This page shows some more detailed photographs of our Home Server. You can move your cursor over any part of the pictures on this page to see what that component does. Our home server is located in our basement and runs 24-7. The user interface for our Home Server is shown below:
Our Home Server - User Interface
The PC itself is a home built system. Home building a computer involves selecting individual components including a CPU, memory, a motherboard, disk drives, a graphics card, case, power supply, software, etc. and then assembling the pieces and installing the software to create a working computer system. The PC component of our system is shown below:
Home Server PC
Component Selection is very important if one is interested in creating a high-performance system. A great place to learn about what is best in terms of the available components as well as to learn about building your own system is Tom's Hardware. Every home built PC project is different and its important to have your goals clear in your mind before you begin selecting components. In our case, we wanted a high-performance (overclocked) PC that could act as a server for our home network, provide a large amount of hard disk storage for our audio, video and photo collections as well as provide centralized backups for all of the computers in our home. We also needed a system that is reliable enough to run 24x7 and is robust in the face of brief power outages that we sometime see where we live. Fred also sometimes plays games and does audio, video and photo editing on this machine so decent graphics performance was also a priority for us. The components that we choose for this system are as follows:
3.4 GHz Intel Pentium 4, Socket 478 processor, Overclocked to 4.0 GHz
ASUS P4800-E Deluxe Motherboard (this board supports dual channel memory, has on-board SATA and IDE RAID controllers, and is a good choice for overclocking)
Corsair TWINX1024-3200XLPRO Low Latency DDR-400 Memory (2-2-2-5 timing)
2 X 34 GB Western Digital 10,000 RPM SATA hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration (this is the boot drive, Raptors provide a very fast system disk or C: drive)
2 X 250 MB Western Digital 7,200 RPM IDE hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration (this drive is used for media storage)
Adaptec PCI RAID card supporting 2 X 250 MB Western Digital IDE hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration (this drive is also used for media storage)
Two Adaptec Firewire 800 Interface Cards supporting a total of four Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition 1 Terabyte external RAID hard drives
Thermaltake Tai-Chi Case with Thermaltake's water cooling system (this case has excellent air cooling capabilities which is important for a PC that will be on 24 x 7 for years at a time, the water cooling system is great for overclocking).
Intel PRO 1000 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
Two NEC ND-3550A 16X DVD-R/48X CD-R Burners
An 8 in 1 Combo Floppy and Flash Media Drive
APC Back-UPS XS 1500 UPS system with an add-on second battery pack. This combination provide about 3000 VA of backup capacity which will run the server and all of its peripherals for about an hour.
Microsoft Windows XP Professional OS (a good choice for a home server with its built-in web server capabilities)
As you can see, a large amount of hard disk storage was a high priority for us. This machine has a total of slightly over 5 Terabytes of hard disk capacity. Approximately 1 Terabyte is dedicated to media storage and the software on the machine. The other 4 Terabytes provide two levels of backups for the server and all of the rest of the machines in our home (there are a total of 7 machines made up of a mix of desktops and laptops).
Our server is water cooled to allow for maximum performance via overclocking. The case from Thermaltake has a decent radiator, pump and CPU water block included which makes this package a great platform for a first-time water cooling project.
Home Server Water Cooling System
We added an Alphacool NexXxoS NBX-i4 chipset water block to the system to keep the Northbridge chipset on our motherboard cool (we found that this definitely improved overclocking capability with the ASUS motherboard that we are using - the Northbridge chipset runs quite hot with the heat sink that comes with the motherboard). The Thermaltake water cooling system uses relatively small 1/4" ID tubing which was of some concern initially but we found the cooling performance of this combination to be excellent. With our 3.4 GHz P4 processor overclocked 20% to 4.1 GHz, the motherboard CPU temperature monitor does not go higher than 106° F and sustained 100% CPU utilization. The is good performance considering the elevated CPU, chipset and memory voltages that we are using to get this level of overclocking. The following shows a closer view of the water cooling loop:
Water Cooling Loop
The springs on the outside of the tubing are used to prevent the tubing from kinking when the case door is closed. Also, we are using AB Software's HW Monitor package to monitor CPU temperature as well as pump and radiator fan operation in our system. This software provides for automatic shutdown of our sever should an overheating situation occur due to a fan or pump failure or some other problem.
The software on our home server is quite extensive. Some of the key elements include:
Microsoft Windows XP Profession Operating System (the Internet Information Services (IIS) server with FrontPage extensions is used to run this website)
Microsoft Office 2003 including FrontPage 2003 (which was used to create this website)
SimpleDNS Plus for DHCP and DNS services on our home network
HostMonitor 5 which is used to monitor all of the devices on our network
EMC Retrospect for automated backups of our server and all other PCs in our home via our network
Norton SystemWorks 2006 for Virus and Firewall protection
Diskeeper 10 Small Business Edition which provides central defragmenting of disk drives for all of our PC and this server
Kiwi Syslog Daemon for system logging services for all devices on our network
TiVo Desktop Software which provides access to our media collection on the server via our TiVo PVRs
Dillobits SNTP Service which provides centralized time (clock setting) services for our network
APC's Powerchute software is used to monitor the condition of AC power and battery in the UPS which the server is attached to. This software provides for an orderly shutdown of the server in the event of an extended power failure.
Network Printing Spooling and Printing Services are provided by the server so that all PCs can share the 6 printers that are scattered throughout our home. The printers themselves are all connected to the server via the network in our home.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about our Home Server project. If you are interested in water cooling and home built PCs, please consider dropping us a line and tell us a bit about your projects. You can do this via our Guest Book.