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A "green" file/media server and VM box (now called the Phantom Quattro)

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  • A "green" file/media server and VM box (now called the Phantom Quattro)

    I'm tossing around some ideas for building a file server/development/VM (virtualbox) system. The criteria I'm using for now is:

    1. As green as possible, since it'll be running 24/7
    2. Enough performance for running OSes under Virtualbox, so that this system can eventually replace my main desktop
    3. 1.5 TB or more of storage
    4. RAID 5 for some redundancy
    5. Machine shouldn't sound like a jet plane since it'll be in my office
    6. I'm not into gaming so screaming video performance isn't required.
    7. Though it'll be on 24/7, if it can minimize power usage when idle by underclocking CPU/spinning down hard drives that would be a nice thing to have.

    It'll be running 64-bit Ubuntu as its primary OS, and XP in a virtual machine for when I need to use Windows. I'll probably try out Windows 7 on it as well.

    Here's the parts I'm thinking of using:

    ASRock A780GXE/128M AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G ATX AMD Motherboard
    I chose this mobo because it has integrated video, 6 SATA ports and built-in gigabit ethernet. It also has 128 MB sideport RAM for the video, so it won't have to steal system RAM for video.

    AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz Socket AM2+ 125W Quad-Core Processor
    Sounds like this puppy runs quite cool and power-efficient for a quad core. Quad core or better is good for running VMs. Plus, having more cores crunching SETI is always a good thing. This could become the Trevor Trouncer X4! :B

    mushkin 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory
    Figured I should get DDR2 1066 RAM to go with the Phenom II. I'll get 4 for 8 GB. RAM never hurts on VM systems.

    Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
    At least 3 of these in a RAID 5 configuration. I'll probably get 4 and keep one as a spare, or maybe more to set up some kind of backup system.

    Antec P182 Gun Metal Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
    I like this case, and it has plenty of room for hard drives, and good cooling too. I don't need hot swap bays, and cases with those are expensive.

    COOLER MASTER RR-CCH-LB12-GP 120mm Sleeve CPU Cooler

    I may or may not get this. I tend to go the aftermarket cooler route with AMD chips since in my past experience I always got worse temps with the stock cooler. I hear the Phenom IIs run cool though so I may forego this for this build.

    Haven't decided on a PSU yet, but I want one that's at least 85% efficient if possible. I usually go with PC Power & Cooling for my PSUs, and I actually have a Silencer 450 kicking around I could use, though I keep it as a spare.

    I also have a Seagate drive (120 GB I think) in my closet which I can use for the OS drive, and use the RAID array for data. I also have a few DVD burners in my closet so I'll throw one of those in as well.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions?

  • #2
    Looks pretty good to me

    I haven't had good experiences with Asrock in the past but maybe they are better nowadays?


    • #3
      Just FYI I've had extremely bad luck with Mushkin RAM.

      I've got four of those WD hard drives you mentioned, great drives so far (had them about 8 months or so)


      • #4
        I agree with Dougie, ASRock I've never been a fan of their systemboard...but the reviews on Newegg are very high. I looked up a few other reviews and there was nothing real negative. I'd definitely say give that board a try! :T

        InstantBoot is a good feature as well... ~6second boot up to Vista/Xp... Ubuntu would boot in about half that! :lol:

        I've used this Heatsink/Fan in all my AMD setups that I've created and it's a heck of a fan. DEAD silent and cools extremely well (with Artic Silver). Even though it's a 92mm over the 120mm, it still works almost as good (if not as good). Plus the price on it, just can't be beat! :T

        Rosewill RCX-Z940-SL 92mm
        Digital Audio makes me Happy.


        • #5

          Your build is very close to what I just put together for a worker here at the plant. It is VERY quiet and plenty of room in the case for airflow. The 3 big fans do a great job of cooling and are nearly silent. I used the following components:

          Motherboard: Gigabyte MA78G-DS3HP (also 780G chipset) - has integrated video with DSUB, DVI, and HDMI connections, digital audio, PCI-E slots, etc

          Case: Antec Three Hundred - has bays for 6 HDDs

          PSU: Antec EA650 - has active power factor correction, supposed to be "green" - also has a $20 discount with the case above

          Ram: Corsair XMS2 - 2 x 2GB PC26400 (DDR2 800)

          HDD: I also used a WD Green, but only 640 GB

          CPU: I also got a quad core Phenom, but chose a 9500 to save a few bucks. I just used the OEM CPU cooler...


          • #6
            Originally posted by dyazdani
            Motherboard: Gigabyte MA78G-DS3HP (also 780G chipset) - has integrated video with DSUB, DVI, and HDMI connections, digital audio, PCI-E slots, etc
            I looked at that mobo too, and posted my planned build with that Gigabyte MB on another forum, where someone suggested the ASrock because it is cheaper and has sideport RAM.

            I'll check other RAM brands too. Maybe just go with Kingston, Crucial or Corsair since I've had good luck with those. IIRC I initially chose the Mushkin because of lower CAS latency and a high rating on Newegg.

            EDIT: This RAM has a $25 mail-in rebate, making it 50 bucks in the end:


            • #7
              Give the ASRock a shot then, can't be too bad...

              The story on RAM rebates is they change weekly - if one brand (or even model) doesn't have a rebate today, it will next week. The stuff I got had a $30 rebate, making it only about $25 for 4GB. The rebate ended the next day and another, very similar model of DDR2 800 went on rebate, there was only a slight difference in the model, maybe the latency or something.


