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First WHS Build


phrozen087
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Ok, so I have been listening to the podcast for a while and have really been kinda on edge about building this server. I have been slowly working toward this for longer then I care to imagine and on the podcast they suggested posting up your newegg stuff and seeing what people thought, so I figured I'd give it a try as I have never even actually installed a copy of WHS in any version ever. So here goes my first post!

 

First, I have a couple of core things I am trying to accomplish:

1) Low power build

2) I want all of my storage drives on one computer. The drive pooling looks appealing, as I wouldn't mind not having to deal with drive balancing manually. I also am very interested in the duplication factor of the drive pool.

3) I would like to have all my PCs backed up easily and securely. While I like ACRONIS, its a real pain running it every month from a USB boot.

4) I would like remote access to my files, which is why I think a server might be a good way to go.

5*) I'm not positive on this point, but I wouldn't mind maybe being able to watch a video directly off the server on the TV, as in my apartment I'm actually going to use the tv as the monitor for the server anyway. This is the lowest priority though.

6) I'm trying not to completely break the bank on the build. I'm still in college working on my engineering degree (electrical), and while I've set aside money, specifically for this for a while, a really expensive RAID system is kinda out of the question for me.

 

What I currently have:

I have 2 mediasonic 4-bay enclosures. The boxes are USB 3.0/eSata so they work ok, but really they aren't anything more then just really massive external drives. Each box has 3 2TB drives in it and 1 1TB drive. The boxes are exact duplicates of one another from the hardware to the files on them. So when I turn a box on, 4 hard discs show up in windows. With both on, plus my internal and internal slave drive there are 10 discs in My Computer, which is really a bit unwieldy and while everything is named, sometimes drive letters will switch, etc, which can make backups really troublesome.

 

I have been using Allway Sync to mirror the boxes every 1-2 days so I always have a pretty good backup. This is pretty time consuming and sometimes I forget to do it. Also the drive letter thing can become a problem. I would love if the data could just back up correctly and be mirrored on its own. This would really reduce my stress level. This is why I opted to try and just simply build a WHS that could handle all this for me, as because of the amount of drives, number of files, etc, its just a lot of work to try and keep everything secure and backed up on its own. So basically I already have 14TB of hard drives for the server itself. I also have a 320GB internal SATA that I was planning on using to install the OS.

- 9 SATA Hard Discs (14TB storage - x8, 320GB for OS - x1)

 

EDIT: Just to clarify all of the discs are WD Green Drives. Since they basically act as bulk storage/media streaming I never needed them to be all that fast. Also I have had good luck with my drives from WD so thats why I just kept buying those. On my last check there were no problems with any of them, so I hope to just migrate the data over. Also, because of a recent upgrade the total storage is only about 30% full, so I should safely be able to get a copy to some drives before adding/wiping others. I've already thought of a way to do this so it shouldn't be to big an issue assuming I don't have to wipe all the drives (which I really couldn't do).

 

 

Here is what I have been looking at doing for this build:

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Case:

Fractal Design Define R3 Black ATX Mid Tower Silent PC Computer Case (Newegg)

Power Supply: (I chose this because its 80 bronze efficiency and it has 9 true SATA power cables)

XFX Core Edition PRO550W (P1-550S-XXB9) 550W (Newegg)

 

Internals:

MOBO/CPU:

ASUS E35M1-M PRO Fusion AMD E-350 APU (Newegg)

RAM:

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) (Newegg)

Controller Cards: (I was looking at getting 2 of these to give me 8 more SATA II ports)

Koutech IO-PSA420 32-bit PCI SATA II (3.0Gb/s) (Newegg)

 

Internals:

DVD Drive: (I have a MOLEX->SATA power converter already for this)

LITE-ON DVD Burner - Bulk 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW (Newegg)

Cables: (I'd be getting 10 of these)

Rosewill 18" Serial ATA Black Flat (Newegg)

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For reference, with shipping my current build of hardware I need is aroudn $550.00. I would like to stay somewhat in this range.

 

So that plus the 9 hard discs is what I was looking at for the build. I figured the case would be non-discrete and can sit next to my battery backup and PC in my living room (the battery backup is large enough to be connected to both my main PC and the server and its a PFC compatible battery backup so it should be fine with this power supply).

