Jack of all trades Core i3 Windows Home Server Build

• May 9, 2010

by: Michael Martis(no-control in the homeservershow.com forums)

Jack of all trades…Master of one?

It’s upgrade time again. My trusty HP MSS EX470 is starting to get a bit long in the tooth and having recently sold my Norco 4220 monster build (it’s in the forums) test box. I embarked on a mission to build a sensible, no nonsense home server that would be a jack of all trades, something real world both in scope and budget.

I needed this to be bigger in every way than most OEM solutions and powerful enough to run multiple virtualized machines. Yet retain as many of the positives of the compact WHS builds we’ve seen, low power consumption, small and easy on the eyes, comparatively inexpensive.

Major Points this build I wanted to accomplish:

  • Robust CPU and plenty of RAM
  • 64 bit
  • Low power consumption
  • Hold at least 10 storage drives
  • VM capable
  • Flexible configuration
  • Fairly compact (no full towers or racks)

All this and I didn’t want to spend a dime over $650, granted this doesn’t include an operating system or storage pool drives. Even so, it’s still within sight of retail for an OEM and well below a full blown server.

My shopping list with links and my actual cost analysis are below.

THE BUILD –

After a lot of analysis and research I settled upon an Intel Core i3-530 (the Athlon II X2 was a close second). It’s my opinion the i3 is the best bang for the buck at the moment.

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(Click any image for a larger view)

When paired with a board such as this H55M-UD2H with 2 PCIe x16 slots. The possibilities are endless.

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While 4gb might be a bit over kill for a normal WHS v1 build, I planning on using VM so 4gb is pretty low end.

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The Heat Sink I’m using is CoolerMaster’s Hyper 212+ which has garnered quite a decent following given its low price and high performance.

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While the Stock i3 HSF would be just fine, for my specific application I needed something a bit quieter and with better heat dissipating qualities.

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Intel core i3-530 / Gigabyte H55M-UD2H / 2x 2gb OCZ Platinum DDR3 10666 / CoolerMaster Hyper 212+

Corsair makes really great power supplies and their bottom level unit should provide plenty of power with 400 watts. I really didn’t see any reason to invest in anything with higher output.

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Corsair 400w PSU

For the system drives I have opted to run a single 2.5” WD 320gb 5400 rpm drive Cool quiet and low power with enough storage.

Western Digital 2.5” 320gbHDD

The SuperMicro SASLP-MV8 will handle the additional drive controller duties. When the time comes, I can add a second card for an additional 8 drives per card. This item is somewhat optional. Right off the bat the motherboard supports 5 SATA ports (and a single IDE channel for 2 more PATA). So this cost could actually be avoided until you actually needed the extra drive space. **Unfortunately this is on backorder and didn’t receive it before I needed to get this system up and running.

By now you’re probably wondering what I’m going to stuff all of this gear into. It was an exhaustive search to find something the fit the bill. I had almost considered raising the budget to get and acceptable case when I stumbled across this gem for $75! The Xion AXP600.

The list of features is ridiculous for this price point.

  • 2x 5.25” bays
  • 1x 3.5” bay
  • 4x hot-swap tray loading sata bays
  • 4x internal rail style 3.5” bays
  • 2x 120mm fans with room for another 6
  • Room behind mobo tray for cable routing
  • Clean lines without being too over the top
  • Mid tower @ 18”x17”x8”
  • 2 USB and 1 eSATA ports up front
  • $75!

I took the gamble and while the case isn’t a Lian Li or Silverstone for $75 it’s quite impressive. There’s quite a bit of plastic but its all well done and doesn’t have an overly cheap feel to it. It has 9 HDD points as well as the option to use either adapters for the 5.25” bays or possibly a 3 in 2 Cage, making it a possible total of up to 12 drives.

Xion AXP600-001BK

The 4 hot-swap bays are actually decent design and construction.

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The internal bays use these nifty rail slides with rubber mounts.

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There’s room for 6 additional fans. I may buy a few more and add filters to help with the dust.

