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Building low power/high efficiency home server

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  • New Build
  • Servers
  • Systems
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February 7, 2012 2:17:10 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: Next few months

Budget Range: Cheaper the better, but $800 max

System Usage from Most to Least Important: HTPC, FTP server LAN file sharing, Home Automation center (maybe eventually)

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: No preference. Usually use amazon/newegg, but will buy elsewhere if recommended

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: No full towers or the like, but pretty open otherwise.

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (HD TV via HDMI)

Additional Comments: Quiet would be good, Power savings are my top priority.

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When I started looking around I only had eyes for an HTPC, so I was looking at the ZOTAC ZBOX nano VD01 PLUS, but then I started thinking about an FTP server and maybe even a home automation center, and I am not sure if that will be powerful enough. My main concern here is energy efficiency, since the box will most likely be on 24/7. After that stability is another concern due to the required up time.

What I'm thinking now is to use a Linux install (probably Ubuntu because of its ease of use) on a mid-powered micro PC. Honestly though, I am no electrical engineer; I know more watts = more money for the most part, but that's about as far as my knowledge goes in that department.

I realize that all the different things I want this machine to do makes it rather difficult to create something small and low-powered, but any help you guys can give would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

More about : building low power high efficiency home server

February 7, 2012 2:51:57 PM

Since your goal is power saving, power efficiency is the most important.

For this, you'll need a 80Plus certified power supply, the higher the rating, the more efficient (gold and platinum).
You can also increase efficiency by using a CPU with an integrated graphics chip, since using a (PCIe) board introduces less efficiency since its needs its own on-board power supply. A6 or A8 AMD APUs will work this well. I don't know the performance of using these in Ubuntu at 1080p, I'm sure someone else knows these details.

The fewer components, the more efficient your HTPC will be, though.
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February 7, 2012 2:58:53 PM

Are you sure you want to combine the two? I use a HTPC connected to a home server, and one of the primary reasons is that I want as close to no noise as possible when the HTPC is on. If you use it for a server, you're going to have HDD noise to consider as well as cooling.

On the other hand, you can spec a HTPC similar to the one in my sig which is virtually silent by having as few moving parts as possible (you could put in a fanless PSU as well, making it even quieter) and then use a low-power CPU for the server (stick it in a cupboard or something, if you can).

You don't need much at all to run the server (mine is an old E2140 1.6GHz CPU), and newer CPUs can have minimal wattage. If you take the Pentium G620T, for instance, it has a TDP of 35W. Underclock that a bit and you're getting to seriously low power levels. While I think going for energy-efficiency is always a good move, a word of warning...WD Green HDDs (EARS version, IIRC) have issues for streaming media stored on them and need you to jumper two pins to get around it. As a result I personally avoid green HDDs for my server as there's no point it being efficient but not giving you a smooth stream.

Hope this helps! :) 
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February 7, 2012 2:58:55 PM

Sandy Bridge Pentium or low end Llano are low power CPUs that can run a file server easily. They also have the advantage of having integrated graphics if you need to plug in a screen.
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February 7, 2012 3:27:30 PM

Thanks for the quick responses guys, I'm constantly reminded why THW is so awesome :D 

@diellur
My thinking was that 2 PSUs would pull twice (or at least more) power than one. I hadn't thought too much about the noise level though. If it would help I'm not apposed to using something like this to move it to another room if that's possible.

As far as your HTPC in your sig goes, I'm assuming the 60 gig ssd you have is a boot disk, and you don't have anything else listed for storage. How are you storing your media? You also don't have a Blu-Ray drive in there; just wondering :p 

Even with the long hdmi cable, do you still think it a better idea to keep the htpc and server separate?
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February 7, 2012 4:48:17 PM

My personal preference is keeping them seperate...I loathe noise from systems which can intrude into a movie. However, it's not right for everyone (although running a flat Cat5e cable under carpet will be easier than running that HDMI cable).

Yeah, the 60GB SSD is a boot drive as well as the necessary software for playing movies off of my home server (I rip Blurays and DVDs to it). I do have a Bluray drive on the HTPC, but was running out of space on my sig so didn't bother including it.

You make a fair point with 2 PSUs v 1 PSU. You could always buy a NAS...then your HTPC can be off when you don't need it, and the thing that's on 24/7 (the NAS) will have a very small power draw.
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February 7, 2012 5:04:12 PM

Llano A8 quadcore cpu
2 x4 gig of 1600 Mhz RAM
A75 chipset mb with an HDMI port

Silverstone GD 06 HTPC case with two internal hard drive spaces and 2 hot swappable bays
http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten...
350 - 400 watt psu
low profile cpu cooler like the scythe big shuriken
blu ray drive

Hard drives ??? Maybe a small SSD for a boot drive , and a WD green internal data drive
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February 7, 2012 5:53:16 PM

You can also try a plug computer like Pogoplug to host eSATA or USB external drives, it is low power and great for a home server.

With a boot SSD on the HTPC you won't hear the system much or at all when at a good sitting distance.
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February 7, 2012 6:16:08 PM

@Outlander_04
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these components way overpowered for what I'm looking for? The A8-3800 is a quad core 2.9 gHz cpu rated at 100 watts :o  I honestly don't know what something like playing a Blu-Ray movie in 7.1 surround sound on a 55 inch HD TV requires, but that seems overkill to me.

@deillur
I have heard of NAS before, but have done very little research on it. That is something I will have to look at. I would assume that they are optimized for 24/7 operation which would make them perfect for my server needs assuming they can provide all the functionality.

Quote:
although running a flat Cat5e cable under carpet will be easier than running that HDMI cable

Have I been living under a rock since they created a video over Ethernet protocol?

Edit: instantly realized after posting that you were talking about the net cord for the server vs. the display cord for the htpc... Dur.
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February 7, 2012 6:27:03 PM

If you are operating as a server as well as an HTPC then a quad core will be an advantage .
Requests from elsewhere on the network are less likely to affect the movie you are watching .

With that cases two external hard drive bays you effectively get a NAS and an HTPC in one .Its bound to be cheaper than having both . And power draw will be less than two devices as well

Its also quiet enough that you wont notice the noise in anything but the quietest room
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March 9, 2012 6:22:13 PM

Best answer selected by zatho.
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