I love my HP EX470 MediaSmart Server. List priced at $599 (street price $569) for 512MB RAM and a 500GB hard drive, it's a great little machine at a great price. But I'm always searching for creative WHS platforms. After all, it's supposed to be a "home server" and thus no one wants a regular looking tower PC case sitting in their living room.
Back in January, when I first read about Shuttle Computer's KPC barebones system, I thought "what an interesting WHS that would make" and I started plotting how to make your own WHS on the cheap. At only 11(L)x7.5(W)x6.7(H) inches, it is shorter than the HP EX470 but only a few inches wider. So as soon as I could get my hands on one, I did it.
Over 5 parts, this article will show you how to use the Shuttle KPC as a platform to build a full featured, low cost, environmentally friendly (i.e. green) Microsoft Windows Home Server (WHS). This is for those of you who either love to tinker and/or are looking to save a little cash.
Let's go shopping
I've put together a system that matches up pretty well against the performance specs of the HP EX470. Plus, I've been able to keep the cost at right around $400. Here is my shopping list:
Item Cost Shuttle KPC Barebone $99 Intel Celeron 430 1.8GHz $39 WD 500GB hard drive $64 Windows Home Server DVD $99 Kingston 512MB Memory $8 Any random 92mm case fan $2 T O T A L $311
When we add it all up, you get a total cost savings of over $200 compared to a comparably equipped HP EX470 MediaSmart Server. With that kind of dough, you can afford another 500GB hard drive AND take your wife or girlfriend out for night on the town (or a 1TB hard drive and dinner at Applebees).
In addition, I'm assuming you have the following components available just for the build (i.e. we won't need them after we are done): A mouse, keyboard, monitor and a either a 2 GB USB flash drive or an IDE DVD drive (more on this below). If you don't have a flash dive, they are very inexpensive. NewEgg has them for under $9.
Feature wise, I wanted to compare apples to apples, but optionally you can build out a dual core system (which I did), bump it up to 2GB of memory, add a second hard drive, etc. Because the processors in my list are "retail", the heat sink and Fan are included.
Here are a list of optional items that you should consider if you want to upgrade or add to the basic system:
Item Cost Kingston 2GB USB Flash Drive $8 WD 1TB hard drive (green) $129 WD 750GB hard drive $99 WD 1 TB external drive $229 G.SKILL 2GB Memory (1GBx2) $30 SATA Data & Power combo cable $2 Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound $5
What am I giving up?
OK, so our $400 DIY system costs less than the HP EX470. What kind of features are we giving up? About the only thing is internal hard drive expandability. The EX470 has 4 internal drive bays while the KPC has only two. Of course we can always add an external hard drive to the KPC via USB (with one of the 4 USB ports) or even eSATA (by adding a PCI eSATA card in the lone PCI slot).
Low power consumption is important for an "always on" appliance such as a Windows Home Server. According to the Shuttle website, the KPC is optimized to be energy efficient, using 55 Watts when in full use and just 33 Watts when idle. In contrast HP's documentation claims that a single drive EX470 uses 60 Watts under full load and 52 Watts when idle (a full 20 Watts more than the KPC).
If you are really concerned about power, you should consider the lower power Western Digital Caviar GP series "green drives". The 1TB green model (listed above) uses 1.3 Watts less power during read/write operations and a full 4.4 Watts less when Idle than the Caviar SE16 series drives.
No DVD drive? How do I install the OS?
Even though our WHS will run "headless", we'll still need the monitor, mouse and keyboard for installation. But without a DVD drive, how do we install the OS?
We have two options. Because the KPC does have an integrated IDE port, we can temporarily attach a DVD drive. I'm sure a a lot of you DIY-ers have one laying around or at least another PC that you can "borrow" one from. Because this is a standard installation, we won't go into detail on the DVD method.
The other option is to install WHS from a USB flash drive, which is what I've done here. Why? 1) I wanted to show that it could be done and 2) if you don't have a DVD drive you will need to do this. The flash drive installation is a little trickier, so Parts 2 and 3 are devoted to this process.
Now that we have laid the groundwork for what you need and what you might want to consider, if you are game, read Part 2 to start building!