How to use iHomeServer with network drives or DriveBender disk pools

We have had quite a few users recently who have been unable to get iHomeServer to index content on network drives or local DriveBender storage pools.  The symptoms of this are that you can add and view files in iTunes that are stored on a remote / network or DriveBender drive when you are running iTunes interactively, however, when you run iTunes via iHomeServer then you can no longer add new content and existing content may not be available within iTunes.  Some users have also had problems seeing cover art and other metadata when they have pointed their iTunes to an iTunes library on a network drive.  You may see these symptoms immediately, or after a reboot or even intermittedly.

We posted a blog post a while ago about File Not Found errors similar issues and it is the same root cause problem here.

Windows Services cannot reliably see mapped network drives.  There are many Microsoft articles explaining why, but in essence, any network drive letter is tied to a Windows user session and is not guaranteed to be available to services which run in their own user sessions.  As iHomeServer runs iTunes as a service, it cannot reliably see mapped network drives.

The simplest way around this is to use fully qualified UNC file naming conventions when adding media to iTunes or when setting up Watched folders in iHomeServer.  For example, instead of adding content from your f:\ (mapped to \\mynas\media), add it directly from the UNC path \\mynas\media.  You can do this either with the server name or IP address (eg \\\media).

One point to note is authentication.  You may have had to specify an account to access a network resource with when you set up your mapped network drive.  When you use the UNC path, you cannot specify the user account to use.  If your network resource (eg NAS or networked file share) requires authentication the easiest thing to do is to set up an account on the networked resource with the exact same username and password as the account you are using to run iHomeServer.  Authentication will then be transparent and you can access your resources.

Note that some of our users are using drive pooling software, such as DriveBender.  Some of these packages (including Drive Bender) present the storage as a file share instead of a physical drive.  Therefore users tend to map a drive letter to the local file share and access their DriveBender storage via what is effectively a mapped drive letter.  Exactly the same problem occurs in this case - the mapped network drive is still not available to iHomeServer or iTunes.  As above, the workaround here is to use the UNC path to your DriveBender shared folder (eg \\Server\DriveBenderMediaFolder) instead of using a mapped drive letter.

Thanks particularly to one of our users, Jan, for helping get DriveBender working with iHomeServer.

NB: iHomeServer Version 2 validates that the server can see the Watch Folder successfully before allowing you to add a new Watch Folder therefore this should be a lot clearer in this version!


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