Microsoft has announced the availability of Windows Home Server (WHS) 2011 Release Candidate (RC). The software giant says the RC is the last build it plans on releasing before the final, and it's meant to prepare the company's network of software and hardware partners for its release.

You can download the English version of the WHS 2011 RC directly now from Microsoft Connect (localized builds are not available for this RC). Look for the entry titled "Windows Home Server 2011 Release Candidate - OEM install" with two files: EN-US_WHS_PREM_RestoreCD.iso (467.07MB) and EN-US_WHS_PREM_OEM_InstallDVD.iso (4,003.53MB). You'll also need to request a new Product Key. As always, Microsoft is warning that the RC is for evaluation purposes only and that you should not install it in a production or regular home environment. The preview license expires June 30, 2011 or on the commercial release of the software, whichever occurs first. The software has an internal expiration to stop functioning on August 1, 2011.

This WHS RC is the first public release to include changes in the storage features. The video above shows the new Move Folder Wizard, which makes it easy for users to move data from one drive to another. As HDDs are added to the Home Server, health alerts will notify the user that a new HDD is available, allowing you to automatically format and configure the new drive for additional storage. Once configured, the Move Folder Wizard can move your data to the new drive as needed.

"All existing technologies such as server and client backup, health monitoring, remote web access, streaming media, and simplified dashboard management are still included," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. "Data protection also includes daily Server and PC backup, Previous Versions via Shadow copy which lets you return prior versions of existing files (without needing to restore from backup), and a protection feature for pre-defined folders (such as Recorded TV, Videos, Photos) in case these are accidentally deleted."

WHS 2011 was previously referred to as WHS codename Vail. A public beta was released back in April 2010, built on Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit. The previous version of WHS was based on Windows Server 2003 32-bit.