computer advice (in Off-topic)

Fishead July 29 2012 3:10 PM EDT

Another "help me build a computer" thread.

I'm looking to build a media server for my home. I'll be using it to store photos, music, and videos as well as stream music and videos to various devices in the house. I will also use it to rip music and videos from disks. I'm not into gaming or anything that is going to require a lot processing of power.

I'll probably buy most of the components from my local Frys, so I'm not looking for links to parts so much as general advice. I plan on running three drives, one for the OS and programs, etc, and two for storage, mirroring each other.

I'm not sure where to start for a build like this. I figure budget is not too much of a concern as I don't need anything too high end. I've built computers in the past, but always very basic boxes to serve as office computers.

Any input will be greatly appreciated.


QBPit Spawn [Abyssal Specters] July 29 2012 3:35 PM EDT

Fishead July 29 2012 6:24 PM EDT

That looks like fun for something, but I'm looking for something a little more Windows based.

TheShazbot July 29 2012 6:48 PM EDT

Grab yourself an ITX board and an i3 processor. That should be enough to do what you need. ITX boards are really tailor-made for media servers, and would be what I would buy if I had a need for one new. (I would probably re-purpose a P4 or something for this purpose though, if money was a concern)

TheShazbot July 29 2012 6:53 PM EDT

Or, a lower-end A-series AMD processor such as the A4-3300, as those are both CPU-GPU in one, if you decide to go with an ATX motherboard instead. The ATX motherboard would be less limiting, but if size is at a premium, ITX would be better.

Haloki July 29 2012 7:15 PM EDT

5th post yeah!!!! The comedy is real!

Fishead July 29 2012 7:35 PM EDT

5th post yeah!!!! The comedy is real!

I laughed so hard I dropped a BoTh somewhere!

TheShazbot July 29 2012 7:40 PM EDT

Oh yes, I don't see how presenting a low-cost AMD solution is humourous, so enlighten me?

Haloki July 29 2012 7:46 PM EDT

You would have to know about my contest post...... Btw good luck with your server issue sounds awsome!!!

Fishead July 29 2012 9:10 PM EDT

Wasn't laughing at your post Shaz. I was laughing at Haloki's re-post of a typo from his contest (it's where I got the BoTh from). I like the suggestion of repurposing an old P4, but it's what I'm replacing. It works fine for what I'm doing, but I'm ready for an upgrade. Your first post is the kind of info I was looking for. Haven't had the chance to look at the hardware yet.

Thanks for the info, it gives me a good place to start.

Fishead July 30 2012 2:19 PM EDT

... I'm not too excited about what I've found at Fry's, so I guess I'm shopping online. Here's what I am looking at so far, all from New Egg: 2X Seagate Barracuda Green ST1500DL003 1.5TB 5900 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $199.98 ($99.99 each) Antec Basiq BP430 430W Continuous Power ATX12V Version 2.2 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply $49.95 PNY Optima 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model MD8192KD3-1333 $39.99 Any thoughts? ASUS P8H77-I LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard $109.99 Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32120 $124.99 nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 5000B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case $66.99 ...

Fishead July 30 2012 2:20 PM EDT

Sorry for the messy post.

ScrObot July 30 2012 5:57 PM EDT

I've always had good luck with NewEgg. Fry's is only good for components when they're on sale, and you better know exactly what you want going in. (=

TheShazbot July 31 2012 3:57 AM EDT

It looks good, but I would go with the i3-2120T instead of the straight i3-2120 for power consumption, as I assume this will be on nearly 24/7.

TheShazbot July 31 2012 4:34 AM EDT

Oh, I just thought of some more stuff:
Buy a SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W ATX12V V2.3 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - You'll only draw a max of under 200w with that system (assuming you go with the 2120T instead). It's also cheaper, and 80+ Bronze certified. The more efficient, the less power costs you'll have.

I also recommend getting a different CPU cooler, as the stock one for most processors isn't that great.

I know you'll probably balk at the price, but: is a great cooler, is silent (highly important - you don't really want to have your CPU fan kick on high-gear when you're streaming in the same room, right?)

Also consider replacing the stock fans in the case you're buying if they're just not quiet enough for your liking.

Sickone July 31 2012 11:55 AM EDT

You could save 30$ by switching from 2x1.5 to 1x3 TB.

You don't need a 430W PSU for that machine, your max power usage should be only around 180W tops at full usage (probably much less most of the time), so even a 300W PSu would be overkill even accounting for PSU aging years from now. You can get a 300W 80 Plus bronze certified PSU (better than 80 plus certified) for at least 10$ less.

You should also be able to find 2x4 GB DDR3@1600 for around 40$, instead of 50$ for DDR3@1333.

With the low power usage, a nice-looking case is not very important, you could probably save another 20-30$ there.

Overall possible savings : 70-80$.

