The Intel I3 based 'Retro Server' was my starting point, and has been more or less documented on the previous pages. The hardware was discussed beforee. I didn't keep a step by step guide for this one, sorry. The I3 Retro Server runs Windows 8, and can be used simultaneously for streaming movies / music / watching movies, and some limited gaming. (With a decent video card it could be used for somewhat more serious gaming, though that would hamper background file serving / transcoding / streaming.)
about using an old 2007 clunker as a dedicated server? Here's an old Intel
Xeon server board that someone gave me, and why not use that as my new
(slower) media server? I've got the costs
covered (I hope) so unless performance is too low it should do fine.
I've used old hardware I had laying around, in this case I've put in 3 GB of memory, I'm going to use Windows 7 Home Premium 32 bits so 3 TB should be enough. I didn't bother going for dual channel mode (didn't have four identical memory chips anyway, and on 32 bit Windows that last 1 GB doesn't matter, neither did that 3% speed increase).
The machine has on-board VGA graphics, good enough for a dedicated server.
The ethernet port is 1 GB. Good. No need for an additional network card.
As booting the machine is incredibly slow I've decided NOT to use a dedicated SSD boot disk, but instead use a 500 GB (or larger) boot drive that I partitioned in two sections: a 100 GB boot partition, and the 400 GB remainder that is going to be used to store... euh... some data that doesn't need much access. Books perhaps, or music? And if I need more space (seriously? this machine has six SATA ports!) I could always replace the 500 GB with a 2 TB drive...
previous I3 Retro Server was using a Compaq case, Unfortunately the Xeon
mainboard wouldn't fit (due to placement of memory and connectors) so I
looked for the cheapest full ATX cases I could find. It should not be deeper
than 44 cm (the server is located in a closet) and the power supply should
be at the top of the case (due to exhaust ventilation holes). The only
thing I could find was the Antec VSK4000 which is, frankly, a piece of
garbage. But the Xeon board did fit...
2.2 Step by step
pretty much doing the same installation every time, so most of the steps
of the Celeron Server apply here as well.
Just as annoying was the tendency of this machine to stay 'on'. I suspect (though I have no hard evidence) that Windows managed to detect this machine as a 'server' and sneakily applied a different ruleset. When using powercfg -requests this machine would forever report active clients, the moment one came online. Even when properly logging off etc. etc. etc.
So the Intel Xeon dual core board is gathering dust again. But... it worked fine.
I've updated the original 2015 text as I upgraded this machine to Windows 10. I've highlighted major differences below.
2014 / 2015 Celerons and Pentiums have become incredibly powerful. (Never thought I would ever call a Celeron powerful, but there you have it.) If you are going to use TVersity or Servetome with a lot of transcoding I'd say get the Celeron G1840. The G1610 might be a bit tight. If you don't have to do any transcoding the cheapest of the cheapest would do, you might even consider a very low cost AMD build. I would not go for an Atom though, I've tried that, and was quite disappointed.
This machine is actually powered by a Pentium G3220 as the Celeron G1840 wasn't in stock. As for pricing (feb 2015 Netherlands)... when I bought the CPU prices were very close, and some CPU's were discontinued leading to even more discounts:
You definitely do not need an I3. (The I3 now powers a little 'steambox' gaming PC.) But... the I3 has hardware encoding (for some formats) and runs cooler, and has less problems with handling multiple streams simultaneously. For me, after tweaking some BubbleUPnP settings for ChromeCast playback the G3220 worked fine.
As just said: booting the machine is slow. I've partitioned the boot drive in two secions: a 100 GB boot partition, and the 400 GB remainder that is going to be used for data. I will only create a (backup) image for the boot partition, keeping its size under control.
Windows (7) can be somewhat messy when partitioning, so I use GParted Live on a USB stick (Google for Tuxboot) to set up things the way I want.
In most BIOS'es you'll have to specify a boot device to start from an USB stick, often via setup (often F2, Del) or through a boot manager (often F11 or via a BIOS menu).
I tend to use the the second drive for temporary stuff, so perhaps I'll use the same approach on disk 2. This would then effectively look something like this:
DIsk 0 - 500 GB - 2 partitionsNote that drive D: would contain the temp folder, so stuff that is often transcoded should better not be placed in drive F:\
Disk 2 - whatever - 1 partition - movies or music etc.Etcetera...
I advise to give a assing a complete drive to Windows 10. Most people will use an SSD, but I still had an old Raptor 10k laying around, so that's what I used as my Windows 10 boot / swap drive.
On a clean install or a 'reset' Windows 10 creates two or three partitions on that drive, in my case I ended up with two: the root partition containing Windows 7 and all applications, and a recovery partition.
