WHS @ 30+ Terabytes

This is one of the most complex Windows Home Server systems that we have built yet, and it drove us nuts. We started this project out in June of 2009 and didn’t finish it until March of 2010. We have reinstalled this system probably 4 times to have a clean install, its sensitive to install any Windows Home Server Ad-Ins once its working. We wanted the ultimate WHS Storage with the large capacity all in one unit, it would take a certain hardware setup to achieve this and thats what we aimed for. We suffered set backs, my system at one point just had a black screen, we switched out the motherboard, and nothing, we switched graphics cards, still nothing, changed the ram, and at the end it turned out to be a faulty power supply. Luckily my friend and myself were building the same system together so we just kept on testing as we went along, we got busy towards the end of 2009 but this was one difficult machine to get fully stable. I slowly kept gathering more and more 2 TB Hard Drives, we started off with 10 x 2 TB Drives and I just kept ordering a few when I saw a deal for them. Now that the system is operational it fantastic, we are doing some stress testing, its looking good with transfer speeds of 78 to 90 MB/s over the network which is the fast I have seen.

HW Configuration:

  • Norco 4220 Case
  • ASUS P3S WS
  • Intel Quad Core Q8200 2.33 Ghz
  • OCZ Vertex 120 GB SSD (Main HD)
  • G Skill 4 GB
  • 2 x Sata SAS Controllers (To Control 20 HDs)
  • ATI Radeon 7500

With the Sata SAS controllers we could use the extremely effecient and powerful SF8087 connectors to connect to each one of those back planes. Each back plane held 5 drives with 4 back planes for a total of 20 drives. Overall I installed 17 out of the 20 drives with e Western Digital 2 TB Drives to get it up to 30 + TB, and I have a little bit more room to go, I think I can get it to 36 TB with the last few drives. Going overboard with the storage is understatement in my case, but it has been a long and arduous trip with this machine but with a clean install and the right setup its very solid.

Now with Windows Home Server running on Windows Server 2003 it has taken a lot of steps forward Power Pack 3 and all the patches. Now I have two WHS servers running, one is extremely solid and this new one, planning on running one as back up to the other so I have two complete back solutions for the other. Now I’m just waiting for Windows to release Vail which Windows Home Server built on Windows Server 2008 which is a huge step forward. When that is out I’m going to just format and reinstall one of the systems and test it out.


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Server Build – HAZRACK

I have had this server case sitting on my floor for months on end now and not really getting around to it except a couple of days ago. 4U Rackmount case, the plan was to install two drives, and have a simple setup to use it as a fileserver for all the downloads, sort of a distribution center and on top of that I didn’t mind putting the machine together.

I took the graphics card, one Seagate 750GB HD, one Seagate 1TB HD, a CD-Rom Drive, and two 2GB DDR2 sticks from my old Bunker Server. There are only two new items which I had to purchase:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 Quad-Core Processor, 2.66 GHz, 12M L2 Cache
  • ASUS P5Q WS (Same Motherboard as my main WHS Server, HAZMAT)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

Putting it together didn’t take too long, but I just found out that my rack is a little smaller then expected. I knew it was network rack because I managed to get a cheap one but instead of being 800mm deep it turned out to be 600mm, that was my mistake but the server is still rack mountable since its really short but the rack kit for it won’t really fit so its just going to sit on of the rack mounted UPS.

We put it together and installed the OS, didn’t take too long but the configuration was going to take some time since I had to download all the different software and make sure it all works together. Then I faced a problem of the machine not starting up, I tried everything but it would only power on and not show anything on the screen, I check the error code on the board which said FF and that means the motherboard is fried. I was stumped, I couldn’t figure out what happened, next day K took a look and saw a loose screw which was touching the board and the PSU so it was shorting it out and when that was removed it booted normally which was fantastic. So its now mounted to the rack, ready to go for all my needs, nothing better then building a new machine.

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Some Technical Tasks

  • Mounting, wiring, and configuring 5KVa APC UPS
  • Cleaning out the rack and rearranging the hardware and wiring
  • Preparing for server install

That simply put doesn’t really cover all that we did, that UPS weighed over 60 KGs which is a hell of a lot when your trying to mount it inside a rack so we took out the batteries first and proceeded to install the mounting kit. After cleaning out the last 8 months of dust inside that cabinet we proceeded to rewire the network cables and power cables to be a little bit more organized. This major UPS will be supporting three to four servers easily with a few other items, it has a nice feature being manageable through the network and doesn’t have to be connected to a specific machine. The next step over this coming week will be to install and configure the first rack server which will be a testing bed and ftp control server, meaning I will dump all my downloads into that for organization purposes. Then the WHS server will be coming along the week after that, and that will be a hell of an install with so many things at stake with this crazy install. The best part is when you complete an install, and everything goes smoothly which is very rare, now just a few more steps to complete the setup.

On another note Seagate just released their new 2TB drive which seems to be faster then WD, but I think I will stick with WD for now.