I built a 12GB storage server last night with the intent to consolidate my various NASes into a single unified machine. The old Dlink DNS-323 was good but at only 1.5TB mirrored, it’s limited in what it can hold. The OpenFiler server with RAID5 created from my old workstation works great, but I don’t really trust the drives since the RAID5 array failed when running as my workstation, plus the volume layout sort of sucks (I don’t really use iSCSI despite allocating 33% of its disk space as such)
The hardware is very simple. A tiny ASUS AT5NM10-I CPU/motherboard runs an embedded Intel Atom D510, a dual-core processor in a fanless package. It comes with 2 SATA ports, 8 USB ports, integrated video and sound, and gigabit ethernet. 2GB RAM should be more than enough. I also added a 4-port SATA controller from Promise and six 2TB Western Digital “Green” hard drives, which gives the 12TB capacity. I then threw that all into an Antec Nine Hundred case with a 500W power supply. Total price was around $1000, and I built it in about an hour.
I had originally intended to install OpenFiler again, but Windows Home Server nagged at me. A colleague told me about all the great things he’d heard about WHS, and since I have access to it via MAPS and TechNet, I thought it might be a good fit. Indeed, after reading up on it, it sounds fantastic, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The only problem with having 6 hard drives is that there’s no room to connect a DVD player. I spent a couple frustrating hours trying to install the WHS install disc to a USB key, even trying the normally-excellent UNetBootin. Yes, I could disconnect a SATA drive and temporarily hook up a DVD, but that seemed too much like giving up. In the end, the following simple instructions worked after starting Command Prompt as Administrator:
Next up was to copy the files from the ISO to the USB drive. Once complete, eject the disk, insert it into the new server, and after a reboot, the install begins!
- list disk
- select disk n (where n is the USB drive)
- create partition primary
- select partition 1
- format fs=ntfs quick
The WHS setup didn’t recognize my Promise SATA card drivers so I downloaded them from the Promise web site and copied them to a USB drive, then restarted the install. Selecting Load Drivers and navigating to the driver file caused all the drives to show up. Things looked good, so I selected Disk 0 and began the install. It formatted the file system and rebooted.
But it was too good to be true: BSOD! Maybe an issue with the Promise controller? I disconnected all drives but the first and tried the install again with the same BSOD result. But I am tired and I have a lot to do on my “day off” tomorrow, so I’ll continue this later.
Stubborn is my middle name, so after a quick search for WHS install/reboot BSODs, it sounds like the install can’t handle the drives being set to AHCI in the BIOS. Indeed, after setting this to IDE and rebooting, the install continued. I noticed the motherboard install disc came had a AHCI driver, so I set it back to AHCI in the BIOS and restarted the install: uber-stubborn or what? This time I choose both the Promise and AHCI drivers. Would it work?
Of course not! The warning message when I selected the AHCI driver said that they would require a reboot, so I guess they never took effect. Later once it’s all working (if?) I’ll try setting this to AHCI in the BIOS after reloading the appropriate driver. In any case, setting back to IDE allowed setup to continue. Interesting that it says “Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server Setup” after the first reboot. Needless to say, this seems very odd, but after another reboot it’s back to a nice Windows Home Server GUI setup. In the meantime, I learned that WHS is made by the same team that makes SBS, and indeed they have a lot in common.
OK that’s enough for tonight. Setup says it will complete in 39 minutes which will take me to almost 4am, and that’s not going to happen. 7:30am will hit soon enough as it is…