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CPU and memory help!

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December 10, 2010 12:48:28 AM

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 300?? Is that feasible? also any help with networking cards would be appreciated thanks!!!

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December 10, 2010 1:39:49 AM
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Leif2006 said:
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 it sounds like you want something that can both be an HTPC as well as a file/media server? Or do you just want a file server that does not connect to the TV and play back video? I am just curious as this would affect the choices of parts you might want just a little bit.

Quote:
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?


No, you do not need a very powerful CPU in a machine that is just a file server. Your biggest bottleneck would most likely be your network connection (especially if it's wireless) or hard drives in the client computers (especially if they are laptops with mechanical HDDs) unless you are in an enterprise setting where you may need to be serving up 10+ gigabits of data per second from your server. Video recording and playback doesn't generally need a lot of CPU either, since recording is just copying an MPEG-2 TS to disk and playback is nearly always accelerated by the video card. You may want a stout CPU in an HTPC if you are doing a bunch of video encoding, such as transcoding those MPEG-2 TSes to H.264 for archiving, for example. Then you'd want a CPU with as many cores as you can get to speed along the transcoding.

You do not need much RAM in either an HTPC or a file server. You basically just need enough to run RAM to run the OS for a file server, and maybe just a little more if you are running an HTPC. 2-4 GB is going to be more than enough at this point.

Quote:
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)?


It uses CPU from both machines and basically no memory from either. The server's CPU is used in shuffling data from the HDD to the Ethernet card, but unless you have an absolutely horrible Ethernet driver, this uses very little CPU. The client's CPU is involved in the same shuffling of data; it has to shuffle data from the Ethernet controller to the HDD.

Quote:
Also do I have to get the server software, or can I just put them all on a local area network with windows 7?


It all depends on what you want to do with the machine. If you just want to have it share files with a "Shared Folder" in Windows, then using a normal version of Windows 7 will likely be all you need. If you want to do fancier stuff, you might need something like Windows Server. I'm personally a Linux guy, so don't see me as an authoritative source on Windows.

Quote:
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.


Yes, it would, since it is performing the act of serving something (files) to other machines over a network.

Quote:
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 300?? Is that feasible? also any help with networking cards would be appreciated thanks!!!


Yes, $300 for a basic home file server is very doable. Your best bet would be to get an older server off eBay that will take serial ATA hard drives, stick a 1-2 TB serial ATA HDD in it, and then install your OS and be ready to go. Almost any server that will take SATA HDDs has a gigabit Ethernet port/card or two, and that is what you want for your network. You could alternatively buy something like one of the little mini-ITX Intel Atom or AMD socket AM3 boards with a single-core Sempron and make yourself a new inexpensive machine by putting a big SATA HDD in it and installing your OS. Both will work, the old server will likely be more reliable (if it works properly) due to better-quality parts and such, but the newer parts will use a lot less power and you know you're getting new, fully-working parts. You could also get one of the Network Attached Storage (NAS) boxes and put your HDDs in it and that will be easier to set up than a file server, but I doubt you'd be able to get a decent one with any HDDs in it for $300.
December 13, 2010 9:33:36 PM

thanks alot that helps alot... I would only be using it to store files only I wouldnt be using it as an HTPC I am going to build that seperately. basically all I want is to get about 4 TB set up in raid 1 that I can access fast from anywhere in the house and have it put out of the way. like if I want to watch a movie that is stored I want to be able to pull it up immediately. I think file share in windows 7 is gnna be my best bet. I work for a company that uses linux, and I just dont think I could stomach looking at it after I get off work. lol
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December 14, 2010 1:05:23 AM

Best answer selected by leif2006.
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December 14, 2010 8:10:16 AM

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