Advice on a Home Server build

Hey Guys and gals
Looking for some advice on this build! :)

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Not picky... within a month maybe

BUDGET RANGE: I am aiming at around 500, hopefully around 200-300(without hdd)

SYSTEM USAGE: Home Server - Media Storage with different access rights, file repository for future HTPC, backup of all home computers, print server, download box, central monitoring station for anti-virus/firewall and other security software, educational purposes (not high priority)

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitor, keyboard, mouse and most likely the OS.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Any good reputable sites such as,,, canadacomputers among others.


PARTS PREFERENCES: Looking for a combo that outputs low heat, uses less power and silent. Something along the lines of a Athlon X2 AM2 or a low-end Core 2 Duo. Dual Core is quite important for me as it will be flexible for any future endeavors. 2gb RAM again for flexibility.

OVERCLOCKING, SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No for stability and power draw reasons

MONITOR RESOLUTION: No monitor needed.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: As this is a Home server it is important that it is silent, efficient, low heat output and low in the watts scale.

I do understand Intel Atom is a viable option, but due to its mini-ITX design, chassis with enough hdd bays are not available. Aiming for atleast 6 hdd bays for future expandability.
After trying out Windows Home Server in Virtual PC on my main desktop, it does have the best of both worlds by being very easy to use and also the advanced option/facilities (using add-ons or remoting in).

A potential worry for me is the WD EARS version of hdds that use 4k sectors won't be compatible with WHS (based on Server 2003). However I do like the efficiency on storing large number of files. Based on this what would you guys recommend? Windows 7/Server R2 for now and Windows Home Server v2 when it releases. Don't worry about the licenses as I will go for he dreamspark Server R2 or Win 7 evaluation for the time being and get the Home Server v2 when it releases which acc. to reviews is much better than Home Server v1

All computers are connected via wireless as they are a floor above the router. The future HTPC will most likely be next to the server and both of them will be connected to the router using a cat6 cable. DIR-655 is the one connecting all this. Will be using a wireless-n PCI card to get acceptable streaming speeds for videos.

Here are the following components I am looking at:

CPU: AMD Athlon X2 in the 2Ghz range (AM2/AM3) / Intel Pentium Dual-Core e5xxx (Wolfdale-3m). Also if needed a better heatsink/fan for silent operation. Have some Arctic MX-2 left over from my desktop build.

Motherboard: A decent motherboard, nothing fancy, but supporting enough SATA ports or PCI slots for more SATA ports. Preferably an m-ATX or smaller. Onboard GPU.

RAM: Any good 2gb ddr2

HDD: Will be going for atleast one WD Green 2TB hdd right away. The large part of storage will be media files, mostly videos. I do respect and praise the different RAIDs but would like to stay away from that complexity and just use the duplication feature within WHS for important documents.

GPU: Onboard

Case: Another difficult decision - Need something small (micro to mid ATX cases - around 17" depth and 16" height)
Cases that got my attention due to size and prices:
Antec VSK-2000
Cooler Master CMP 350
Asus CS TM-B11
Cooler Master Elite 342
around 50CAD
Air filters are important due to its near 24/7 operation time (or are they?). The Antec VSK is the only one in the list that has a front air filter. Considering all this the Antec p180 mini is the perfect! case but alas its near 100CAD :(

Might add a DVD-writer. Also will add/replace with silent efficient fans if needed.

PSU: As recommended a quality PSU (for continuous usage). eXtreme power calculator game me values from 270-300W(6 green hdd) at 90% TDP and load based on configurations similar to my parts preference. Therefore a 350-400W PSU? Would like 80+ certified PSU for power draw, heat and efficiency reasons. (Corsair?)

Have heard of running a home server as a DNS/DHCP server, would like to do this but it seems like a little too much as my router should handle this well?

In the end I am looking for something that doesn't use much energy and dissipates low amounts of heat 1st, silent 2nd and efficient 3rd.

Feel free to criticize, change and suggest other configurations.

Sorry for the long post, but so much has been buzzing through my head while researching on this home server!.
13 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. You are already perilously close to building a "real" computer ...

    .... Why not look at the Athlon x3 435 and 4GB of DDR3 1333 ?

    Together with a 790Gx Chipset on a micro-ATX board ... excersizing combo deals ... would be much more flexible and could be re-tasked more readily.

