How hard is it to build a PC, a media server to be exact

Discussion in 'Mac and Home Theater' started by chris, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. chris

    chris Administrator
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    I currently own a Windows Media Server, an HP EX495, which I have already upgraded. With Windows 8 server coming, I was starting to think about building my next server. This isn't anything I'm doing this weekend or even in the next few weeks, but I am starting to plan things out. I'm no stranger to working with computers. I had little issue upgraded my old server and the biggest job I've done was upgrading the processor on my PowerCenter Pro (for those of you old enough to remember those).

    This article on WeGotServed is the basis for what I'm hoping to create, although I'm likely going to venture off when it comes to the parts he selected.

    How hard is it to build one of these? Anyone have PC building experience? Any suggestions on processors, et all
     
  2. fury

    fury Evangelist
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    It doesn't take a whole lot to build a PC. It's a matter of buying all the right parts, then they pretty much only go together in one general way. (You can pick and choose which port to hook up a hard drive to, or which slot to put a card in, but you can never put something into a slot that it doesn't go in)

    As for what to build into it: depends on what you want the media server to do. If you just want it to simply serve files that you've already encoded, then you don't need much, a modern Pentium (Sandy Bridge-ish) or i3 would be perfectly sufficient, cool, and cheap. But if you want to be able to encode to different formats to support all the different devices in the house, then you need some oomph, an i7. Especially if you use an encoding utility that supports Quick Sync. Those will use the integrated Intel HD graphics chip to get the encoding job done faster.

    Memory will probably help in any case (whether encoding, or caching files from disk), and fortunately, DDR3 is dirt cheap now, so go ahead and throw in at least 8 gigs.

    Any hard drive should be able to serve you a file as fast or faster than you can watch it, but if you will be doing more than one stream at a time, or doing other things than just simple file serving, then I'd say at least a 7200 RPM drive. The "green" and "eco" drives run really slow.

    Need a quality power supply above all else, because if you have a bad power supply then everything else has a shortened life span and you'll run into stability issues. I have an Antec Neo Eco 400C which is pretty solid and not very expensive. It is rated for 400w of constant output. That should be able to take care of anything your media server will do. Don't expect to throw a monster video card at that small power supply, though, some of them can take up 300w by themselves.
     
  3. imutter

    imutter Genius
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    I just checked in that as well and I have to agree the hardest part for me was finding parts what are compatible
    Now one thing I heard was: Your machine is only as good as your weakes part.

    I also looked in extra cooling (liked liquid coolers) and fans
    the new components give up quiet some heat
    also you need to make certain you get a big enough housing for upgrades
    motherboards is hard to decide on since you want to look at the new USB 3.0 connections (check Asus sabertooth Intel Z77)
    fury mentioned power supply I would rather have more (also for later upgrades)
    With the memory you can use a few cards rather 1 . I like G.Skill ripjaws (that is personal preference)
    some i5 processors do as much as i7
    I had choosen killernetwork card (if you are a gamer) 4.0 bluetooth was a must have
    You will need to decide on a graphics card and sound card as well what really depends on your needs
    I like GeForce GTX NVIDIA Video Cards

    It looks like a lot at first but once you start you find Wow why did I never do this before!
     
  4. FluffyLogic

    FluffyLogic New Member

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    As long as you make sure all of the parts are compatible with one another building a PC is extremely easy. I built my first PC about 9 months ago and had absolutely no problems, just take your time and take the necessary precautions against static (like building it in a non carpeted room and only messing with the motherboard and processor when its on a non-static surface, such as the bag it comes in).

    Hope this helps
     
  5. fury

    fury Evangelist
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    You won't need extravagant cooling for a simple media server unless it's going to be sitting in your entertainment center. If it's stowed away in another room, standard air cooling (i.e. the fan that comes in the box with the processor) will suffice, as long as the room itself gets proper ventilation. If it's going to be in the same room as your entertainment center, then water cooling starts to look pretty attractive. You'll like that a lot better than hearing a fan ramp up and down.

    Also, power supplies are a tricky beast. I mentioned the one I use, the Antec 400C. As I said, rated for 400w of continuous output. But also really quiet. I can not notice the fan unless everything else is silent and I am specifically listening for it.

