New Home Server: Hardware

After six years it has come a time to replace the currrent home server. The main reason is that the current hardware just doesn’t have enough horser power to run the things I want to run. I want to be able to transcode multiple streams (Plex) and handle downloads without maxing out the CPU. With the current hardware I can either download or transcode single stream.

Also the three 2TB drives are quite old and I’d rather replace them before they die on me. Just to give you an idea how old they are look at the following screenshot taken from Hard Disk Sentinel.

2TB Drive

Yes the power on time is six years! Unfortunately I cannot just plug in 6TB drive because the system only sees ~2TB of it and there is no BIOS update that would fix the issue. Adding a SATA card might help but that wouldn’t solve the CPU issue. Also throwing money at six year old server doesn’t feel like good idea.

Hardware comparison

The following table shows the difference between the new and the old server.

Part New Old
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD3 LGA1151 Asus P5Q-EM LGA775
CPU Intel Skylake i7-6700 3.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz
Memory 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 8GB 667MHz DDR2
System hard drive Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD WD Caviar Green 2TB SATA II 32MB
Hard drives 2 x WD Red 6TB SATA III 64MB 2 x WD Caviar Green 2TB Sata II 32MB
Power Super Flower 550W 80+ Platinum Nexus 430W 80+
Case Antec SOLO P150 Antec SOLO P150

Motherboard

As far as I can remember I’ve had an Asus motherboard. Before even looking at different boards I kind of thought I would get an Asus this time too. My requirements for the board were:

  • Support for 64GB of memory (DDR4)
  • Intel Gigabit LAN (I am not a fan or RealTek)
  • M.2 Socket (if I want really high speed SSD)
  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s
  • VGA port (for old monitor I use during installation, low priority)

Unfortunately the Asus boards that had the features I wanted were priced out of my range. It seems Asus only has two type of boards:

  • Those which don’t have almost any features I need
  • Gaming boards that cost some serious $$$

So I went with Gigabyte which had everything I needed including the VGA port and two M.2 sockets.

CPU

I wasn’t planning on overclocking my CPU so I didn’t need Intel K-series. Next the question was should I get i5 or go with the i7. The i5 would be fast enough but I’m building a server that should last for years to come and changing the CPU is not as easy as adding memory or a new hard drive. So I decided to go with the Intel i7-6700.

Memory

Nothing special here. Originally I wanted to have 64GB of memory but I came to my senses. I have no use for that amount. I dropped the requirement to 32GB and finally all the way down to 16GB. Even with that amount I can still run few virtual machines if I need to and it is easy add more.

System hard drive

Putting an SSD in a home server might seem like a waste of money. After all the normal hard drives are more than fast enough for reading/writing through Gigabit network and streaming your movie collection. I’ve been using SSDs since 2009 so I know how much faster they make the system. I run some applications on the server and I use remote dektop almost daily. I want the system to be as fast as possible. Buying fast CPU, 16GB memory and then waiting for slow hard drive isn’t something I want to do.

I went with the 512GB model because Plex uses it to store the meta data and temporary files during transcoding. I’ll also put some shares (Music, folders for users) on this drive. This way the other drives can sleep most of the time.

Hard drives

Western Digital Red was my choice because it has been built for NAS usage. I don’t have NAS but the usage scenario is quite similar. There won’t be lot of random reads/writes so I don’t need the 7200rpm. These drives are mainly for storing data or sequential writes/reads.

Power

Nexus has been my choice for PSU for a long time. The 350W - 430W models I’ve had (and still have) have been really quiet. This time I decided to go with Super Flower. They have been getting great reviews, the fan doesn’t even spin under low load and they are modular. The 80+ Platinum means it is extremely efficient.

Case

When I built the current home server back in 2009 the Antec SOLO P150 was considered one of the best cases for silent builds. It is still a good case so I kept it. It can easily fit six hard drives (I only need room for three for now). For cooling there are places for two 92mm fans in the front and one 120mm in the back.

Conclusion

I went with safe choices. Minimum amount of quality parts should give me stable system with plenty of power. Now some assembly is required and that will be next on the list.