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HTPC as host for virtual pc's, Mini ITX to run them

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July 21, 2009 8:48:33 AM

So, I'm back again. I recently asked for build advice regarding a HTPC and I think I will go the AMD route (thx gkay09 and others)

As i began thinking about that HTPC and my present office workhorse (which is an old Dell 8250 from 2001) i began thinking about Virtal PC / VMWare VDI. The Dell is on it's very last legs. XP SP3 has taken it's toll on the very limited performance that old PC had left after 8 years, the HDDs are beginning to chug, the RAM is insufficient (768 MB RDRAM) etc etc etc.
So, iI think the Dell needs a retirement plan soon.

Since I will probably use the HTPC for most of my entertainment needs the office PC doesn't need stellar performance, DX10, storage or anything like that. It just needs to run Windows, Open Office/Google apps, the occasional youtube or equivalent video stream and of course IE8/Chrome/Firefox.

Since I've come in close contact with virtual servers and to some extent virtual pcs at work I began thinking, what if I were to set up a virtual PC environement at home. At work there's a quite substantial infra structure involved in all of this but I don't need a solution on the same scale.

So, long story short:
I want to set up my HTPC (as of yet only in the planning stages as well) as my new work horse and host for one or two virtual pc's.
Short spec for HTPC build is: Phenom II 905 (perhaps slightly higher depending on your advice), 4 or 8 GB RAM, 2 * 1TB HDD's and other rather high end components. I'm planning to use Win7 Home Premium for the HTPC and low end Win7 for Virtual PC. Do you recommend Win7 Business?

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So, here are my questions:
1. Will my planned HTPC build (se link below) be up to the task of hosting 2 virtual PC's?
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/268356-31-htpc-worth-...

2. What spec should i get to "run"/connect to the virtual PC via my home network (wired/wireless? suggestions?) Will an Atom-based Mini ITC solution be sufficient?

3. Which brand of virtualisation should i use? Microsofts Virtual PC? VMWare? Other? What will the software cost?

4. I've been thinking about perhaps expanding with a third PC, maybe an Atom based all-in-one with a touch screen for wall mounting in the kitchen/kids room with wall mounted speakers next to it.
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Info about Mini ITX-build

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Before november
BUDGET RANGE: ~ $500

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Internet surfing, e-mail, office productivity stuff

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, monitor

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Not relevant as of yet, especially since i will be using a swedish etailer.

PARTS PREFERENCES: No particular brand, however aestethics is kinda important for this pc. Mini-ITX or equivalent form factor.

OVERCLOCKING: No
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1280x1024

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: It needs to be silent and preferably look like a sleek piece of high tech :o ), if not it should be extremely easy to stowe away.




So...lot's of text and many questions.
I'm new to virtualisation but have become greatly interested in creating solutions for specific problems/purposes and thought that this would be an excellent learning experience.
I was thinking about posting my progress once i get started building this if any of you are interested in reading about it.


Any thoughts on the matter? As usual, I'm greatful for any advice :o )
July 21, 2009 12:23:40 PM

Sorry, realised just now that I didn't incluse any specs at all for the build.
I also realise that most builds getting reviewed here are gaming rigs and a bit on the high end of the scale for the most part.


So i decided to trim down my questions a bit:
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HTPC, potential components:
Case: ORIGEN AE S14V M-ATX ~390 euros

Motherboard: ASUS M4A78-HTPC/RC 780G AM2+ M-ATX ~125 euros
(seems to work with AM3 CPU's)

Processor: Phenom II X4 905E ~220 euros

Graphics: GIGABYTE RADEON HD4850 1GB GDDR3 PCI-E VGA/DVI/HDMI SILENT ~150 euros

DVD/Blu Ray: PIONEER BDC-S02BK BLU-RAY black SATA RETAIL ~140 euros

HDD: 2x WESTERN DIGITAL CAVIAR GREEN 1TB SATA/300 32MB ~140 euros (2x70)

Memory: HYPERX 4GB DIMM DDR2 800MHZ CL5 (2X2GB) ~70 euros
and possibly two such kits making it total 8 GB (4x2 GB)

PSU: COOLER MASTER SILENT PRO ATX12V 2.3 500W ~100 euros

CPU Cooler: TBD later when i know how much room i have in the case after installing components.

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Mini ITX:

Motherboard+CPU: INTEL D945GCLF2D LITTLE FALLS ATOM 330 MINI-ITX BOXED ~ 85 euros

Memory: CORSAIR 2GB VS DDR2 PC5300 667MHZ (1x2GB) ~ 30 euros

Case: Trying to find a decent one but most Mini ITX cases have reviewed porly. Suggestions appreciated :) 

HDD: SAMSUNG SPINPOINT M5 120GB 2.5# 5400RPM SATA 8MB Cache ~ 46 euros (cheapest one I could find in 2.5" SATA.

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I would like to run the Virtual PC/Desktop via WLAN if possible (have Wireless N router) but will around november/december upgrade to a gigabit router.


Does anyone have any thoughts on this?
Am I way off track with my thoughts on this project?

Any suggestions?
August 4, 2009 8:23:07 PM

I'm not familiar with Virtual PC, but I do have a Windows 2008 Server w/Hyper-V running. Under that, I'm running a Server2003 SQL Server, a Server2003 IIS Server, and a Windows XP client. That's running on the system spec'ed below.

Two things of note here:

1) RAM for these virtual machines is explicitly set aside upon creation of the virtual machines. So if you have 8GB of RAM in your system and assign 2 GB of RAM to a virtual machine, your system will only have 6GB of RAM left available. Kind of like it's partitioned out to the virtual machine and no longer accessible.

2) Graphics on the Virtual Machine may be limited to a stripped down Microsoft Emulator. Mine 8800GTS-640 shows as a "Micrsoft Virtual Machine Bus Video Device".

Again, this is my experience running Server 2008 w/Hyper-V. Your experience with Virtual PC or VMWare may be different.

-Wolf sends
!