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Cheap Home File Server (Energy Efficient, Quiet) $400-500

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April 13, 2013 11:28:50 AM

I'm looking to build a file server for home. I'm sick of getting more external drives and always plugging them in and moving them as I have more large video files. I want it to run cool and quiet with low-power. It will be always on so it shouldn't draw much power when idle.

I've considered just getting a NAS but I feel that for a slightly higher price I get more flexibility. For instance I might want to run Apache or something on occasion. I'm a software engineer so this seems like a better option. But let me know if there is a good NAS option that is much cheaper.

I'd also like it to be a small form factor (mini ITX/micro ATX) but room for at least 4 drives. I plan on getting about 2x2TB drives for now, but want to have space to upgrade. USB3 is also nice so I can use existing external drives.

I'm mainly stuck on figuring out which processor will fit my needs. I'm thinking maybe an i5, due to cost and because I don't need the power of an i7. But I don't know if there are more energy efficient i7's these days. Also, I'm aiming for about 8GB RAM, 16GB if it's a good deal (say less than 50% more).

My budget is around $400-500 without drives. I'm just hoping to get at least a starting point on the processor/motherboard and maybe the case and my cooling options. A full build is helpful too though.
April 13, 2013 11:35:04 AM

just build yourself a small box, quiet case, matx board, i3-3220T (only 35W), run what you want on it, i'm running whsv1, looking to change up to a win 8 installation. My box pulls about 60W idle with disks spinning, but that's an AMD athlon II x2. Fractal define mini is a nice case and can be quiet, just pick a case with decent disk capacity.
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April 13, 2013 11:40:40 AM

CPU: Intel Core i5-3470 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor ($149.99 @ Microcenter)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($100.22 @ Amazon)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Crucial V4 64GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($61.68 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($39.99 @ Microcenter)
Power Supply: Antec Basiq 350W ATX12V Power Supply ($29.98 @ Outlet PC)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $496.84
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)

Small quiet affordable NAS build.
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April 13, 2013 11:44:49 AM

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)
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April 13, 2013 11:46:06 AM

bignastyid said:
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)


16GB is overkill, an SSD would be better in this case to put your OS on there so you can leave the HDDs free to roam.
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April 13, 2013 11:54:40 AM

burritobob said:
bignastyid said:
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)


16GB is overkill, an SSD would be better in this case to put your OS on there so you can leave the HDDs free to roam.


I was just following what the OP wanted, no drives and 8Gb to 16Gb of ram if it fit the budget.
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April 13, 2013 12:10:51 PM

bignastyid said:
burritobob said:
bignastyid said:
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)


16GB is overkill, an SSD would be better in this case to put your OS on there so you can leave the HDDs free to roam.


I was just following what the OP wanted, no drives and 8Gb to 16Gb of ram if it fit the budget.


He said no HDDs if you can get a ton of performance by filling the budget why not? Also no NAS will use 16GB of RAM, 8GB tops even 4GB may suffice in this case.
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April 13, 2013 1:26:59 PM

13thmonkey said:
just build yourself a small box, quiet case, matx board, i3-3220T (only 35W), run what you want on it, i'm running whsv1, looking to change up to a win 8 installation. My box pulls about 60W idle with disks spinning, but that's an AMD athlon II x2. Fractal define mini is a nice case and can be quiet, just pick a case with decent disk capacity.

So maybe i3 would be better for energy efficiency. Any other opinions?

burritobob said:
CPU: Intel Core i5-3470 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor ($149.99 @ Microcenter)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($100.22 @ Amazon)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Crucial V4 64GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($61.68 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($39.99 @ Microcenter)
Power Supply: Antec Basiq 350W ATX12V Power Supply ($29.98 @ Outlet PC)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD/CD Writer ($14.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $496.84
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)

Small quiet affordable NAS build.


bignastyid said:
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)

Either of these sounds like a good start. Although I have no need for an optical drive.


So this plus USB external drives? I was thinking internal drives would be more cost effective. But I do like that this seems to be energy efficient.

burritobob said:
bignastyid said:
burritobob said:
bignastyid said:
PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/Qr0u/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($64.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($99.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Core 1000 MicroATX Mini Tower Case ($39.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $419.95
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-04-13 14:44 EDT-0400)


16GB is overkill, an SSD would be better in this case to put your OS on there so you can leave the HDDs free to roam.


I was just following what the OP wanted, no drives and 8Gb to 16Gb of ram if it fit the budget.


He said no HDDs if you can get a ton of performance by filling the budget why not? Also no NAS will use 16GB of RAM, 8GB tops even 4GB may suffice in this case.


Good points on the SSD. I think I'll add that.
And could 16GB help if I wanted to add an Apache server for some personal projects? I'm thinking now I could get a single 8GB stick and add more later.
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April 13, 2013 1:31:24 PM

A single stick would work for now just fine...

The NUC is a bit weak, you really aren't getting a full value of out that option plus porta drive (USB drives) are more expensive and are normally slower.

