Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Build a Windows Home Server for $500

This will be the first of many intallments describing my adventures with Windows Home Server. I think it is one of the most exciting products to come out of Microsoft in a long time, and since Vista's out and nobody's saying nything about SP1, it fulfills my need to fixate on something.

Ever since I saw the HP MediaSmart Home Server, I've been jonesing to build myself a Window Home Server. I've been testing it for about 3 weeks inside a virtual machine, and that's just no fun. I really wanted a dedicated machine to be able to test it with. Well, the other day a friend of mine gave me a spare processor and motherboard, so I decided to undertake my first homebuilt machine in 8 years.

Now that I've been seduced by the diminuitive size of the HP machine, I wasn't satisfied to get just any case, I wanted a really small one. The problem is, the motherboard I was given was a MiniATX board, so I had relatively few options case-wise. So I decided to take a trek over to my local Fry's Electronics. I hardly ever buy anything there, because I've had more than a half-dozen bad experienced there, but it's a good place to check out the stuff you're gonna buy on

After being unhappy with what I saw, I came across a Shuttle PC just kind of haphazardly laying on a layaway shelf. I had to have one. So after doing some research, I found out that Shuttle doesn't make a Socket 939 kit at the moment, but NewEgg had a smokin deal on a VERY similar form factor from Aopen. It was one of the only ones that only had one 5 1/4" drive bay, all the others had two. I was shocked to find that they also had a 500 GB SATA hard drive for $150. If I had the money, I would have bought another, and put it in the floppy drive bay, but I can always do that later.

NewEgg had such great deals, I bought all my parts there. (As an aside, is it just me, or do they need to upgrade thir site to ASP.NET? I mean, it's still petty fast, but they could stand to add some Ajax goodness.) Last Friday, my parts came. I was so excited, and after an hour, I had the (almost) perfect Windows Home Server. Here's what I picked up (all prices current as of 18 March 2007 - Updated 28 March 2007):

Grand Total: $471.46  $445.46

A Windows Home Server for under $500? W00t! That's not including shipping, of course.... but it's still a steal. Below are some pictures of my rig under construction. Click any image for a larger version.


Since it had been so long since I had built a PC, it took a couple tries for me to get the processor and fan seated properly, but I finally got everything together. In the bottom pictures, you can see my new WHS machine near my two Digital Cable Tuners on top of my desk, as well as the Aopen case in relation to the driver CD it comes with. You can see more pictures of my new Home Server here.

All and all, I'm very happy with everything. It performs great, and it's nice and quiet (well, the drive is kinda loud when it's writing data, but that's ok). And, it's (almost) the perfect size. Plus, it'll make a great Virtual Server machine when I end up getting the HP MediaSmart Home Server later this year.

Well, that's it for this time. Next time, I'll share some observations of my first week with WHS. It's been a good week :).



  • Jeremy Morton said:

    You'll want three hard drives [the second two can be external] to get the data redundancy that it uses.

    March 19, 2007 12:22 AM
  • I know, but I'm not ready for that yet. Right now I'm using it more for sharing files and printers than I am the backup and redundancy aspects, especially since the machines that have critical data are on Vista x64... which is not supported yet.

    March 19, 2007 12:27 AM
  • Mattias said:

    Should you not include the license fee(s) for the OS/applications also?

    March 19, 2007 6:18 AM
  • Bigred said:

    So does this mean that WHS will be available in an OEM release?  I was told you were going to HAVE to purchase a pre-built server that already had the OS loaded and you would not be able to have the ability build your own computer.

    Can you help clear up the confusion?

    March 19, 2007 7:30 AM
  • Scott Marlowe said:

    Very cool. Looking forward to reading more about your experiences with Home Server!

    March 19, 2007 7:39 AM
  • Steve Bolton said:

    You only need 2 hard drives, or 1 internal and 1 external.  Home server partitions the 1st drive, 1 partition for the OS/2 and the other for data - so with a second internal or usb drive you can get the benefit of data redundancy.

    I played around with the beta on VMWare using multiple virtual drives and data sharing.  My concern is that when I simulated a drive failure by trashing one of the virtual hard drives, I didn't get any warnings about it when I logged onto the UI from a client machine.    This was the beta though ...

    March 19, 2007 8:01 AM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    Can you confirm that you can only use the remote computer access of WHS if the other computer on your network is running Ultimate?

    At first I was excited about being able to remote into family member's machines from anywhere but then realized that since I've told everyone to get Home Premium vs. Ultimate and since Home Premium doesn't support RDP I'm probably SOL on that front.

    Bummer for me because I'm constantly playing tech support for family and remoting into their machine is much easier than playing the phone game.  I still count removal of RDP on anything but Ultimate or Business as one of MS's stupidest moves.

