For my next DIY build, I'm going compact, low power, easy to build and most importantly stylish. I'm going to take the Intel Atom powered Asus Eee Box and show you how to use it as a Windows Home Server. My initial tests show that the Eee Box draws only 12 Watts of power when idle, thanks to the power thrifty Intel Atom processor, making it a perfect candidate for my build.
As the Eee Box was meant as a low power replacement for yesterday's massive desktop office PCs, Asus did away with normal things like a CD/DVD drive and lots of drive bays. And because there is no DVD drive, we will once again be installing WHs from a USB memory stick.
- Processor: Intel Atom N270 (1.6GHz)
- Memory: 1GB DDR2
- Hard Drive: 160GB SATA 5400rpm
- Network: 10/100/1000Mbps
- USB: 2 front, 2 rear
- Dimensions: 223×178×16 mm (without stand)
Both Newegg or Amazon have the Asus Eee Box for sale at only $299. The Eee Box is available pre-loaded with Linux or for an extra $15, Windows XP. As we are going to wipe out the OS and install WHS, you can go ahead and save the $15.
Load it Up with Storage
There is one more thing that you should think about, and that is storage. The Eee Box has a single 2.5" 160GB laptop drive. If I were building this as my primary home server, I would do this:
- Upgrade the internal drive to an 500Gb drive (Newegg has a 500GB laptop drive for around $100)
- Add on two external 1TB Western Digital MyBook USB drives.
I would place the Eee Box on the top of a cabinet for everyone to see and keep the two external drives tucked away somewhere. I would avoid using either of the front two USB ports as the would severely distract from the look. In my opinion, that would make for a sweet setup!
Upgrading the Hard Drive in an Eee Box (optional)
Now before you get out your screw driver, know this: you are about to void your warranty. Still with me? Ok, let's go.
- With the power OFF, turn over the Eee Box and using a penny unscrew the large flat scew that attached the base to the main unit.
- Remove that annoying warranty voiding Eee Box sticker.
- Remove and set aside the two small Phillips head screws. Do not remove the one on the case, just the two on the drive bay.
- Gently pull on the drive release "handle" (if it's not user upgradable, why does it have a handle). Don't pull too hard or you'll yank the handle right off. Wiggle it around and apply light outward pressure. You may even need to help it along by prying up on the edge with a flat head screwdriver.
- Remove the drive from the tray with the 4 screws.
- Reverse the process with the new larger drive.
Installing the OS
As this is about the eleventy-billionth DIY build that I've shown you how to do, I'll forgo the length "how to install WHS from a USB memory stick" instructions and point you here instead (read parts 3 and 4).
There are a few peculiarities in this build that deserve mention. First, WHS does not natively recognize the Realtek Ethernet hardware in the Eee Box, therefore we will have to install it manually. Download the network driver here. You'll want to get the one called WinXP (WinServer 2003) Driver. As you build the memory stick, unzip the contents of the ZIP file into a folder named EeeBox.
Next, there are some Intel chipset drivers (shown as the SM Bus device) that we will want to install drivers for as well. Download the INF update Utility from Intel's website and copy it to the EeeBox folder on the USB memory stick.
With our bootable memory stick in hand, we are now ready to start the WHS OS install. Again, follow these instructions. If you are not using a fresh drive (i.e. not doing the 500GB upgrade), you will need to go into the BIOS and temporarily assign your USB memory stick as the primary boot drive and catch the first "rebooting" message (as mentioned in the KPC installation article).
When the OS is completely installed and you get to step 24, DO NOT REBOOT. You will now need to install the network driver and SM bus driver.
Installing the Network Driver
- On the Eee Box, click Start. Right click on Computer and click Manage.
- Click on Device Manager. You should see several items with yellow icons under other devices.
- Right click on Ethernet Controller and click Update Driver.
- A dialog will open. Select Install from a list or specific location and click Next.
- Check the box Include this location in search, click Browse and select the folder EeeBox\Driver_XP_5708_1222 from the memory stick (drive X:). Click Next to continue to install.
- That's it! If successful, you will see the Realtek device moved under Network Adapter.
Installing the SM bus Driver
- On the Eee Box run the application and after a moment you should see this screen. Click Next.
- Thoroughly read and accept the license agreement by not reading the license agreement and clicking Next.
- Click Next after reading the Readme file (why so many screens?).
- You will see many drivers installed. Eventually Setup will complete. Click Next to continue.
- You will need to reboot to finish installation.
Customizing the Windows Home Server console
I like to give my DIY builds that OEM feel, so I've designed some custom Asus Eee Box icons that will be displayed in the Windows Home Server Console.
- Make sure that your WHS Console is not open.
- On your EeeServer open an Internet Explorer browser.
- Download this image file from my Windows Live SkyDrive.
- In Windows Explorer, go to \\Program Files\Windows Home Server and create a subfolder named OEM.
- Copy the downloaded image file into this newly created folder.
- If you open up the WHS Console and click on Settings then Resources, you will now see the custom EeeBox icon:
There are other less costly solutions out there, but if you are looking for a low power, easy to assemble, quiet WHS solution that just happens to be stylish, you may just want to consider the Asus Eee Box.
Oh, and if you are interested in what this little beasty looks like on the inside? AnandTech cracked on open and has lots of pictures! I prefer to leave mine alone.