Lets build me a HTPC/Server!

Discussion in 'Home Theater PC (HTPC) & Media Servers' started by Rowdy S13, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    OK, as most of you know I just built a pretty nice computer about a month ago BUT its WAY overkill for a HTPC/Server. That machine was mostly built for photo editing, and some gaming, so it was really built as a pretty high performance machine with no concern for power consumption. More or less, its not a computer I want up and running 24/7, and I also don't want to stuff it with hard drives.

    My plan from the get go was to build a separate NAS box of some kind. After using Plex for a while, and playing around with a couple different NAS solutions, I decided that I would be better off building a new windows based machine. The plan on the software side is to run Windows 7 Home Premium (I already have it since I changed to Pro on the other machine), I will run Plex server on this machine so it will have to handle all of the transcoding needed, and I will use FlexRaid for the storage management. I think this will be the easiest to set up, maintain, and use even thought it may not be the most efficient setup available (as far as power consumption).

    Lets move onto hardware now, shall we :) Here is what I have as my most recent parts list

    Case: Fractal Design Define R4
    Power Supply: Rosewill Stallion Series 600 Watt
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H87M-D3H
    CPU: Intel Core i3-4330 Hasswell 3.5Ghz
    CPU Cooler: Stock
    Memory: Kingston HyperX LoVo 4GB (2GB x 2)
    Video Card: On board
    SSD Hard Drives: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
    Main Storage Hard Drives: Western Digital Green 3TB (x 3 to start)
    Optical Drive: None

    This list is ~$830 total give or take some for shipping and price fluctuations. The idea with this set up would be to have two of the 3TB drives be for parity, and one for stoarge. That does mean that from the start I would only have ~3TB of storage space. One of the big draws to FlexRaid for me is the ablity to add drive later as I need to. I am not sure if I could add parity drives later though, and I ultimately want two, so I would need to start with 3 drives total. If I could add a second parity drive later I would probaly start with two being used for storage so I could rip my whole collection (or close) before I was out of space. With the 3TB drives being around $100 a piece adding on wont be too bad either way.

    Anyway, lets move on to questions! I will just list them so that none get overlooked.

    1. Will 4GB of memory be enough, or should I get more? This board has 4 slots, so I could expand later.
    2. Will this processor be powerful enuogh to handle running Plex with multiple HD streams?
    3. Should I have an optical drive in this machine, or just rip from my main computer and save across the network to this one?
    4. Does anyone know for sure if you can add a parity drive to Flexraid after the array is built?
    5. I will eventually want this machine to also act as a DVR, what other things do I need to consider in that scenario (besides the obvious turner card(s) which we will talk about later)?

    That should be all for now. Let me know what you all think of this build, and what I should keep or change, and why.


    Thanks,
    Sean
  2. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Your parts lists does not sound like a great investment to me tbh...
    Since the way I build a DIY NAS - it must operate 24/7 reliably. Consume minimum amount of power and be as quiet as possible.
    Lets clarify something right away - streaming several HD movies is not big task at all, ONLY IF there is no re-encoding. If on the fly re-encoding for multiple is required then even this i3 would not be sufficient, but if I have to guess - most likely you don't need re-encode and there for wont need a 54W tpd cpu in that box

    to be continued soon
  3. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    And this is why I asked before buying :)

    Honestly I will more than likely stream Plex across my own wired gigabit network in the original format 99% of the time. If I had to guess I would only be transcoding a single file at a time. I am thinking watching something on my phone, or tablet while not at home. There is a small chance my wife and I would both be doing that, but it is a very small chance.

    Fire away when you have a chance!


    Sean
  4. itschris Moderator

    itschris
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    Hey Rowdy, here's my recent build:
    CASE: SiliverStone GD07 $139
    MB: Gigabyte LGA 1150 Intel H87 HDMI GA-H87M-D3H $100
    CPU: Intel I3-4130T 2.90 3 LGA 1150 $100
    RAM: GSkill 2 by 2 DDR3 $54
    PSU: Seasonic SSR 450 Fully Modular $75
    Boot: Samsung 120 Gig SSD $99
    Data: WD Green HD 3TB $120
    BD: LG Blu-Ray Combo $50

    I'd give the CPU another look and I think the power supply is way overkill. Mine is up and runing and it sucks very little power, runs silent and cool.
  5. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    continued:
    btw: good choice on the case: my setup is fully silent running with 6 hard drives :)
    The way I built it is Core I3 T edition - T stands for Low TPD - aka 35W or lower like this one :
    Amazon.com: Intel I3-4130T 2.90 3 LGA 1150 Processor BX80646I34130T: Computers & Accessories

    Keep in mind the limit of 6 sata ports on most Micro-ATX boards. You could solve this ether like me - a fast usb3 card reader and a fast flash memory card or a PCI-e Sata controller.