    March 19, 2007 11:00 AM
  • Mattias: WHS is still in beta, so you can get the software for free right now. I odnt know how much it's going to cost later.

    BigRed: The WHS team has not disclosed costs yet, so I'm not sure if it will be a retail SKU.

    Shawn: Not sure about the RDP thing, but I can fire up my Home Premium VM and try it.

    March 19, 2007 11:23 AM
  • Jeremy Morton said:

    Steve Bolton: for the shares with redundancy, it puts a "tombstone" file on D: [the second partition on the first drive], and migrates the actual content to another drive, then it goes through and duplicates that file onto another drive.

    Shawn Oster: You can only remotely connect to SKUs that support RDP. :(

    March 19, 2007 11:58 AM
  • vern said:

    I can beat that!

    I have WHS running on a POS that I bought at Fry's before xmas. They had a special; $149 for a computer that comes with 256MB RAM, 40GB HD, some Duron proc. I added some RAM to kick it up to 1GB and a second HD. Total cost is probably around $280!

    Course, doesn't look as cool as the cube you've got, but who shives a git? It's in the closet!

    March 19, 2007 12:10 PM
  • Dan Dautrich said:

    I've been running WHS on my old AMD Sempron 2400+ box for about three weeks now and haven't encountered any issues yet, but your photos are making me itch to go out and put together a sleek little box like yours!  It's been really nice, it installed fine and has been working since then without a hitch... true plug-and-play.  It's been nice having that "anywhere" availability of my music library, e-books, and personal documents at home, at work, or anywhere there is a wireless hotspot.

    March 19, 2007 12:59 PM
  • NeuroticFish said:

    And how's the energy consumption on this setup?  

    I'd rather see someone try to build the most efficient box possible.  After all, in the end, its mainpurpose is to serves documents.  Not something I'm willing to settle with something that uses as much power as my regular setup.  Certainly not when it's on 24/7.

    March 19, 2007 2:51 PM
  • the XCcube is a 240W rig.... it's the lowest-power chassis I was able to find that fit my other parameters. What's the point of a 150W rig if it's ginormous?

    March 19, 2007 4:01 PM
  • I've been blogging about my experience with Windows Home Server,. Robert McLaws has a great article on building a Windows Home Server on a budget. Personally, I have it running on a Dell Poweredge SC ...

    March 20, 2007 6:51 PM
  • sala91 said:

    I dont see the point of Windows Home Server.... I have Vista Ultimate, im sharing files, printer, music (consider it to be live show), bacing up data from my laptop (XP Limited Edition that uses) and my files are 24/7 open. So caled chasing or sth... I also have internet file server (bulletproofFTP) and i run MovieBattles Delicated server on it. Cant belive it? It is simple, you dont need anymore Windows Server (althou i have somekind of it: Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition) all you need is Windows Vista Ultimate.... Tell me now, why should i buy Windows Home Server? I use it to surf on internet, do homework, and play games (Call Of Duty 2, CrySiS E3 Beta, Movi Battles, DeusEX Invisible War and so on).

    My mashine is: AMD Athlon X2 AM2 4200+, 1GB RAM, 7600GT, 120GB WDC HDD SATAII,, ASUS AM2 M2N-e

    Tell me now, why should i buy Windows Home Server?

    March 21, 2007 11:42 AM
  • Mikey said:

    @sala91:  A spell checker?

    March 21, 2007 1:17 PM
  • Mikey said:

    Seriously though, this is more of a product for homes with multiple machines.  If you're doing what you want on a single machine, then you really don't need this product, unless you want an automated centralized backup solution.  

    Personally, my main workstation is plenty powerful for anything I do, but it's not the only machine I have.  I'm planning on getting a Home Server for the backup and for centralized storage.  

    March 21, 2007 1:22 PM
  • Very cool article on a small form factor computer. I really want to build something like this for my kids so they don't scratch up our DVDs when they want to watch movies. When I get home, and get some spare time and money, I might just mimic what the

    March 22, 2007 12:39 AM
  • March 22, 2007 3:50 AM
  • Recognition and buzz around the home server (lower case) category continue to grow. Interesting to see

    March 30, 2007 3:06 PM
  • bw8755 said:

    Bigred - WHS will be offered as OEM for use with small custom pc builders.  This means you will be able to purchase WHS to go with hardware sales, just like any other OEM MS OS product.

    April 12, 2007 9:54 AM
  • Halu said:


    May 17, 2007 6:55 AM
  • Odysseas said:


    June 7, 2007 5:01 PM
  • Efthimios said:


    June 16, 2007 1:03 PM
  • People will buy anything that is one to a customer. -Sinclair Lewis :o) Happy Holidays!

    November 12, 2008 12:46 AM