    Most power supplies are labeled for how much juice they can provide in a pinch, and in reality can only handle, say, half or 75% of their rated max. Most power supplies will quickly fail if you run it at their advertised output for an extended period. If you get a generic 600w power supply and keep throwing 400w at it, you will usually end up worse off than with this one. So, researching power supplies is a biggie. 400w is a lot of power, more than any modern media server will ever need. I used this power supply for my mid-range gaming PC for a long time - 6-core AMD processor, Radeon 5770 video card. So, it will easily handle a media server that has either no GPU or a low-end GPU.

    Only reason to add more than a decent 400w power supply would be to add a high-end gaming GPU to the system, which isn't necessary for a media server
     
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  6. imutter

    imutter Genius
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    fury you got it right I was looking for mainly gaming LOL
    I also hate the noise coming of the machines LOL
    Also I ad some problems selecting the right cables and hook ups any advice ?
    Do you suggest a certain tool kit ?
     
  7. Apple iAddicted

    Apple iAddicted Contributor
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    If you can repair/upgrade components and swap parts on your PC then building one isn't much more difficult. And the casings you can get are way cooler than premade (some in both style and heat dispersal)


    Sent from my 32GB iPhone 4s on iOS 5.1.1
    The ONLY thing better than an iPhone is the newer iPhone!
     
  8. chris

    chris Administrator
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    This thread has been super helpful. Super busy, but wanted to check in and let everyone know that I appreciate the assistance. I'll be back later for sure to discuss. Still have some questions.
     
  9. Psyrix

    Psyrix Member
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    The only thing I would drop is the SSD. It is useless for this configuration and application. IE you would be wasting money. Here is why:

    1) Install 16GB of memory for drive buffering.
    2) You should only be booting this server once a year at most.
    3) Current SATA (platter) drives can read and write at 170 MegaBytes per second with a proper controller.
     
  10. fury

    fury Evangelist
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    Depends on what cables and hookups you mean. There's whole sites dedicated to just cables and adapters and stuff. a whole world full of stuff.
    Professional-class builders will wield a variety of screwdrivers, cable ties/tubes for cable management, an anti-static wrist strap/foot strap/grounding mat, an assortment of screws, jumpers, stand-offs for motherboard mounting, a screw-grabber-thingamajiggybobber for picking up dropped screws, and a large table or workbench to lay everything on while working on it.

    My toolkit consists of me, myself, and my trusty Phillips-head. And a dash of f-bombs and the occasional percussive maintenance. Usually works. I can't count how many screws and small pieces I've lost to the carpet, though.
     
  11. Apple iAddicted

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    I've never built for myself but I have built some for friends and family, best thing to do is get a painters drop cloth and lay over the carpet makes it easier to find parts ya drop


    Sent from my 32GB iPhone 4s on iOS 5.1.1
    The ONLY thing better than an iPhone is the newer iPhone!
     
  12. Santa

    Santa Evangelist
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    Although everything you say is true, I'm not sure I'd agree. To me, one of the biggest requirements for a media center is a small power draw. It's an always on device that can get a lot of use. The fewer moving parts (drives, fans) the less power the puppy's going to use.
     
  13. Psyrix

    Psyrix Member
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    If you go back and read the build specification, you will see it list three 3TB hard drives. Which is why I suggested the platter based solution. But you statement has warranted an investigation of the actual power draws. So lets go head to head with the SSD specified vs my current favorite drive since they are in the same basic price range.

    From the build: OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS 120GB SSD - Idle power 1.65W, under load 3W
    My favorite: Seagate Barracuda 3TB Hard Drive ST3000DM001 - Idle power 5.4W, under load 8W.

    And you were spot on power wise. But lets look at the 5 year power costs just for the fun off it. As of Jan '12, the average price of a Kilowatt hour of electricity for the US is 9.83 cents (http://www.eia.gov/electricity/). Since it doesn't hurt the SSD at all, lets use 14 cents per kilowatt for our math since that puts us at the top end average price.

