Should I build a home file server?

SRGilbert

Member
Oct 10, 2004
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Ok, I've got a bug up my butt and I'm kinda sitting on the fence on this one here.

Right now, I have 2 networked systems running (mine and my wifes) in one office, and a third computer that is a dedicated arcade emulator (wireless networked.) Someday, I may build a HTPC system, but I don't need it for now.

I have most/all the parts to build a decent home server computer. For some reason, the geek factor of having a file server in the house has got my thinking about it. I know a lot of you have this, but I'm trying to decide if it's worth the trouble.

The obvious benefits are for central storage of things like music, photos, ect. but what is the real advantage over say, just adding in more hard drives to the current systems?

I'd like to get into video editing, would it be possible to process and edit video files that are stored on such a server, or is the bandwidth just too limited?

If I were to build a HTPC, is an 802.11B wireless connection going to be fast enough for streaming DVD quality video?

I know these are a lot of question, so I'll go with this for now.

Thanks
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
41,599
19
81
My "file server" is a WinXP Pro PC with a 4-drive RAID 5 setup in it. It's shared via Windows file sharing. Probably not as elegant as a true fileserver system, however that might be run, but it's simple, and it seems to work. I'd love gigabit ethernet though, as I sometimes transfer 50GB+ files back and forth - video work I do sometimes, and I use lossless compression for the video, which really takes up a lot of space.

If I were to build a HTPC, is an 802.11B wireless connection going to be fast enough for streaming DVD quality video?
DVD quality - as in, MPEG-2 data, or an MPEG-4 data stream? I don't know 802.11B's speed, but I recall that it's not exactly speedy in terms of networks in general; around 10Mbps isn't it?
Ok, quick Google search says the spec is 11Mbps. I think DVDs max out at 9800kbps, so that's either 9.8Mbps, or 9.57Mbps, depending if that's binary or decimal mega and kilo units there. Anyway, if you want, you could rerender a DVD to lower-bitrate MPEG-2, like around 6000kbps, with minimal quality reduction, or even to MPEG-4 (XviD for instance), which will demand more CPU time on the decoding end, but you can also probably manage a much smaller file - maybe 3000kbps, and use MP3 for the audio.
 

SLCentral

Diamond Member
Feb 13, 2003
3,542
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71
I've set up a fileserver with a paltry 40GB hard drive in my house using Windows Server 2003. It's just sitting there in the basement hooked up to our (wireless) router with an CAT5 cable,but the rest of our comptuers are 802.11b wireless, so transfer speeds aren't too good.

I have an HTPC set up in the living room, using 802.11b. I tried playing a ~50MB Star Wars Episode 3 HD trailer that was on the file server on the HTPC. When anything big (actiony) happened in the preview, it would stall heavily. I am assuming this is becuase of the low transfer speed over the network. I'm getting a g router soon, so hopefully that won't happen anymore.
 

Conky

Lifer
May 9, 2001
10,709
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Well, you would want to transfer over the video files you were gonna work on anyway.

I'm thinking of making my spare system a fileserver too, or rather expanding it's capacity.

To answer your question as to whether or not it would be better to add more drives to your present system... Eventually you run out of space for extra drives... they also create heat and draw power from your system.

P.S. All my stuff is wired. I have a basic mistrust of wireless technology right now. :laugh:
 

Steven the Leech

Golden Member
Oct 16, 1999
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I have a cheap server for my home network. 6 pc's for my wife/children, and me. The 7th is my server, and made out of cheap/old parts amd1.3 and 256 of memory. I have a gigabit switch, and a wireless router, all of my pc's are wired thru my house. It really does serve a useful purpose, as I work on quite a few pc's from time to time and have all of my Applications in ISO format so to do an install, all I need to do is mount an image, really saves some time too. Also keep our mp3's on it too. I have considered an upgrade to cpu/ram for the purpose of editing video's, right now it is just for storage. I had several other hard drives shared on my pc before for all on the network, but noticed that if an image was mounted on several other pc's on my network [games] it would lag my computer. The server is under my desk beside my main rig with a KVM switch to use my monitor between the 2 pc's [there are quite a few different ways to do this actually without the use of a kvm switch, had a drive with movies on it, but with the advent of DIVX compatable dvd players I found it easier to burn movies on cdr/dvd than to hook up a pc to the tv, It really doesnt take much of a cpu/ram to make a decent simple file server, if you have the parts i would recomend you doing so. You might consider a switch/wiring for the network if it is feasible, if not wireless would do fine.

