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Ambitious Home Network: Virtualizing WHS 2011

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July 27, 2012 4:17:00 PM

Hello everyone,

Let me lay down some background about me, my equipment, and what I am trying to accomplish.

This will be my second home-built computer. The first one was a gaming rig I built last year which has been running great without any issues whatsoever. I have never used a Server OS. I have about 15 minutes experience with a Virtual Machine. I am only fluent in Microsoft OSs. My current setups are both Windows 7. I am not an expert in computer but I am also not a novice. I consider myself to be somewhat advanced as far as understanding Windows 7.

I want to built a home network that will have 1 Gaming PC, 1 HTPC, 1 XBOX 360 (or possibly a purchased Nettop if the XBOX 360 doesn't fulfill my wants), and then this new build as a Home Server.

Currently, I am confined to my bedroom with my Gaming PC (for gaming, obviously) and my HTPC. I am moving and planning my setup to be something like this: Gaming PC and this new build "Home Server" in a spare room, HTPC in the living room, and XBOX 360 (possibly Nettop) in the Bedroom. Just so you know the XBOX 360 is primarily for watching TV Shows and Movies being streamed from the new build "Home Server". It's possible it will be used for the occasional gaming depending if I can rig it to hook up to a TV in the bedroom and also a TV in the living room. Logistically it's possible since these two rooms share a wall. But I digress.

As for my Gaming PC, I want to leave it purely for gaming and web browsing. My new build will not have games nor be used to browse the internet besides for the obvious like downloading drivers and software.

Now for the new build I was considering building a PC with just Windows Home Server 2011 and room to expand to 8 HDDs over time as I need the space. Currently I have enough data to fill about 2 to 3TB. As I was reading about WHS 2011, it's not a fully functional Desktop OS like Windows 7. And this new build I want to be able to use it to host all my data as well as run desktop programs. I also want to use it as an environment for testing out different software as computers are my hobby. I know I can use Windows Homegroup to share the data with the other PCs in the house and just go with Windows 7 and be done with it. But I also want utilize the features of a Server OS. I want to learn more about Windows Server OSs, how to setup RAID, PC security and protection, and perhaps most importantly, backing up my my years of precious data. With this being stated, I do want to have 1 build to act as a server but have the functionability of a Desktop OS. Also I plan on running this new build nearly 24/7 (like a Home Server obviously).

My budget is around $1200. This does not include any 2 - 3TB HDDs that I plan on adding as the space is needed.

I am looking for people with actual experience using WHS 2011, or Windows 7 to do what I want, and people with experience virtualizing Window Server OSs.

Thank you guys in advance so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I will try to reply to your post as soon as possible.

- J.

TLDR;
Now that you know my life story, here come the questions:
1. Can I build a powerful Windows 7 PC and virtualize WHS 2011?
2. If so, what VM software do you recommend?
3. Are there any more issues with this ideal build I should be aware of?!?
4. Should I ditch the idea of virtualizing WHS 2011 all together?
5. Should I stay with the idea of virtualizing but use a different version of Windows Server OS? Like Windows Server 2008?
6. Should I just use alternative methods and software on Windows 7 to try to mimic the features of WHS 2011?
7. Should I wait for Windows 8 to release? (I read this article http://www.winsupersite.com/article/windows8/replace-wi...)
July 27, 2012 4:24:11 PM

Also, I will add a list of the components I plan on purchasing for this build, once the thread gets going.

And I forgot to add a big factor in this build, a TV Tuner card. I already have a TV Tuner card and plan on using this new build as a PVR. And it's possible that I may purchase a "Game Broadcaster" card to live stream my gameplay to Twitch.tv. But the TV Tuner PVR is a major reason I am building this system.
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July 27, 2012 5:24:01 PM

To reiterate what I want in this new build

System capabilities:
1. Manage and store all my data.
2. Stream photos, music, & movies around the house.
3. Work as a PVR with TV Tuner card.
4. Automatic daily backups of other PCs.
5. Host my iPad software like AirVideo.
6. iTunes for maintaining my iPhones and iPads.
7. Security and maintenance of home network.
8. Environment to test out and sample new software.
9. Remote access from other computers isn't necessary as this system doesn't have to be headless.
- Energy efficiency would be ideal as it will be running nearly 24/7 so long as it's still powerful enough to perform what I want.
- Sound (from fans, etc.) is not an issue because performance and temperatures are more important to me.

Possible future uses and add-ons:
1. Live gamebroadcasting (hardware and software required.)
2. Home security camera system (hardware and software required.)
3. Remote access from secure, personalized URL (WHS 2011 capability.)
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July 27, 2012 5:39:36 PM

First lets address your streaming. You don't need WHS for that. A good NAS can provide that function much easier that WHS. They have the capability for RAID and multi drive configurations. If I were looking to learn more about WHS or servers in general and Window is your comfort zone, Go with VirtualPC free from MS. It can load any MS OS you have, even DOS/Win31 (tried it for kicks). It won't however do Linux or other type OS's. You would need VirtualBox for that, also free.
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July 27, 2012 5:40:59 PM

BTW, Let your HTPC host your TV tuner etc.
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July 27, 2012 5:43:58 PM

Oh and FYI, I use a batch script to backup my data with task scheduler every night at 2 AM.
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July 27, 2012 5:45:54 PM

price_th said:
First lets address your streaming. You don't need WHS for that. A good NAS can provide that function much easier that WHS. They have the capability for RAID and multi drive configurations. If I were looking to learn more about WHS or servers in general and Window is your comfort zone, Go with VirtualPC free from MS. It can load any MS OS you have, even DOS/Win31 (tried it for kicks). It won't however do Linux or other type OS's. You would need VirtualBox for that, also free.


Thank you price_th. Yes I am more comfortable with Microsoft but as I stated I would like to try out/test software so I'm open to using a VM to play around with Ubuntu and Linux OSs just to learn more about navigating and using those type of systems. So I would lean to using a VM that can do more than Microsoft, like you said VirtualBox. Are you familiar with any VM software besides VirtualPC and VirtualBox?
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July 27, 2012 5:49:25 PM

price_th said:
BTW, Let your HTPC host your TV tuner etc.


My HTPC is not capable of taking in the TV Tuner. Otherwise I would consider that. It's an old Dell that has been upgraded and maxed out. I prefer to just leave it as an HTPC, YouTube, and TV Shows directly from their websites, and light web browsing (for the girlfriend). Plus, this new build would be so I can control the TV tuner and my data. Gaming rig for gaming and web browsing, HTPC to stream media, and this new build for everything thing else.
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July 27, 2012 5:51:33 PM

price_th said:
Oh and FYI, I use a batch script to backup my data with task scheduler every night at 2 AM.


That's amazing! :)  I need to learn more about backing up data as I never really have. I am getting older now and my data is accumulating so this is why I have an interest now in a Server-like PC and backing up as to not lose years of information.
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