Home Server suggestions

Steve Mutchler
Steve Mutchler used Ask the Experts™
I have a retired C2D box that I built that I thought I would turn into a home server...
I think the MB is 64 bit compliant, but need to check that yet...

I have 3 - Win7, 2 - XP, iPad I would like to access...

Primary purpose is file storage...image backup...etc...and  maybe print server...

I would like to put in a PCI RAID card, run RAID 5 and 3-4 drives...

I have Server 2003 which I could use...but I  don't  need a domain controller...
In the past I had 2000 Small Bus server  for my home network...and I built maybe 4 domain controllers for various projects over the past 5-6 years...so not highly experienced with
any of the Win Server platforms, but I can deal with them...

I'm NOT versed in any Linux flavor so I don;t think that's an avenue to pursue...

I could also setup Win7 or XP as the "server"...which might be easier...but I gotta tell ya
for some reason I have difficulty creating shares on Win 7 and getting my XP boxes to map drives to those Win 7 shares....

However, am thinking about Windows Home Server...but everything I'm reading about it
suggests it may not be the best approach...

Would like a few comments on preferred direction...
Thanks in advance...
Watch Question

Do more with

Expert Office
EXPERT OFFICE® is a registered trademark of EXPERTS EXCHANGE®
Top Expert 2010

Just get 2 x 2 or 3TB disks and use native windows RAID1 to mirror them.  Ideally, get enterprise SATA disks.   It will be much faster then the network can get data to/from them, and you'll save yourself the expense of a RAID controller.

RAID1 really has near zero overhead anyway.  The key to data reliability and safety is to NOT buy cheap desktop drives.  Get disks designed for 24x7x365.  Put the money you save on a RAID controller on better disks.
Awarded 2007
Top Expert 2008
If all you want is to store and access data then an XP box would be fine, there would be none of the complications of setting up and managing a server. OK its not going to have the security and other features of a true server - but do you really need them ?

With Win XP you could use the RAID built into the OS to stripe or mirror disks if you want - not a good as a hardware raid - but it needs no additional hardware other than the disks themselves
Hey steve have you ever considered a NAS such a Synology DS411j. I just replaced a PC based server and could not be happier. I have 4 WD Green (5400 RPM) 2tb drives in a raid 5 and get about 33 megabytes write speeds through the network. If you use 7200 RPM it could be significantly faster. Check out some of the benefits that I have found:

Supports many types of Raid
it is easy to use
Will automatically backup your windows machines
Has built in AV
Can be used as a iSCSI target
has many controls for sharing and restricting content
much low power than a PC and is silent  
native apps for Ipad and Android

Check out the features of DSM which is the OS the NAS runs here and their website here

I really think its the way to go without having to be a linux jedi. Plus its quiet, low power and a lot slicker than anything I have ever whipped up on my own. I hope that helps

I'd agree with Alex

A server will consume a lot more power than a dedicated NAS box

if you really want to go with the server, I'd go with XP for the OS

Assuming you don't want to run anything on it and it's just a file share for 6 devices it will do perfectly

XP can manage up to 10 concurrent connections
I would go with WHS. Its just as easy to setup as XP or 7 but the automated backup alone is worth it.
As the 'Server' is only to serve a couple of machines you do not need enterprise hardware. My WHS is running on a Dual core Atom chip and a cheap PCI RAID card and happly deals with 3 x Windows 7 laptops and a desktop.

I use it for
Backup - quick and automated, easy restore
Photos & videos
Print Server - USB printer
File Store
Remote access to above

As all files are backed up centrally I then use Amazon to backup online.


Thanx for the ideas guys...
I have a couple questions...make sure I understand...

dlethe...enterprise SATA drives...I was unaware there were SATA enterprise drives...I thought only SAS drives were enterprise...

Looks like Barracuda XT and Hitachi Ultrastore 7K3000 drives fall into that catagory...
Enterprise drives are great for constant usage...but being an "enterprise" level disk, I assume does NOT mean they are any less suseptable to corrupted clusters...which I think is really more of an issue...
True or false...???

alxledesma...the Synology looks good...and a lot of positive comments on Amazon...
Question...are the drives formated NTFS or is it some Linux distro formating...???
Do you know...???...I was unable to determine...
alxledesma...the Synology looks good...and a lot of positive comments on Amazon...
Question...are the drives formated NTFS or is it some Linux distro formating...???
Do you know...???...I was unable to determine...

The Drives are formatted in linux FS but shared volumes are accessed via SMB so it makes no differnce to the xp machines. You can even join the box to a windows domain AD instructions
Top Expert 2010

Well, as one of the RAID engineers who was in the trenches when SATA disks started coming out, i'll tell you there is no such thing as 'enterprise' SATA.  We always called them near line SATA.

In fact, Seagate kept the long-running joke, if you look at the suffix on their enterprise class SATA, they end with -NS (for near line data).

All things considered, they have their place, but consider them for RAID6 other than RAID5, and if you can, get some speed by mirroring a pair of small SSDs.  One of the nice things about solaris is that you can add a pair of SSDs into a large pool of SAS or SATA disks,, and the SSDs are used for the write-intent log.   Even a pair of 32GB cheap SSDs will pretty much make a RAID6 (Solaris's equivalent is called RAIDZ2) will pretty much take away the RAID5/6 write performance penalty.  If you are read intensive, you can add a single SSD to the pool and the O/S will automatically use that as a read cache, but get a larger SSD for such use.


Thanx for the ideas guys...

I built an XP box and am about ready to add 2 - 1.5Tb drives in RAID 1...

Do more with

Expert Office
Submit tech questions to Ask the Experts™ at any time to receive solutions, advice, and new ideas from leading industry professionals.

Start 7-Day Free Trial