The Ace in the Pack
Windows Live Mesh is an often overlooked and underrated brilliant little piece of software from Microsoft which is part of the Windows Live Essentials suite. In a nutshell it allows you to sync folders in real time between PCs (and Macs) over a network or the internet and also allows you to sync up to 5gb into the cloud…all for free.
This kind of functionality clearly has a natural synergy with Windows Home Server, so much so that I seriously believe Microsoft should build a Windows Live Mesh add-on for Windows Home Server (there has been talk of this in the past but nothing has come to fruition). It’s the perfect piece of software for synchronising your documents and pictures between your computers and home server meaning you have multiple copies and you also have local access to them when not connected to your server. I even use it for backing up my parents documents and pictures over the internet from their computer at their home to my home server meaning they have an offsite backup…brilliant.
Now, unfortunately, Mesh cannot be installed on Windows Home server V1 (which is a shame as its predecessor Windows Live Sync could) but it can be installed onto Windows Home Server 2011. The draw back though is that Mesh requires someone to be logged on in order for the software to run, which for a Home Server is a bit annoying. This give you 2 options, you can configure your Home Server to auto logon when it boots so that Mesh runs or you can install it as a service. The latter I believe is far more preferable and is also pretty easy to do as I shall explain…
To get Mesh running as a service there are a few prerequisite steps that need carrying out:
- Firstly logon to your Home Server as Administrator and install Mesh as you normally would i.e. as part of Windows Live Essentials. You can choose to not install the other components of the suite.
- Run Mesh, logon in with your Windows Live Account and then set up the folders you wish to sync, again as your normally would if you were setting it up on your computer
- Once Mesh is configured download the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit (yes 2003) and install it to the default location
- Next download Any Service Installer and extract it to a folder somewhere on your server.
- Right click the Mesh icon in the system tray and click exit
You’re now ready to set-up mesh as a service.
Installing Mesh as a Service
Step 1 –Stop Mesh Loading at Logon
Before you go installing a service for Mesh you want may want to stop it loading automatically when you logon to the server (you don’t have to with Mesh, it can work in conjunction with the service). Usefully there is no option to do this in the software itself so the most straight forward way to do it is by using a nifty built in utility called Msconfig.
On the home server desktop click Start – Run type Msconfig and click OK. The following window will pop up:
Click on the Startup tab and remove the tick from Windows Live Mesh
Click OK and select No to any message regarding restarting the server
Step 2 – Installing the Service
Now there are many ways to install an application as a service but by far one of the easiest ways is using Any Service Installer which pretty much automates the process.
Browse to the folder where you extracted Any Service Installer and double click AnyServiceInstaller.exe.
Click the Browse option to select the location of the Windows 2003 resource kit and navigate to the following location (assuming you installed it to the default location of course) and click OK:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools
Click the Browse option to set the application that should be used as a service and select the following:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Live\Mesh\WLSync.exe
The service name can be anything you want, i chose the original and unique:
Windows Live Mesh
You should end up with a window that looks like the following:
Click Create, a message will pop up along the bottom of the windows to say the service was created successfully.
Step 3 – Verify and Configure the Service
Once the service is installed you need to check it’s installed and also configure it. Click Start – Run type Services.msc and click OK
Scroll down the through the services list and locate your newly created service (in my case “Windows Live Mesh”). Double click it:
You’ll notice the path to the executable is “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Resource Kits\Tools\srvany.exe”, don’t worry, that’s correct and is how it should be.
Click on the Log On tab. By default the service will be set up to run as the Local System account. This needs to be changed as this account doesn’t have the right level of access to let Mesh run.
Click on This account and enter Administrator. In the password fields enter the Administrator accounts password and then click OK. A message will pop up saying Administrator has been granted log on as a service rights. click OK
The mesh service is now configured, right click the service it and select Start.
If you run Task Manager (right click start bar and select Task Manager) you should see the following processes running:
And if you browse to Devices.live.com you should be able to see that your Home Server is communicating with Mesh (it may take a minute or so to connect):
If you can see all the above, congratulations you have successfully set up Windows Live Mesh as a Service.
Step 4 – Administrating Windows Live Mesh
In the future if you wish to change any sync folders for Mesh on the Home Server, simply log onto the server and run Windows Live Mesh from the Start Menu. This will connect to the already running MOE.exe and allow you to change your settings. If you exit Mesh from the system tray or log off Mesh will continue to run as a service in the background.
Windows guru and ZDnet Author @edbott has also kindly pointed out that rather than installing as a service you can also use Windows Task Scheduler to create a scheduled task that runs at startup to launch Windows Live Mesh in the background. The beauty of Windows, multiple ways to achieve the same goal, gotta love choice ……