              • #8
                Yeah Kevin that's why I tried out Mushkin a few times, because I always read such good reviews, but I have yet to get any that worked well at all or played nicely with my other parts. Got 4GB of Corsair in my server that have been trucking along for a couple years now. Also tried out Patriot with my main PC rebuild about six months ago, that's working well too. Can't speak for that specific Patriot pair you linked, bc mine is DDR3, but it seems to work well to me.


                • #9
                  I've always loved Crucial for things like servers.


                  • #10
                    I've made a couple changes to my parts list:

                    Instead of Mushkin RAM, I'll get this. It's cheaper too (without a rebate)...

                    Kingston HyperX 4GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 1066 Desktop Memory Model KHX8500D2K2/4G

                    Instead of the Cooler Master CPU cooler, I'll get this on PewterTA's recommendation. Can't beat the price!

                    Rosewill RCX-Z940-SL 92mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler

                    I'm still tossing up whether to grab a quad-core Phenom II or wait. I'm going to get a cheap 45-watt Athlon64 X2 to pop in the mobo so I can flash the BIOS to support the Phenom II, but with that CPU I could run for a while and then upgrade later when the Phenom IIs get cheaper...

                    I'll also pop one of these in the front of the case to keep the drives cool:

                    COOLER MASTER SAF-S12-E1 120mm Case Fan


                    • #11
                      I hereby dub thee "Phantom Quattro"

                      Ok, here's the first batch of pics from the assembly last night:

                      Pics of the Antec P182 case:

                      DVD drive installed:

                      80GB OS drive mounted in the 2-drive cage:

                      A secret compartment on the side of the 2-drive cage. The owner's manual says nothing about its purpose. Guess it's a place to hide my stash.

                      Rear: AMD Phenom II X4 920, A780GXE/128M mobo, SilverStone PSU, Rosewill CPU cooler; Front: 4 WD Green 1TB hard drives, 120mm case fan, 8GB DDR2 1066 RAM, 4 SATA cables

                      The motherboard

                      CPU installed on motherboard

                      First test - hooked up floppy drive to flash BIOS to latest version

                      Mobo and PSU are mounted in the case.

                      I have the server assembled and running Ubuntu Intrepid 64-bit, I ran it overnight building the RAID array. So far so good. Still need to clean up the cable routings and tie things down. I'll post more pics this weekend.

                      I've officially dubbed this machine the "Phantom Quattro". Quattro meaning 4, because it has a quad-core CPU, and 4 1 TB hard drives. All my system builds are called Phantom because I build them to be quiet and stealthy. Of course Quattro refers to my favorite AWD system moniker too...

                      So this is my 4th "Phantom" series system build. First was the Phantom Stalker, which I lost in the fire in '05. Then I built the Phantom Stalker II which is still my main desktop system. Then the Phantom Myth HTPC. And now the Quattro file server.


                      • #12
                        Kevin it sounds great, though none of the pics are showing up for me. Could be a NASA thing though.


                        • #13
                          try going to my website and see if the home page loads. The pics are hosted there (though there's no links to them there).


                          • #14

                            That 125w CPU isn't very green to me LMAO!

                            I would have just done Core2Duo at 45w with 3MB cache.

                            Since this is mostly a file server but a near silent one.

                            I would go witha case that has 4 120mm fan mounts.

                            Front and bottom intake
                            rear and top exhaust.

                            I use Scythe 120mm 38cfm fans at 12-16dB (a weighted)
                            For a CPU Cooler Scythe Ninja with 120mm fan (Mini for a HTPC and a 80mm 23dB)

                            For video there is a Biostar 9500GT with a passive cooled heatsink.

                            RAM i would NOT use any with ramsinks etc, holds the heat in... let the airflow pull it out.

                            HDD's WD is the over all quitest. Their 640GB 32mb cache ones only use two platters, and use perpedicular manetic read and writing tech. that means less rpm to pull same ammount of data. Less RPM means less heat and quieter.

                            For a RAID array I like hot swappable get a swap bay system for your pc, but replace their cheap crap fan with a much quieter scythe.

                            Ubuntu 64bit is wicked fast.. me like!


                            • #15
                              The CPU can downclock to 800 MHz when idle. That's pretty green. And it runs cool for a 125W rated CPU. I'm seeing 30-31C temps idle. When I loaded all 4 cores it got up to 45-46C but I'm still tweaking things. So this machine can be green while idle but has plenty of cajones when needed.

                              I went with the quad core so the machine has enough beef to run virtual machines.

                              The case is nice and quiet, lots of 120mm fans, all set to low. It's quieter than my Phantom Stalker. I'm using onboard video (not a gamer here) so that's fanless.

                              I looked at cases with hot swap bays but they're pricey, and how often does one actually have to swap a drive out anyway? Certainly not often enough to justify it especially since this is a home server and not mission critical (powering it off to swap a drive is no issue).


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Kevin P
                                try going to my website and see if the home page loads. The pics are hosted there (though there's no links to them there).
                                Gives me a spyware warning and doesn't load...


                                • #17
                                  Can you post a screenshot?

                                  I know Websense (or as I like to call it, Web-non-sense) once flagged my site as malicious because I had inadvertently left a Storm spam page up on it (but no malware). I had to contact them to get my site's listing updated. Perhaps NASA uses a similar list that isn't updated.


                                  • #18
                                    More pics:

                                    The case allows cables to be routed behind the motherboard for better airflow and a neater appearance:

                                    Look Ma, no, or few, cables cluttering things up!

                                    Front view, panel closed:

                                    Front view, panel open:

                                    Top view:

                                    Requisite BLING!! sticker...


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