Today's an exciting day here at We Got Served as we flip over a new page and get to work on our forthcoming Building a Windows 10 Home Server eBook. We've now sold thousands of copies of its predecessors, Building a Windows 8 Home Server and Building a Home Server With Windows 8.1 and so the bar has been set to make the new title our best yet!
As many of you will be aware, Windows 10 is still in development at Microsoft and with beta releases flowing thick and fast to Windows Insiders, the initial stages of planning and writing a guide to an unreleased platform can be precarious. I generally won't begin to write about a new platform until its in its Release Candidate phase (meaning that features have been locked, the user interface is mostly complete and the majority of serious bugs have been fixed). It provides security that what I write will correspond to the same features and user experience that you see in the fully released version of the platform.
Release candidate phases can last several weeks, if not months, providing plenty of time to get everything written and released within a few weeks of a platform launching. However, Windows 10 development has changed radically from previous releases of the OS, with incremental beta updates replacing larger, slower build releases and rumours of a July RTM (Release to Manufacturing) well ahead of a typical October platform release.
So, with a couple of test machines already running Windows 10 beta, it's time to build a new Windows 10 Home Server that will be featured in the forthcoming book. This time, I'm looking to create a compact but powerful home server setup that is equally adept at displaying media directly as it is serving files to other network devices - locally or remotely. A multi-drive, private cloud server that's comfortable working with public cloud services such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox. A powerful media hub that can serve as a DVR, media server, home theater PC and media library manager, integrated with leading music, TV and movie metadata providers.
We'll cover all of this and more in Building a Windows 10 Home Server.
In the meantime, here's a rundown of the hardware I've selected for the new project:
Fractal Design Node 304 ($103)
Compact, understated good looks, supports up to six 3.5" hard drives with the usual fine build quality we love from Fractal Design, the Node 304 is a couple of years old now but still rocks. I considered the SilverStone DS380B for its accessible drive bays and copious capacity but reviews indicate there are some outstanding quality issues (on both build quality and technical stability) that drew me back to the Node 304. It's not flashy, but it's good quality and offers decent value.
ASUS Z97I-PLUS ($166)
This small, Mini-ITX form factor board packs in a lot of new technology, including support for Intel's latest Z97 chipset, the latest Intel processors as well as new, high-speed storage connectors like M.2, which will fit the SSD I'll be using for the Windows 10 boot drive. There's four SATA 6 Gb/s sockets fitted alongside the M.2 port for data storage with support for Raid 0, 1, 5, 10. HDMI, DisplayPort and Optical Audio sockets are available for direct AV connections, Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth 4.0 and integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi for networking. Add eight USB ports (4 x USB 3.0) into the mix for peripheral connection and you have an incredible motherboard that's going to be a lot of fun to work with. ASUS' boards are premium, but they're always great quality, easy to build with and simple to configure.
Intel Core i5-4590 Processor ($198.99)
A strong, mid-range processor that would be too power-hungry for simple file-serving use. However, for more advanced features like media transcoding or virtualization, your home server needs this kind of horsepower. The Core i5-4590 has full hardware virtualization support and I estimate will be able to handle three simultaneous HD transcoding jobs in Plex Media Server.
The minimum PSU spec for the ASUS Z97I-PLUS is 350W and the tight dimensions of the Fractal Design Node 304 mean that you need a compact PSU that's going to be neat and tidy from a cable management perspective. The Corsair CX500M offers additional wattage to support multiple hard drives and is modular, meaning that you only need to fit the cables you really need to power the PC and its components. No straggling, unwanted cables to tie down.
Crucial 16GB Kit DDR3 PC3-12800 RAM ($99.99)
16 GB is certainly more than we really need to power this home server, but it's not expensive and will give us plenty of capacity for the future.
Samsung XP941 128 GB PCI-E SSD ($149.99)
The new M.2 connector I mentioned earlier is set to replace the m.SATA connector currently seen on many motherboards. While traditional 2.5" solid state hard drives have come down in price and are probably the best value pick today, I was keen to showcase the blistering speeds available from the new class of "naked" storage devices. They slot straight into the motherboard, reducing internal clutter, and deliver up to 1170MB/s read and 950MB/s write sequential data transfer rates - equating to super-fast boot performance. Now, the M.2 socket on the ASUS Z97I-PLUS only has 2 PCIe lanes (10Gb/s) feeding to it though, so I'm expecting maximum sequential throughput around 650-700MB/s.
Western Digital Red 3 TB Hard Drives ($119 each)
These specialist NAS drives offer enhanced features that ensure optimum responsiveness when used in RAID configurations. Again, they've been around for some time but at just $119 for 3 TB are a complete steal.
I'm really looking forward to getting this new home server built and tested out with Windows 10. Stay tuned for more news on Building a Windows 10 Home Server over the coming weeks.