 

Operating System

Here is one area I am really lost on. I kindof liked WHS 2011, but the no Drive Extender is a bit of a downer for me. I had considered getting a copy and installing the StableBit drive extender software, but wasn't sure how people felt about this for such a large drive pool with this many drives. Most builds I have seen only have 2-4 drives. I have 9 total which has been making me a bit uneasy about the software selection. Also I wasn't sure if anyone had messed with either of the SATA cards. By all accounts, and reading the documentation, they look to be compatible with WHS, but it isn't specifically listed.

 

Also just to clarify, for the data I only ever do mirror backups. I don't need versioned backups or anything as if I make a change to one of my media storage drives it is always a permanent change. So I like to try and think of them more as a giant redundant Data Locker then a versioning style system.

 

Any ideas on the OS/Software would be a huge help to me. Also if anyone has any comments on the actual hardware or possible replacements/suggestions for some of the items I would love to hear them. I have spent so many hours trying to perfect this build I could scream and hearing some outside comments/advise/possible alternatives would really be great.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

Your hardware selection is good and will certainly do what you want. I will however jump on my soapbox here for a bit and really suggest you rethink your strategy on using a drive extender product for that many drives. Since RAID cards are only about $90+, and considering we do not have pricing on any of the extender products, I think you will regret you decision going that way. Here is my rationale. First off, set the pricing of the product aside, the pricing of the product and the "cost" are different. Specifically, If I use a drive extender, I can only get RAID 0 or 1. Which means I have to choose between protection or storage space effectively forcing me to have more drives than a comparable RAID 5 setup. For example, using you 8 drive for storage setup, if I duplicated all the folders or based on the add in, created a "protect drive", I would only get half of that storage or 8T. Using the same 8 drives under RAID 5 I would get 14T. If I split it up the way I did on mine you could mix and match to suit and still have more storage. RAID 5 looses one drive for parity vs duplication or mirroring which looses 50%. Secondly, with a low power/performance CPU, your performance in a software only raid product will be horrible. Remember that these products (and yes I have tested them) do everything in the system memory and manage the data for you determining where and how to duplicated or stored, sort of like an interpreter. To manage an array that big on that CPU will not be the best of the combinations. Set in the next variables such as AV, transcoding, mymovies, etc., and other functionality you add in and no one knows this point what will happen to these drive extenders. To the best of my knowledge they have yet to be tested with AV or other background processes so data integrity could be an issue. Take also into consdieratoin chaning motherboards etc and have other issues. As I could on forever with this let me just say that you should really think this through. If you think that RAID is to expensive than look again as it will actually be cheaper in the long run when you add drive storage. With that many drives, performance will also be key. My test on drive extenders show that they where about 50-90% slower than their raid counterpart. Assuming that they have improved by now, I would be shocked if it was less than a 30% difference in performance. Anyway good luck with your system and keep us posted either way you go.

Edited by pcdoc
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WHS2011 can be purchased for as little as $50 but like you said, no DE. If you don't want the hassle of organizing which folders go on which drives, I would install WHS v1. Looks like you are already duplicating to your 2nd enclosure, so WHSv1 might be best for you.

 

If your server is quiet enough for you, you could install XBMC for Windows and have your server next to your TV. I've tried it and it works. You might have to tweak the display. If you ever need to access the server, then you can do that from an other PC or laptop.

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WHS2011 can be purchased for as little as $50 but like you said, no DE. If you don't want the hassle of organizing which folders go on which drives, I would install WHS v1. Looks like you are already duplicating to your 2nd enclosure, so WHSv1 might be best for you.

 

If your server is quiet enough for you, you could install XBMC for Windows and have your server next to your TV. I've tried it and it works. You might have to tweak the display. If you ever need to access the server, then you can do that from an other PC or laptop.

 

Thanks for the reply. What you said actually made me think of a question I had before. If I went with WHS v1 and already have duplication on the drives, could I simply connect them into a drive pool as they are and the data would just work with duplication? I was mostly under the impression I would have to wipe some drives, add them to the pool, copy data over then wipe the other drives and eventually add them to the pool as well. While DE seems like a really cool concept, in all my research I haven't been able to find a whole lot about how it handles this type of thing.

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I'm a little confused by the whole "drive letters jumping aroung" thing. Why are they doing that? Which OS are you using? Drive letters should not change once assigned in Disk Manager.

 

I can disconnect a non-pooled drive from my WHSv1, for example, and reconnect it later and it gets the same letter that I assigned to it. This is how I do my offsite backups. 2 sets of drives are plugged into, and removed from, an external drive dock. They always get the same letters. I then have a scheduled RoboCopy task that updates the external drives with new & changed files from the server.

