Windows Home Server Build

graphic for the Windows Home Server System Build topicI finally finished building my 12 TB Windows Home Server and migrated the data from my HP Mediasmart home server. The goal here was to replace my existing HP EX470 server with 6 TB of disk (2 of which where external USB drives). I was outgrowing the server and wanted something bigger, faster and better so decided to build it myself to keep costs down.

The Windows Home Server itself doesn’t need a lot of high-end hardware. For my needs I just need lots of disk and gigabit Ethernet. Here’s what I came up with…

For the case I picked the Cooler Master Centurion 5 CAC-T05-UW due to it’s low cost ($50 at the time, $55 now) and 10 drive bays. The case proved to be well built with no sharp edges. I was a little concerned about how well the screw-less design would keep things in place, but everything is nice and secure.

For the motherboard I took the MSI P43 Neo3-F LGA 775 Intel P43 ATX Intel Motherboard. Picking it was easy. I filter motherboards at Egghead that had a lot of on-board SATA ports. When I got to the 8 port models the prices were reasonable. At $85 this was the lowest cost mobo and it had a good reputation. It doesn’t have on-board video but since I only needed video for the install I figured I’d borrow a card. This proved to be a mistake. I later found the system wouldn’t boot without a video card, even after being told to skip all errors. Luckily the spare card I had was cheap so I left it in there.

I took the Intel Celeron E1200 1.6GHz Dual-Core Processor for the CPU. I picked it because it was the lowest cost dual-core CPU at $50. While the WHS demands are small and the single-core CPU was $10 cheaper I went with the dual-core in case I go crazy with add-ins.

The memory is Crucial 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Memory Kit at $21 (at the time, $23 now). I like Crucial and the price was reasonable. The 2 GB should be more than enough for the WHS needs even if I add several add-ins.

I already had a unused external SATA multi-bay that could handle 4 drives, each requiring its own eSATA connection. Rather than use up 4 of the internal SATA ports I bought a NORCO-4618 PCI-X SATA II controller card at $80 to handle the external drives. It was the only reasonably priced controller I could find that had four external ports.

As I mentioned, I had to keep the video card installed so the EVGA GeForce 7200GS 256MB became part of the build at $25.

I installed a Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB Drive as the system drive. It’s faster than the Western Digital Green drives I’ll use for data but still reasonable at $120. It runs slightly warmer than the green drives and is typically about 31°C.

I use the Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green Drives hard drives as the data drives. These days they are down to $100 each with free shipping. I’ll be re-using some drives but bought a four new ones so I could start the data migration and move the other drives as the space freed up. They aren’t speed demons but they’re perfect for a Windows Home Server. They run cool (less than 30°C), consume little power and hold a lot of data. They’re fast enough for streaming video and serving files.

Naturally I needed Windows Home Server w/Power Pack 1 at $99 but currently available for $5 less.

Powering the entire rig is a Antec Earthwatts EA430 430W Power Supply which was $50 at the time but now $70. It’s 80+ rated and nice and quiet. It’s not modular but as it turned out it had plenty of power connectors for all 8 of my internal drives. power supply. I use the Thermaltake Power Supply Calculator to calculate expected power usage. At a maximum 10 internal drives it says I’ll need 313w. I’m more likely to have only 8 drives which would require 276 watts.

I’m using a CyberPower CP1000AVRLCD UPS to protect the Windows Home Server. It provides automatic voltage regulation to stabilize the power and avoids the APC brand premium. I’m not using the software that came with it, I use the Grid Junction add-in instead.. I tend to buy my UPS’s from Amazon because the free shipping (when available) saves a bundle on these heavy items.

I needed some SATA data and power cables and I got those at Monoprice.com. There prices are low and service is good. I’d also need a keyboard, mouse and DVD drive for the install but wouldn’t need them to run the Windows Home Server once I was done.

