In my house, we are using laptops more and more. All kinds of data on a single little laptop hard drives makes me nervous. Also, without some form of central storage it is hard to share files. What to do about it?
There are a myriad of options. I could buy a large USB drive that I could dock the laptops to from time to time and back them up. There are Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices that would allow me to set up a back up schedule to. Also, there is the new Windows Home Server which has great potential in these areas.
I had a hard time settling on a solution because none of these products did everything I needed. When you start to uncouple from a single desktop location you start having logistical problems with peripherals. Where are you going to keep the printer and how are you going to print to it? Print servers aren’t too expensive and some of the NAS boxes have them built in. What about the flat bed scanner? Film scanner?
My dream was a digital hub for our house. A server that I could use to store and share all my media as well as documents. A central destination for scheduled laptop backups. In addition it would be a print server and walk up station that I could use to scan documents. One of the main requirements is sound level. The server is roughly in the middle of the house so it cannot have tiny fans and hard drives making noise that rattle your nerves.
About the same time I was considering my options, George Ou published an article over on ZDnet that talked about building an in expensive NAS device using Windows Vista. The article gave me some ideas for some parts for my system. I’ve been using Vista since it before it was released and I like the added benefit of Vista’s included Media Center.
My goal was to keep the project around $1000 USD. I purchased all the parts from NewEgg.com. At the time of purchase, here are the parts I used and their prices:
1 Case – $39.99 –
- COOLER MASTER Elite 330 RC-330-KKN1-GP Black SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case – Retail
- 1 DVD Drive – $31.99 -SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-S203B – OEM
5 320GB Hard Drives – $449.95
Western Digital Caviar RE WD3200YS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive – OEM
1 OEM Version of Windows Vista – $179.99
- Microsoft Windows Vista 32-Bit Ultimate for System Builders Single Pack DVD – OEM
- 2 1GB RAM modules – $47.98CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) Desktop Memory Model VS1GB667D2 – Retail
1 4GB Flash Drive – $36.99
SanDisk Cruzer Micro 4GB Flash Drive (USB2.0 Portable) Model SDCZ6-4096-A10RB – Retail
1 Motherboard – $134.99
GIGABYTE GA-G33M-DS2R LGA 775 Intel G33 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard – Retail
1 Floppy/Card Reader combo – $18.99
MITSUMI Black 1.44MB 3.5″ Internal USB 2.0 Internal USB 2.0 digital card reader with Floppy Drive – OEM
1 CPU – $74.99
Intel Pentium E2140 Allendale 1.6GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80557E2140 – Retail
1 Power Supply – $66.99
SeaSonic S12 II SS-330GB ATX12V 330W Power Supply – Retail
The Gigabyte motherboard supports on-board RAID so I have around 900GB of RAID-5 on-line storage. The case provides great airflow and is a snap to put together.
This machine isn’t for gaming. I chose a CPU that is on the low side but provides great value and can be over-clocked. Additionally, you’ll notice no video card. The onboard card is sufficient as anything done with the system is standard business graphics with no need for acceleration.
The DVD drive is a Best of ’07 product according to Maximum PC and is fast and quiet. I’ve thought about putting a Blu-Ray drive in but the bang-for-the-buck just isn’t there yet for me.
The Caviar hard drives are server class hard drives from Western Digital. These drives are rock solid and surprisingly quiet. Even with 5 of them spinning non stop it doesn’t cause a noise issue. half the cost of the system was the hard drives. It would be nice to have bigger drives but this is plenty of storage for now and I couldn’t afford the large capacity drives. One caveat if you have never bought an OEM drive, they don’t come with SATA connectors, just bare drives in bubble wrap. Be sure to order these as well if you don’t have them.
What’s up with that 4GB flash drive? I am using that for Windows Ready Boost. Seeds up lots of disk access tasks.
I decided on Windows Vista Ultimate. The OEM version is the cheapest but you are your own support. What about Linux? The fact is, I’ve run Windows forever. And MS-DOS before that. I’m comfortable with it so there is no learning curve for me. Additionally, I really like the Media Center features. I probably could have just as easily used Vista Home Premium but I wanted the Remote Desktop and didn’t want to be hampered by some feature not included in the home version that I might not have considered.
Next time I’ll talk about how I have the system set up.
All articles in this series will be show up under the Media Server Project category on the blog.