Sickone July 31 2012 12:12 PM EDT

Or look for special combos with your desired CPU or whatever else you like fixed...

for instance, right now, that would be:

Intel Core i3-2120
H61 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
G.SKILL Value Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) (PC3 10666)
Seagate Barracuda Green 1.5TB Bare Drive
Thermaltake V4 Black Edition Gaming Chassis Mid Tower
LG DVD Burner Black SATA Model GH24NS90
Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W Power Supply

was: $442.93
Discount: -$54.18
Combo Price: $388.75

Probably not quite what you were looking for, but gives you an idea of what you could find if you put in some extra effort to look for special savings combo deals.
And those keep on changing, so you could check in several days until something sufficiently interesting pops up.
That particular search was for combos that include a 2120 processor, maybe you want to look for another in the combo.

Fishead July 31 2012 1:45 PM EDT

So, I'll be going with the i3-2120T and a 300W 80 plus bronze PSU. I wasn't sure how to select the power supply, so thanks for clearing that up for me.

I'll keep the double hard drives, I'm paranoid of loosing all of my photos and video if one crashes (I don't reliably back it up to disk or on another computer.

I'm with you on the case, but my wife likes pretty (she's a graphic designer) so if there's a chance she will have to look at it, it needs to be pretty. Not too sure how she ended up with me.

Thanks Shazbot and Sickone for the help. Now that I know what I need, I can shop around for the best deals. The hard part is resisting the little upgrades.

Sickone July 31 2012 2:42 PM EDT

If you're paranoid about losing stuff, go with a RAID solution and maybe even more smaller drives.
You could end up not losing ANYTHING if one of the drives fails (reconstruction after failure an replacement can take a long time though), but you're getting less total space available for that convenience.

Most non-crappy motherboards come supporting at least RAID 0 and RAID 1.

RAID 0 is not redundancy of data, just performance enhancement.

RAID 1 for instance is USUALLY a doubling of data on two (sometimes more) separate drives.
Data gets read at twice the speed of a single drive (or more, if you use more drives), but written at slightly slower speed than a single drive.
You get to keep the data until ALL drives are simultaneously destroyed.
Total space available is the same as if you only had a single drive.

Some motherboards also come with RAID 5 and sometimes RAID 10 support.

RAID 5 writes the data and also extra parity data to each and every drive separately.
If one drive fails, data on it can be fully reconstituted, but it takes a while (and if a second drive fails while reconstituting, some data is lost).
Read and write speed are both slightly lower than that of one less drive compared to how many you have total, so using more than 2 is always a good idea.
Space available is as if you had one less drive than you have (so, space of 1 if you have 2, space of 2 if you have 3, etc), so again, the more drives you have, the better.

RAID 10 is a "hybrid" version, the proper term would be RAID 1+0.
You need a MINIMUM of 4 drives, and you need an even number of drives (so you can't use 5, you need 2 more, so 6 next).
It combines most of the good things in RAID 1 and RAID 0 by having pairs of drives in RAID 1 combined in a big RAID 0 set.

Sickone July 31 2012 2:49 PM EDT

P.S. In your case, I would probably go with something like 3x 1 TB drives in RAID 5 (so you lose nothing if just one drive fails).
Available data storage would be 2 TB.
Read/write speeds would be slightly less than double that of a single drive.

Sickone July 31 2012 3:11 PM EDT


RAID 6 is also an option - it's mostly just RAID 5, but it has double parity data, so it can survive failure of TWO drives instead of one. And you lose the space of two drives, not one. Probably not worth switching to RAID 6 from RAID 5 until you have at least 5, preferably 7 or more drives in the array though.
In some cases, you can add extra drives to either a RAID 5 or a RAID 6 array later, if the hardware supports it.

Even if your motherboard is unable to employ your desired RAID type, you can always get a separate RAID card for that.
Just make sure it has enough connectors for how many drives you want to add and it supports the RAID type you wish to use.
RAID cards with 4x SATA-II connectors that support RAID 0/1/5/10 start at around 35$.

Fishead July 31 2012 3:18 PM EDT

Looks like the motherboard I'm looking at supports Raid 0/1/5/10 so I'm OK there, just need to get another drive. Do all three drives need to be the same size or just the two that mirror each other?

Also, I'm open to other motherboards, I picked the ASUS because I know the name, but I'm not tied to it.

Sickone July 31 2012 3:34 PM EDT

Yes, all drives need to be of the same size.
It would also be preferable for all of them to be the exact same model from the same manufacturer, but it's not mandatory.

Just to clarify, in RAID 5, it's not actual mirroring, it's distribution of data plus parity info for all data spread across all drives equally (so there's parity info about data on drive 1 on both drives 2 and 3, parity for drive 2 on drives 1 and 3, and parity for drive 3 on drives 1 and 2).

RAID 1 would be mirroring, but you only get the size of one single drive even if you use 3 or 4. You only get extra space with RAID 5.

Sickone July 31 2012 3:37 PM EDT
See that for in depth explanation and other advantages/disadvantages of RAID 5.
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