I just finished my first build. I also have a laptop, and now I want to build an htpc. I want to be able to store all my media, text files and pdf's in one location and have the accessible from all three of these locations. I know very little about servers so I need some help with this. The reason I want a server is because I am running four 64 gig solid state drives in raid zero for my OS and games on my home built and I don’t have any more room in the case for hard drives. So my first question is does the CPU on the server need to be equally as powerful as the CPU on my home build (I7 950) and the same with the memory (24 gigs). Will a low power CPU or less memory on a server bottle neck my other computers? Does accessing these files over a local area network use the CPU and memory from the terminal trying to read the files, or the source (server)? Also do I have to get the server software, or can I just put them all on a local area network with windows 7? and if I do it through a local area network would it even be considered a server? As you can see I am kind of lost. I would like too spend the least amount of money on this possible as I wont need any high end graphics (I am going to use an old tube monitor to get it running) or bells and whistles (I am pretty good with a command prompt). So I was hoping around 3 or 4 hundred?? Is that feasible? I prefer to buy from newegg, but i'm pretty unbiased, and i just started planning this so i havent really looked into anything yet. any input on network cards would be appreciated as well, lol I may be in over my head but I have faith in TH's forum. You guys have never let me down before.
Really its up to you. My current server is a P4 1.5ghz 440BX with 256mb PC-100 and a trident VGA card. Granted it only has an 80gb hard drive, but it holds my documents and common files for workstations around the house. I don't have a multimedia library yet, so this serves my needs. I'm running Linux on it, and it acts as a windows Domain Controller allowing single signon from any of the windows PC's, as well as an LDAP interface to allow common login when I boot into linux on those same machines. Directories are mapped so that all those files are available no matter which machine or OS I boot into. It also is my WAN -> LAN router (blue box router blew up in a thunderstorm so I built this linux box to be my router, the rest just evolved), HTTP, FTP, RSYNC, Proxy, UPNP, and firewall for my home network. I'm not hosting any websites to the world, just an access available to use to get to those same documents from outside the home.
NOW, that is a pretty basic setup hardware wise, and given everything I do, it still only uses 20% of the processor during a file transfer. Will it stream a high definition movie ripped from a blueray disk to a HTPC, heck no, for that I'd need SATA II drives, gigabit ethernet and a PCI-E bus. Will it do half of this stuff in windows? I wouldn't put XP on this machine, let alone 7, server 2008, etc.
If your comfortable playing around in linux, ask a buddy for an old out of date computer and get started, you'll be amazed at how much power you can get out of that hardware. If you need to stick with windows, building a $300 PC and spending the rest of your budget on storage will do great.
If your planning on asking a HTPC to be a server to host for the rest of the house, you'll need to address heat and noise, and you won't build a HTPC plus home storage server for $3-400.
The drives are partitioned for OS install with remainder for storage and both partitions are mirrored (RAID1) It operates w/out swap and seems to be fine with that. (no GUI!) I connected a monitor and keyboard to install it and it has run headless ever since. I ssh into it to administer. Mostly it's not even running. I wake it up when it's time to update backups in the wee hours via WOL and when backs are complete, it shuts down. You'd probably run 24x7.
It idles at about 20W and at full bore, goes up to 34W. If I ran SETI or something like that, it would probably use more. It's quiet too with only a small PSU fan.
It cost me about $370 in parts which I see are mostly cheaper now. I think you could build one for about $300 today.
I think you could run Windows Home Server if you are not comfortable getting Linux up and running. I'm not familiar with that so I cannot comment.
I should mention I used the 5 1/4" bay for the second HD. If you want a Blu-Ray player, you'd have to give up one of the drives or pick a bigger case. Probably have to give up Linux too as Blu-Ray DRM protects your Blu-Ray from open source systems. (Been cracked, but remains problematic I think.)
It has plenty of horsepower for serving files and video. Probably not enough to transcode on the fly though.