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Author Topic: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server  (Read 401 times)

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romshark

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Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« on: August 31, 2018, 01:21:28 am »
I havenít really done much in the arcade space, but decided to chronical my new home server build and install. Maybe I can get some comments and input from others.



So for over a decade, Iíve been running a Windows Home Server: an HP MediaSmart EX470. A small computer system with an AMD Sempron 1.8 GHz processor (single core), 512MB RAM, and 4 SATA drive bays. Windows Home Server is an offshoot of Windows Server 2003 R2. This unit is designed to be ďheadlessĒ: all operations, even a new OS install on a blank hard drive, is done from another computer over a network connection. Thereís not even a monitor connector of any type without some hacking / mods). It does feature some USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and an eSata port. Also some cool indicator lights.

So what does this server do?
*Network file storage. I can access my files on any of our Windows or Linux systems. Files are automatically duplicated across multiple drives.
*Remote file access. Log in and get my files from anywhere I can get online. Sadly, this usually doesnít work for me. Probably a firewall setting in my router.
*Daily backups. Our desktops are configured to back up their data to the server every night (actually around 2am). The software intelligently only copies new data, so subsequent backups are quick. Even similar data from different computers work this way. I can of course skip certain directories, file types, or whole drives.
*Restore. I can open a backup and pull what files I need relatively painlessly. In extreme cases, I can do a ďbare-metal restore.Ē This means I can restore an entire drive, even to a brand new drive (same size or larger.) Even restores the OS drive to perfect running condition (for XP and 7 anyway.)
*Also runs torrent software without tying up our main systems, or having to leave them running.

Now, the server is showing its age. Iíve upgraded the system as far as it can go (upgraded to AMD Athlon 64 LE-1600 [2.2 GHz single core], 2 GB RAM, and 4 2TB drives [this OS can only recognize up to 2TB drives, both as server storage and as volumes to back up on other computers]. The OS is out of date, and I donít think itís getting any more security updates. (Changing the entire OS without a monitor is doable, but itís a pain. With its current specs, itís not really worth upgrading anyway.) Iíve maxed out on internal drive space, and though Iím only using half, Iíd like room to grow. Iíve had to open it and replace the power supply at least twice (one time the PSU died, it took the OS hard drive with it. Had to replace both.) And bare-metal restore doesnít work with the OS drive for newer systems like Windows 10 (which make up almost half our active computers now.) Oh, and Windows Home Server has a 10-computer limit for the backup service. Weíre not too far from that limit now.

Also want to try stuff on a server that needs more power, like running a Plex server, and hosting a Minecraft server for my friends.

So Iíve been looking at building a replacement Server for a couple years now (especially since that one PSU incident). Oddly enough, it was finding a good computer case that was holding me back. I wanted a case that could hold a lot of removable drives. And at a recent garage sale, I got my wish for cheap.



For a total of $40 cash, I got both these units. Complete computers, only lacking any RAM, and one with no hard drives. The silver one just would look cool as a server (which Iím sure it actually is a case for), and the black one has that 5-drive bay . So I took a chance and bought them both.

First I looked at the silver one. I found a hard drive in the removable drive bay (not in a removable tray, it was just lying in there.) Inside the computer was an Asrock A75 Extreme6 motherboard. Not a real server motherboard, but not a bad unit. The front part of the case has a locking panel, covering the power, USB, and external drive bays. It was unlocked, so it opens easily. I just didnít have the key to lock it. Not that I have any plans to lock it for home use, but itíd be nice to have the option.



I borrowed some compatible RAM from another computer (looked up the specs on Newegg.) I connected the hard drive. Also did the monitor, keyboard, ect. And it fired right up.
Turns out itís an AMD A4-3300 dual core, 2.5 GHz. The OS is Windows 7 Pro 64-bit, fully registered. Looks like the OS was the only thing installed, because there was nothing else on the drive. The computer name was listed as ďMusicserverĒ (no music found, though.)

Most interesting. Of course, I used software to extract the Win7 product activation key and copy it to a safe place, just in case I use this in a Win7 system instead.

