The Potentially Ultimate Home Server PC

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Here at the OutletPC blog, we occasionally make posts in series; sometimes, this is intentional, but sometimes unsolicited sequels are conjured from the ether. The “dream computer” series, however, was planned out beforehand – we’d each choose or construct a PC that would perfectly suit our own needs, with money as no object. I figured I could try and build the most high-end gaming PC I could conceive of, but to be perfectly honest, at a certain point my knowledge of performance PCs sort of breaks down, and I’m not sure I even need a desktop PC that powerful – I don’t even have that much free time to enjoy PC gaming anymore!

It’s gotten to the point where my focus has shifted from power to efficiency – my consumption of media has to be as smooth a process as possible. I don’t have time to fiddle around with DVD cases, or to move to a different area where I can’t watch a movie and work at the same time! If only I had a way to access all my media digitally and stream it everywhere, without worrying about the lag and privacy issues of “the cloud”…

Google Drive: Because Google doesn't know everything yet

Enter: Windows Home Server 2011! I downloaded a trial copy and installed it on a computer I cobbled together out of spare parts, and was pleasantly surprised by how simple and functional it was. I could share files to my entire home, almost all my devices could stream my media, and I could even access it via the web, a feature which has made for quality entertainment at friends’ houses. I know what you may be thinking: “why don’t you get Netflix?” Well, Netflix doesn’t have Samurai Pizza Cats, or The Gamers. Being able to store and stream anything makes it worth it.

"Our film is too "Amateur" for Netflix? OUTRAGEOUS!"

Pleased with this functionality, I decided to buy myself some new components and a non-trial copy of the operating system and build a dedicated home server with recent hardware. Working on a budget with some spare parts, I was able to make it out pretty cheaply, equipping myself with a motherboard / CPU / memory combo deal, but there’s still a lot I wish I could add – the stock fans are noisy, the case is a little un-stylish, the hard drive doesn’t have a built-in backup solution… but all this adds up, finance-ways. If only I had infinite money.

Wait a minute… I do have infinite money when I’m writing a blog post! I’ll make my “dream” home server, and share with the masses!

And here we are! Putting together a hypothetical home server PC with every possible feature I would ever reasonably want, I’ve come out with the specifications for a low energy consumption, completely silent, high capacity, and extremely expensive home server PC. It’s the kind of home server I’d have if I were a wealthy finance industry baron – that is, if I didn’t have my media personally delivered to me on the gentle, rolling mist of poor peoples’ crushed dreams.

Here’s everything my “dream” home server requires, aside from the operating system:

 Ark Technology PN06 Case  Intel Core i3-2100t CPU Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3
Motherboard
Patriot Extreme 4GB
DDR3 Memory
 Noctua NF-B9 90mm SSO-Bearing Case Fan  Noctua NF-P12 120mm SSO-Bearing Case Fan FSP ZEN 400 Silent Fanless Power Supply Noctua NH-L12 Low Profile CPU Cooler
 Logisys LED Case Feet OCZ Agility 3 60GB SSD  Seagate Green 2TB HDD (x2) NZXT Sentry Mesh Fan Controller
 SATA III Cable (x4) Pioneer DVD-RW Optical Drive

That brings us to a grand total of about $902.28 at the time of this writing, which is good, because I was really hoping to keep it below the $902.30 mark.

Why is it so expensive? Because I spared no expense, of course! While none of the components are completely unnecessary, not all of them are necessary for a functional home server PC. This home server, however, is designed to be almost completely silent, extremely energy-efficient, and to have a ridiculous storage capacity with a RAID array for backup purposes.

From the silence angle, the power supply is fanless, and every fan is a Noctua-brand SSO-Bearing fan, which are the quietest fans I’ve ever heard about (or “not heard about”, because they’re silent! Get it? Ha!), including the one on the CPU cooler. To top it all off, I included a front panel fan controller to tweak the speed settings just right – to hear any noise at all from this PC, you’d have to put your ear against it.

For energy consumption, parts were picked based on low power draw first and foremost. The processor is rated only at 35W despite being a dual-core, and the hard drives are “green”, designed to consume little power. Windows Home Server actually spins down hard drives when they’re not in use, so I included a silent, fast, and energy efficient solid state drive to run the operating system, with the hard drives used exclusively for media storage; this way, they only spin up if the server is being used.

Speaking of storage, this server will hold 2 terabytes of media. I’m not sure exactly how much video and music that can hold, but it’s probably easily an entire wall’s worth.

About this much, but DVDs instead of books.

They’re hooked up in a redundant “Type 1” RAID array, meaning that if one drive fails, not only do you get to keep all your data, but the server doesn’t even stop working. Hard drive crashes will turn from a catastrophe to a minor inconvenience.

The motherboard is fairly standard for the processor type – I selected it primarily for the built-in Gigabit Ethernet capability and SATA III headers.

To top it all off, I added some glowing case feet because of reasons.

Do you think you could build a home server just as good for a lower price? Have differing opinions on what is or isn’t useful? Let us know in the comments, or send us an e-mail at askoutletpc@outletpc.com!

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