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Home Built Server Running Win2003 Server

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Last response: in Systems
August 1, 2006 6:19:41 PM


I've had an old computer acting as my server for the last 4 years. It's basically a combination of hardware that I've been handed down over the years.

The time has come for me to get a new one. I'm not talking about buying a 'real server', i.e. a dell blade or something, I simply want to get pc hardware that will allow me to run the following services well on an installation of win2003 server:
1. File server: for 1-3 people
2. ASP server for web application test bed (IIS ASP.NET etc.)
3. Backup storage (mirrored drives: I guess the motherboard has to support that?)

I was thinking two SATA2 320 GB drives and 2GB of ram. CPU I'm not certain about because I should be able to get my hands on a 64 bit version, but I don't know if all the other applications running on top of it have to also be 64 bit; maybe I should just stick with a 32 processor and get a motherboard that can run both in case I change my mind in the future.

Let me know what your thoughts are. My price targe for MB, HD's, RAM and CPU is under 1000 CAN.

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August 1, 2006 6:44:29 PM

None of the applications you mentioned have 64bit at the present time.
64bit apps are restricted to linux, with very few exceptions like MySQL and similar apps.

And to go 64bit you of course have to install the 64bit edition of Win2003, not the standard one.
But with microsoft stuff you'll never take real advantages of 64bit (a mere 5-6% improvement with AMD64 and none with EMT64 that is a fake 64bit).
August 1, 2006 8:41:41 PM

Ya it doesn't make sense if performance gain is so small.

So what CPU, MB and ram do you recommend. Not amounts of each but name brands and models. Especially on the MB side. I've been poking around all day searching for a good MB but there is such a huge range. I definately want SATA2 Raid on it.
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August 1, 2006 9:08:53 PM

I prefer AMD64 in server environment, it's more reliable and very less power hungry when not loaded: running a server 24/7 you'll notice every watt drawn in your bill!
Remember that it's not the CPU only to draw power: Intel chipsets draw more power due to the RAM controller in the NorthBridge and DDR2 RAMs require 30-50% more power than DDR1.

My suggestion is:
CPU: A64 3500+ (Venice)RAM: Kingston ValueRAM DDR400-CL2.5 (they run stable 24/7 @CL2-3-2-6-1T with stock voltage despite they are declared as CL2.5-3-3-8!)MOBO: an Asus A8N: in my opinion the more stable for building a little server and has 4 SATA2 ports onboard and a very good low latency Gigabit Ethernet.
I built 3 PCs as small Software Development workstations and little servers with theese comps and never had a problem.

Anyway as an information, take on account that the only improvement with SATA2 is NCQ: if you don't have NCQ enabled HDDs you don't see any difference between SATA1 & SATA2.
And SATA2 doen't automatically mean 3Gbps, it's simply an improved standard: the real 3Gbps controllers report this explicitly as SATA2-300 but remember that the fastest Raptor has a maximum sustained transfer rate of 80MB/s, much slower than the 130MB/s of SATA1-150.
August 1, 2006 9:20:26 PM

Thanks for your input; what is NCQ? Is it worth buying HD's that have it or is it just a waste of money on a small server like this?

If I get a 64 bit chip and Win2003 64 bit Edition will apps that run on the 64 bit OS also have to be 64 bit: i.e. will my office suite also have to be 64 bit or does the OS take care of all that?
August 1, 2006 9:28:45 PM

IT's Native Command Queueing: when the OS request many small chunks of data from several different files the controller send them in fast sequence, the drive caches all the requests and then performs the reads ordering them in such a manner to have small heads movement.

As an example if you request 64KB in order from tracks 1000, 400 and 800 and the drive's heads are at track 0 it rearranges the reads in this sequence: 400, 800 and 1000.
This leads to a little more latency for a single request (there's a timeout for waiting consecutive requests) but if you queue many read/write operations it may speed-up things very much.

Anyway you can only notice this in heavy loaded file/web servers or DB, if you use it as a Development testing unit I think you'll don't have much performance gain by NCQ.
August 1, 2006 9:31:44 PM

If I get a 64 bit chip and Win2003 64 bit Edition will apps that run on the 64 bit OS also have to be 64 bit: i.e. will my office suite also have to be 64 bit or does the OS take care of all that?