Looking at the black computer, the 5-bay unit is actually an aftermarket addon to the otherwise standard tower case. It takes up all 3 of the external 5.25 bay. Some of the individual tray handles are broken, but I can still pull each one out easily enough, even with a drive installed. Still, looking around online, those 5-bay drive units run about $80 new, so Iím happy with what I got.



I tried looking up data on the multi-bay enclosure, but only found ones for sale overseas. No manual to help with the jumpers on the back or anything. Hope itís set up properly already.

The motherboard is green, making me think itís a board from a ďnormalĒ PC maker. Sure enough, some RAM added (borrowed from another system), and I found out the motherboard came from an HP. Thereís no hard drive, and thus no operating system. But with the RAM, I could get into the BIOS. Turns out itís an Intel Pentium E2200 2.2 GHz dual core.

The Asrock is the more powerful of the two, so I decided to try making that a test server, to see if it would meet my needs. The HP motherboard will probably become my general ďtestingĒ computer. Iíll also be putting in that 5-bay removable drive unit into the server case.

I tried putting Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 on there. However, the system just wouldnít start the install. I tried burning two different install discs (one was ďwith update.Ē) Tried starting the install from within Windows 7. Also restored default settings to the BIOS. Every time ended in failure. Just stopping at a Windows logo on the screen. Didnít even make it to any screen to click ďInstall.Ē

Looks like the Asrock wonít be the new server. Donít know why it wouldnít load the installer, but I didnít feel like messing with it any further.

So new plan. I did test the install discs with my main desktop. I didnít actually install it, but I got to the menus and the ďselect drive to install toĒ menu.

IĎve decided to upgrade my main desktop, and move the existing motherboard/processor/RAM to the server case. I ordered new hardware for my main system (Iím putting in an Intel i7-8086K 6-core 4Ghz, ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard, plus 16GB RAM and other stuff.) The new server (my old desktop hardware) will be an AMD A10-6800K 4.1GHz Quad core (yes, itís said to be way slower than the i7 I ordered, but should work well as a server), on an MSI A88X-G43 motherboard with 16GB RAM. The motherboard has 8 SATA ports, so it should handle all the drives easily.

Next post, Iíll start detailing the process of changing the computers.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2018, 01:25:10 am by romshark »

romshark

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2018, 01:24:08 am »
So, armed with my screwdrivers and my ant-static strap, I started disassembling the silver case. I have a cheap ice cube tray that I numbered, so I could keep track of what screws came from where on a sheet of paper.

I carefully removed the Asrock board and put it in a spare motherboard anti-static bag. Also removed all the drive cages and the power supply, and vaccummed the whole case out. Used a small paint brush to help get dirt out of the corners and in the fans.

Now it was time for the transplant. After backing up some important files, I removed the MSI board from my desktop and installed it. The first problem occurred: the CPU cooling fan was too tall for the server case. (Actually, itís too big for most PC cases.)

After trying a few adjustments, I decided to change the fan out. The new desktop components had already arrived, so I took the new CPU fan I had ordered. Used some isopropyl alcohol and some new thermal grease, and the new fan was installed. Had to turn it around later, since the guide did not make it clear which way the air flow was, and I had it backwards. Used alcohol and new thermal grease again, just to make sure things are perfect for a computer running 24/7.



On the internal drive cage, I put the old SSD from my desktop (ordered a bigger one for my new desktop) and a blank 2TB drive.

The rest of the install went smoothly. After making sure all cables were clear of the fans, I tested the system. All worked as expected. I tested a spare hard drive in each slot of the removable bay, and it recognized each one.



Next to the external drive bays is a small panel, probably for a 3.5 disk drive. I donít plan to use a 3.5 drive (if I really needed to, I have a USB 3.5 drive). I took the plate out and drilled holes in it. The dial on the left in the pic controls the CPU fan max speed. On the right is an eSATA port (removed from a rear backet type). So more connectors I can get to easily, but can be locked and secured.



I secured the cables with zip ties, to make sure they stay clear of the fans. Finished putting it all back together, and itís ready to install Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2. Hopefully in the morning.



