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Cheap Home Server

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March 14, 2009 5:29:00 AM

Hey all I'd like to build a home server comp that can handle several tb's of storage.
I'm thinking of picking up 2 1.5Tb baracudas to start out with, as for the rest of the comp [cpu motherboard memory] I'm not sure what compenents i'll need.
I have an old P4 1.8gh comp with 4 500gb hds and it seems like it struggles a bit, maybe its the 266mhz memory?

The idea is to keep it cheap. I want the server comp to be able to handle a max of say 8 1.5TB drives [thats way down the line though]. First year will be the 3tb total, then next year maybe another 2. So i need a mobo that can handle lots of hard drives and has some raid/jbod options.

What components do you recommend?
any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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March 14, 2009 5:14:59 PM

8 drives can be had on an Intel socket 775 platform fairly cheaply. The only AMD MB's I located with the ability to control 8 drives were AM3 platforms.
What kind of processor were you thinking of? An Intel Core 2 Duo or Quad can draw 65watts or less if you pick the right chip.
What are your priorities, speed, energy efficiency? Is the machine you want to design going to be dedicated solely as a server, or do you want it to have higher end graphics or other options?
March 14, 2009 6:35:03 PM

My priority would be speed and the most strenuous task the server would have to handle would be playback of highdef files - 1080p bluray rips
i dont care about energy efficiency and id like to throw in a cheap video card [cheap being like less than $50]
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March 15, 2009 2:08:01 PM

battery said:
Hey all I'd like to build a home server comp that can handle several tb's of storage.
I'm thinking of picking up 2 1.5Tb baracudas to start out with, as for the rest of the comp [cpu motherboard memory] I'm not sure what compenents i'll need.
I have an old P4 1.8gh comp with 4 500gb hds and it seems like it struggles a bit, maybe its the 266mhz memory?

The idea is to keep it cheap. I want the server comp to be able to handle a max of say 8 1.5TB drives [thats way down the line though]. First year will be the 3tb total, then next year maybe another 2. So i need a mobo that can handle lots of hard drives and has some raid/jbod options.

What components do you recommend?
any advice would be greatly appreciated!


I would recommend a good hardware RAID controller with an onboard processor card like an Areca, 3Ware, or HighPoint. I would also recommend keeping the P4 1.8GHz and look into using either FreeNAS or Openfiler as the server operating system, both are stable and offer CIFS/SAMBA file sharing which is compatible with Windows, both also require very little system resources to run reliably without issue. The fact that you have 4 500GB drives has nothing to do with the computer struggling a bit unless you are using the mobo RAID controller, in which case a hardware controller card would solve the issue. If do not recommend using onboard mobo RAID for RAID 5 arrays as it would be too taxing on the proc and memory; again, a good hardware controller card will eliminate the cpu and memory as a bottleneck.

Have fun!
March 15, 2009 9:37:26 PM

well theres the thing the p4 is [obviously] an old machine, and i believe one of the two 80pin ide slots is burnt out, it has no sata or any other interface aside from some usb 1.1 headers.. im not sure if it has gigabit ethernet [if i decide to put together a new server then i'll also grab a gigabit router]

i have a pci raid card [VIA VT6421] with 2 sata and 1 pata interface. i tried adding a fifth ide harddrive with very little success, i got an ide to sata adapter. adding the fifth hard drive caused alot of instability and freezing. in general ive had issues with the sata on the card.