Windows 7 contains all drivers for this machine (or I simply could not find any better ones :-)).... Unless absolutely necessary I update all drivers in a later step.
Windows 10 provides all drivers by itself, and can even overwrite drivers you installed. Very nasty with older hardware or buggy drivers, as you do not get any chance to prevent it from doing so. Keeping a regular backup is highly advisable!
The .INF driver from the Asrock website seemed to be a little newer and more specific than the one Windows 10 used, and it hasn't been replaced by Windows' version... yet.
You don't have to do (all) the following steps, but I prefer it this way.
Time to tune Windows a little:
Some people like to install all drivers at an earlier stage. As I've been using a lot of older hardware with sometimes crappy driver support (and fooling around with these crappy / alternative drivers have messed up my system more than once) I prefer to let Windows do its thing first before I start mucking around.
Unfortunately, the network interface isn't recognized by the (older) Windows 7 installation, so I first downloaded all drivers, put them on a USB stick, and after intial installation of Windows I installed all drivers.
I prefer to be able to ping my machine. So enable ping:
Note that WOL related options may be under the 'Advanced' tab as well us under the 'Power Management' tab. Check them both!
Disable sharing wizard:
Pretty much like Windows 7. Check out COntrol Panel / Network and Sharing Center / Advanced sharing settings and adjust as needed. I use:
3.7 Personal tools
I hate Internet Explorer, so...
Update. Whatever the reason, installing on a fresh Windows 7 failed. But after installing Firefox, OR installing some Asrock provided drivers TightVNC would run. Weird.
I like to have certain standard tools in a C:\software folder. I have started putting any 'non-standard installation' software (ie. anything that doesn't go into Program Files) in here, as well as certain tools and utilities I use on any and every system. You don't have to do this, but I prefer it this way.
(The background is courtesy of WallX.)
We now have pretty much a standard PC, ready to turn into a media server, HTPC, steambox, whatever. I pretty much do the steps above on every machine, no matter what its purpose.
Great moment to create an image. I use an USB stick with TrueImage. (I'm not going to mention intermediate images / backups, I leave that up to you. Make some, though!)
My old version of TrueImage wouldn't boot from the USB stick with this machine. This time I settled for Windows 7 Restore & Backup, which is still included with Windows 10. You can find it in the control panel. It is possible to create multiple different images, just copy them from the WindowsImageBackup folder to another folder before overwriting them.
some users with limited rights. For example (whatever suits your purpose):
If you don't want user names to show up when booting or when logging in, you will have to hide them. Easy when using PowerToys TweakUI on XP, or with Windows 8. On Windows 7 (Home Premium) it takes a little registry wizardry:
Microsoft is trying its utter best to move you to a 'Microsoft account'. To add a non-microsoft local account you have to jump through some hoops...
netplwizHiding the accounts is exactly the same as in Windows 7 / 8.
Windows 7 doesn't have shared drives by default. There are good reasons not to share complete drives, but I like them, so...
3.12 Folders and shared folders
Whatever you prefer. I try to organize my files in such a way that I am not depending on whatever logic XBMC / Plex / TVersity / ... uses.
For each shared folder:
An example of a batch file, to be placed in the Windows Startup folder: I use this in combination with auto-login as some of the applications won't run if you don't log in. It's fine for an insecure homeserver, but not a good idea if the server is publicly accessible. (Time to switch to Linux, I know.)
Nircmd is a nice tool, here I use it to keep the server's desktop uncluttered. Psexec offers some options the regular 'Start' doesn't. The boot time could be improved a little by sprinkling some timeout statements, but it wasn't necessary, and rebooting is something I rarely do (going for standby mode whenever possible).
rem *** immediately return to user login
3.15 Scheduled tasks
Sometimes power down simply doesn't happen, for whatever reason. A custom schedule makes sure the machine...
It works fine :-)
Actually, it works great. This machine hums away in a closet downstairs, transcodes multiple streams without a sweat, wakes up quickly from a sleep state, goes properly to sleep, etcetera. The one limitation I can think of is the lack of SATA ports though perhaps that is a silly comment: who would expect on a low end el cheapo desktop board more than 4 SATA ports... I can always opt for replacing the existing HDD's with something larger, or add an inexpensive PCIe SATA card to add two more ports.
An advantage of using Windows 8 over 7 is bootup time. I've reconfigured the mainboard to allow 'fast boot' which is just about fast enough to wakeup and serve a SqueezeBox without having to ask a second time. When using Windows 8 there's another option 'ultra fast' which shaves off another few seconds.
And I would never ever again purchase an Antec VSK 4000 case. What a piece