Oh, and I had found a lock that seemed identical on Amazon (listed as Miniature T-Handle Cam Lock). I ordered it, and it looks just like the one on the server case, except the new one has a removable latch on the back, and the server one has the latch ďrivetedĒ on.

They looked so much alike, I decided to try the new key in the old lock. And it works! So I have working keys, and a spare lock.

yotsuya

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2018, 02:04:25 am »
You should just get a NAS for the movies, a NAS for the music, and a NAS for the pr0n.

Just kidding. Reading with interest!
***Build what you dig, bro. Build what you dig.***

nitrogen_widget

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2018, 01:16:06 pm »
I have had freeNAS running on a 15$ p4 from the thrift store for about 3 yrs.
I don't back nothin up on my PC's.
I like to live dangerously.

though it would be annoying to lose all those movies and roms on the server should the drive chit the bed.
Should probably pick up a second 1TB drive and mirror the original.

romshark

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2018, 02:05:56 pm »
I've actually never worked with a NAS before. Besides, I also like having automated backups, Plex and Minecraft server, and all that neat stuff a server can do.

Besides, this is BYOAC. We build whole arcade cabinets. Most of us are used to thinking big (doesn't mean I'm going to put a fish tank in my server though!)

The other half of BYOAC would want to take the old MediaSmart server, replace the boards with in a Raspberry Pi, and call it a day.  ;)

---------------------


So today was pretty much software install day. Here I'm installing the main OS to the SSD. Pretty standard stuff.

I put in a few other programs. Open Office, Family Tree Maker, and such. A few programs that we can use in emergencies, right on the server.

Now, the old server had a drive mirroring software, but I heard it had problems. Particularly if users tried to work with files directly on the server (like open an Excel spreadsheet.)
So, the newer Windows Servers don't come with anything like that. Well, it might, but most people recommend 3rd party software.
I'm using a popular one called Stablebit Drivepool. It handles pulling all the drive volumes a user wants to add into a single large drive (or a couple large drives), with options to mirror data. I'm on the 30 day free trial for now, but things look good.

So that's were I am now. Well, with about 130 Windows Updates pending on the new server (I can't do them now, I'm getting ready to go to work.)

Also forgot to mention in the hardware "build", both garage sale PCs came with power supplies. I chose the more powerful one to use in my server (550W) According to my research, this should do for the processor and number of mechanical drives I have. Being a server, I didn't put in a video card, and thus don't need more power to run said video card. Just running off the onboard video, and I'll be using Remote Desktop Connection most of the time anyway.

I did think about a video card, so the GPU could be used by Plex when transcoding. Looking online though, it doesn't look like the video card is used at all by Plex in a server setup.
--------------------------

Now, I did remove a drive from the MediaSmart server to use in the new server. I did go through the right procedures to have the OS pull the data and release the drive, and the server dashboard on my laptop said drive was ready to remove. Yet, the error light was flashing on the server, and I couldn't do anything from the server dashboard. Also couldn't remote in using Remote Desktop Connection.

Since I was setting up a new server with the same name (can't have 2 computers with the same name on the same network), I just turned off the old server. If it was still running fine, I would have just unplugged the Ethernet.

After I finished with the new server, I turned it off, turned on the old server, and went to have lunch.

The old server never booted up.

So, I'll see if I can get my old server running tomorrow. I would like to get it running so I can get the latest files off there. I did make a backup a month ago, and the backup drives can be read from any Windows computer easily. Still...
« Last Edit: August 31, 2018, 02:49:01 pm by romshark »

shponglefan

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2018, 03:49:08 pm »
I've actually never worked with a NAS before. Besides, I also like having automated backups, Plex and Minecraft server, and all that neat stuff a server can do.

Modern NAS devices are servers and can do all those things (depending on the hardware). They tend to have the advantage of more compact form factors and ease-of-use.