the p4 is currently sitting beside a 42"er but the dvi port of my geforce fx 5200 doesnt work so i'm stuck with using vga. the tv however only accepts a few 4:3 resolutions from vga so when watching a movie i get a small 16:9 picture within a 4:3 image within the 16:9 screen. also it cant fully play 1080p content [its all choppy].
the mobo i was looking at [link above] has dvi and no doubt could output a res of 1080p


i dont really see the p4 as a viable alternative to a new system. do you really think a computer from 7 years ago could handle several terabytes of data and stream it to different computers simultaneously?
March 16, 2009 12:50:52 AM

battery said:
well theres the thing the p4 is [obviously] an old machine, and i believe one of the two 80pin ide slots is burnt out, it has no sata or any other interface aside from some usb 1.1 headers.. im not sure if it has gigabit ethernet [if i decide to put together a new server then i'll also grab a gigabit router]

i have a pci raid card [VIA VT6421] with 2 sata and 1 pata interface. i tried adding a fifth ide harddrive with very little success, i got an ide to sata adapter. adding the fifth hard drive caused alot of instability and freezing. in general ive had issues with the sata on the card.

the p4 is currently sitting beside a 42"er but the dvi port of my geforce fx 5200 doesnt work so i'm stuck with using vga. the tv however only accepts a few 4:3 resolutions from vga so when watching a movie i get a small 16:9 picture within a 4:3 image within the 16:9 screen. also it cant fully play 1080p content [its all choppy].
the mobo i was looking at [link above] has dvi and no doubt could output a res of 1080p


i dont really see the p4 as a viable alternative to a new system. do you really think a computer from 7 years ago could handle several terabytes of data and stream it to different computers simultaneously?


From what you've described a new system may be the better route to go. By recommending that you keep the P4 I intended to imply that a file and media server does not need to be super powerful to stream movies and music. As an example, I built a file/media server running FreeNAS as the OS and using a single core Skt775 Celeron 420 (1.6GHz) with 512MB RAM and using a 1GB Compact Flash card as the hard drive. There is also a 3Ware 8506 RAID controller card with 5 - 320GB drives in a RAID5 array yielding 1.2TB of storage. With that meager hardware, I successfully stream mp3's and movies through my home 10/100 LAN and wireless 802.11G 54Mbps connection without issue. Given that I have the RAID array connected to the 3Ware card, and given that FreeNAS has very minimal hardware requirements, a single core Celeron with only 512MB RAM rarely sees 50% cpu utilization and 100MB RAM usage.

Using Openfiler or FreeNAS you can build a file/media server cheaply due to their minimal hardware requirements, and using a hardware RAID controller card to house your storage array further minimizes hardware requirements. By far the most expensive component would be the controller card and the hard drives.
March 16, 2009 4:11:42 AM

chunkymonster said:
From what you've described a new system may be the better route to go. By recommending that you keep the P4 I intended to imply that a file and media server does not need to be super powerful to stream movies and music. As an example, I built a file/media server running FreeNAS as the OS and using a single core Skt775 Celeron 420 (1.6GHz) with 512MB RAM and using a 1GB Compact Flash card as the hard drive. There is also a 3Ware 8506 RAID controller card with 5 - 320GB drives in a RAID5 array yielding 1.2TB of storage. With that meager hardware, I successfully stream mp3's and movies through my home 10/100 LAN and wireless 802.11G 54Mbps connection without issue. Given that I have the RAID array connected to the 3Ware card, and given that FreeNAS has very minimal hardware requirements, a single core Celeron with only 512MB RAM rarely sees 50% cpu utilization and 100MB RAM usage.

Using Openfiler or FreeNAS you can build a file/media server cheaply due to their minimal hardware requirements, and using a hardware RAID controller card to house your storage array further minimizes hardware requirements. By far the most expensive component would be the controller card and the hard drives.

i'd love to be able to use my old p4 but its falling apart, i'll definitely look into freeNAS

i've read alota bad stuff about the 1.5TB seagate barracuda 7200.11, firmware issues and all that, but the performance of the drive is very good, very fast read speeds [so fast that i would need a gigabit router]. I think i'd be worth getting one but i hate the idea of buying something that has a high failure rate... seeing as how i plan to get atleast 4 of the same harddrive, i'd like it to be reliable.. VERY reliable.

maybe i should settle for 1TB drives [shudders]. the 1.5 seagates are on sale right now at directcanada.. im really really tempted..

[oh and i mean to say the p4 has 4 250GB hard drives! my bad.]
!