 

Assuming you can get this drive letter weirdness sorted out, you could use the same technique I use to automate your backups. In fact, you could have the backups run every day, which is what I do.

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I'm a little confused by the whole "drive letters jumping aroung" thing. Why are they doing that? Which OS are you using? Drive letters should not change once assigned in Disk Manager.

 

I can disconnect a non-pooled drive from my WHSv1, for example, and reconnect it later and it gets the same letter that I assigned to it. This is how I do my offsite backups. 2 sets of drives are plugged into, and removed from, an external drive dock. They always get the same letters. I then have a scheduled RoboCopy task that updates the external drives with new & changed files from the server.

 

Assuming you can get this drive letter weirdness sorted out, you could use the same technique I use to automate your backups. In fact, you could have the backups run every day, which is what I do.

 

I am using Windows 7 Ultimate. Like here is an example: I have drives c: through m: mapped on my desktop to all the drives. Because the external bays (4 drives each) are USB powered they turn off when my pc goes shuts down and I have to manually turn them back on. (Auto-starting the enclosures causes problems since my mobo is a bit older and it can't handle having 10 drives connected at boot). So at a standard time i generally only have c through f connected and then g through m are loaded when the usb's are connected and powered on. If I plug any flash drive, portable HDD, phone, etc in Windows always automatically gives it the first drive letter. Then lets say I needed a file on an external, so I powered a bay on. It would rechange that drive letter to a different free one. I think this is mostly because my hard drives are all technical just big external drives. This is also part of the reason I would like to get all of my storage pushed into a nice single server build.

 

Like I mentioned, it doesn't always happen but if I was programming my phone and needed to connect it real quick then enabled a drive without disconnecting another first it occurs. My main problem is that I have so many devices/enclosures that I don't actually have enough letters in the alphabet for everything when the disc drives/card readers/etc are all included :( This leads me to the fact that I need a computer simply for the drives alone.

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I am using Windows 7 Ultimate. Like here is an example: I have drives c: through m: mapped on my desktop to all the drives. Because the external bays (4 drives each) are USB powered they turn off when my pc goes shuts down and I have to manually turn them back on. (Auto-starting the enclosures causes problems since my mobo is a bit older and it can't handle having 10 drives connected at boot). So at a standard time i generally only have c through f connected and then g through m are loaded when the usb's are connected and powered on. If I plug any flash drive, portable HDD, phone, etc in Windows always automatically gives it the first drive letter. Then lets say I needed a file on an external, so I powered a bay on. It would rechange that drive letter to a different free one. I think this is mostly because my hard drives are all technical just big external drives. This is also part of the reason I would like to get all of my storage pushed into a nice single server build.

 

Like I mentioned, it doesn't always happen but if I was programming my phone and needed to connect it real quick then enabled a drive without disconnecting another first it occurs. My main problem is that I have so many devices/enclosures that I don't actually have enough letters in the alphabet for everything when the disc drives/card readers/etc are all included :( This leads me to the fact that I need a computer simply for the drives alone.

hmmmm

 

question 1: what do you mean by the drives are 'mapped'?

 

question 2: did you use Disk Manager to assign drive letters to the partitions on the USB drives?

 

question 3: do all the drives in the enclosures show up individually or do you have them RAIDed in some way? It sounds like they're separate. If so, would you consider RAIDing them to free up drive letters?

 

I'm wondering if assigning drive letters to partitions could fix your issue.

 

Here's what I just tried.

 

1. powered up a USB3 drive dock on my win7x64 box. The drive in the dock got assigned drive E.

 

2. opened Disk Manager and manually set the drive's partition to I:

 

3. ejected the drive using the tray icon

 

4. powered the dock off and back on. The drive came back as I:

 

5. ejected the drive again & powered down the dock.

 

6. connected my Blackberry Torch. It got assigned drives E: and F:

 

7. connected the dock to a different USB3 port & powered it on. It still came up as drive I:

 

Might be worth a shot??

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hmmmm

 

question 1: what do you mean by the drives are 'mapped'?

 

question 2: did you use Disk Manager to assign drive letters to the partitions on the USB drives?

 

question 3: do all the drives in the enclosures show up individually or do you have them RAIDed in some way? It sounds like they're separate. If so, would you consider RAIDing them to free up drive letters?

