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Atamido

Need cheap system for Windows Home Server

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I'm looking to build a Windows Home Server to hold media and backups for the wife and I, but I need to do it cheaply. I already have a few drives, but I need case/power supply/motherboard/etc. It's just going to be serving up files, so it doesn't need to be high powered. And it'll be running 24/7 so I don't want a big power user like a P4.

Ideally a cheap Atom based system with lots of SATA ports (and maybe a PATA port), and a case with plenty of cooling and places for drives. I'd also like to place it on the floor of a closet, so possibly something that set so that it pulled air from the bottom and exhausted it out the top.

Has anyone come across anything cheap for this? Like a bigger version of this.

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It doesn't look like any Atom motherboards have more than two SATA ports, so I guess if I used Atom then I'd need an additional PCI SATA card (not PCIe...). Any idea what the performance hit would be for PCI SATA controllers? Or if any of the cheap ones would be reliable enough to consider?

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Any idea what the power consumption on one of those motherboards/CPU would be? I'm hoping to idle at less than 30W + drives. I'd like my power supply to be 150W or less (with high efficiency), which should be enough to power the CPU and 5-6 drives (drives should be <10W each).

I did find this, although it costs twice as much as I want to spend, and I don't actually need the drives to be hot swappable.

http://e-itx.com/via-nsd-7800.html

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That power consumption includes a Velociraptor drive and PCIe graphics card. I assume that an onboard graphics chip would use less power than the nVidia add on card they use. I can't seem to find a good comparison of how much of a difference it would make. I'd guess a good 10W less between the drive and the video card, so maybe 50W + drives. An Intel board/CPU might get a little lower, but would also cost more.

30W might be a pipe dream for a non-Atom system, although I am hesitant to hang a bunch of drives off the PCI bus.

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Here is what I'm thinking for the parts:

  1. Chenbro SR20169 ($50) (Holds 11 HDD, no power supply)
  2. Intel® Celeron E3200 ($53) (45nm, SpeedStep, 2Xcore, 1M Cache, 2.40 GHz, 800 MHz FSB)
  3. Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L ($50) (Onboard video, 1x ATA, 4x SATA, 1x PCIe16, 1x PCIe1, 2x DDR2 slots)
  4. Crucial 1x 2GB ($50) (240-pin DIMM, DDR2-800, PC2-6400)
  5. Power supply of some sort. Efficient, <200W, 80%+ efficient, etc. (<$50?)
  6. Fans, cables, etc ($20)

I'm still hoping someone comments on what case to use. This one looks fine, but I'd love to hear from real users.

The CPU seems okay. I don't believe I will need a lot of power for anything. It is rated for 65W TDP, but I it's made on a 45nm process, so I think I'll be able to underclock it a bit to keep the max power much lower. I'm still considering the Atom, but this Celeron should be quite a bit more powerful so I'm hoping it's a better choice.

There don't seem to be many options for motherboards with onboard video. My gut tells me that onboard video is going to use a lot less power than a separate card, but I wish I could confirm that. This board only has two DIMM slots, but I don't think I'll need more than 2GB total. It also only has 4 SATA ports, but I can hopefully not use too much power with a PCIe controller card. It does have an ATA connector, so I can use at least one ATA drive.

1x 2GB DIMM makes sense. I can always upgrade to 4GB later if I need to. On the other hand, I could save a bit of money by only getting 1GB now. Hmmmm...

I'm having a really hard time finding a low power and efficient power supply. The best I've been able to do is the Seasonic SS-300ET v2.31 ($40) which is 300W, but 80+ Bronze certified. It is OEM and doesn't come with a warranty, but their Seasonic S12II Bronze is 330W and $60.

I assume the case comes without fans. And I suspect whatever power supply I get will need extender cables to reach drives at the bottom, and possibly adapter for SATA power.

Edited by Atamido

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For Windows Home Server, 2 GB seems a reasonable minimum. Linux would be another matter, but any current version of Windows benefits hugely from 2 GB vs. 1 GB.

PSU - I don't think it's worth looking hard for a good, efficient <300W PSU. There are a couple of DC-DC models like the PicoPSU, but you don't save much, and you hardly get any HDD connectors, and you need a power brick, and it doesn't work out any cheaper. Going off SPCR's recommendations, the Nexus Value 430 might be your best bet, but at ~$80, it's twice the cost of that Seasonic 300W unit you found. Noise isn't likely to be an issue at the loads you expect, but with half a dozen hard drives, it's still likely to be running around the 100W mark under load.