    ... just thinkin' ... sorry for that.

    The case? ... If you want lots of drives, you should opt for a mid-tower (almost all of those DO take micro-ATX mobos and micro ATX mobos DO have compatibility with standard ATX +12V PSUs. (24 pin main connector).

    ... Others may be of more help.

    ANTEC 300 ILLUSION ... comes with fans ... good value.

    Cooler Master makes a great little mini-tower ... Centurion ... pretty sure.

    = Alvin =
  2. Oh.......

    Budget is a bit tight and going those components might cost a lot especially the DDR3 ram. :(
    Thought I was choosing really low end components of the previous/current generation (LGA775/AM2 - Dual-core/ddr2).
    Not to worry it will not be used as anything else later on, if at all it might be used for a quick surf on the web or something light in the far future.

    One of the reasons dual-core is applicable is due to its extra headroom for any other home server activities that can be done. :D

    Mid-tower seems to be the best. The Antec 300 is really good especially with its removable air filters but its kinda tall.
    The thing is the server will be placed in the living room next to the router and most likely it will be placed against the wall behind a side table which is around 16.5" tall and with the 18" height of the 300 it will jut out making it an oddity.
    The Centurion seems to be quite interesting will have a closer look.

    Thank for the info!, it got me thinking about mainstream cases that I avoided as it is aimed at the desktop/enthusiast crowd, after all I'm going for a humble home server :D

    Keep the advice coming! :)
  3. In addition the Pentium G6950 seems to be the most updated of the Pentium series based on current gen tech. Its much more pricey considering LGA 1156 based motherboard's cost.
    This Pentium also has built in VGA, seems like a bonus!

    What would you guys recommend? Don't want to go all out unless the price difference between the LGA 1156 combo vs the (Pentium e5xxx+LGA775)/(Athlonx2+AM3) combo is not much and power savings/heat output too!
  4. Hey, again ... I have returned to this thread, as much as a student, as a teacher ... perhaps more as a student, actually.

    So, please let me be sort of conversational, and informal, and sort of think out loud. Forgive my "train-of-thot style of writing ... It lets me get stuff out.

    First ... What are the compelling reasons/advantages/justification$ for doing a home-server build ? ... I mean ... I really am seeing more and more folks walk in here, wanting to know my best advice, and here is what I know.

    There is at least one Windows Home Server product ... Are there 32-bit and 64-bit versions? I do not know.

    There are several SOHO/Media servers on newegg, most all based on ATOM.

    There are also several ATOM micro-ATX mobos, available at egg ... some say server-board. ... What the heck that means?? ... don't know.

    I know that a DIRT cheap, AMD/AM2+/AM3 HTPC or uATX-Gamer system will just beat the living snot out of an ATOM D510, in every category.

    It seems to me, that one reason to have a low power server is so that your media gunk is available, house-wide, all the time, or because folks would rather put the noisier part of their HTPC requirements in some other room than the viewing room (HEY! ... There may BE something to a split HTPC !!! Put the quiet stuff in the viewing room and all the noisey stuff in another room.

    Lower power means lower heat ... If heat output is low enough, a server can be placed in a vented (but more sound-proof closet ... or enclosure).

    Other than the fact that I know there is an OS product, (MS) for a home media server, I have little knowledge of useful home apps that can "SLING" content around the home. ....
    .... Relatedely ... I am aware of many Sling-Box(TM) type DVR/house-cast type products from DISH and other service providers, BUT, I do not know much about applications that really can make a media server useful enough to justify the cost and trouble.

    So ... I really do want to start asking the OPs, how they came to their decision to build such a machine ... what is the perceived need or major advantage.

    ALSO ... like I said ... In my first line of my first response ...

    A decent media server is ALREADY perilously close to being a "real" PC ... SO ... Why buy some special server OS and a dedicated build ??? .... Why not, instead, build a REAL PC with a REAL OS and (since it is going to be ON all the time, anyway, ... Why not make a Family-Kitchen-Office-Homework PC and just make all those media HDDs "public" ... on the home network ???

    ... Finally ! ... Where are all these Media Server Builder OP folks coming from ??? ... Who is writing all these articles and am I just ignoring them??? how did I get SO far behind the "awareness curve", on this genre of build ??? Could it be partly because I have a hard time understanding whay anyone would dedicate a build to this limited app?

