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786 Posts
Discussion Starter #1

This will be a build log for my Home Server. Named "Penny" after the character on "The Big Bang Theory" (Shes a "server" at the cheesecake factory). It will be primarily used as a storage and media server, but i will likely also setup a VM or 2 on it for testing and experimentation. I had been using an external 4 bay esata enclosure for about 1-2 years but it wasn't ideal as a centralized storage point. I also didn't want to have to fire up my gaming rig to stream movies. Actually within the last week or 2 i have had 2x 3TB Seagate HDD's die on me suddenly and lost all my movies and program installation media, fortunately i have my documents syncd to google drive and skydrive.

I considered many different configurations but finally got it worked out. Below is the parts list. Originally i was going to go with a AMD X4 740 and an A88x board but the 740 disappeared and i was reading reviews that Intel dual core CPU's packed the same punch and lower power usage. So i started checking out Intels dual core CPU's up to the i3-4130. I actually intended to buy that for this as i had ~$180 in best buy gift cards but it turned out they don't directly sell it, and i cant use the gift cards on "marketplace" items. At the time they didnt have any less expensive Haswell CPU's and the i5-4430 was the cheapest. Its a little over powered for my needs but it only ended up costing me like $20. It also allows me better handle VM's and transcoding.

Everything ordered, should have everything by the 12th.
CPU: ................Intel Core i5-4430 3.0GHz Quad-Core Processor *Received
Motherboard.......ASRock Z87E-ITX Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard *Received
Memory.............Kingston Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory *Received
Storage.............Crucial M500 120GB mSATA Solid State Disk *Received
Storage.............2x Western Digital Red 4TB 3.5" 5900RPM Internal Hard Drive *Received
Case.................Fractal Design Node 304 Mini ITX Tower Case *Received
Power Supply.....Rosewill Capstone 450W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply *Received

  • i5-4430 as i couldn't get the i3-4130 using gift cards. While pricier then going AMD, Haswell seemed to offer the best efficiency and performance.
  • ASRock Z87E-ITX for a small board with plenty of features. Wanted msata for OS on SSD and at least 4x sata3
  • RAM it was the cheapest 8GB of DDR3-1600 at the time from a reputable brand
  • SSD using msata on the MB keeps all the sata ports free for pure storage. It should also use less power than HDD's and allow faster boot/load times
  • WD Reds i debated over for a while, was considering 4TB Seagates but after 2 Seagates drives recently died on me i reconsidered. Also ordered a second of these, so 11gb to start
  • Node 304 seemed the best option for my needs, room for 6 drives, plenty of fans and filters for vents. Seems to be well built.
  • PSU wanted low watt high efficiency. Has enough connectors and was well reviewed and cheap.
Also have 2x 3TB Seagate HDD's (replaced via warranty for the 2 that died) but will likely only use 1 in the server for now, will be adding WD Red drives as money permits in the future. 7TB should be enough for me to start.

I'm planning on using Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Ive also considered gong with Ubuntu or Amahi but decided i didn't want my learning curve to be any lower for my only server then it needs to be and i do plan on using some Windows only software. I will likely be going with Storage Spaces over a RAID option to get a combination of redundancy and ease of use and setup. Below is a list of some of the main programs i plan on using.
  • Plex Server
  • AnyDVD HD
  • ffmpeg and/or Handbrake
  • uTorrent (or some alternate client)
I will likely make use of Hyper-V and setup a Windows 7 or 8 VM and probably a Ubuntu VM. I will also setup rdp to the server. Not sure what specific software i may go with but i will want something akin to Lights Out to manage when it turns off/sleeps etc. I am sure ill find other cool utilities and applications along the way.

So within the last 2 weeks ive lost 2 hard drives. Working fine one day and the next day dead. Both are Seagate 3TB HDD's. They were under warranty so i sent them in and have one replacement so far. Not sure if i should blame them or if its another issue. In any case the first one was my backup drive. Had all my movies, installation media, etc. The second drive was in my desktop and was the storage drive containing files and installed programs. Fortunately the files (documents, pics, etc) where all sync'd to cloud storage.

