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    Since last fall I had been thinking of building a Hyper-V Server Home Lab to teach myself about various operating systems & software packages and hopefully learn how they interacted. I wanted to build something that had growth potential to power anything I tried to throw at it over the next 3 to 5 years. Many people in the forums influenced me as I started drawing up my plans and refining them over time.


    Parts List


    Last fall I made up an initial parts list that I reviewed and revised on a regular basis. When I thought I had my general design down I began collecting parts as they would go on sale. The main parts that went into the build are as follows:


    Main List

    Miscellaneous Parts

    Other items I used



    The Lian-Li Lancool First Knight Series PC-K9WX (“K9WX”) is THE nicest case I have ever worked with to date. It is very well built and a pleasure to work with.  I picked the K9WX because it had features and available hard drive positions that I thought would fit well in my plans for a home virtual lab.




    The K9WX with protective film over the case window






    The K9WX with one side removed






    The K9WX with both sides removed and the X650 placed in position to be secured to the K9WX






    The 32GB G.Skill RAM installed onto the Z77X-UD5H




    On the back of the Z77X-UD5H notice the covers on the video ports. This is something I appreciate seeing after some video problems I experienced on my first Z68MX-UD2H-B3 HTPC build. The problem disappeared when I blew some compressed air across the back ports of the motherboard.




    The i7-3770 has been installed and both the CPU and the heat sink are prepped and ready to mount.




    I followed Arctic Silver’s guidelines completely and removed the factory paste from the stock heat sin that came with the i7-3770. I cleaned and purified the CPU and heat sink then tinted both before finally applying a thin line of thermal paste to the CPU and attaching the heat sink. If you look closely you can see a slight discoloration on the CPU and the heat sink from the tinting. The line of thermal paste is also visible on the CPU.




    RAM, CPU and heat sink installed. After a final visual check this is ready to meet the K9WX






    Z77X-UD5H installed






    Installing Gigabytes 3.5 inch USB 3.0 dual ports into a 5.25 to 3.5 inch bay convertor.






    The Gigabyte USB 3.0 dual ports installed. Another 2 USB 3.0 ports are under the little door on top of the case






    The anti-shock mounts on the Crucial SSD before installation






    The Crucial SSD mounted onto the Hard Drive cage in the K9WX. The Corsair is mounted onto the 2nd Hard Drive cage that is outside the K9WX. Both Hard Drive cages can be easily removed with just a few thumb screws.  3.5" drives can be installed without removing a Hard Drive cage but if you plan to install any 2.5" drives you will need to remove a Hard Drive cage.




    Each Hard Drive cage can hold 2 2.5” HD’s or SSD’s and 3 3.5” HD’s. The K9WX also has 3 5.25” drive bays which would give me room for an additional 3.5” drive or two plus the optical drive and Gigabytes USB 3.0 dual ports.




    The K9WX with both SSD’s and the WD Black drive installed.


    You may notice numbered tags near the ends of the SATA cables – the numbers correspond to the SATA Port number the cables are plugged into.






    While not necessary, the window in the K9WX is very nice!




    Initially, I will start up the machine with just the 3 drives installed until the machine has been burned in. Then I will install the additional Seagate data drives and the WD backup drive. In a later report I’ll post performance numbers on those drives in the Z77X-UD5H.




    Installing the OS




    Pictures don’t do it justice. The Gigabyte 3D BIOS interface is very easy to work with in my opinion. One of the first things I did was to update my BIOS from F4 to the current F7.




    I installed Windows Server 2008-R2 from a DVD. The installation went very smoothly.




    Installing the Drivers


    Installing the drivers was a different story.


    The Gigabyte Drivers Disk would not auto-load under 2008-R2 so I began to load the drivers individually from the disk but changed my mind over to downloads from Gigabytes website to be sure that I had the newest drivers.

    • The first driver I installed was the Atheros LAN driver 8/24/2011 – (for my 1st NIC on the Motherboard – an Atheros AR8151) – once this loaded I was able to update 2008-R2.

