New Home server - questions

This will be my 3rd system build, but still so much to know. Forgive the long post:

The new IT director at work is a Dell devotee, not interested in continuing the practice of building servers as needed. So I offered to take an unused SuperMicro PDSMA+ server board and server case off their hands. Here's what I have tentatively planned for it:
Intel Xeon 3075 2.66GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core
4 x Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM 667 (PC2 5300) ECC Unbuffered

Onboard video is probably fine for now...no gaming in my future. I suspect what I'll do with it is load up a 64-bit flavor of Linux (this will be a new exercise for me), and then VMWare on top of that, then various Windows operating systems to play around with. So it'll be a test/play machine, but also it will be the file server for the house (lots of itunes files, lots of photographs). I'll probably put a nice sound card in here and hook it into the stereo (I have thousands of CDs and records to digitize).

My questions:
When it comes to hard drives, my first thought was 4 SATA drives in a RAID 5 array, but I don't know if the overhead of RAID 5 is sensible for a home setting. Perhaps I should start with 2 large SATA drives in a RAID 1 hardware array, and have room for a second RAID 1 array if needed down the road.

Any thoughts on that? Is hardware RAID the way to go? Any thoughts on using a server board in a home setting like this? The price is definitely right, but am I crazy to even think of using a such an overpowered server board in a home setting when I'll probably barely get it breathing hard? I've spent a week solid thinking about all of my options, and I've developed option paralysis. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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  1. Most server motherboards are 771 not 775 make sure its works.

    Get 2x 2GB vs 4x 1GB

    If you get a RAID 5 card, it would be just fine. A bunch much probably. A lot of motherboards now support RAID 0+1 which is basically the same thing as 5 except it requires 4 drives vs 3.

    Hardware RAID certainly seems OS/onboard solutions, but it probably overkill for a home application.
  2. Hardware raid is definitely the way to go... if you can afford it. Cards that will actually provide a good performance boost tend to be on the expensive side for home use ($500+). I'd use the onboard raid to start, go to an external card if you really need it.
  3. Just double checked...it is listed as a server motherboard, but it's 775, and calls for the Xeon 3200 / 3000 series. What characteristics must be present before they call it a "Server motherboard?"

    Thanks for the advice on 2GB RAM - I'll price that out and probably take your advice.

    I guess RAID for a home application is overkill, but I've been reluctant to digitize my music without pretty careful redundancy and backup plans. Here's the hardware spec:
    Built-in SATA ICH7R Controller
    4x SATA (3 Gbps) Drive with
    RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 Support

    I'm still not sure of the best hard drive/RAID configuration, given that I have two purposes - running multiple OS with VMWare and storing/playing an awful lot of music files.
  4. Raid is definitely NOT overkill for home application... my file/app server is hardware raid5 (Ciprico Raidcore SATA). The last thing you want is to lose all your family pictures or your music collection because of a hard drive crash. I didn't worry about it for my PDC (it's a PITA to rebuild but not the end of the world) but for a file server I wanted an additional layer of protection.


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