My new home server

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been putting together my new home server and it’s finally finished. Here are the parts I used. Some of them are from another computer that I took apart and repurposed. The links are just references to the parts and the price is before tax and after rebates (if applicable). I got free shipping as well for all the parts (combination of will call, Amazon Prime, promo code, etc).

Here are the reasons why I chose to go with the hardware/software.

  • Intel i3 2100 CPU:
    • I was able to get a good deal on this CPU at $90.
    • It’s only dual core with no hyper-threading. For my use it’s all that I need. It can also run at a low wattage. I don’t need a faster, more core processor that will consume more energy. Don’t count this CPU out, it does a very nice job.
    • I was leaning towards an AMD A6-3500 CPU but I couldn’t pass up the deal on the CPU.
  • G.Skill 8GB ram: Nothing special. It was a good price for the features it included. I’ve used this brand several times in the past and have worked flawlessly. Seagate ST2000DL003:
    • Post-flood price of $99 each is too hard to beat at this time. I needed 8 so I had to wait for the right time to get them.
    • My friend Jeff from JB Tech Enterprise has been using this drive and highly recommends it.
    • SATA 6Gbps, 64MB cache, 5900 RPM
    • This particular model has a 2 year warranty instead of the common 1 year warrant most of their consumer drives have.
    • Runs at a low wattage and quiet.
  • Silverstone SATA power connectors: Helps tremendously with cable management.
  • OCZ Petrol SSD: For the price and size and it’s SSD, it’s a great choice for the OS drive. Ever since I started running SSD, I will never, ever, run my OS drive with HDD. There are plenty of bad reviews on this particular model but I’ll take the chance. So far it’s been running great. I’ve used it in a HTPC build for a couple of months with no problems. I’ve had an OCZ Vertex go bad and I contacted OCZ for a RMA. The experience was great. So based on that experience, I don’t mind using this just to cut cost. Even if the drive goes bad, I’ll have backups and the RAID card I have will take care of itself during rebuild.
  • Gigabyte GA-Z68-MA-D2H-B3:
    • I was using this on a HTPC for testing. I repurposed it so I didn’t have to buy a new board.
    • It has 6 total SATA ports that I can use if I wanted to do other raid configurations outside my raid card.
  • OCZ ModXStream 500W Modular Power Supply:
    • Modular power supply
    • Outside of running multiple high-end video cards, 500W can run a lot of things. So far it can run 8 hard drives along with the other essential hardware of a computer.
    • It’s quiet and runs cool.
  • Lian LI PC-A71F:
    • Cost! I was able to get the tower for $80. This tower normally sells for more than $180.
    • It’s a full tower with lots of bays. With careful planning and other accessories, I’m able to install about 16 3.5” drives.
    • Nice build quality, though the side panels can be difficult to slide open/close at times.
    • Power supply can be mounted on top or bottom.
    • Comes with plenty of screws and rubber pieces to reduce vibrations on the HDD.
  • Adaptec 6805 2271200-R raid card:
    • The 512MB memory doesn’t require a battery.
    • The kit comes with the cables.
    • My friend Jeff from JB Tech Enterprise highly recommends it. He has done plenty of research on this card and I trust his recommendations.
    • The cost is a bit high but for what it can do to help protect against hardware failure, it’s worth it.
  • XIGMATEK HDD Cage: I needed an adapter to be able to use my 5.25” bays for 3.5” HDD. This was perfect. The price is good and it comes with a fan.
  • Intel Gigabit NIC: I need teaming and the price I got it for was great. Plus it’s an Intel so drivers are no problem for many and most OS. Windows Home Server 2011:
    • I have tried Freenas 8 a couple of times and the current versions are still too buggy for me. Whenever I create a new share, I would have to reset the CIFS service several times before I’m able to gain access to the share. I tried to create a LAGG interface for LACP and it just wouldn’t work. I was getting inconsistent transfer speeds during my tests. I wish I would’ve gotten this to work being that it’s free, no need to purchase an antivirus, ZFS support, and rsync support.
    • It’s only $50 and you get the basic Windows server OS. Solves all my basic needs. *It’s Windows. Sounds bad, but it has a GUI. I don’t have to mess around with Terminal/Command Prompt – for the most part. I wish it had a web gui like freenas though but remote desktop works fine.
    • I can run other softwares like XBMC, Spotify, rip and transcode video, etc. Essentially, I can not only run it as a server but I can have it do workstation tasks if I choose to.
    • I was able to get teaming working easily.
  • Trend Micro Business Antivirus:
    • Whenever running any Windows OS, an antivirus is a must.
    • I’ve been using Trend Micro for many years and many of my desktops.
    • Runs with little resource.
    • Licensed from JB Tech Enterprise

Here are some pics I took.

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Here are some screenshots I took. This is the Adaptec Storage Manager software and my RAID6.

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If you don’t use GPT and use the default MBR, Windows will split your volume into 2 partitions when your volume is larger than 2TB.