FTP can be used too transfer large files, from one pc to the other, and usually at a faster transfer rate too, I have actually transferred whole drives contents like this for backup/repair purposes. With the "move to" command I can transfer files quite speedy.
 

superkdogg

Senior member
Jul 9, 2004
640
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My HTPC is my server, since much of what I want to share is the music, TV and movies that are on the HTPC. It's not a dedicated file server per se, but it does provide centralized storage and save me from having 10 gigs of music on 4 different PC's.

Most of my network is wired, but my wife's laptop and a PC in the guest bedroom are wireless G. You'll probably not be able to watch movies over wireless B-that 11 Mb/sec. is optimistic. I have to suck from the Leech's post that the centralized storage of programs is great! I too do some repair work and it's SOOO nice to not have to shuffle CD's anymore.
 

bocamojo

Senior member
Aug 24, 2001
818
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While it is possible to watch DVD's over 802.11b, I would not recommend it. If you're looking to do something like that, go with A or G at a minimum. My brother streams divx over his 802.11a and it is pretty sweet. As for the file server, if you've got the parts, you should go for it. It can't hurt, especially if you can get ahold of Windows Server 2003 or something like that, or maybe go Linux and play around in that arena.
 

Oyeve

Lifer
Oct 18, 1999
21,912
821
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Originally posted by: bocamojo
While it is possible to watch DVD's over 802.11b, I would not recommend it. If you're looking to do something like that, go with A or G at a minimum. My brother streams divx over his 802.11a and it is pretty sweet. As for the file server, if you've got the parts, you should go for it. It can't hurt, especially if you can get ahold of Windows Server 2003 or something like that, or maybe go Linux and play around in that arena.

I concur, B is too slow, especially if there are more than 1 wireless connections. Definately go G. I had to go G cuz too many wireless connections (wife's pc, son's laptop, my main PC) slowed down the network. Went G and works great. A is a bit pricey IMO.
 

SRGilbert

Member
Oct 10, 2004
186
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Thanks again for the info, started ordering the remaining parts I needed. Should be up and running soon.
 

de8212

Diamond Member
Jan 2, 2000
4,021
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What makes a pc a "file server"? I mean, I have a second pc networked through a router/switch that I keep in a closet. I have XP pro on it and have all my mp3's, videos, etc. on it. I use Remote Desktop to connect to it sometimes but I aminly just drag and drop files through the network. ALso I have a wireless mp3 playyer that streams all of my music from that pc.

Also, how would one go about setting up a htpc? What type of a connection would be used to transfer the audio/video to my home entertainment system? How would I control all of this?
 

SRGilbert

Member
Oct 10, 2004
186
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Originally posted by: de8212
What makes a pc a "file server"? I mean, I have a second pc networked through a router/switch that I keep in a closet. I have XP pro on it and have all my mp3's, videos, etc. on it. I use Remote Desktop to connect to it sometimes but I aminly just drag and drop files through the network. ALso I have a wireless mp3 playyer that streams all of my music from that pc.
Sure sounds like a file server to me! That's pretty much what I have in mind for my setup.

Also, how would one go about setting up a htpc? What type of a connection would be used to transfer the audio/video to my home entertainment system? How would I control all of this?
I'm still learning about HTPC, but the main things you would need is a video card with an appropriate output for whatever tv you have (s-vid or composite for a normal tv, or DVI or component for HDTV's), a sound card with a digital output to match your reciever (toslink optical or coaxial digital) and preferable an IR remote. With the right hardware and software, you can replace your DVD player, your TIVO or VCR, HDTV tuner. Lot's of cool stuff. :)