Home Server PC, Revisited

Over the weekend I decided to take a little break from the creative project that I’ve been buried in lately and enjoy a little change of pace by taking another look at rebuilding my home server that has been sitting dead for well over a year now. I honestly wasn’t really even sure what to expect after having the thing sitting dormant for so long, but unfortunately it looks like whenever I do resume this project, I’m kinda going to be starting from scratch…  🙁

The original reason why I had this box was to act as a home file server for media, backups, and also as a test server for web development. Nowadays we could still use the centralized media server – in fact, the thought came up again this time because I’ve been entertaining the idea of storing digital copies of all our DVDs in one place for easy access via set-top boxes; the backup proposition is still quite valid (and a huge necessity, too!), though the test environment, not so much now that I pay for webhosting elsewhere.

Anyways, the hope was that I could re-use as much hardware as possible and maybe even get away with only buying a new hard drive or two to replace the one that crashed years ago … but now it looks like I’ve got a lot more work to go!

For starters, I couldn’t even get the thing to boot … well, it might’ve been booting, but the video output wouldn’t work so I had no way of telling. And I tried to use a video card from another computer, but it wouldn’t take it.

Next, I tried just moving the hard drives over to an even older PC that used to be Sara’s long before she got her laptop. First it wouldn’t even recognize them, and then when it did, it claimed that they were unformatted and only a fraction of their actual size. I finally gave up after remembering that I had used a special feature in Windows XP to span multiple drives into one (i.e. one 800 GB drive instead of 2x 400 GB) because I didn’t want to risk wiping the data altogether.

Definitely a bummer because I guess I was kinda hoping I could just plug the thing back in, turn it on, and all would be right with the world!  😳

So my next steps are … money. I basically need to replace everything – new motherboard and CPU, which will then warrant new memory, and at least one new hard drive, too (I still have one random 1.5 TB SATA drive that I bought a long time ago but never used). And if I’m buying new hardware, I kinda wanted to see about getting stuff that will be both low noise and more efficient for cooling (?!) because I’ve kinda gotten used to a minimal amount of fan noise in my office … boy, do I miss the days when my office had a walk-in closet with a door that I could close! For a while I was running Sara’s PC as a print server, which is so old that it doesn’t even have a CPU fan – only the power supply one – and that was really quiet, so I’ve been trying to search for more modern versions that rely on heat sinks instead of fans and found a few options.

I really wish that I had a separate room where I could just leave it, but we really don’t unless I run wires across the entire house, which is inconvenient at best! Plus, closets and back bedrooms are still going to be bad for air circulation, which is another concern because I’m sure I’ve lessened the lifespans of hardware in the past by cramming 4-5 hard drives in a small, poorly ventilated desktop case and then sticking it in a corner somewhere. This is when I need a house with a dedicated server rack, but I guess my wife decided that she’d rather have the pool!  😛

I have a feeling that this little project is going to get shelved again for at least another few months unless I stumble across a briefcase full of money while I’m out walking Cleo one of these nights. And it’s definitely one of those things that’s just another toy for me to play with – having the old server down for over a year, there’s certainly nothing mission critical left unaccounted for by any stretch of the imagination … except that I have to go get the DVDs if I want to watch every episode of The Simpsons instead of watching the old copies that I used to download from newsgroups!

Oops – I wasn’t supposed to admit that last part, now was I?

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