I love hardware. I always have. Building pc’s and seeing something fire up (well not literally) from nothing is quite relaxing and soothing to me. Some people find it weird, I find it calming. Everything fits in one way, it should work or not work. Building and playing with new hardware is especially fun.
Our home media server / file server was dying a slow death. Being a old P4 2.8Ghz with 2gb ram and too many drives I could understand it. A few months ago I tore it down, cleaned it properly and fixed all the fans, but fact was, this machine after 8 years of work was ready to head to the happy hunting grounds.
I saved a bit here and there, spread the cost over a few months and eventually built fairly decent file server. It’s running a AMD X4-955 BE, ECS Motherboard, 8gb of Corsair value ram, plenty of drives (2 x 1tb, 2 x 2tb, 2 x 250gb, 1 x 500gb for O/S) all cooled by two Cooler Master 4-in-3 bays (I’m a great fan of these), snugly fitted in to a Aerocool VS-9 case. The cpu-fan / cooler also got upgraded to a budget Cooler Master TX3 (it was R150..about $20).
Some of the hardware going in to the new media / file server. I found the Aerocool VS-9 case almost by pure accident, and paid around R350 for it (maybe $50?). All the front bays are removable, which was pure happiness as it allowed me to install multiple Cooler Master 4-in-3 bays.
The great thing about the Cooler Master 4-in-3 bays is that each contains a 120mm low noise fan (with a funky blue LED) that cools the drives. The drives in the machine run at between 29’c and 31’c, depending on the ambient temps, but it’s cool enough to keep me happy.
One thing that had me unhappy is the surface of the Cooler Master TX cpu-fan. The surface was fairly uneven, and given the low cost of the device, I couldn’t particularly blame them, and I wasn’t afraid to experiment with it….so I lapped it. Google the term if you don’t know what it means (special term for sanding the thing smooth). A hour or two of work with various grades of water-paper and the surface was flat and smooth.
Once all hardware was assembled it was installing the new O/S. I’m running the new Windows Home Server 2011 on it, and I’m so far fairly impressed. With VMWare Workstation running two VM’s (Ubuntu and FreeBSD), and some background tasks, the cpu sits at a nice 31’c, and goes to 40’c under normal load. When I stress it with Prime95, it hits 58’c, with the manufacturers rated max temps being 62’c.
My one big concern was the budget CPU. AMD’s X4-955 is luckily still being recommended as a great budget CPU on Tom Hardware. I think I paid around R1200 for mine. I couldn’t even buy a i3 for it in the Intel flavour. “The real competition for the Phenom II X4 955 BE is Intel’s Sandy Bridge-based Core i3-2100. Intel’s budget-oriented processor can out-game the Phenom II X4. But AMD’s CPU is a good entertainment-oriented option better suited to multitasking, thanks to its quad-core architecture. And at its new low price, it remains a recommendable option.”
All in all I think the entire setup cost me (excluding some of the the drives) what my two GTX-460 video cards cost me on my i7 (but then again, that machine was meant for something completely different), and seems to be performing perfectly fine for what it was bought for.