Building a Home Server – The Complete Guide

Server Inside - LSI MegaRAIDOver the past few years, The SSD Review has enjoyed a fairly smooth ride with little to complain about. It wasn’t until our readership explosion that we realized how important backups were.

There is nothing worse than a site crash, other than a site crash which also contains a Forum of course.  The sudden loss of days, weeks, months and even years worth of data cannot arguably be equal to that of valuable Forum members who hate seeing their threads gone. It happened.

Even worse was the fact that our hosting company was receiving premium monthly payments for daily backups, the last of which they had completed some two months prior.  It was only for the odd feeling that we had prior to leaving on Christmas vacation that we physically downloaded backups, minimizing our information loss to two weeks.  Although website material resulted only in the loss of our Acer S7 Ultrabook Review, the loss of forum posts could never be equalled.

In sitting down for our first team discussion of 2013, our ideas immediately coincided with one thought; building a server. For the most part, the concept of servers is daunting. Most people think they are made only for IT professionals and big name companies. We thought the same, and had no idea what to do going into it. To our surprise, it was one of the easiest projects we have undertaken.  Eventual thanks will be attributed to those that have helped, but throughout, enjoy the pictures as well because this server does have some of the finest equipment many could ever imagine, all the while also making use of materials we had laying around which needed a use.

LSI Dark Background

LSI MegaRAID SAS MegaRAID 9270-8i at Amazon.

We now have a 24TB server running Windows Server 2012 Essentials – capable of not only backups, but created to do literally anything we want, including gaming, storing massive amounts of media, and even live-streaming/encoding on the fly. The best part of it all? How simple the entire process turned out to be!

You can make it as basic, or as advanced as you want it to be, and the build process is no more harder than that of a PC – It really is that simple. We went in completely blind, with few resources to guide our path; we came out successfully with a 100% functioning server.

HDD Front 3

 8 x Toshiba MG03ACA300 3TB 7200RPM HDD = 24TB at Amazon.

This isn’t to say it was smooth sailing the entire way through. We ran into quite a few conundrums  but managed to steer clear. One of the major concepts that you must thoroughly understand however, are the differences between Non-UEFI BIOS Vs. UEFI BIOS. If you require more information on this, we have got you covered in Section IV.

Aside from that, follow the guide chronologically, making note of the red highlighted text and cues. Whether you’re new to servers, or just looking for a helping-hand, we devised this guide from start to finish, tracking our every step throughout so you can follow without stumbling. TSSDR’s definitive ultimate home server guide will help you build, configure, and manage the machine of your dreams!

case

Rosewill RSV-L4411 Rackmount Server at Amazon.

We will get to the acknowledgements later, but just some quick shout-outs to LSI, Rosewill, Toshiba, Terry Barker (TSSR), and Les Tokar (TSSR) for their respective contributions to the guide.

Let’s get started…

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Lucian IleaThatHomeServerBuilderDeepak SharmaPlanetbriangilbs72 Recent comment authors
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Andymanic
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Andymanic

how much did this cost all together?

Calvin Garcia
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about 50k all together

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

The system before the HDDs, LSI card, PSU and case was about 5000. Factor in about 3000 for the sponsored equipment IF you need eight of those hard drives. A stingy builder could probably put this exact system together for under 7000 I would bet

Deepak Sharma
Guest

Hey Andy, The total price is listed in the components and conclusions section, but there is not precise amount. Since we didn’t prioritize heavy gaming or heavy usage, our components are a tad older. If you were to take the present-day updated equivalent components (for example, a 3770k, GTX 680, and a better motherboard), it comes out to roughly $5000 average; of course, give or take $750 depending on where you live and how your prices are. If you want the identical price to what we paid for ours during the time we bought them, it would come out to… Read more »

Guest
Guest
Guest

about 50k

CT
Guest
CT

Timely article! I’m just going to start a backup PC build
using mostly parts on the shelf from previous builds and LSI 9265-8i about to
be replaced by a LSI 9271-8iCC and new drives. Question: will a copy of Win 7
Home premium work for the OS? The 2 workstations on our home LAN (wired
gigabyte) are using Win 7-64 Home Premium and Win 7-64 Pro.

Thanks Cal

Deepak Sharma
Guest

Hey Cal,

Make sure to read Section IV (page 10) if you plan on using a 3TB+ drive/array as your OS boot drive.