Putting it all together was fairly straight-forward. This time around I made sure the system drive was the only drive connected during the installation. Other than the fact that there’s a snake-pit of cables in the case I’m happy with the way it came out. So far I haven’t used any of the 5.25” bays. There’s 3 SATA ports available so I’ll eventually use at least three of them. I ended up populating three of the 5.25” bays with additional 1TB drives to max out the available SATA ports and bring the server up to 12 1TB drives. It may not be worth filling the other two bays as I’d need another SATA controller along with additional power connectors.

It powered up find the first time (always a pleasant surprise) and has run fine since. Copying the data over was a bit tedious as I’d copy some files then delete the originals. While the new server has a gigabit connection the old one is 100Mbps so the copying kept it pretty well maxed out. I took several days especially since the copy wasn’t the only thing going on.

I populated the external enclosure with 4 drives from my old server. As space was cleared up I removed the drive and put it in the new server. I wanted to remove the USB connected drives first as those seemed to be slowing the system down (two USB drives on one USB connection). Naturally a lot the files I’d been moving weren’t on those drives so I ran the removal process overnight (one night for each drive) to free them up. I should also point out that I had my backup handy should the new server have melted down after I’d deleted files from the old server. Luckily I didn’t need them.

I had expected a problem re-pointing iTunes and my backup scripts to the new server since it had a different name. But I was pleasantly surprised by OS X and iTunes. Since I kept with the standard share names all I had to do was mount the new shares in place of the old shares. iTunes and everything else just picked up the new server as if nothing had changed. Couldn’t have been easier.

So, the new server hardware has been running for a little over a week and the migration was completed this past weekend. Everything seems fine but only time will tell.

8 thoughts on “Windows Home Server Build”

  1. Good day as you system as been built since February 4 2009, how it the 12 TB windows home server working now as of today 13 Mar 2009 ?

    I am very interested by your journey in that 12 TB Windows Home Server.

    I was looking in the market for a MB that would have the MOBO certify windows server 2003 but I can't find them here in Canada for consumer, it seem that only big corporation and institution could get their hands on them.

    It just that I am worry with that XP drivers mixed with a Windows Server 2003 environment; your tought please.

    Thank you and btw great article.

    Michel

    1. @Michel – Hi Michel, the server is working fine. It's been running constantly since it was built. Only down time was for patches. I mainly use if for streaming and file storage. Streaming is fine and file copies are too. I currently have file duplication enabled for everything since I have the space and no problems there either. Including file duplication, backups, OS, the total disk usage is 9.4TB

  2. Hi – cool rig. I have the HP MediaSmart EX490, with 2 TB drives in each bay which maxes it out unless I start going external, but I think I'd like to build my own with more processing power so I can stream 1080p MKV files to my PS3 using the server, the current server studders running the on-the-fly transcoding software. The HP has the ability to become a Time Capsule for using Mac's built-in time machine, does the rig you built support this also? Also, I noticed the motherboard you picked didn't seem to list RAID support, I admit I'm a little under-versed as to how the OS combines all the drives into one big space and then does file duplication in case one of the HD's fail. Does the board need RAID support or does Windows Home Server just handle all that? I use mine mostly as a repository for TV shows and movie rips and those blu ray rips are memory hogs since I like to keep the quality high and the lossless (DTS-HD Mst or Dolby TrueHD) audio tracks (talking 20-30GB per movie). I have a separate computer hooked to my HDTV via HDMI that pulls from the media server. I also use it for making backups of all the house computers and as a time machine backup for my MBP. Thanks!

    1. @Matt – My server can't do the Mac time capsule thing. I'm not aware of any available add-ins that will do it for a home build (but I haven't looked very hard), I think HP rolled their own and it's closed source. As for RAID, it's not used or really recommended for Windows home server. The motherboard does support RAID according to the specs but I've never tried it. WHS handles that and uses file duplication to duplicate files across physical hard drives. Kind of like mirroring but at the file level so you can have three disks and the files will be spread out. Duplication is also optional and done at the share level but I use it for everything. The one place where RAID would make sense is the system drive since there's no file duplication on the system drive, although I haven't tried that. In my setup if the system drive fails the server is dead.

      Thanks for the comment,

      Ray

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