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Here’s a short video I did on the server.

Adaptec 6805 RAID card

I finally received my new Adaptec 6805 raid card today. After messing with 2 lower end cards (Highpoint and Supermicro) that both failed after a few days, I decided I’ll invest and get the bad boy. This card alone cost more than my server (except the 8x 2TB drives) all together. Shout out to Jeff from JB Tech Enterprise for recommending this card.

So far so good. It works with Windows Home Server 2011 using Windows 2008 drivers. The software is also working. I’ve created a RAID6 with 8x 2TB Seagate ST2000DL003. It’s initializing now. I’m pretty sure it will be a lot faster than using the onboard RAID ports and Windows software raid to initialize.

Here are some pics I took during the unboxing.

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I wasn’t sure what the gray cable was so I tied it up and left it alone. I checked the website for any information and found nothing. I Googled, still nothing. I tried to call Adaptec tech support, but they were already closed. I sent the pic to Jeff and he says it’s the activity light hookup that may go to a backplane. Well, I don’t have a backplane so I won’t be using it.

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I’ll post more about the card once the array has finished initializing and I’ll do some benchmarks. Stay tuned.

HighPoint RocketRaid 2720SGL

I bought the Highpoint Rocketraid 2720SGL raid card for my Windows Home Server 2011 box. From the specs I read it looked great. It supports up to 8 drives, 6Gbps, RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, 50, and JBOD, connects to PCI-E 2.0 at x8 speed, and the cost wasn’t too bad at around $160. With the latest firmware, it will even support RAID6. But just like many raid cards, it doesn’t come with the SAS to SATA cable. I had to buy some (2) from Amazon as well. I also bought 2 SATA 4 in 1 power cables to help with cabling. I will be using 8x Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB drives.

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I had trouble setting up the card. For one, it was conflicting with the onboard SATA controllers of my motherboard (Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3). I had to set the SATA port to IDE instead of AHCI. Once that was solved, another problem started. Sometimes, the card wouldn’t detect all the hard drives. At first I thought it was the drives themselves but I plugged them in using the onboard SATA ports and they were detected consistently.

When it did work, I was able to create a RAID6 with a total of 10TB drive space. I had to use GPT because MBRwould partition the volume into 2 pieces. It took about 27 hours to initialize the raid. Not too bad. It was faster than using the software raid from Windows.

Transferring files was another problem. The highest speed was 48MBps. This is in a gigabit network. The server is also using 2x Intel EXPI9301CTLBK gigabit ethernet cards using teaming with LACP. When I use Windows’ software RAID5, I was able to get speeds over 90MBps. It’s not a direct comparison to the configuration. One is a hardware RAID6 with 7x 2TB drives. The other has a software RAID5 with 5x 2TB drives. Not sure if any of those makes a difference with speed.

Anyways, I’m done playing around and hoping for the drives to be detected so I’m sending it back to Amazon for a refund. I’m getting the Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 instead. I don’t need the hardware raid right now. I’ll just use the software raid that Windows has or use Flexraid the other third party drive extender plugins for Windows Home Server 2011. I will let you know once I’ve added the new card and played with it. Hope it works as expected.

RAID0 SSD, 2 weeks later

Two weeks after I installed my Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD in a RAID0, I’m still getting great performance. I have now used up half of my drive space.

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My write speeds still look weird between what ATTO and Crystal Disk are reporting. I’m not really good with these benchmark softwares. I just use the default settings. If anyone can tell me how I can tweek or adjust the configurations of the benchmarks to give me a more accurate result, please let me know. Also, I haven’t updated the firmware. It is still 320ABFF0.

Kingston HyperX SSD in RAID0

I think I have found the perfect SSD drive. I have tried several, most I kept and some I returned. The ones I kept so far are 2 Kingston V+100 96GB. Both are running in a Macbook Pro 13” (Core2Duo) and another in a Macbook Pro 15” (i7 2011 model). Another is the OCZ Vertex Plus 60GB. The first one seemed to work well so I bought another and made a RAID0. Even after the firmware update (v3.50) my OS kept freezing so I returned it.

Since I’ve had such a good experience with Kingston, I decided to check out what they have using the SATA3 connection. Kingston has the HyperX SSD which comes in 2 sizes, 120GB and 240GB. They also come in 2 different packages, with or without the kit. According to Kingston, it can read up to 525MB/s and write up to 480MB/s. The numbers are impressive on 1 drive but on a RAID0, it would even be better.

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I ended up getting the package with the kit. The kit includes a screwdriver, a USB enclosure, USB 2.0 cables, a 2.5” to 3.5” bay adaptor, and Acronis software to clone your old hard drive onto the new. The packaging is nice, silver and blue theme. The screwdriver is handy. It comes with 3 different bits and it’s magnetic. It’s shaped like a pen and has a clip so you can clip it on your clothes, bag, etc. The enclosure is well designed and easy to open and close. Other things I notices are the 3 year warranty and the 24/7 tech support. I will be calling them this weekend and testing that out.