On the other hand a roll-your-own can be a fun project, and certainly afford more flexibility. :)
« Last Edit: August 31, 2018, 03:51:03 pm by shponglefan »

romshark

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Re: Non-Arcade Project: New Home Server
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2018, 09:55:34 pm »
Hmm, NAS units are starting to intrigue me. I may look into them, but probably wonít purchase one for myself when I have this server to use. Maybe Iíll throw on that freeNAS that nitrogen_widget mentioned onto a spare computer to mess around with.
----------
Ok, regarding the old server. After coming home from work on Friday, I tried to turn it back on. Still nothing.
When I got up on Saturday morning, I turned it on when I got up, and started to get ready. To my surprise, the server booted up, and the lights came on properly.
I immediately hooked up the backup drives, went into the server console (from another computer), and started the server backup. Just like when a PC backs up to the server, the server backup only copies new and changed files to the backup drive. It does some file linking stuff also, so the older files show up in the new backup directory also when viewed on a regular PC. Quite the timesaver, and hopefully works like that on the new server.



(Drive 2 light is out, because I had removed that drive when that whole mess started)

The backup was successful, and I went to copy some other files (that I was already sure I had on my desktop drives, but wanted to copy for security anyway.) Partway through that copy process, the old server died again. Tried a few times, but couldnít get it up again. At least I managed to get the important stuff.

One thing to note is the CMOS battery is probably dead. We had a long power failure a few weeks ago, and had to turn the server off (all our computers are on UPS systems, so stay on for a while during a power loss.) When I turned it back on, I eventually noticed the date was December 31, 2006. Same thing when I got it running Saturday.


Saturday was spent moving furniture around for the server. Cleared the area, vacuumed, and put the server shelf in place. I ran the power, put an APC power supply below (one I already had), made my own Cat5e cable and ran it to a nearby network switch (all our Ethernet runs, network switches, and the router are gigabit), and put the server in place. I added an old monitor and a spare keyboard / mouse for local administration. Also added an older but good printer to the setup and made sure it was shared (my father brought that printer home from one of his jobs when they were shutting down a decade ago. They let him have it, or the poor printer would have been e-wasted.)



Yes, the shelves wobble a bit from the top, but that's why I put the server on the bottom fixed shelf. Unless I'm working with it locally, the unit is way out of the way of anyone and won't get bumped into.

Air flows in from the front, and out the back of the server. So it shouldnít ďsuffocateĒ.


There were a few things to take into consideration when mixing the server with our other computers. Unlike the old home server, this is meant for a small business. Thus, Windows Server 2012 is supposed to be a domain controller, and turn the regular PCs into members of its domain.

I wanted to leave the computers as workgroup systems, so they could still be used if the server isnít on for some reason. Also so my laptops would work in other places. I will probably use a couple test computers (old laptops) to experiment with domains, but for the rest, thereís a workaround to stay in workgroup mode.

Also, the new server wants to control the incoming internet. It tries to be the LAN DNS server and such. I just set the DNS servers to the Google ones, and everything was happy. I think the server can act as a router and stuff too, but Iím not looking to do that.

Even after copying files and doing more Windows updates, Speccy reported the CPU temp at 46 C. I did later see it at 51 C, which should be safe. Most of my hard drives seem to stay around 92 F (thatís 33.3 C), so theyíre safe too. I did have one old drive getting hot, reaching 109 F at one point, prompting the drive monitoring software (Stablebit Scanner, also in trial mode) to keep sending me e-mails on my phone about it (as I had set up.) I changed it with a spare 1TB drive, and now all drives are at good temps.



At Walmart, I looked at thermometers, and found a wireless thermometer on clearance for $5.



I put the probe in the computer case, secured to the power supply with Velcro (between the PSU and the motherboard, and right where the 5 removable drive bay fan blows onto). Hopefully the heat wonít affect the glue on the Velcro (even if it does, it'll just land on the bottom of the case. It won't affect any fans or anything). So far, itís stayed at about 81 F, so things seem good.



I have since added all the drives that used to be in the old server (after a quick format on each drive.) This gives me a large amount of storage.



Take into account, I havenít copied all my old data yet (lots of movies and TV shows, and my MAME set and other games). Also will be setting up file duplication for nearly everything.

I'll spend more time setting stuff up on the server, and copying my stuff back over. I'll also dissasemble the old server when I have time, clean it, change the CMOS battery (hopefully it's a standard CR-2032), and try to get it working again.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2018, 10:04:09 pm by romshark »

  
 

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