    ... You guys tell me ?! ... Not to hijack the thread ... just need some insight and helping me will surely help others.

    I don't want to pretend expertise, where I have little (beyond component performance).

    = Al = Fine if you blow this post off ... just trying to get a reality check, here.
  5. Actually that is a very good question, I too seem to notice many Home Server build advice nowadays.
    The questions you ask are ones that many have to ask themselves during such a build and luckily I've have thought them through before :)

    I too will be going on a free-flow/point based approach....not to be rude but like you said its easier to represent thoughts than rephrase them constantly :D

    I need to store media files centrally, easily accessible from multiple computers.
    Different access rights and such for files.

    The HTPC will be up later on and it will be grabbing videos from the media server and not streaming them as other famous DVR/consoles do (therefore no need for high processing power). It will also be wired to the router therefore TV recordings can be dumped onto the server.
    For educational purposes a server can do a lot.

    Atom based computers are great and I actually considered building one but due to its chassis size (mini-ITX) not more than 1 3.5" SATA drives can be placed.....sadly...unless they have some custom built case.

    Will have lot to store as pulling stuff from CDs/DVDs are just too slow :P and more to store in the years to come

    Regular backups of all PCs also is important, be it image based or select files based.

    Something that I would like to implement if possible is a central ainti-virus/security monitoring system for all PCs, computer newbies in house :P

    In addition I would like to increase wireless security by using WPA2-Enterprise and add a small radius server app on the server for authentication purpose.. just thinking..maybe..gotta see its effectiveness 1st.

    Also to act as a print server/share a printer we have.

    True in the end one would prefer a basic dual core over an atom and it sure as hell would kick atom's butt! and be much more smoother in terms of operation.

    The router sadly has to be near the living room due to the cable's location and it is also the best place to keep it on that floor (kinda in the middle)

    True with a little more it can be real PC, but there is technically no way to turn into a usable PC considering where it is placed and how far it can be moved....pretty much no nook or cranny to make it fit into the place (its not a big house)

    Now an interesting point is placing it in a closet....there is one right next to the router this can avoid all the nasty wire running all around. With this method heat will be an important factor considering it is a closed environment.

    Another interesting fact is that I can put the proc. of this server to full use in rendering along with other comps if I go ahead and get much better dual/tri/quad proc., but again money/heat and power factors come into play. Electricity bill is quite imp too.

    We just moved to a new house and with the usual 2-3 floors it is good to have a central control centre (so to speak) for sharable stuff between the different members which can accessed at will.


    quite an explanation, acc. to me I believe I have justified the reason to build one, dunno unless there is a better alternative to such needs. :)

    Even still what do you guys think of the components?
  6. Best answer
    Streaming media, secure back-up, off-loading slow DLs... many good reasons have been listed for a home server. There is also the possibility of a proxy server, which can be quite nice if you have limited bandwidth to share among several PCs.
    Last time I used a proxy I had an ISDN line and had coax strung through the house... that was a while ago :D

    HPT, it's pretty easy to make a cheesecloth screen for a case, especially if it doesn't have to be pretty.

    I like the idea of an Athlon II for your uses, combined with a simple Gigabyte board and 2-4GB of DDR3. Just get an Antec case with PSU like this one:
    It has the drive bays you need and a quality Delta-built 380W PSU

    Gigabyte 880G board

    Athlon II

    2GB Kingston DDR3
    lower voltage for lower temps.

    Al, I think a recent Maximum PC edition had a write-up on a Linux server.
  7. Sweet! ... Take me to skool !

    ... Well ... I am very qualified to dicuss your closet, because I have installed MILES of custom signal wires, in mansions and office parks, all over central texas. Have set up many dozens of file/print servers, too ... I do get all that part.

    I have run intercoms, twisted pair and coax, network drops of various topologies, and even central vacuum systems ... never did do whole bunches of fire and security, tho, because of BONDING requirements. Have also strung miles of thick and thin ethernet coax and all that. ... Designed and worked in many utility closets.

    ... Sure helps if the sheetrock/wall-board is not yet installed, tho ... eh?

    So ... now that I have named all my past battles, like HOMER, I can say that you want a 12 inch square vent (top and bottom) of that closet door and another into any adjacent voids, where possible.

