My first Home Server from the ground up... RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • After reading over many of your entries and comments about WHS, and while I still have some issues with calling this software a "server", I have decied to build one and give it a test drive.  Here we go......


    First, I have a Dell 4700 connected to my home network which provides connectivity to Netflix and other media sources into my Home Theater - based on input from forum members I have decided not to use this system as my server as it really isn't configured to operate as a PC in the server mode.  I scoured eBay for several weeks and finally came up with another Dell 4700, 3 Ghz processor, SATA, PCIe, and I added 2 Mb of ram I had laying around the house.  I'm going to include prices here just to keep track as Dell would have sold me a new server, RAID 1 capable, two 160Gb hard drives, a single NIC, 2 Mb of ram, duel core processor and Small Business Server (SBS) software for just under $1200.  The Dell 4700 from eBay was $400 and came with a 17" monitor - which I needed for my work bench anyway.


    I have since purchased (from Tiger Direct) 2 Vantec EZ-SWAP removable hard drive racks - so that the internal drives will be fairly easy to get to and can be 'Hot Swapped' (we'll see) - $80, an extra 80GB WD HD to match the one in the system - $44, a PNY SATA II RAID 2 Chanel controller card (P-DSA2-PCIE-RF) - $20 and a copy of WHS - $160.  Total to date is: $504 - (less $200 for the monitor - or we would just over $700).  Parts are beginning to show up on the doorstep. 


    I have cleaned up the target system, checked operation and updated the system BIOS from the Dell website.  I contacted the Dell tech support folks and there isn't any sort of a Server 2003 package of drivers for this system (MB, onboard Video, NIC or any other device) - so hopefully WHS will install what it needs - or - does anyone know if Microsoft has a site for driver downloads?


    More to come.....



    Friday, March 21, 2008 10:30 PM

All replies


    Moving this to the hardware thread...
    Friday, March 21, 2008 10:38 PM
  • Drives will need to be supplied by the manufacture.  However, Windows Home Server usually runs on anything that can have Windows Server 2003 installed on it.  If you are unsure if it'll work, you can always order the trial software first.


    Friday, March 21, 2008 10:40 PM
  • I've installed WHS a couple of times and install it like most any other OS.


    The only real trick, I think, is getting your hard drive controller drivers running if the installation disk for WHS can't recognize your hard drives. There is an option to hit the F6 key to load them during the initial setup screen so that you can slip the drivers in for the rest of the install (a nice addition over the Windows 2003 setup, is that WHS setup recognizes USB flash drives to bring those needed drivers in). Once your past that and the system formats your drives, installs the OS,  and gives you control after 25 reboots (kidding, but not by much), hopefully you'll have NIC drivers installed (if not, track them down as server 2003 or XP drivers). Once you have connection to the Internet, things should be breezier Wink


    First thing I'd do is load your inf for the chipset of your motherboard (Intel > Intel's website, NForce > Nvidia's website, etc..).


    Then, I would run windows update. Currently, there are about 40 updates for WHS, some of which may be driver updates that may take away some of your work away for ya.


    After that, whatever is left in device manager would need to be tackled, and again drivers for server 2003 or XP should work fine.


    As always, newer hardware (ie newer than the disk installing your OS) isn't always the easiest solution when it comes to getting them dang drivers up and running. Older/POPULAR/Namebrand hardware can result in ZeroConfig installations, which I think is the road your heading down, with the exception of the HD controller? Have Fun Wink


    I noticed your 'we'll see' on the Hot Swapping of hte Vantecs. I think I have the same thoughts as you do about them. I never had any luck getting them to work right 100% of the time, hotswapping that is.





    Saturday, March 22, 2008 7:04 AM
  • The one thing to note, is that if you need to install drivers during the initial setup, you will have to have them available twice; once for the Server 2003 portion of the install, then again during the WHS portion.





    Saturday, March 22, 2008 6:55 PM
  • Just wanted to update anyone interested in how my Dell 4700 WHS server build is going.  I was out of town last week so I really didn't get started putting anything together until yesterday.  I installed 2 80GB hard drives I found on eBay in the two Vantec Hot Swap trays, connected them to the PNY P-DSA2-PCIE-RF (SATA II RAID controller) and turned it on.  I had removed both the DVD and CD from the system to make room for the Vantec trays so I connected a USB DVD player for the WHS disk, on the RAID BIOS page I selected a RAID 1 configuration for the two HDDs and installed WHS.  I did have to use the internal floppy drive to install the PNY drivers.  


