I spent time on Wednesday evening picking out components for my future home server. When it’s released later in the year, some of the major OEMs will be releasing what looks like very cool hardware developed specifically for Windows Home Server, but I thought it would be fun to build my own. I’ve not built a server before (I have built a desktop PC – it’s a great project if you have some time), so i did a little reading around on the web, and here’s some guidelines I pulled together:

Barebones (Case, Motherboard etc)

Given that this home server is going to sit in my spare room, near my broadband router, along with a whole heap of other stuff (Desktop PC, Printer, Monitor, Digital Camera dock, Tom Tom Dock, Telephone) I wanted something that would be relatively small and quiet, but still let me install at least 2 hard drives. I settled on the Asus Pundit PH4 (check out the newer Asus Pundit PH5) – a relatively small case (certainly thin), lots of storage expandability, and it has integrated sound and graphics (no need to spend here). 6 USB Ports (2 front, 4 back) for those extra External USB hard drives you may need in the future, and an integrated  10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet port for connecting to the router. All for about £99 at e-buyer. I’ve read conflicting reports of how noisy it is, some say pretty silent, others say noisy, but the noisy reports were subsequently corrected by the users either clipping the fans in properly, or finding a BIOS option to reduce the fan speed. Anyway, we’ll see.

My choice: ASUS Pundit P3-PH4 Intel Socket T(LGA775) Barebone

So, all we need to do now is sort out a Processor, RAM and Hard Drives.

Processor

You don’t need a really super fast processor for your server – save your money. Something like a Pentium 4 or its AMD equivalent (pinched from an old computer) would be fine – your home server isn’t going to be encoding video or working with massive graphic files in photoshop. So something cheap, with a little oomph, but not too much is great.

Also think about heat – the server’s going to be on all the time, and you dont want it to build up too much heat, or else those fans will be loud.

My choice: Intel Pentium D 820 (2.8GHz) Socket 775 FSB800 2x1MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor

I was going to go originally for a P4, but saw that the Pentium D’s do run cooler, and there was £3 difference, so what the heck.

RAM

Again, you don’t need to blow out on Gigs-a-plenty like you’ve just done for your Windows Vista machine! WHS is built on Windows Server 2003, so doesn’t require mega amounts of RAM. 512Mb should be fine.

My choice: Crucial 512MB 240-Pin DIMM Unbuffered DDR2 PC 4200 533MHz CL4

Hard Drive

Here’s where to invest – hard drives are becoming cheaper seemingly by the day. My advice, if you’re going for new hardware, purchase as much internal storage as you can afford. Windows Home Server (according to what I’ve seen) does a very clever job of utilising external hard drives, but they will mean more clutter in the house. Go large.

My Choice: 2 x Western Digital 500GB Raid Edition SATA II 7200RPM 16MB Cache – OEM

The “RAID Edition” labelling is a bit of a red herring – we’re not going to get into RAID with Windows Hom Server (which is great, as it looks pretty complicated and far too much hassle). Apparrently, this drive is very stable, used for “enterprise level storage”, all of which basically means, it isn’t going to die on you quickly.

Everything Else

Make sure your server has an internal (or external) DVD drive – you’ll need this to install Windows Home Server in the first place! Don’t worry about purchasing an extra monitor, keyboard or mouse, if you aready have these in the home (which I guess you will!) – you’ll only need these when initially installing WHS, so just use what you have, then unplug them. When you need to use WHS in the future, you will access it through your other PCs.

So, that’s about it! I’ve placed my order and it should all arrive today, so I’ll soend some time on Saturday building my new home server.