I’ll be the first to admit that my backup habits leave something to be desired. Saying that I back up once in a blue moon might be too kind. I’m amazed that I’ve made it this far without a catastrophe. So, when I first saw the HP MediaSmart Server, I knew that I didn’t just want one, I needed one. I loved the idea behind it…a small box with only network and power connections designed to backup up all of your household computers and act as a media/file server as well. The 500Gb model was in my price range ($499.99 after a $40 instant discount on the HP Employe Purchase site). It seemed to be a lock for my next purchase and then several small things happened.
• 1 Tb hard drives became widely available…still at quite a premium, but available.
• I realized that the HP device could only be purchased with 500Gb hard drives. The 1Tb model that HP sells has 2 500Gb drives leaving only 2 slots available to put more drives.
• A couple of months before I was going to buy the HP MediaSmart Server, I checked the website and found that they had removed the instant discount, effectively increasing the price to $540 before shipping.
It was right about then that I said to myself, “I could build one for that price.” Of course, I wouldn’t have any warranty or support, but from what I’ve read online, the HP support for this device leaves something to be desired. “But, you’ve never built a computer before,” I argued with myself. I work with them all day long, but I’d never seriously considered building my own. I looked through the WHS forums and saw the many different builds that people were doing. So, I wrote down the specs for the HP model and with that as my reference, I went to Newegg to find equal or better parts. I wanted to come up with something similar in price but also wanted more flexibility and expandability than the HP box offered. Using the following guidelines, I set off in search of some parts.
• Rebates are OK. (I’m still waiting…)
• Get free shipping if at all possible.
• Remember that it’s a server…Space isn’t an issue for me, so it doesn’t have to be small. It doesn’t have to look flashy or need to be able to play games. I won’t be playing Crysis on it, but, it can’t be too much of a slug as I eventually plan on using it to serve up some media content around the house.
• CASE – quiet, cool, and roomy enough to add at least 6 drives internally.
• Motherboard – Prefer on board video and at least 6 SATA ports.
• CPU – Dual Core, somewhere around 2~ish Gb.
• Memory – Inexpensive – start with 1 Gb and increase if necessary.
• Hard Drive – 750 Gb seems to be the best value right now.
As I found deals, I bought parts a couple at a time. Total price before rebates was $580.09. The max spent at any one time was $180.
Component / MFG / Model / Price / Comments
/ Antec / P182 / $59.99 / $50 rebate – $30 discount
/ Antec / 380W / 80Plus / $34.99
/ ECS / A740GM-M / $49.57 / $5.58 shipping -$10 rebate
CPU / AMD / 64X2 / 4000+ / $54.99 / Used $5 off promo code
Memory / Kingston / Value 2X512 / $30.57 / $5.58 shipping
Hard Drive / WD GP / 750Gb / $149.99
OS / MS WHS / $149.99 / $20 Newegg discount
TOTAL AFTER REBATES $520.09
A couple of months later I had acquired all the components, and I put it together one evening. After double checking my work the following morning, I borrowed a DVD drive (used only for installing the OS) and case speaker (to hear the BIOS beeps) from spare parts and began building ‘The Beast’. The build was straightforward and fairly uneventful. I only had to load drivers for the NIC and uninstall the audio drivers that the OS couldn’t seem to understand. I probably could have done some searching and found audio drivers that the OS would like, but since I don’t plan on ever plugging speakers into it, why bother? About a half dozen reboots later, I had it no errors in Event Log. I called it good and removed the DVD drive and speaker, closed it up and plugged in only the LAN line and power cord. After loading the connector software on my Vista machine, I set my first backup in motion and went outside. One hour and 42 minutes later, the backup was completed. The incremental backups that followed have taken around 3~8 minutes.
• Wow, that was easy…too easy…what did I mess up?
• $500 seems like quite a bit for just backups, but WHS is designed to grow with you. I’ll eventually add more hard drives and start storing files/photos/music/videos on it.
• Depending on how you look at it, I probably went completely overboard on the case. It’s a great case but man is it big!
Here’s a shot of it fresh out of the box next to the kid’s old computer and a 19” widescreen monitor. I’ll definitely have enough room to add extra drives.
It was a great deal and the little things like the lockable front door, variable speed fans and washable dust filters helped make it an easy decision to buy it.
• Since ‘The Beast’ has been alive for a month or so and is still functioning properly, I’ve started ripping my DVDs to it. Using this tutorial as a guide, converting my DVD Disc collection into a DVD VOB file library was pretty straight forward. I use www.dvdxml.com for the metadata.
• The dust filters work well. After being on 24/7 for a month, the filters were completely covered with dust, while the inside of the case was virtually dust free.