 

I'm wondering if assigning drive letters to partitions could fix your issue.

 

Here's what I just tried.

 

1. powered up a USB3 drive dock on my win7x64 box. The drive in the dock got assigned drive E.

 

2. opened Disk Manager and manually set the drive's partition to I:

 

3. ejected the drive using the tray icon

 

4. powered the dock off and back on. The drive came back as I:

 

5. ejected the drive again & powered down the dock.

 

6. connected my Blackberry Torch. It got assigned drives E: and F:

 

7. connected the dock to a different USB3 port & powered it on. It still came up as drive I:

 

Might be worth a shot??

 

What you are saying does make sense. I assign the drive letters how you mentioned. I have to start them up near C: though because there are a bunch of card readers and stuff that take up the latter half of the alphabet for drives (I have way too much stuff hooked into one pc, most I probably should just pull out and put in a box). So I think my big problem is there simply aren't enough letters to assign to drives left on my pc. Actually if I was able to run all of the drives in raid that problem would go away. Unfortunately my current external bays don't have any way to run in raid, they are 4 bays but they don't do any sort of raid, and so I don't have any way to connect them as raid drives to my computer. This is one of the main reasons I am building the server. Also because they are USB 3.0 they are only connected to my desktop which uses a lot of power when it is on (in general use kill-a-watt has it around 400+ Watts).

 

So I would like to basically build the server to serve as a backup machine and to serve all of the data to my other computers. Just for a lot of reasons I would like to get all of the drives disconnected from my desktop and into a server. I also really liked the StableBit addon that constantly tracks the drive health. That's been another thing that has always worried me and would definitely be worth $25.

 

I guess maybe Windows Home Server v1 might serve my purposes a bit better than 2011. Is the WHS Power Pack 3 on Newegg (Newegg) actually the complete version 1 of the server? It says it is an update pack, and I don't have a copy of any home server so I would need the full thing.

 

Thanks for the help guys!

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What you are saying does make sense. I assign the drive letters how you mentioned. I have to start them up near C: though because there are a bunch of card readers and stuff that take up the latter half of the alphabet for drives (I have way too much stuff hooked into one pc, most I probably should just pull out and put in a box). So I think my big problem is there simply aren't enough letters to assign to drives left on my pc. Actually if I was able to run all of the drives in raid that problem would go away. Unfortunately my current external bays don't have any way to run in raid, they are 4 bays but they don't do any sort of raid, and so I don't have any way to connect them as raid drives to my computer. This is one of the main reasons I am building the server. Also because they are USB 3.0 they are only connected to my desktop which uses a lot of power when it is on (in general use kill-a-watt has it around 400+ Watts).

 

So I would like to basically build the server to serve as a backup machine and to serve all of the data to my other computers. Just for a lot of reasons I would like to get all of the drives disconnected from my desktop and into a server. I also really liked the StableBit addon that constantly tracks the drive health. That's been another thing that has always worried me and would definitely be worth $25.

 

I guess maybe Windows Home Server v1 might serve my purposes a bit better than 2011. Is the WHS Power Pack 3 on Newegg (Newegg) actually the complete version 1 of the server? It says it is an update pack, and I don't have a copy of any home server so I would need the full thing.

 

Thanks for the help guys!

You could use Disk Management in Win7 do do it. Convert the drives to Dynamic then create an array. But, I get that you would rather have a server. I agree it's the much better option. Let us know how it goes. Post some photos ;)

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I guess maybe Windows Home Server v1 might serve my purposes a bit better than 2011. Is the WHS Power Pack 3 on Newegg (Newegg) actually the complete version 1 of the server? It says it is an update pack, and I don't have a copy of any home server so I would need the full thing.

 

Thanks for the help guys!

 

Yes that's the full version. You should be able to find a copy for as little as $40-$50. With WHSv1 you won't have the drive letter issue. You will have to add your files to the server manually, then once you have enough drives and files copied over, then you can enable duplication and the server will start making copies of the shared folders that you marked for duplication onto a seconardy drive.

 

You should start by installing the DiskManagement addin by Sam Wood, it's free for 30 days, and well worth the purchase. You will be able to graphically see each drive fill up with data. Use a 2TB drive for your system drive then add you data until you see it's almost full then add the next empty drive to the pool and continue to add data until that drive is almost full and so on. Then you can add empty drive as for duplication. WHS will tell you if you have enough space to duplicate.

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