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My ‘Franken-build’ Windows Home Server

I’ve just recently put together a Windows Home Server machine to backup all of my photos, music and so on as well as all of the machines around my house. It’s custom built rather than off the shelf, hence why it’s called a ‘Franken-build’, which is a term I first heard on the Home Server Show podcast to describe a custom build.

Why Windows Home Server?

If you see my post here you’ll remember that I purchased a NAS box about 18 months ago and have been using that to backup most of my content. Unfortunately I never really used it to its full potential as I had it waking up for an hour a day, doing the backup and then going back to sleep. I didn’t use any of the extra features such as the iTunes server or BitTorrent client and it was also lacking in a couple of areas, performance being the main one but also minor things such as not supporting Wake-On-Lan.

After upgrading my TV/File server again I had even more spare parts lying around so in the course of deciding what to do with all these bits I thought why not give Windows Home Server a try? There’s a free 120-day trial edition available from the Microsoft website, which is more than enough time to decide if you like it. It only took me a week to decide to replace my NAS.

Components

Here’s the initial list of components I had to work with when I first setup with the trial edition:

  • Athlon XP 2000
  • MSI KM4M-V Motherboard
  • 1gig ram
  • Seagate 80gig IDE
  • Seagate 160gig SATA
  • Old 350w power supply
  • Random spare DVD drive.
  • Intel 1gig NIC

I also have a Sempron 3000 CPU lying around which I would have rather used for this build as it’s faster and more efficient, but unfortunately it’s not compatible with the above motherboard and the motherboard that I do have for it doesn’t support S3 standby whereas I know the MSI board works really well with S3 because it came from my old Media Center prior to the Quad Core upgrade.

I didn’t have a case to put any of the components in so I just laid everything out on the table and connected it up, using a couple of wires to bridge the power connector so I could start the machine up. Windows Home Server was then installed, which took about an hour and I then proceeded to setup and install various add-ins so that I could test to see if it would suit my needs, which mainly involved the ability to wake up and go back to sleep at a pre-determined time.

Once I was happy I then decided to order a licensed copy of Home Server, along with a case to house it in and a new more efficient power supply. I ended up ordering the following:

  • Asus TA-D31 case
  • Antec Earthwatts 380w PSU

The Build Proper

As per usual everything turned up nice and quick from eBuyer, so I shut down the Thecus NAS for the final time and removed the drives in preparation for the build. Here’s some pictures of everything prior to starting:

The parts arrive IMG_5044 IMG_5048

IMG_5045

I put everything together in the new case, started her up and then proceeded to install the full licensed copy of Windows Home Server. Unfortunately with Windows Home Server you can’t upgrade the trial edition to a full licensed copy, you have to re-install from scratch, which I wish I had known about before spending the time to setup the trial version.

After finishing the install I noticed that there seemed to be some issues with the OS hard drive, every now and then things would appear to stutter and lock up so I decided I’d just use a different hard drive and re-install again. Unluckily for me the second hard drive I chose had exactly the same problem, so this time I borrowed a drive from the kitchen PC and used that instead, this time after over 3 hours spent installing WHS it was third time lucky and everything was working ok!

IMG_5060 IMG_5061 IMG_5064

Once everything was up and running, I could then proceed to copy all of my photos, videos and music over as well as installing the WHS connector on all of my PC’s so that they are regularly backed up, which is a nice added peace of mind considering that they weren’t backed up at all before.

Even with the low spec of the WHS machine I’ve been getting decent performance copying files to and from it, certainly much better than I ever achieved with the NAS. Write speeds have been around 40MB/s across the network and read speeds have been between 50-60MB/s.

The WHS has now been running for a couple of months and has performed flawlessly during that time, I’ve even purchased some new 1.5TB hard drives to up the storage to 3.5TB, which has meant that I’ve now got the space to back up my DVD collection as well as everything else. Overall I’m really pleased with the machine and would heartily recommend a Windows Home Server to everyone that has multiple computers in their house!

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