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Building a Home Server

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May 7, 2012 1:40:03 PM

This will be my first time building a server and I would like your feedback. I need something that will be able to run Windows 2011 server (looking for something user friendly). My uses for the server are for Streaming HD content. downloading nzb files or torrents and media storage. I currently already have a 550watt psu, 1600mhz 2x2gb of ram, 4 2tb sata3 HDDs and a old case. I currently have a raid 1 configuration with these HDDs in raid but its in my gaming pc which I dont want on 24/7. Im not sure what kind of cpu/motherboard combination I should get or which brand (AMD or Intel). Thanks for the help

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May 7, 2012 4:53:55 PM

Either brand would work; what kind of budget are you looking at?
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May 7, 2012 4:59:41 PM

low power, i'm running windows home server V1 on a dual core athlon II 255(i think maybe 245), I just went for the lowest powered CPU, with the board that had the most sata ports.
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May 7, 2012 9:53:47 PM

I'm running windows home server 2011 ($50) which is built from server 08, on an amd athlon x2 240 since it supports ECC ram and the consumer intels don't.
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May 7, 2012 9:54:22 PM

my budget is around $400. I was thinking maybe this cpu Intel Core i3-2100T or this one AMD A4-3400. both are dual core but I like the amd's selection of motherboards. I was looking for at least 6 sata 3 ports while most intel has only 2 sata 3 ports and 4 sata 2 ports. plus intels motherboards are ridiculously expensive.
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May 8, 2012 2:38:43 AM

buying a low power cpu is a waste imo. Features like cool-n-quiet will keep power down anyways but al least with a full power cpu you have some extra processing power the low power editions don't when you need it.

The A4 includes a gpu and the boxed edition comes with a cpu heatsink so your good to go there, just need ram, and a motherboard. You may want to throw in a small system drive and possibly a system backup drive too. I reused some old samsung 160's I had laying around. A word of warning though, assigning a drive to the system backup take the whole drive regardless of size.

like you I have four 2tb drives for content. Instead of raid I decided to run the drives in single mode. I seperate all the media so each drive has only 1type. This avoids hard drive thrashing should me and my wife try to watch different shows at the same time or listen to music while playing a slideshow.

whats your backup plan for your important data?
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May 8, 2012 3:25:37 AM

as of right now Im only using 1.5 tb worth of space so its all backed up on a 2tb drive. I thought raid 1 would mirror the drives so just in case one went down i would still be able to recover it. So my best bet is to go with a AMD A series cpu? How many cores do I really need?
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May 8, 2012 5:05:53 AM

You don't need a lot of power to run a file server, really you could run it on a single core system.
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May 8, 2012 8:32:24 AM

ok i think i found a good deal. What about this cpu Phenom II X3 B73? I found it online for 30 bucks
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May 8, 2012 12:11:58 PM

The first thing to establish is what you're using your server for, specifically with the HD streaming...are you wanting it to transcode on the fly, or just serve the files to wherever they'll be viewed from? Transcoding would need a beefy CPU, but file serving needs next to nothing...my home server uses a dual core E2140 1.6GHz CPU, which is perfectly adequate. In short, you don't need extra processing power for file-serving...just look at the specs for the home NAS devices, they tend to have low power, low frequency CPUs. If you're looking at new CPUs, don't bother with the i3, you're spending more money than you need. The Pentium G620 will do the job fine. Alternatively, that Phenom II X3 would also work fine. The PSU, RAM and HDDs you have will get you off to a flying start.

I've not used Windows Server 2011, as I have the original WHS on my own system...however, the Windows server OS is user-friendly, certainly more so than Linux IMHO (which is more down to my lack of experience with Linux than a criticism of the software itself, however). I just want something that works and I didn't need to learn, and Windows fits that bill.

I managed to get a motherboard with 8 SATA slots, but it's hard to find. However, you can get PCIe add-in cards with SATA slots that work fine, so you don't need to pass up on a decent motherboard purely due to it having too few SATA ports. Also, you don't need SATA 3 for a home server unless you have a 10Gbps network. SATA 2 has 3Gbps transfer speeds, so if you have a 1Gbps home network, the network will bottleneck the server anyway. SATA 2 is more than enough for streaming lossless Bluray rips with no stutter. However, avoid Green HDDs...some can cause stutter due to how the drive is designed for environmental friendliness (WD, I'm looking at you...).

