Building a MiniITX File Server for under $300

20 10 2011

Despite an old HP desktop I got used at a swap-meet for $10 still going strong, I’ve wanted to replace it for a while. Having a pile of computers on your desk makes you start to appreciate the little things that are important in small home file server.

  • Backups. If the hard drive in my old HP died today, I’d loose gigabytes of pictures, music, code, and random writings. I could throw a second drive in it, but then you still risk having the drive die as it’s getting just as much on-time as the other one.
  • Noise. There are currently 3 full size desktops running on my desk (regular use desktop, the HP server, and a friend’s desktop that acts as off sight storage for him). Most of the time, fan noise doesn’t bother me. it in fact helps me sleep easier. You know you’ve been around computers too much when the gentle blowing of computer fans and occasional hard drive clicks lulls you to sleep like those sound of nature noise CDs they sell on late night TV commercials. There are still occasions when I prefer a bit of silence though.
  • Heat. At one point, I was running 4 monitors (2 of which CRT) in addition to the three desktops previously mentioned, plus a router and piles of chargers and other electronic devices. With everything on, I could literally feel the temperature change walking into my room (probably 2-5 degrees). Piles of servers are great to play with, but unless you have a dedicated server room, cooling becomes an issue sooner than you may think.


MiniITX form factors make a great size for a cheap and small computer. Specifications for my new file server,


The downside of this build: I hate the case. Despite having decent reviews, it was just one thing after another when putting it together. First, there are 4 plastic snaps that hold the front panel on. The very first time I tried to remove it they were so brittle that one of them broke off. Not a huge deal, still stays on fine, but if you do have the misfortune of getting this case, be careful with the plastic snaps. The second fail was when I tried to install my 5.25″ to 3.5″ hard drive bay for the second hard drive. I vastly prefer cases that have the drive bays extended to the front of the case, and instead this case has about a 1″ gap with a hole for the CD to come out. I removed the flap and CD extender button, but the hole is about 1cm too small to fully remove my external drive. I’ve considered cutting a slice out of it, but I haven’t gotten the courage to mangle it up yet. It’ll be hard to make it look decent after that. Finally, when I got everything installed and powered it up, I found that despite being a small 150 Watt power supply, the thing is loud. The 80mm fan isn’t terribly quiet either, and the case has no sound proofing whatsoever. The power supply also generates a decent amount of heat for the size. I’m considering replacing both the PSU and the fan, but for now I’ll live with it. Basically: don’t get this case. Spend the extra $50 and find one that’s quiet and has a more efficient power supply, the total cost will still be below $300.


For software I put Xubuntu on it, though I’m considering swapping it out for something else. No hardware problems though, everything worked fine after install. I’ll post some updates on software later.


Build pictures



2 responses

4 05 2012

Isn’t it kind of a pain only having 2 sata ports especially when this board only has a pci slot and not a pci-e slot (which will result in slow data transfer rates if you use a sata expansion card)?

4 05 2012

Isn’t it annoying that your mobo only has 2 sata 2.0 ports? And also what is the performance like for web development uses. Is it acceptable or are there some annoyances, visible limitations.

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