    I simply let the installation proceed on its own and returned fo find a page with a x0000007b error, not sure what to do I simply started over - again I walked away to come back to the same error.  I was sure WHS was somehow unhappy with the RAID configuration so I tried again with only one drive (still connected to the PNY controller) - same result.  Reading over some posts in the WHS Software forum, I realized that at somepoint it must be asking for drivers during the "Windows" installation portion of the WHS installation in addition to that of the configuration phase.  I reconfigured the RAID 1 set, started the WHS install and waited for it to reboot asking for drivers a second time.  Eventually it did, but the window of opportunity to press F6 was so brief I missed it twice, when I was finally able to employ the F6 function and install the PNY drivers for a second time the installation completed without a hitch.  


    Dell does not offer any Windows 2003 drivers for any of the hardware in a 4700, but I was able to install Windows XP drivers for the onboard video, NIC and chipset which seem to be working OK, I also left the modem in the system to conifigure for FAXing at some point.  Only issue I'm having now is that after downloading some 37 updates, something seems to have destroyed my "profile" on the system and it will only log me on in a temporary status.


    The system actually looks quite nice, but I'm not convinced that just buying a new Dell 840 small business server might have been the way to go.  So far with the purchase of the Dell 4700 ($200), drives from eBay ($54), Vantec trays ($88), PNY Controller ($20), WHS software ($160) and cables ($6), the total is $528 - I saw a Dell add for a new 840 for the same price, you would still need software, but drivers shouldn't be an issue with a new system configured as a "server".


    More to follow as I try and connect to my home network and add storage with a Drobo device and schedule backups.



    Sunday, March 30, 2008 3:51 PM
  • I didn't find a lot of information on the forums about how to get Windows Home Server to work with RAID, although I understand it is an "unsupported" configuration.  There are a lot of good things about RAID (I'm using RAID 5), mostly in the performance area, that are not completely addressed in the Windows Home Server world of "shadowed" folders.  But my intention is not to start an argument about whether or not to use RAID (there is plenty of that already on the forums), but rather how I got it working using RAID.


    First attempt (failure):

    1. Loaded RAID drivers from CD supplied with my RAID card (Promise TX4310) during the first part of install.

    2. During second part of install (when it reboots and tries to read the HD with the blue text screen) it could not find the RAID driver (was looking for it amongst the installation files that it copied to the HD).  Kept getting an error 14.  Typing the F6 key did not seem to work at all (maybe because it wants to load the driver before the part where it prompts you for additional drivers?).

    3. I did the install about 3 times; tried for "magic timing" of hitting the F6 key.  Nothing worked.


    Second attempt (success):

    1. Created a floppy disk (I hate them!) with the RAID drivers on it, with the txtsetup.oem file in the root.  Made sure that the correct driver was pointed to in the [default] section of this file.

    2. Inserted the floppy and the install DVD, made sure that the computer BIOS was set to boot from DVD drive first and started up the computer.

    3. When it prompted me for the driver associated with a HD volume (my RAID drives are the only fixed storage in the system), I pointed it at the floppy.

    4. At some point it rebooted for the second part of the install (I was away from the computer at the time) and it magically and automatically found the driver on the floppy without any input on my part and the install continued beautifully!


    So the key to a successful RAID install is to place the RAID driver on a floppy with the root directory of the floppy containing the txtsetup.oem file (and the [default] section in this file being set correctly).


    Here is my rant section:

    During the second reboot, the 2003 server install is capable of reading some portion of the HD in order to start the install itself (verified this by noticing that the HD lights were flickering).  Why can't the install copy the *bleeping* driver to that part of the HD and automatically read it?  Hmmm.....

    Monday, April 7, 2008 6:27 PM
  •  ChrisWHS wrote:
    During the second reboot, the 2003 server install is capable of reading some portion of the HD in order to start the install itself (verified this by noticing that the HD lights were flickering).  Why can't the install copy the *bleeping* driver to that part of the HD and automatically read it?  Hmmm....
    Because that "drive" has not yet been formatted, and setup doesn't have any drivers yet to access it... If you have a secondary HBA that requires drivers, they may actually be copied to your hard drive (there's a prompt at the time you add the drivers the first time). But if your primary HBA requires drivers because it's not a vanilla IDE controller, you have to supply them twice, and on floppy the second time, as you've found.
    Monday, April 7, 2008 9:50 PM