My home computers connect to an HP MediaSmart Server LX-195. That little server performs nightly backup, uploads files to Amazon S3 for backup, and has generally been a delightful little box (after overcoming the initial installation hurdles).

A week or so ago, the client computers were displaying a terrifying message that there were conflicts on the server, and backup was offline. When I examined the console, it showed a new disc added and listed the same exact disc as “removed” and “unhealthy”. The disc it was say had a problem was a new 2 TB Western Digital USB drive.

I was confident the drive was not dead, but something had caused Windows Home Server to decide the drive was dead, then had come back to life as something different.

I rebooted the server. No change in behavior. I experimented with other small (non-damaging) tests. No change in behavior. I left it alone and assumed I would need another hour or two on the phone to resolve the problem.

One day I had the ingenious idea to shutdown both the server and the USB hard disc. I then switched on the USB hard disc and after it had some time to fully awaken, I switched on the Windows Home Server machine. SUCCESS!

I have no idea why the system decided the hard drive was “healthy” and “ready to add” in one list, and later in the same panel should be “removed”. If I’d followed those steps (add and remove), I suspect I would have lost all the data on that hard disc.

It is hard work creating user interfaces which don’t risk user data, and don’t perplex the user when exceptional conditions occur.