    Next I installed in fairly rapid succession:

    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 3/6/2012 – (for disk acceleration of my VHD drive)
    • Intel management Engine Interface 3/21/2012
    • Intel INF installation 3/6/2012
    • Intel VGA Driver 3/6/2012
    • Realtek Audio Driver 3/6/2012

    I then attempted to load the Intel LAN Driver 16.5 11/14/2011 which is the driver for the Intel 82579V 2nd NIC on the Motherboard.


    With the 82579V I got a failed installation that told me: “Cannot install drivers. No Intel® Adapters are present in this computer.”


    That was a problem for me since I was planning to use the 2nd NIC on the Motherboard for my Hyper-V machines.


    I did a search of Intel’s Communities and found two thread’s on the Intel 82579V here and here. An explanation and simple solution to the problem was provided by “Simon Wright” on the 2nd page of the 2nd tread here. A similar solution is provided by Renethx here for installing drivers for the Intel 82579V in WHS 2011 – apparently this is a problem with any motherboard with a 82579V and it applies to all Windows Server platforms.


    Using the methods that I outlined in the Forums here, I was able to load the Intel LAN Driver.


    My next issue arose when I tried to install the Intel USB 3.0 drivers using the Intel installer. I got an error message saying “This Computer Does Not Meet The Minimum Requirements For Installing The Software”. I did find that it is possible to manually install the drivers following Microsoft’s step 2 instructions here.


    Following that I checked my BIOS to be sure virtualization was turned on and that RAID was turned on for the Intel SATA ports so that I could enable ISR (“Intel Smart Response”).




    My first Hyper-V machine on my Z77 is actually a machine I moved over from my MicroServer that is running Server 2012 Hyper-V with 3 VM’s.






    OS drive




    Running on the Marvel GSATA III Port 6




    VHD drive with Caching




    Using the default Enhanced Mode the Read speeds are fantastic for the VHD WD20FAEX drive with the Corsair Force 3 SSD. The Corsair is attached to SATA III Port 0 and the WD20FAEX is attached to SATA III Port 1.






    WOW. Using the Maximized Mode the Read AND Write speeds are fantastic for the VHD which is the WD20FAEX drive with the Corsair Force 3 SSD using Intel’s Smart Response. The Corsair is attached to SATA III Port 0 and the WD20FAEX is attached to SATA III Port 1.




    Before posting this report I decided to again check the performance of the VHD that made up of Intel’s Smart Response with a WD20FAEX with the Corsair Force 3.




    The performance is still amazing and even a little bit better than before (about a week ago).






    There’s a lot of testing I still need to do but I can conclude:


    I really like the K9WX with space in the hard drive cages for 6 3.5” drives and 4 2.5” drives plus the 3 5.25” drive bays. The quality and layout of the K9WX is excellent and I expect it to last me many years to come.


    The Z77X-UD5H with the i7-3770 is a great board with the only glitch that I encountered, and it’s a big glitch, is the lack of official drivers and support from Gigabyte for any OS other than Windows 7. Hopefully that will change in the future – be sure to follow the discussion in the Forums. The driver issue seems to be common to all Z77’s and not just this board in particular.


    The performance of this machine exceeds my expectations in all areas but especially with the ISR speeding up my VHD.




    I’d like to thank everyone in the Home Server Show forums for their many contributions and comments. The person I would most credit for getting me thinking about the benefits of SSD Caching in Hyper-V is TimeKills. If you haven’t read his article on the subject I’d highly recommend it.


    User Feedback

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    Thanks John! Doesn't the tape on the end of the SATA cables with numbers (made with a Sharpie) count? Actually, there's enough space on the floor of the case between the X650 and the HD Cages to put a couple of HD's with either duct tape or cable ties -- could even set one on top of the X650 (if you don't mind a "little" heat) -- would take some work to make it look pretty through the window though :) John
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