    What I would do is instead of windows7 go with Freenas and yes you can add Plex server as a Freenas plugin What's New with FreeNAS » Plex on FreeNAS
    Freenas has ZFS as probably best option for volume manager, probably better choice then FlexRaid. Dual parity with only 3 drives might be an overkill, but ZFS does support dual or even tripple parity if so desired :)
    I would not recommend installing FreeNAS on the SSD as it would an overkill, but SSD could definitely be used for caching... TBH - I am running 6 drives zfs without SSD caching and it works fine.

    Memory - imho 4gb is not enough as zfs will use RAM for caching, the more ram is merrier - i recommend going at-least 8gb to 16gb - it should not kill your budget.

    PSU: 600W is way too much power. I would recommend this psu: SeaSonic SSR-360GP 360W ATX12V v2.31 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Newegg.com.
    or this one at the most - Newegg.com - FSP Group AURUM S 400W Power Supply with Intel Haswell Certified
    Keep in mind that even 6 Green drives shouldn't take more than 30W together - all writing/reading at same time

    Speaking of drives: WD Red are generally more recommended for raids as they built to work 24/7

    stock Video/Stock cooler both fine.
    Optical drive - imo not really needed on server, but it's your call
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  6. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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  7. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    AH, that explains the "T" designation. The one guide I was reading suggested the same CPU you mention, but new egg had the one I listed for the same price. I figured more power is better right :)

    As for the free NAS, I have been playing with it and I dont think it works for me. From what I understand you cannot expand the array after it has been created. Being a photographer, I almost constantly need more space. Being lazy I dont want to have to backup and rebuild the entire array every time I need to add a new drive. Also being linux based, if I have a catastrophic failure of the MB, or CPU, or whatever the data on the drive is pretty much lost from what I understand. FlexRaid seems to fix all of these "shortcomings" from what I have been able to see. You have the ability at any time to add more storage drives (as long as they are equal to, or smaller than the parity drive), these can also already have data on them. Being a Windows based system, if you were to remove a drive and install it into a windows machine you would still have access to your data. You can also mix and match drives of varying manufacturer, size, speed, connection type, etc. Lastly, with FlexRaid I can spin down the drives when not in use, so no need to get the Red drives since they wont be running very much.

    As for the parity, if I was only going to have 3 drives I would agree that is way overkill. However, I will end up having 4 or more storage drives (12TB+). I need around 6TB for my current movie collection, and I would like to have my photos backed up on this machine as well which is a few TB currently. So the idea is probably to start with two parity drives just to get it done and over with (even if I can add parity drives later) and one 3TB drive. That will allow me to rip all of my DVD's before I would need to expand the array with another 3TB drive. That second drive would allow me to back up all of my blu-ray before expanding again to have extra space for photos (already backed up on 2+ locations) and other files. I like the idea of adding on later rather than having to spend almost $700 upfront on drives ($115 x 6 = $690, so 2 parity and 4 storage).

    Also, back to the FreeNAS idea. Inst the Plex plugin just a way to communicate that specific array with the Plex server? I had set it up once just messing around, but I still had Plex server running on my main computer. My understanding is that whatever machine is running the Plex server is the one that has to do all of the "work" for transcoding and such. I didnt think that the Plex plug in for FreeNAS turned that machine into the Plex server, but I could be completely wrong.

    Chris, I am going to look over your thread(s) that is actually one of the things that got me thinking about a more specific build. Looks like more research is needed! I would really love to keep this build around $500 compared to the $900 it was when I had the first list.


    Sean

    P.S. BoredSysAdmin, your build looks great!
  8. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Yes, you can grow ZFS pools. Not as easy, but totally doable. One of easiest methods is to add new vdev and stripe existing vdev and a new one. Think of this in this way:
    Say you have a RAID-5 of 3 drivers, you add 3 more, make it a separate raid-5 and join them by making the whole thing work as RAID-50
    I believe it should be possible to do using Freenas GUI.
    You could replace drives for larger ones but now you probably will need to use command line, but guides are available and large user base already existing
    Volumes - Freenas



    I believe the Freenas plex plugin will in fact make it Plex "Server", but don't take my word on it - I am far from subject expert on this and I do recommend you to do your homework on this topic.
    I know I have ran several Freenas "plugins" where were for all sense and purposes were server side applications like Sabnzbd and Sickbeard.
  9. panteragstk Audioholic Chief

    panteragstk
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    Anything that has a Plex plugin will make it a plex server. I use UnRAID and it has this functionality. I actually FlexRAID tRAID and while it worked when I had it on a test windows VM I'm not sure how much I trust something that runs over an existing file system. I don't know it just seems like an odd way to do things.

    If you have to have dual parity then UnRAID in it's current state doesn't support that, but it may be coming from what I've read.

    Other than Plex, what does your server need to be able to do? BTW, build looks good, but I'd go for more memory as mentioned.
  10. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    Ehhh, I still think I want to stay with a Windows based option. FreeNAS just seems more complicated than I want to deal with. I WAS able to set up an array, and the Plex plug in, but only by following a guide (and/or video) to the T. I really wasn't grasping everything that was happening and/or why if that makes any sense. I am confident that I could figure it all out, and I know their is a lot of info out there on them, but I don't want to put in the time honestly. With Windows, I know I can sort out just about anything with little or no issues.