The irony is i have been planning this server for months partly to avoid just such issues. I'd have built it sooner, though maybe not soon enough, but i had to convince my wife to let me build it. Even after loosing 2 drives she still isn't really convinced but gave the go ahead (or as i call it the sigh of approval).

For me the worst part is the lost time, and the time it will take to reacquire my media. Testing, converting, etc. So with the new server i decided to go with WD Red with the hope they may be a little more reliable. I will also be using storage spaces to give some redundancy. Ill likely wait for 4TB Reds to drop in price and start adding them one by one until i replace the 3TB Seagate with one.

Once i have it put together i can use it as a central storage and backup solution, serve media from it, run VM's, download stuff and more without needing to power up my gaming rig. After i get the server up ill need to rebuild (software wise) my gaming rig as well. Ill then put into place a backup strategy so i dont face this kind of downtime again.

Update - May have gotten all the parts today (2/11), if not just waiting on the case which should arrive tomorrow. Also got both my Seagate drives working again. Saw something goofy in my BIOS so i reflashed it and suddenly no more issues. So the server will start with 2x 4TB WD Reds and 1x 3TB Seagate.

Update (2/13) - Case is delayed due to the snow but I have everything else. I used my old Redone case as a test bench and hooked everything up to test the hardware. Once I get the case ill move everything over and install WSE2012

*Coming Soon*
Final Build & Thoughts

786 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

This post will contain all the photos. Ill take pictures of the parts and then take pictures as i assemble things including short comments.

Parts Arrive

2/13 - have everything but the case. Delayed due to snow.

The build went well. The Node 304 is well built and good quality. It wasnt the easiest case to work in, but not the hardest by far. Drive bays are rubber grommeted to reduce vibration and noise. If i had to find something to complain about, it'd be that the rear fan seems to make a slight ticking sound and that they could have tried to devise a method for cable management. I am using the built in fan controller on low and my HDD temps dropped 5c from when i had them sitting about for testing.

I am not thrilled with the stock cpu fan but it does ok, in the future i may go with something quieter. My biggest issue is how it mounts, i have no faith in those plastic snapping pins. I also kind of wish i had gotten a modular PSU but the modular version of mine was $20 more.

All parts received
Everything but the case.


WD Red 4TB

8GB Kingston Blu (the heat spreader on these is pretty cool looking)

Crucial m500 120GB msata (soo tiny, im amazed)

Fractal Design Node 304

Placed Rosewill Capstone 450 in Node 304. Fits well enough no issues.

ASRock Z87E-ITX with i5-4430, stock hsf, 8GB Kingston Blu

3 Empty suspended HDD bays

Drives in and cables ran. No real options for cable management. Kind of wish i got the modular version of the PSU but it was like $20 more. Just placed/ran most if it were the extra space for a GPU is since i wont be using a GPU

Finished view from the back

Finished and in my Entertainment Center. Like the minimalist case design as it fits in nicely with other components.


786 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Testing Hardware

This post will detail testing the hardware prior to implementing server software and setup. I will likely install Windows 7 and run a battery of tests to make sure everything works. Once I'm confident that none of the hardware is faulty ill move on to installing Windows Server and setting it all up on my network

Update 2/13
Decided to install Windows 8 to run the testing from. Figured it was closer to WSE2012 than Win 7. As I didn't have my case yet I have everything sitting in my old Redbone case for testing. Its ugly but it let me install the OS and run some tests. So far its going well, no errors.

Nothing secured in place, just sitting inside

So far I have run Intel XTU to stress the CPU. Ive run memtest86+ for the RAM. Ran Scandisk on all drives and ATTO to bench them. Haven't had any issues so far.
i5-4430 with stock cooler running Intel Extreme Tuning Utility CPU stress test. Temps top out about 75c. Idle seems to be just over 30c. Hoping this is normal for stock cooler.