Sorry I missed this part!
No, you can still run 32bit apps without issues, but they'll use a little more RAM because with Windows64 the C int type is 64bit instead of 32 (under linux is still 32).
August 1, 2006 9:52:00 PM

K man tks for your input.
August 2, 2006 5:12:36 AM

Few more questions:

So I have a good idea about the RAM, MB and Processor. Anyone have any suggestions about HD's. I want to setup the HD's as mirrored, does that require that the MB have SATA Raid? Is mirroring setup via the operating system, bios or is it a jumper setting?

Power supply. To determine how big (Watts) of a power supply I need do I just add up all the watts for each of the components and then add 100 to make sure? What power supply would you recommend?

August 2, 2006 4:19:46 PM

For HD I normally use WD. SATA Raid is implemented in all mobo with SATA ports and setting is through the BIOS (normally pressing ALT-F2 or other combinations during POST).

For PSU... despite mnay recommends 450+W ones, I always used 350W units for setups like yours, with 2GB RAM, 2 HDD, 2 Optical drives, 3500+ and X600-X700 ATI vga.
August 2, 2006 4:29:32 PM

So when looking at motherboard specs, what should I be looking for to make sure that my MB will support mirroring? Or all new SATA MB's have that capability built in?
August 2, 2006 4:57:39 PM

All have that as i know, anyway look for RAID in the SATA specification if you want to be sure
August 2, 2006 5:02:15 PM

Ok, thanks for your input man.
August 2, 2006 6:33:45 PM

If I have HD's that are SATA2 can I attach them to an MB that is SATA? I'm guessing there is no major peformance loss if I do this?
August 2, 2006 6:49:37 PM

Yes you can: SATA2 is fully backward compatible with SATA1.
You'll notice no performance loss in bandwidth because the fastest HD can't saturate ever the old ATA-100.
You can have a little (5-10%) loss only if your HD has NCQ and your machine is a very heavy loaded file server with small files or an RDBMS.
August 2, 2006 7:31:11 PM

For a Win 2k3 home server.
1. use standard win 2k3. or ent, dont use 64bit
reason- unless you are running exch 7, or sql 2k5-64 or running citrix presentation 4.0 64bit, you will not gain anything from it.
2. Sata Driive and mirror them.
3. cheapest dual core cpu you can find
4. Video card with a decent chipset. IE, ati or nvidia, (no EL cheap o) you can get a gforce card for $35 new now adays, gf2 is plenty.
5. network card, get a decent network card. the onboard on most mb's is plenty, i use GB nics at home for win 2k3 (dlink gb), for my vmware servers Intel or Broadcom.

Reasons are. 1 if simple file server, then soft - mirrored drives, (promise card, on board sata etc..) wil do you good. Raid 5, you have the space, but is slow to write to.
Regular win 2k3 server is more than enough for 90% of every business out there. The ent, IE >4gb ram, mostly geared for lots and lots of DB's and traffic.
Why good video and nic.- reason-- %80 of all window crashes are driver related. Software is sometimes a issue, but if the server has HCL type hardware, a win2k3 server can stay up indefinetly. Vmware has proven htis, with their servers.

GB card, why??-- easy, dont need GB switch, but a GB card offers lower latency, meaning, faster response.
Cheap Dual core?-- Win2k3, is multi threaded- nuff said. Plus with 3800's or the elcheapo intel cpu's ($100) dual core cpu;s run servers nice.

You dont need a mega cpu, unless you are running citrix, or games, like me, or high processing software.
Your hard drives will be, and are always the bottleneck in ANY server/pc/ggaming machine out there.
August 2, 2006 7:43:29 PM

Thanks for your input.

I do agree with you about the 64bit processor, however I'm having a really hard time finding processors for sale that aren't 64bit: i would like to stay with AMD.

Dual core would be ideal but I'm on a budget. I'm looking to spend no more then 130 on a porcessor and I can't see any dual cores that are below that price. Besides I don't think I really need dual core, 1-4 users max on the server and that will mainly involve file sharing won't require that much computing power. This is not a production server so they can be patient and wait if they have to ;-). If anything the internet connection will be the bottleneck here.