    Now for the number crunching. Lets use the worst case number of 8 watts and then percentage it with the other 3 numbers.
    1000 watts / 8 watts = 125 hours of operation.
    5 years = 356 * 5 * 24 = 43800 hours. 43800 / 125 = 350 .4 units of 1Kw of power
    350.4 * .14 cents = $49.06

    So SSD works out to $10.12 idle and $18.40 full load.
    And the platters are $33.12 idle and $49.06 full load.

    Now we could also take the time to look at the heat load issue, but for one drive to calculate the cooling required isn't worth it since we would also have to look at the heat load it provides during the winter. So lets call it a wash for now. Plus with the three other platter based HDs that are going in, adding an extra drive is moot.

    So my suggestion adds $23 to $31 of cost over 5 years of operation, but adds another 2.8TB of useable disk space. Personally I would go for the disk space when looking at that cost because I would be able to store another 325 DVDs of movies. But that is just me being greedy ;)
     
  14. fury

    fury Evangelist
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    Yeah, an SSD isn't an obvious fit for a home media server. It doesn't make that big of a difference in the power usage and heat output of a homebrew system. The motherboard, the CPU, the power supply itself, and the video card (if applicable) each use more power than a hard drive on average. In a laptop that is designed for minimum power usage, it can make a difference in that regard, as everything is designed with efficiency in mind. Not so much for desktop/server class hardware.

    A good SSD makes things so much faster, so it's a no-brainer for a user PC. In fact, I won't build one without an SSD anymore, and if I buy one, I make sure SSD is an option (I need to put one in my iMac).

    But a hard drive is plenty fast for media serving, not to mention capacious which is more beneficial. So I'd just shove in as many hard drives as I possibly could, and save the SSD for the Mac or PC.
     
  15. psylichon

    psylichon Genius
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    I'll second Fury's emphasis on the power supply. Do some research and don't be cheap here. In the several dozens of computers I've built, PSUs are one of the trickiest components. Get the connections and reliability you need.

    Also, if you don't have a good case already, get a solid Antec tower. I've been building and rebuilding my main desktop in an old P180 and I still love the hell out of it. They just make working inside the box so much easier. Well worth the money.

    And even if you don't transcode on the fly now, I'd get the beefiest i7 you can afford to future-proof yourself. I sprung for a 920 over two years ago and it still flyyyyys. Feed it lots of cheap memory and be very happy.
     
  16. Santa

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    Fair enough. I guess 2.8Tb is worth spending a NPV of $15 or so.

    I stand corrected.
     
  17. Psyrix

    Psyrix Member
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    I wasn't trying to correct you. I was just pointing out a consideration. After looking up the raw numbers, it is a crying shame SSDs are still so costly per gigabyte. Your suggestion could save 70% of the electrical cost over the life of server if all platters based HDs were replaced. That is huge in my opinion and something I will keep in mind the next time I do a build.
     
  18. chris

    chris Administrator
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    I currently use my home server, an upgraded HP EX495 for all of my movies and TV shows. I've got something like 6TB of storage and it runs Windows Server 2011. I have a Mac mini that runs Plex, which outputs to my AVR. This in turn outputs to my TV. I do all my ripping on my Mac Pro and then drop the files on the server. Since moving back home, my setup has been slightly wonky, but I blame that on either a poor cable, introduction of an Apple Airport Extreme or software (upgraded to Mountain Lion, new version of Plex).

    The trouble with WHS2011 is that it does not support drive pooling, so all of my data has to backup to another drive. This makes it terribly inefficient storage wise. I'm ripping 25GB MKV files, so things add up quickly. In the interim, I'm going to opt for either DriveBender or Stablebit as a WHS add-on for pooling.

    As a new parent, I was in charge of managing our ever-growing video and photo library. I've pretty much failed in that area. We have photos on individual computers, Photostream, Flickr. It's a mess. I was thinking of keeping that mess, but making the server the hub of 'important photos'. If myself or my wife has a good picture, we drop it on the server. I'm still not sure what software we'll use to view the images. Plex has a photo viewer, but it seems rather basic. I'd like to avoid iPhoto for this purpose, due to the crazy database it creates. I want the server to be folders, with photos. That's it. I just need front end software that we can use to view them in a slideshow, etc. Thinking about trying out my Xbox for this purpose.
     
  19. imutter

    imutter Genius
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    can't be that bad I still got pics on floppy disk
     

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