Crucial m500 120GB msata running ATTO (xfer size .5-8192KB, total set to 512MB). About what I expected, meh write speed and decent read speed

Storage Space (2x 4TB Reds, 1x 3TB Seagate, no redundancy set) running ATTO, same as above but 4.0 start. Not RAID speeds which I didn't expect but not bad for mechanical drives.

786 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Final Build & Thoughts

This post will detail the final build and setup along with any thoughts on the hardware and/or software.

So i got Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials (WSE2012) installed without too much trouble. Any drivers not provided via windows update i used the Windows 8.1 drivers from ASRock. Going into it i knew there was an issue with the Intel I217V driver. I had to make some changes to it to get it to work but it was pretty easy. I also had issues with the bluetooth module and was unable to find any way to get them working (i spent hours trying). Bluetooth would be nice but isnt a deal breaker so i just disabled it in device manager.

Im really impressed with WSE2012 and the connector software was easy to setup. It made me setup a domain but it wasnt problematic for me. It created a new domain account on my main rig, but after connecting my live ID to my domain account (which i was using for my local account) and logged out it merged the accounts for me and allowed me to keep using my live id and pw to login and kept all my settings and stuff intact.

I also got AVG Internet Security Business Edition installed and running. Initially i installed it with firewall and everything, but the firewall was very problematic. Blocked rdp, dashboard, even backups. Got rdp to work but by the time i resolved that i didnt have the patience for the rest. I installed the trial of File Server Edition and used my ISBE key, then elected not to install the additional features. Since then it is running well. scans working, real time protection, etc. Like the interface and it seems light enough on the system.

I started out using Storage Spaces and didnt have any kind of major issues. Setup was easy and so was managing it. There was however 2 major sticking points. First is that the drives only work in that pool on that setup, putting a drive in the pool or taking it out results in needing to wipe the drive. Second, and even worse for me, is that the redundancy is all or nothing. In other words i can set redundancy on an entire pool or not on that pool, but i cannot set this up on a per folder basis. There are some folders that i do not need to duplicate and others i want to ensure survive a drive failure.

I ended up moving to Stablebit DrivePool and Scanner and so far its working great. Integrates into the dashboard and was simple to setup. It also allows me to duplicate only certain folders and determine to which degree (2x,3x,etc). Lastly, its all NTFS so if there is any kind of failure or crash, i can plug the drives into almost any other PC and read the data from the good disks. I can add disks to and remove disks without needing to format them. Disappointed with Storage Spaces but glad there is a relatively cheap alternative that steps up.

Got Plex running and feeds the media out to my phone and google tv without issue. Have tried playback local and on my phone via cell network and it works wonderfully. The CPU can definitely handle it with ease.

Update: 2/22
Got anywhere access working, really like this feature and i also setup my Plex Media server to use a free domain (not the anywhere access one). Its still in the format of mydomain:port/web but its a lot better than using my ip. I added the link to my anywhere access site so i get access to rdp, my files and my movies and tv shows anywhere i go. Pretty awesome so far.

Ill add to and edit as time permits.

786 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, really dying to get my case. Then i can clean everything up. UPS says it was delivered today but i wont be doing any computer stuff tonight. Also installed WSE2012 last night and some interesting speed bumps came up. Ill update the post tomorrow to reflect it and add pictures.

786 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Build has been running solid for a while now. RDP from anywhere, anywhere access is great, and have plex tied to a domain to access outside my network as well. So far serving up ~180 movies and a few TV series/episodes though i will be expanding that collection soon. Also runs backups and lights out addin allows the server to wake on schedule and run backups then go back to sleep. I can remotely wake the server by using the web admin for my router. Trying to find an easier way to Wake on WAN but so far nothing has worked. Very happy and so far only using 1TB of the 10TB pool. Will likely be a while before i need to expand and i have 3 more HDD slots to fill.

The i5 is overkill, i could have went with i3 easily but given the pricing and availability i dont regret the i5. Windows 2012 Essentials is pretty awesome, really happy with it as well.
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