Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Windows Home Server project - The Build

Man, I just love an anti-climax! I went ahead and assembled the rest of the parts (picked up the hard drives, a DVD drive and a couple of odds and ends from CompUSA at Northgate Saturday) and set aside Sunday afternoon for the build. If you're interested in specs, they're what I outlined two posts ago except that I decided not to waste a SATA slot on the old 250GB drive, I dropped the $35 on a new DVD drive rather than taking one out of an old system and I went with a stick of Mushkin 2GB DDR2 rather than 2 1GB DIMMs.

When I say anti-climax, I mean that the most difficult part of the build was getting the damn extra 120mm case fan screwed into the front of the case, since the HDD enclosure isn't removable. Everything else was easy-peasy - I managed to not even cut myself. And frankly the extra fan was probably not necessary (and is a bit noisy) but I liked the idea of another fan to move air off the hard drives. After I got the case fan installed, it went like this:

01) Finish prepping the case (screw in the mobo standoffs, install the power supply, snap in the rear I/O port template
02) Install the CPU and the stock cooler onto the mobo (this is a heck of a lot easier than the older sockets)
03) Screw in the motherboard and add the RAM
04) Install the hard drives (I used the bottom two 3.5" slots - the tool-less enclosure is nice but it's a little difficult to get to the clip on the other side)
05) Install the optical drive
06) Add the SATA cables (no more wide IDE ribbons - yay!!)
07) Connect the case wires (USB connectors, switch wires, etc)
08) Attach the power leads to the mobo, fans, HDDs, optical drives etc)
09) Plug in the keyboard, mouse, DVI and power cables and then hit power

Everything posted okay right off the bat - no errors (big yay for that!). BIOS settings were pretty much okay - I think I set the time and date and tweaked the boot order, but that was it. With the way Windows Home Server addresses the hard drives, I did not do any RAIDing of the drives - I'm not even sure you CAN do that and still have WHS work properly.

Slapped in the WHS install disk and let it go. There's not a lot of interaction necessary (but quite a number of reboots). It's interesting to see that a number of screens still refer to Windows Server 2003 (the kernel at the heart of WHS). Once the install completed and the last reboot was done, I attempted to get onto the network and found that the on-board Ethernet port was not configured correctly. I tried using the utility disk that came with the motherboard but as it didn't recognize the operating system, it wouldn't run Setup. I finally just opened the disk in Explorer and found the appropriate drivers. Once I ran them, I was able to get onto the network just fine and run Windows Update. That took a LONG time to pull everything down and install it, so that was pretty much it for Sunday (it was time for a couple of pints at Top of the Hill and the second half of the Jets-Chargers game by then). More on configuration in another post.