Lastly, for streaming, you should be aware that most motherboard onboard NICs are Realtek. There can be issues with them for streaming content and the occasional stutter; it's usually easier to go with a dedicated NIC on the server and HTPC (assuming you're using one).
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May 8, 2012 7:42:26 PM

thanks for the great advice. How beefy of a cpu do I need to get to transcode on the fly?

What kind of NIC do you suggest since the Realtek isnt that great?

Well I figure I would go the easy route and go with windows 2011 Server edition. I already have a copy of it from a friend. My original plan was to build a NAS but seeing that a server and a NAS are identical in terms of what they can do I decided to go with a media server build.

Now that I know I really dont need sata 3 ports I might make a few adjustments. I saw a ITX mini motherboard that had 6 sata 2 ports on it that I was interested in for a decent price.
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May 8, 2012 8:35:49 PM

word2yamutha said:
thanks for the great advice. How beefy of a cpu do I need to get to transcode on the fly?


Enough to transcode quicker than you're watching...essentially, it's video-editing so something that can handle that (i7, although you may get away with an i5).

word2yamutha said:
What kind of NIC do you suggest since the Realtek isnt that great?


Intel are good. I use Dlink...same NIC in both my HTPC and server. No issues.

word2yamutha said:
Now that I know I really dont need sata 3 ports I might make a few adjustments. I saw a ITX mini motherboard that had 6 sata 2 ports on it that I was interested in for a decent price.


That would do the job! You can either go for a large case with lots of HDD mounts or a mini ITX case and have a small server in the house. I can go up to 10 storage HDDs in my server, but in hindsight I don't need that many...6 will work, especially as you can now get 3TB in a single drive.
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May 8, 2012 11:52:17 PM

I think I finally made a decision. I decided not to stream hd content because I wanted to reduce my budget. So here is what I picked....

motherboard: asrock Z77 Pro4-M 1155 mATX Intel ( 8 sata ports total)
CPU: Celeron G530 2.4GHz

I paid $150 for the cpu and motherboard. I thought it was a pretty good deal.
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May 9, 2012 1:06:39 AM

It will still stream HD content fine, just not transcode to a different format/resolution; its no different than transferring a large file over the network. I stream multiple HD streams with my amd 240 as they are a raw 1080 file going to a 1080 tv. Theres nothing for the processor to do except send the file which is a piece of cake.
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May 9, 2012 1:29:20 AM

ah gotcha. sorry for being such a noob. Most of my files are 1080p so there wont be a problem to my 1080p tv. I just want to make sure I got the right stuff as Im going to micro center to pick those parts up tomorrow. Its like an hour drive so just want to make sure I got the right stuff
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May 9, 2012 8:07:09 AM

word2yamutha said:
ah gotcha. sorry for being such a noob. Most of my files are 1080p so there wont be a problem to my 1080p tv. I just want to make sure I got the right stuff as Im going to micro center to pick those parts up tomorrow. Its like an hour drive so just want to make sure I got the right stuff


No probs, I should have explained the difference. You can file serve ripped Blurays and DVDs to a HTPC without transcoding, and use software on the HTPC to play it back (eg. Total Media Theatre); the ripped data is in a folder on your server in the same layout as it is on disc, so the HTPC essentially thinks its playing back a disc. Transcoding is when you want to move the data into another format for playback...say you want to play it through Quicktime, you'd need to transcode on the fly from raw data to mp4. That requires processing to convert the file format.

What you've chosen sounds like a good build for a server, you should be fine with that. Feel free to drop me a PM or post online if you need any input.
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September 7, 2012 4:37:37 PM

Thanks for the great advice. I was thinking about dropping a G620 into a H75 or H61 motherboard with 4 GB ram, and 8x hard drives. I was thinking WD red, but I wonder if you have any thoughts about the seagate barracudas?
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September 23, 2012 4:37:24 AM

For a server/NAS box, the WD Reds are better for what you plan to use it for.
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