    Chris, I looked over your list (and then your 1st thread) and I didn't realize how close our builds are! I cant believe that we came to pretty much the exact same parts for everything. I had been reading your threads, but did not pay much attention to the specific hardware you used. CRAZY!

    Anyway you had started wanting to build a Windows 7 machine, but ended up with OpenELEC, why is that? Also now that you have your machine built, up and running (99.99%) is there anything you would change or do different? Last one, how do you like XBMC compared to Plex?


    Sean
  11. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    Yeah I am pretty sure it acts as the server the more I think about it. I wonder if it works differently than a windows based server. There is a story there, but I am too lazy to get into it :)

    As far as what it needs to do... Pretty much be accesable over the network (maybe online as well) as a NAS, and run Plex server. Eventually I would probably like to add some tuner cards, and have it also act as a DVR, but that may not be necessary. My other computer build (HERE) is the powerhouse for anything beyond what I listed already. That is the machine for editing, gaming, and so on.


    Sean
  12. itschris Moderator

    itschris
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    Yeah... that's why i suggested just rethinking the CPU and PS. Other than that, I think you're spot on. I mean if you read through the my HTPC 1&2 threads, you'll see that we beat this up pretty good.
  13. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    This will be my official last attempt to convince you away from win7 to Freenas:
    Here is a guide: Turn an Old Computer Into a Do-Anything Home Server with FreeNAS 8
    and here is a video:Build A Home Server For Your Music and Movies With FreeNAS! - YouTube
  14. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    Will you hate me if I tell you I have seen both of those already :) I have done it, then undone it, then done it again a few times now. I am not buying anything today, so I WILL keep thinking about it.

    Sean
  15. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    No, I will not hate you in ether way :) This is supposed to be fun project, so - learn and have fun and don't over think any single component.
    I still officially state that using windows (especially desktop edition) is wrong tool for the job, but in the end it's your money and ergo your call.

    Do keep in mind than 1gb network link will limit you more than anything else and even a single modern harddrive read performance could easily saturate it :)
  16. panteragstk Audioholic Chief

    panteragstk
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    If you want to eventually put tuner cards in you may want to stick with windows like you said. Linux PVR options aren't as easy to set up from what I've read.
  17. panteragstk Audioholic Chief

    panteragstk
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    I agree on both points. However, it would take quite a few simultanious video streams to saturate 1gb. 45mbps for blu-ray is as high as it gets. I've looked at FreeNAS and it is very interesting, but there are a few things I don't like about it. I am looking forward to UnRAID going over to BTRFS. That is supposed to be an evolution of ZFS. I don't know that much about it honestly.
  18. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Yes, converting or adding PVR functionality SHOULD be possible, but far from trivial...
    Some suggest ESXi on host an to run separate VMs for MythTV and FreeNAS - as an Idea it is not bad, but do remember that ESXi is EXTREMELY picky to hardware. I mean it's really HUGE pain in the rear to install on many of unsupported hardware....

    Besides, if Sean is interested capturing TV from cable/fios the ocap tuner will only work in windows anyhow.

    I don't much about BTRFS, but according to Wiki it is not yet even Stable release... I don't know if I was trust my files to be stored on beta file-system... It's like taking concept car to Paris/Dakar Rally - IE don't worry about - it has AC and Sat Nav !! - See what I mean?
  19. panteragstk Audioholic Chief

    panteragstk
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    I won't trust it until it is finalized. The author of UnRAID simply stated that BTRFS is on the roadmap.

    I'm going to do a VM with freenas and see what its all about.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I727 using Tapatalk
  20. Rowdy S13 Audioholic Chief

    Rowdy S13
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    OK, after thinking about it some more.... I am staying with Windows. At least for this machine. I think I want to mess around with WMC again after reading some more into it, and I will probably also try XMBC along with Plex on it. I know XMBC and Plex are essentially the same, but I want to play around with XMBC some and also use it for playing back movies with HD audio. Then again I do have Plex pass, so I need to look into Plex HT or whatever it is.

    Anyway, I think I will make the changes to the CPU, and PSU, and look at more memory as well. I could actually use 2 sticks of memory from my main computer for now since it has been running on "only" 16GB for a while now and is still plenty fast. Knowing myself though, I will buy 16GB of memory for the new machine so I can have 32GB in the main computer again :)

    BoredSysAdmin, don't fret too much. I do still have an older computer laying around that I may build into a FreeNAS box (technically it already is) just because. I need more memory for that one (I think its 1GB), and some HD's, but it runs FreeNAS off of a micro SD card no problem. I know its only 10/100 though, can I put in a PCI gigabit card? I just don't know how that works for drivers and such.


    Sean

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