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I have 3 desktops and 2 laptops at home. All of them are running Windows 7 RC 32-bit.

I am looking for a cheap, expandable network attached storage solution and Windows Home Server fits the bill nicely.

Is it better to get an "off the shelf" unit and modify it or build one from scratch? Can you recommend any good places to look for one? (UK shops preferably)

My criteria are:

  • Total price (including WHS license)
  • Upgradeability (especially storage - I need 2TB now + 1TB every year)
  • Size of the case
  • Noise level
  • Power efficiency

Note: I have been building custom PCs for about 3 years now, so I am perfectly comfortable taking that route.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you are just looking for a nas box, then WHS adds quite a bit to the price, not only for the licence, but since it is based on Windows 2003 server, it ups the processor and memory requirements. (Of course, WHS is much more than simply storage)

If you do want to go down the WHS route, then (in my experience) if you want it small, quiet, efficient and upgradable, it won't be cheap!

I looked these options about a year ago, and eventually went for price and upgradability and ignored the other issues. (Partly because I wasn't really sure whether WHS would do what I wanted, so didn't want to spend big until I was sure.)

So, I got a cheap HP ML115 G5 Server (Don't know what the RRP on this is, maybe around £200 + vat, but I have several times seen special offers where it is sold a lot cheapear, eg below £120+vat) I then added two terabyte drives and a bit of memory. (Should point out, they I did have a little bit of problem with this machine due a driver issue which affects some hard-disks. I originally want to leave the operating system on the supplied 160GB drive and use my terabyte drives for storage, but couldn't access the small drive and so I give up and just install the O/S on one of the big drives).

Regarding storage capacity, since one of the features of WHS is balancing data across hard-disks (doesn't balance the operating system), you may want to double your storage requirements. (This feature which can be turned off, but you lose an important benefit if you do).

You might want to browse the forums at http://forum.wegotserved.com/.

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"it ups the processor and memory requirements" Really? I ran WHS on an old Dell D600 laptop for a long time. Since WS2003 is basically Windows XP, it's minimum requirements are pretty mild. –  Jay Bazuzi Sep 9 '10 at 15:15
Can you run WHS with 32MB of memory? See DS109j from forum.synology.com/wiki/index.php/… –  sgmoore Sep 9 '10 at 17:54
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I have one that I build myself from old parts I had around from previous PCs and only bought new drives (2x1 TB). It runs great, I've had it for over a year now.

I will soon buy one off the shelf just on the basis of power usage. See my question here.

If all you are interested in is having central data storage, plus get the basic benefits of WHS (backup for me is the best thing it has), then the small Atom powered options (which are also the cheapest) could be your solution.

If you plan on running a lot of stuff there, then you will need a more powerful processor and maybe a custom built one could be cheaper, since you can tailor it to your specific needs.

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I have two servers at home, both built from old PC parts. My web server (that honestly doesn't do a lot of web serving :) ) runs on an 800 MHz mobile processor, but they work great. SATA PCI cards have allowed me to expand the storage. –  Jared Harley Jul 29 '09 at 4:58
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