    ... We can pull wires under the carpet, too, but I prefer to follow the wall-boards, where that is "elegant".

    ... Pretty easy to properly vent that door ... Prolly want an electrician (journeyman) to give you ~20Amps in there ... dedicated.
  8. Proximon said:

    Al, I think a recent Maximum PC edition had a write-up on a Linux server.

    Linux (being cheaper?) makes sense ....

    ... The so called "Vole Tax" (cost of Microsoft OS products) has precluded me from many possible "discreet studio client" builds ... If not for the cost of the OS, I might have a rack-full of 2U PCs, each for tasks like Audio DAW Workstation ... HTPC .... NAS ... HD Render Engine ... etc.

    ... I am really glad that Linux is really garnering so many useful apps and is assisting us in breaking the MicroSoft "strangle-hold" on pricing a minimal/dedicated client or service system.

    = VIVA !!! =
  9. That is a good case/PSU combo, never checked it as it was in the >50CAD, but as it has a PSU 80+ bronze at that too, perfect! Always can add 3 more 3.5" hdds using a 2x5.25-3x3.5" drive bay converters.

    Something that I would like to make sure is the Pentium G6950 with integrated GPU has a TDP of 73W whereas the other combination will have a separate discreet GPU on the mobo and may use more watts? LGA1156 is also a bit more expensive and considering the other proc models it serves doesn't look like the best of power savers? Prolly. a dumb question :P

    Thanks for the recommendations Proximon!

    It is always nice to challenge one's ideas/concept to either reforge them with more strength or understand the wrong in them. :)
    Quite a long winding career there!, I do value your opinion as you are very experienced, but cutting up wood, placing vents all that is too much trouble/work/cost for just a home server that can be tucked behind a side table (which now can be with the case that Proximon suggested) :)

    Linux was also in my list 1st, but as I am no Linux user, studying it from scratch on a sensitive setup such as a home server (backup and all) and screwing up something....didn't want to take that risk. However linux has always held my curiosity and will learn it bit by bit one day :) (time...time...time)

    Linux's only downfall in my books is its lack of softwares that many people use on a daily bases, agreed there are alternatives in some cases, but still...... some software cant be replaced..and in the end games do change the playing field.

    Thanks guys, do comment on my dilemma :)
  10. I still have no clue what apps would be cool enough to "spawn a build" ...

    ... As far as I can see .. you have actually just built a file/print server with "big-n-snappy" HDDs ... Am I wrong? ... This thing is just making the media drives "virtually local", house-wide and nothing much more ... correct? ... Not much different than the OLD 3Com/Netware builds I did, so very long ago. (guessing).

    ... As far as cutting up wood ... why not build a wooden "Colonial American Doghouse" mid-tower with a cast iron eagle, on the front, and a weather-vane, on top ??

    ... I'm just full of great ideas ... Aren't you glad I came?

    .... I still think AM3 would be darned cheap and much more longevity of the "whole build" and for individual components ... I just don't like the "disposable appliance" philosophy ... mo' overhead, please !

    BUT I DO UNDERSTAND ... It's the POWER, STUPID !! ... And noise .. And heat .. And CHEAP!

    = Al =
  11. How about asus EEE? small, quiet em.. atom.. got memory.. no cd as you wanted.. already with kind of ups (except for surge).. low power consumption.. u can put it basically anywhere
  12. Quote:
    How about asus EEE? small, quiet em.. atom.. got memory.. no cd as you wanted.. already with kind of ups (except for surge).. low power consumption.. u can put it basically anywhere

    Did consider it but due to its size factor more than 1 hdd is not possible.

    ... As far as cutting up wood ... why not build a wooden "Colonial American Doghouse" mid-tower with a cast iron eagle, on the front, and a weather-vane, on top ??

    ... I'm just full of great ideas ... Aren't you glad I came?


    .... I still think AM3 would be darned cheap and much more longevity of the "whole build" and for individual components ... I just don't like the "disposable appliance" philosophy ... mo' overhead, please !

    Though you are correct, there are equal no of reasons to bind a software these hdd to work in tandem to manage the end clients.
    Disposable?, how come it will stay much longer than any desktop usually the requirements barely increase.

    That said Proximon's recommendations and Alvin's reality check really helped in rooting this build in reality :)
  13. Best answer selected by HPT.
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