Aside from that, Win 7 Home Premium should work just fine!

CT
Guest
CT

Hi again. The beat-up old case that was a demo on the back shelf at my local NCIX store has room for 15 drives: 8 2T enterprise HDD on a 9265-8i as a RAID-5 /w spare, 5 2T on the MB as a RAID-10 /w spare, a SATA CD/DVD, and either a 1T SATA or a 320G IDA for the OS. My ASUS MB started crashing after I tried to add RAM so I bought a MSI MB to use the X58 CPU and RAM for the backup build. Low BIOS RAM: In your write-up you made a quick aside… Read more »

Deepak Sharma
Guest

Hey Cal, I hope I’m reading the right part, but it seems like you’re having trouble getting into WebBIOS. I feared this may come up. I was hoping that it was an issue with my Gigabyte board, but I can see now that it is not. The LSI diagnostic check, while helpful, takes its sweet time. However, there are a few things that make it go haywire, and mass rebooting is the best way to fix these problems. I’ll outline a couple, starting from WebBIOS: 1. CTRL+H not triggering WebBIOS – this can happen for a couple of reasons. One… Read more »

Paul Braren
Guest

Seems my strange workaround on WebBIOS entry on Z68 motherboards still applies (it was always a little goofy to have to do this, but even LSI points to this same workaround)
http://tinkertry.com/webbios/

with SSD Review mention over here:
http://tinkertry.com/lsi-knowledgebase-article-points-tinkertry-method-configure-lsi-raid-z68-motherboard/

Thanks for posting your saga, Deepak!

Deepak Sharma
Guest

No problem, and thank you as well for the contribution Paul 🙂

HomeServerBuilder
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HomeServerBuilder

Are guys on weed? Home server and you choose to bypass a key feature for the home or SOHO user, Storage Spaces. You choose to use very expensive drives and hardware RAID and try to aim this at the home user, WTF? Choosing to stick an OS on such a large array is also just plain over-complicated. You could have used a cheap pair of SATA drives on the on-board SATA ports in RAID-1 or AHCI with dynamic RAID-1 and kept the pool for what is wanted. Now you have a array that will be turning and burning 24/7 as… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Thanks for the response and we can see your view of things. Fortunately, we have received several responses to the contrary as well. From our viewpoint, we wanted to approach things from the most understandable level and such that it was a complete picture that could be followed by others. We hope to have accomplished this. To answer your question, I recall our initial discussions where we wanted to build a system that all could build, using very conservative parts and/or those that have some bite to them and leave ourselves open to build on the initial report in the… Read more »

Deepak Sharma
Guest

Just to follow up on what Les posted, yes we left the guide open for people to choose however they wanted to approach the server. We mentioned that you could go hardware RAID, software/motherboard RAID, or something else, including Storage Spaces. Even the OS can be different. There are even more methods, such as unRAID, but it all depends on what the user wants. If a user is going for Windows 8 or WS 2012, Storage Spaces will be advertised for obvious reasons. It’s not something that needs showcasing, but we did mention it in case readers don’t know about… Read more »

ThatHomeServerBuilder
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ThatHomeServerBuilder

1 Not his fault your broke… 2 Onboard Raid Sucks its “Fake Raid”.

3 raid 1 really? why not raid 4, 5 or 6?

4

felix
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felix

Les,very good review…You’re almost in my mind, as atm i am trying to make a parts list for a similar home project (9260-4i though)

Is the system yet available for some benchmarking ?
I mean, since you did a massive build with a very-very helpful & detailed article, it would be nice to measure the performance and maybe time the LAN transfer by the onboard gigabit adapter.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Lets ask Deepak as this review was his baby….stay tuned…

Deepak Sharma
Guest

Hey Felix, Great question. I actually ran four simultaneous copy tests from two different sources to the server, including a 600GB live backup session. Overall speed was pretty darn nice, about 35+ MB/s for each copy session, of course varying due to sizes. A 550GB folder of 2.5k files and 141 folders took about 4 hours to copy over, while the other four copies were going on. We’re waiting on CacheCade at the moment to post proper benchmark results. We got about 650MB read, but only about 60MB write for random IO testing using CDM, so we’ll see how much… Read more »