Installation is very easy especially with the iStarUSA BPU-124V2-SS cage. After installing Windows and updating it here are the benchmark numbers from different softwares.

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My WEI score also went up to 7.9. My CPU (Intel i7 2600K) is at stock speed gets a 7.6 but after overclocking it using ASUS’s TPU (4.4GHz) that score went up to 7.8.

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So after a day, the drives have been stable. No freezing or signs of being unstable. Let’s see if this continues the next few days/weeks. I hope it does, since I’m really liking the performance. Here is my hardware break down if you’re curious.

CPU: Intel i7 2600K 3.4GHz

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro

Ram: G.Skills Ripjaws DDR3 1600 16GB 2x (2x4GB)

OS Drive: Kingston HyperX 120GB SH100S3B SSD in a RAID0 (SATAIII port using Intel controller)

Data Drive: Seagate 7200RPM 16MB cache 4x 500GB in a RAID5 (SATAII port)

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1

RAID0 using 2x 60GB OCZ Vertex Plus SSD

My latest upgrade to my computer is a pair of OCZ Vertex Plus 60GB SSD. They are running on SATAII and have had many bad reviews but I wanted to give them a try, after all my motherboard has the Z68 chipset. I was running a RAID10 4x Seagate 500GB 7200RPM with 16MB cache as my main drive. Now the plan is to create a RAID0 with the 2 SSD drives and turn the RAID10 into a RAID5 and use it for the data drive.

Here is the ATTO benchmark of the RAID10 before I deleted it.

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Now here’s the ATTO benchmark of the RAID0 using the SSD and the WEI score.

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Based on the numbers I’m getting, it doesn’t seem like a big difference – unless I’m reading it wrong but the read speeds improved from 237MB/s to 261MB/s. My boot up times have improved a lot. Not sure if that has plenty to do with SSD or the clean install of Windows or both.

Here is my ATTO benchmark of the RAID5 that used to be the RAID0.

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The write speeds are very low compared to the RAID10 but the read speeds are better.

I’m also using a iStarUSA BPU-124V2-SS 5.25” drive cage. It’s a great little tray that holds 4x 2.5” drives – either SATA or SAS and supports up to SATAIII speeds. It’s very easy to install the drives and it has 2 fans. You only need 1 power cable to power 4 drives. It’s very nice and I highly recommend it if you will use 2.5” drives.

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So far the upgrade was not only inexpensive (because they are only 60GB drives using SATAII interface) but I have noticed improvements in speed and performance. If you don’t have the budget for the newer SATAIII SSDs or larger capacity, try a RAID0 configuration with 2+ smaller SSD drives. Remember though with RAID0, you will not have redundancy. If 1 drive fails, all of the drives in the array will too.

Here’s the breakdown of the main hardware I’m using and none are overclocked. Everything is running stock.

CPU: Intel i7 2600K 3.4GHz

Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68MA-D2H-B3

Ram: G.Skills Ripjaws DDR3 1600 16GB 2x (2x4GB)

OS Drive: OCZ Vertex Plus 2x 60GB SSD in a RAID0 (SATAIII port)

Data Drive: Seagate 7200RPM 16MB cache 4x 500GB in a RAID5 (SATAII port)

OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64bit SP1

Update: My computer’s fans started to kick up a little then all of a sudden it would freeze. I thought it was a glitch at first but it happened again within 5 minutes after I rebooted. It may have something to do with the SSD drives and what many are complaining about. The firmware version was 3.02 and the latest is 3.50 so I updated it. We’ll see if it continues to be unstable. Also, after installing the firmware, I redid the ATTO benchmark and got better results.

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RAID boo boo

I got my RAID1+0 set up Sunday night and I bought some molex to SATA power cable adapters (I ran out because of the positioning of the devices). After Windows 7’s backup/restore failed to restore my OS onto my new drives from a backup and image file on my NAS, I decided to plug in my old/space 1TB hard drive internally – hoping to fix that issue. The 4 drives on my RAID were plugged in with 3 red and 1 blue. Nitpicking around, I wanted to have them all red so I swapped the drive3 of the array (blue) cable with red. Then I plugged in the new drive. After booting up, I noticed my RAID manager saying that my array needed to be rebuilt. I’m guessing even swapping out cables is not allowed or it will break the chain – noob IT guy :

So for the last few hours, my 3rd drive is being rebuilt. I’m just glad I didn’t have to reinstall Windows and all those drivers. Nevertheless, if you can set up any RAID configuration on your computer, I highly recommend it. Not only will it increase performance, but it can increase hardware reliability – based on the RAID configurations of course. If you got any questions, email Jeff from JB Tech Enterprises – support@jbtechent.com. He’ll be able to help you out. He’s a genius when it comes to these things and he helped me build my new PC, or leave a comment below.