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How To Build A Windows Home Server


by Stuart Davidson - 30th December 2011
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How To Build A Windows Home Server (and what it offers)

How To Build A Windows Home Server (and what it offers)


Over the past few years our homes have become filled by devices which allow us to consume content. From each household having a main desktop PC for all the family many have expanded to have multiple PC's, or maybe a mix of desktops and laptops. A wide spread of consumers also have various portable devices, maybe the iPhone 4S or an android tablet such as the Asus Transformer... then there are TV streamers such as those from ACRyan (Playon! HD2) which all provide us with players that are capable of streaming content whether it be on the internet, or on our local network.

To store our media library we can use devices such as a NAS, Synology offer some great models like the DS212j we reviewed a few months back or a cloud based service such as Google Music but often these don't offer the storage, flexibility or upgrade path that we are used to with a traditional desktop PC and large hard drive.

For that reason many people, including this reviewer, have for some time used a home server for storage needs and my own OS of choice was the original Windows Home Server. I started my WHS experience a number of years ago with a pre-built box from Intel, their SS4200-E box which took a basic Intel Motherboard, added a Celeron CPU and enough space for four drives and a stick of memory and provided a simple entry into the WHS environment. That box, as good as it was, offered a learning experience for the OS which led me to build a custom box some time ago based on an AMD quad core CPU and various desktop parts. It ran well, serving my media on a daily basis, backing up all the systems in the house each night and generally sitting doing its thing with minimal input as all good servers should.

With the release of Windows Home Server 2011 my inner geek started to get a bit itchy, WHS V1 was a decent OS for my needs and for some months after the new OS was launched I was going to stay with the original. This was mainly because of the lack of Drive Extender in 2011 but as time went by and my disappointment with the removal of DE faded the inner geek took over and I decided to build a new box and try out the updated OS to see if it would meet my needs before possibly moving to it.

This experience would also be an opportunity to try out a few parts which were worth looking at, such as Intel's Xeon E3 series which are based on the same Sandy Bridge architecture as the current i3-i7 CPUs but with a low power rating, the E3-1220L as an example using at most 20w.

This article documents the process of choosing components for the new Windows Home Server 2011 box, from the low wattage Intel CPU, through the motherboard, PSU, memory and drives before looking at the setup process and how the OS looks and works in day to day use.
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