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The boy gamer LED fans can be easily disabled or replaced if it isn’t your thing.

The front hidden drive doors are a nice touch; you can still fit a drive cage behind them if you do not want to use an optical drive.

Here are a few interior shots with some drives in different positions.

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All Powered up and ready for some abuse.

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THE COST –

  • CPU – $125
  • Motherboard – $100
  • Memory – $105
  • PSU – $50
  • System HDD – $53
  • Case – $70
  • HSF – $30 (optional)
  • SAS/SATA Controller – $105
  • 2x Breakout cables – $24 ($12 ea)

Total = $662 + Tax and shipping.

While it would appear I blew the budget a bit. I will say that Amazon has a lot of these same items for less than the Newegg links provided. I also bought the CPU/mobo/RAM secondhand. My actual cost was only $596 for everything listed above.

THE INSTALL –

I chose to use this server as a Virtual Machine as I wanted to be able to have a box that I could run several VMs for testing. I’m currently running Hyper-V baremetal with 5 VM’s (not all at once!).

  1. WHSv1 Test VM – Used for testing and breaking
  2. WHS Vail Test VM – Used for exploring what Vail has to offer
  3. Windows 7 torrent/test VM – Used for downloading torrents and for installing various software Also for education for my MCSE
  4. Server 2008 R2 Test VM – Used for setting up, installations, and troubleshooting for my MCSE studies
  5. Exchange server 2010 Test VM – again for education

Once Vail goes RTM I’ll probably dump everything and move this as my production WHS. I hope you found this entertaining and informative, and maybe just a bit inspirational…..NOW GO BUILD!

Guest Post by:

Michael Martis(no-control in the homeservershow.com forums)

Architectural Designer

I own an A/E firm but since the market is so bad I’m taking all of my PC cert exams to have A+/MCSE/CCNA from there either startup my own pc business or find a job.

I’ve been playing with computers ever since my parents bought the family an Apple IIe, never though much of computers until I was off a college and discovered my 1st LAN party. From there I’ve slowly developed into a Hardware nerd. I was big into the case mod scene, you know before you could buy a windowed case. I love building different systems and seeing how they perform. Usually I sell off what I build, to help fund the next project. Have used WHS since Beta. Bought an EX470 to get my feet wet and upon arrival I modified it immediately.

My other big passion is Racing. I love to race cars. We have a race team and an aerodynamics fabrication company which deals directly with high end race parts/fabrication.

My wife likes to point out I have an affinity for “too much is just enough”.

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Category: BYOB Hardware, User Builds

Comments (7)

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  1. pcdoc says:

    Nice build. I like the case and it turned out excellent. Great Job on this.

  2. diehard says:

    Good Stuff.

  3. no-control says:

    Thanks. Now that it has been running for a few days I have some further commentary on the case.

    – Fans are actually pretty quiet and move enough air.
    – The Hot Swap Cage doesn’t have any drive activity or power LEDs so a bit annoying if you’re used to that.
    – I was able to fit an IcyDock 3 in 2 into the top 2 5.25″ bays and close the front panel without issue.
    – Hyper-V requires some headbangs against the wall to get running. Thankfully wodysweb’s install guide saved me from teaching the kids any new expletives.

  4. Jcflyer says:

    I have been playing with a Hyper-V core system with multiple Virtual machines. Running Hyper-V with a WHS full time seems like a lot of complications, and overhead. I am concerned with System failure (Hyper-v or whs) you have complicated the task of getting your data off a virtual drive on a physical hard drive. I would think in addition to retrieval complication, the reliability of you data could be compromised. I am curious about your thoughts, experiences, and reasoning for using Hyper-V and the above issues?

  5. What exactly is the meaning of "Jack of all trades" here?

  6. JMC says:

    I've been so busy dealing with large manufacturing projects that I forgot how fun playing with a home system can be.

  7. Mike says:

    Your are lucky that you have completed your CCNA course. Did you give any CCNA test online to help a good confident before your final exams? CCNA online courses are offering the best way to finish the course with good marks too

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