Build your own server

Servers are mainly associated with business computing, but a server also offers advantages at home. If you want to get the most out of it, you can put together your home server exactly as you wish. If you have less stringent requirements, you can save money by reusing the hardware from a discarded PC.

1. Why a home server?

Especially now that companies en masse virtualize their servers and even move them to 'the cloud', more and more private computer users are becoming interested in their own server. A home server is an ideal device to centrally store all imaginable files, to store backups or, for example, to download torrents or files from a news server while all 'normal' computers on the network are switched off.

2. Server or NAS?

When it comes to a home server, the comparison with a NAS is quickly made. It's true that much of what a home server can do, a NAS can do. One difference is that purchasing a NAS can often be expensive, even if you choose a model with space for only one drive. Moreover, by building your own server you can make very specific choices with regard to the hardware you want to use, and possibly choose parts that you still have lying around. The latter quickly makes your own server cheaper than a NAS from the store. Furthermore, having your own server offers more freedom when it comes to the software to be installed. If you want ease of use, a NAS is quickly the best choice, but if you are looking for customization, it is better to get started yourself.

The operating system of a NAS often offers less freedom to add functions than a 'real' Windows installation.

3. Enclosure

A server is on all day and it must therefore be quiet, energy efficient and not take up too much space. Pure computing power is less important. After all, the server does not perform tasks for which that is important. The housing is in any case a part to pay the necessary attention to. You can of course use an old PC, but it is often not quiet, not economical and relatively large in size. Such a device may suffice for a short test period, but a Mini PC is quickly preferred for longer use. In the previous Tips & Tricks we looked extensively at Mini-ITX devices: small system cases that are equipped with a motherboard and power supply, and sometimes even with a matching processor and a built-in graphics card.

A Mini-ITX or barebone enclosure can be a great choice as a home server enclosure.

4. Processor and Motherboard

The Intel Atom is a power efficient processor that has long been very popular for use in a home server. You often come across an Atom in NAS devices, because of the specific qualities of this type of processor. However, this processor is slowly losing ground. It has the limitation that it produces no image, so you also need a graphics card or a motherboard with an integrated video processor. That's different with the latest Intel 'Sandy Bridge' Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors and AMD Fusion processors. These processors consist of a combination of a CPU (Central Processing Unit) and a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). They are energy efficient and yet deliver very decent performance.

The Gigabyte GA-E350N-USB3 is a motherboard in the compact ITX format. It has an AMD E-350 processor that performs both 'calculation' and provides images.

5. Install Processor

If you have a case with a built-in motherboard that does not yet have a processor, pay attention to the motherboard specifications before buying a separate processor. Motherboards can only accommodate one specific type of processor, and the way that processor should be placed also differs. So read this carefully in the supplied Installation Guide. In most cases, the protective cover of the socket must first be opened by clicking a lever. Then the processor is placed by lowering it into the socket. The pins of the processor must fit exactly in the right place in the socket, and they only fit one way. When the processor is seated correctly, the handle can be folded back and the cooler must be installed.

Open access to the socket and then insert the processor.

If the processor is in place, put the cooler on top or screw on the passive cooling.

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