New Windows Home Server 2011 Build

Hi All,

Have always appreciated the help from this community. Have built 2 systems now with help and suggestions, both of which are running beautifully.

I'm interested in building a new Windows Home Server 2011 to replace my "frankenbuild" WHS v1. Basically, my first built was a conglomeration of an old Pentium 4 system, several old hard drives, etc. It's worked wonderfully for about 3 years now, until I recently had a hard drive failure. Fortunately, it wasn't the system drive and all of my files were duplicated and recovered without difficulty. But I use the system all the time, and have decided it's time to upgrade the system.

My main uses for the system are file server/centralized storage, media storage for streaming (just locally right now, though my understanding is that WHS 2011 allows for media streaming over the internet which is something I"d like to take advantage of), system backups (5 systems, 2 local and 3 remote via VPN connection to the server), obtaining torrents, etc.

I'm mostly concerned about balancing the need for more "top end" HW in terms of processor and MB.

Budget: $~400-500 if possible. I can extend this if it's going to make a big difference.


CPU - I'm thinking Intel Core i3-3220 socket 1155 ($119). I'm not opposed to going over to AMD if someone can recommend a good combo.
MB - From what I read, SATA6 isn't really necessary as the 1GB NIC is going to be limiting. If that's the case, can someone recommend a good board with the largest # of SATA ports
Memory - 4GB, reasonably priced. Anyone think more would be needed than that?
Storage - I have drives currently which I will use in the new system. I am looking for a relatively inexpensive "system" drive. I considered SSD, but from what I gather it doesn't make much difference on a server that's going to be on 24/7. New data drives - I would likely consider a "red line" WD drive when needed ..
Case: Likely will put this in a "server rack" case - plan on adding a rack in the coming years so planning for that
Power Supply: Found this inexpensive 80+ rated one: Coolmax ZX-500. Thoughts? Reviews were OK - any reason it's so inexpensive?
Optical Drive: Had a DVD_RW drive already in the old system I'll transfer over. Maybe add a BR-DVD in the future to rip blue rays directly to the server
OS: WHS 2011

Would really appreciate input, particularly on the CPU/MB combo. Opinions seem to run widely on this in particular ..


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  1. The i3 will serve you well provided its not tasked with transcoding the streaming video (to another size). If not trancoding you can drop even lower to one of the dual core sandy bridge pentium/celeron's such as the G860 or G630. I'm currently running an athlonII x2 240 and its done fine for over a year now and those two pentiums are even better performers.

    The system drive doesnt have to be big or fast. I used an old 160gb drive for the system with a 320gb laptop drive for the system backup drive. Please note that WHS11 will claim the entire system backup drive so don't plan on using a small partition off another drive. Newegg has some AV-GP and Blue drives for $60.

    As for the PSU I wouldn't green light the coolmax as they are not know for high quality supplies. Stick with Seasonic, XFX, Corsair... anything with a good Jonnyguru review. I use a seasonic 320w and have 8 drives in mine plus the dvd drive.

    The rack case, well I can't make a recommend there as I only have experience with stuff you'd find in a corporate setting. Make sure it has excellent & quiet cooling and room enough for drives. Mine is an old tower since its in the basement.

    Also, If your new server is going to be in an out of the way place I wouldn't bother with the BD-drive. Its almost as fast to rip across the network and let a more powerful processor handle the load.

    Lastly, consider installing a second nic in the server and splitting up your network into two branches and balancing the loads. Its alot easier to stream 2 HD movies across 2 seperate networks than it is to do it over 1.
  2. Popatim -

    Thank you for the great reply. That is VERY helpful.

    I think the i3 represents a good balance for me between price/performance/energy use. I'm always concerned about "future proofing" so I like to go a bit stronger than needed in case I figure out a new purpose I want to be using it for in the coming years. Even so, I do have to say that my very old P4 has done quite well as a backup/file server and storage for my media (played on TV via Xbox). Overall I'm very happy with how that's worked out. Occasionally I will notice some stuttering, but it's pretty minimal.

    Yes, I know the system drive can be modest. That said, it is the oldest drive in my system - and with the recent failure of the 2nd oldest drive, I think it's time for some new hardware to reduce the chance of a more catastrphic failure. Can you explain what you mean about WHS11 "claiming the entire system backup drive?" I'm assuming you mean whatever is my "system drive" will be entirely used up by WHS11. I was planning on a dedicated drive for this anyway, so that's not a huge deal - and yes, was going to look for a lower capacity drive for this reason.

    Thanks for the tip on the PSU. I'll spend a little more and go for something else.

    The case is more about my idea to move this to a rack system eventually. I've found a good one on Craigslist - we'll see if I can negotiate it to a price I like. Otherwise, I think a regular mid-tower would do fine.

    Agree with the BD drive - for now it will be in a pretty accessible closet, but I understand what you're saying. The BD drives are just so cheap now that I figured I"d go that route to have an optical drive in the system rather that save only a few $ and go DVD. I'll have to think about that, but your point is well made.

    I love the idea of the 2nd NIC. Right now my system is small enough that I don't think that'd be huge issue (I live alone, can only watch 1 stream right now). But I'm hoping this system survives long enough when I upgrade in family/housing departments.

    I assume this is the setup you use - I'd love to hear a bit more on how you do it. Do you actually have 2 completely separate networks created? Do you cross them over at a switch or some point? Do both have wireless access attached to them? I'd love to learn more about this idea - makes a lot of sense but practically seems like it could get complicated.

    Thanks again for all the input.
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