You can go with the i3 it's technically a 4 core because of HT so that's a thing.
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April 13, 2013 1:52:46 PM

go for the red disks, more suited to 24x7
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April 14, 2013 2:01:14 PM

13thmonkey said:
go for the red disks, more suited to 24x7


What do you mean "red disks"?
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April 14, 2013 2:15:55 PM

13thmonkey said:
mattdurak said:
13thmonkey said:
go for the red disks, more suited to 24x7


What do you mean "red disks"?


WD RED's http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=810 tiny bit more expensive but specced for NAS work, less likely to fail.


Okay, thanks, that does sound good (read a brief review also).

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April 14, 2013 2:40:38 PM

Also, don't I need to pick a CPU with integrated graphics? I think bignastyid's build had no graphics in the CPU and the motherboard only supported it if it was built into the CPU.

I need some sort of video out to get things set up, or am I missing something?
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April 14, 2013 5:25:26 PM

Yep you are right the 3350p doesn't have graphics it was disabled on these chip. Sorry about that(use to building gaming rigs so i dont worry much about integrated). Guess that's why it requires less power than the 3470.
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April 17, 2013 1:18:40 AM

I just picked up 2x 3TB WD Reds while they were on sale on Newegg
Also got a 64GB SanDisk SSD for $60

Now, here are some choices I'm making:

Motherboard: ASUS P8H77-I LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
This one seems good because of the number of SATA ports I get

Case:
I'd like this to fit into my Ikea shelves, which are about 13.25 inch squares with open backs. So my ideal case would be a smaller width/height than 13", but the depth can be around 15" tops. I want room for my SSD plus up to 4 drives, but more potential drives are better. And this build really needs to be cool/quiet so the case should have good cooling.
1) Fractal Design Node 304 FD-CA-NODE-304-BL Black Aluminum / Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case
2) LIAN LI PC-Q08B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case
3) LIAN LI PC-Q25B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case
4) COOLER MASTER Elite 120 Advanced Black Appearance: Aluminum & Polymer front, Case body: Steel Alloy Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case (cheapest, but the number of drives is not as future-proof and the depth is a little large for my desired shelf)

I'm leaning toward the first two, but don't know what else to look for when comparing them. Any recommendations are appreciated.

Power Supply:
Is it worth getting an "80-plus" efficiency supply? What about the different certifications (bronze, gold, etc)? I'm assuming this is good for an always-on, home system where I don't want to waste money on electricity. Plus that should mean less heat right? I'm assuming an inefficient power supply loses energy to heat.
What should I look for besides that? Which brands are reliable? And I'll need one that fits Mini-ITX, correct? Can I go as low as 250W pretty safely? I see that the cases I'm looking at tend to support ATX sized PSU's.
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April 20, 2013 11:11:45 AM

I am looking to build a very similar system. This is what I have come up with so far:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/RUEq

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($113.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Asus P8H77-I Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($95.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($57.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Sandisk 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($94.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: 2x Western Digital Red 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive ($144.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini ITX Tower Case ($98.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: SeaSonic 300W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V ($40.98 @ Newegg)

Total: $792.90

I would add two questions to the discussion:

1) What are the pros and cons of the i3 and the i5? If it will be functioning primarily as a NAS/Media Server (with maybe some minor, personal web hosting in the future) would the performance be noticeably different? My intuition says no, particularly when you factor in the ~$60 price premium for the i5 and the additional ~20W, which adds ~$20 to the annual electricity bill.

2) I haven't been able to find any miniITX boards with more than 2 6Gb/s SATA connections. Would performance noticeable suffer if only the SSD was connected via 6Gb/s SATA while the WD Reds (and any additional future storage) were connected via 3Gb/s SATA?
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April 20, 2013 12:03:07 PM

nahlers1 said:
I am looking to build a very similar system. This is what I have come up with so far:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/RUEq

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($113.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Asus P8H77-I Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($95.99 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($57.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Sandisk 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($94.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: 2x Western Digital Red 3TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive ($144.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Fractal Design Node 304 Mini ITX Tower Case ($98.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: SeaSonic 300W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V ($40.98 @ Newegg)

Total: $792.90

I would add two questions to the discussion:

1) What are the pros and cons of the i3 and the i5? If it will be functioning primarily as a NAS/Media Server (with maybe some minor, personal web hosting in the future) would the performance be noticeably different? My intuition says no, particularly when you factor in the ~$60 price premium for the i5 and the additional ~20W, which adds ~$20 to the annual electricity bill.

2) I haven't been able to find any miniITX boards with more than 2 6Gb/s SATA connections. Would performance noticeable suffer if only the SSD was connected via 6Gb/s SATA while the WD Reds (and any additional future storage) were connected via 3Gb/s SATA?


Here's what I've found from researching nearly an identical setup.

My plan is to go with the cheap i3 (same one you picked) for now. It's an easy upgrade if I want to do so down the road. They will both run as "quad core" due to hyper treading on the i3. To me the power and cost savings seems like the way to go.

From what I've read, SATA 3Gbps vs 6Gbps doesn't matter for HDDs, it's not the bottleneck (i.e. the transfer rates will be slower than 3Gbps anyway). So my plan is to put the SSD on the 6Gbps and the HDDs on the 3Gbps as you are doing. That's my understanding anyway.

Now to hope Newegg gets that case in stock soon...
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