Vail? It would be a DOWNGRADE.

    Basically MS are admitting they can't make DE work properly and never could. Their attempts to fix the existing problems in DE have ended it a humiliating failure.

    And the size of drives today is nothing to do with it at all.
    I currently have 2x1TB drive, 1x750GB and 1x250GB attached.

    1. That would be Amahi / Greyhole then…

      …Amahi looks pretty good – just not happy that it forces its own DHCP ranges on you but you can disable that and still use your router.

  85. Never underestimate Microsoft's ability to screw up a good thing. Over that last 5-10 years it's the only thing you can consistently rely on from Microsoft.

    As an ardent Microsoft supporter dating back to the late 80s, I unfortunately see them now skiing down the wrong side of the mountain as quickly as they can. I no longer find much to praise them.

  86. Yeah, 1TB+ drives are reasonably priced, but 15TB+ drives don't yet exist. Microsoft convinced me 3 years ago that raid is bad (and the Intel SS-4200e confirmed it) as I can't take my server offline for weeks at a time because it pitches a conniption fit and needs to rebuild itself, or worse yet, lose 15TB+ of data. I _love_ DE because it is robust, I can choose which files are important and are duplicated, and which are bulky but I could afford to lose if a drive fails, it runs my FTP, web, mail, georss, etc servers 24x7x365. I would like the media center enhancements offered in Vail, but not enough to have to rebuild and move 15TB+ of data off of DE and on to separate disks, I mean FFS who would? I've still got 8TB in a raid array on an Intel SS-4200e that I can't use for more than a week without having to spend 10 days "rebuilding" it. DE just works, and works well, and I will keep the old version of WHS on my server until a replacement server comes out with DE support.

  87. I have been saying for years that WHS is one of the best products Microsoft ever made, for two reasons: backups for dummies, and drive extender.
    I will not be upgrading to Vail without DE. I'll run WHS1 until support is discontinued, while looking for a viable replacement.

  88. Same here. I will run WHSv1 until support is discontinued while looking for a simple replacement. Probably something linux based since MS seems to be taking a poorly thought out stance on this one.

  89. I will not upgrade from my WHS v1 I have seen what a bad drive in RAID 0 can do. That is not security. I will also be looking for a linux based solution if DE is removed. Vail = Vista Fail.

  90. Can I simply say what a relief to find somebody who truly is aware of what theyre talking about on the internet. You positively know tips on how to deliver a problem to gentle and make it important. Extra people must read this and understand this side of the story. I cant consider youre not more widespread since you undoubtedly have the gift.very nice publish, i definitely love this web site, carry on it

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