Yes, you're likely to need SATA power adapters. But don't buy any until you're sure you won't get enough bundled with the other parts you're buying.

Integrated graphics are definitely less power hungry than discrete graphics. Just look at the (lack of) cooling that motherboards with integrated graphics require - most are passive, with tiny heatsinks.

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That power consumption includes a Velociraptor drive and PCIe graphics card. I assume that an onboard graphics chip would use less power than the nVidia add on card they use. I can't seem to find a good comparison of how much of a difference it would make. I'd guess a good 10W less between the drive and the video card, so maybe 50W + drives. An Intel board/CPU might get a little lower, but would also cost more.

30W might be a pipe dream for a non-Atom system, although I am hesitant to hang a bunch of drives off the PCI bus.

A velociraptor uses about 5w idle, don't know about the 9400 GT graphics card. I know my 8600 GT uses just under 30w idle.

30W is quite possible for a non-atom system, especially if you go for low-power/laptop components. Taking laptops for example, my old one had a 90nm Athlon64 in it, rated at 35w TDP, and used about 16w idle for the whole system, inc. screen, hard drive, and bluetooth & wifi. My new laptop with an Intel PM45/ICH9 + 45nm Penryn uses about 7-10w idle for the whole system, though without the screen.

Here is what I'm thinking for the parts:

[snip]

The CPU seems okay. I don't believe I will need a lot of power for anything. It is rated for 65W TDP, but I it's made on a 45nm process, so I think I'll be able to underclock it a bit to keep the max power much lower.

Laptop components aside, I find AMD platforms are more energy efficient and use less power. A 35w Athlon64 X2 + a lesser chipset should stay well under 30-40w idle. For comparison, a system with a 65w A64 x2 with power saving features disabled and an NForce 5 SLI chipset uses about 70-80w idle.

There don't seem to be many options for motherboards with onboard video. My gut tells me that onboard video is going to use a lot less power than a separate card, but I wish I could confirm that.

There are plenty, especially lower end boards which inherently use less power. However you don't need to get onboard video. While recent add-on cards do use considerable power (>10w idle for a 7300GT, 30w for an 8600GT), you can just get an old PCI card or similar. I recently bought an ATI Rage XL (circa 2000) for my fileserver when I realised the BIOS was too dumb to boot without a graphics card. It uses around one watt of power, which is 1/8th of what my SATA cards use. I wouldn't put too much weight on getting a motherboard with onboard video.

1x 2GB DIMM makes sense. I can always upgrade to 4GB later if I need to. On the other hand, I could save a bit of money by only getting 1GB now. Hmmmm...

I second everyone who've recommended 2GB. It'll also save a couple watts of power if you're lucky.

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I ended up getting most of the previously mentioned list. I did change the motherboard to the Intel DG43NB as it has a newer chipset and 6 SATA ports. Unfortunately that also added another $40. I went with the cheaper Seasonic SS-300ET power supply to compensate. Booted into Windows Home Server with a single Hitachi Deskstar HD32000 (2TB SATA) attached, the system idles at 46W (45W once the video turns off). That's less than ideal for me, but still not too bad.

I used CPUID CPU-Z to confirm that the CPU clock speed was dropping in half while the system idled. Unfortunately the BIOS on this board didn't offer any way to just underclock the CPU. I've also turned off the onboard Firewire and Sound in the BIOS. There is a VGA and a DVI port on the back, and the device manager lists two Intel G45/G43 Express display adapters, and I'm not sure if that is normal or an extra source of power consumption.

I have to get some fans for the case, and I have 3 more drives I'll be hooking up right away, so I'm still not sure what the normal power consumption will be. I ordered the Chenbro case, but a friend just gave me an old tower case he had sitting in his garage, so I'm going to return the Chenbro and buy some case fans for this old behemoth (which has already sliced one of my fingers open).

One interesting thing was there didn't appear to be a way to install the SATA controller drivers for WHS. The install starts using the Vista PE, which then copies all of the files to the harddrive, reboots, and then starts the 2003 install. For some reason I couldn't select F6 at that point, although perhaps it just didn't like the USB keyboards I tried? In the end I set the SATA controller to emulate IDE in the BIOS, installed, and then used a guide off the internet to change to using native AHCI.

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All put together with six hard drives, the system consumes about 78W at idle, and up to about 100W while moving files around. I have a 250GB drive in there that is rated for 10W at idle, so I could certainly pull that out to drop the power if I decide I need to.

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