Home servers are becoming really popular in households across America for the functionality and features they provide, especially with the new Windows 7 Operating System.

Home servers allow you to store all types of data which are accessible anywhere in the world, including media (music, movies, pictures…etc).? A home server is essentially a computer that usually has a large amount of storage and is hooked up to the internet to back up computers and to hold data to stream such as a movie to a home TV.? This is your own personal ‘cloud’ of information.

I decided to make a home server on a very tight budget to show how cheap one of these machines can be to make and what type of features they can offer!

The first step was to determine the parts I would need.? Building a home server is exactly like building a plain old computer.? I needed a CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Primary Storage Hard Drive and a Case.? The beauty of a home server is it does not need to be attached to a monitor or have a keyboard and mouse constantly connected.? It just needs power and an ethernet connection and it’s good to go.? I have a lot of external hard drives lying around with good amounts of storage in each.? Those are perfectly good hard drives that can all be put together to make one large drive.? I used a 1 TB drive from my Western Digital external hard drive.? Removing the hard drive was a breeze and I covered it in a post on how to open and remove your external hard drive case.

Now that I have my refined parts shopping list, I headed over to NewEgg.com to start shopping.? I have to apologize to women in the world for ever making a joke about how they shop, how long it takes them or their annoying ways of trying on and looking at everything.

I have found the inner woman in me when I shop for computer parts.? When you open up NewEgg, and need to just buy a few home server parts, your mind goes everywhere.? You just wanna try out everything, see what your friends say and at the end of it, you buy way more then you need to and your significant other doesn’t even notice or care.

Before you choose your home server parts, identify your needs on what you’re server will do.? My server needs is a box that can do file sharing and backing up of data as well as streaming music and movies to my TV’s and computers.? Most servers are left on all the time meaning the parts that are used should be given a lot of thought for power consumption.? Many forget that electricity bills can rack up a huge cost that is not factored in when you are originally budgeting for this type of PC.? Here’s how each part should be chosen by:

CPU- the brain of your server can be as powerful or docile as you want to make it.? For my needs, even streaming HD content to three types of devices will not be very CPU intensive.? With that, I can choose a very low budget type of processor that is very energy friendly.? People who are looking to host web servers with media on those servers as well as rip and transcode files and movies should look at something more powerful.? For the average user, I’d recommend a low power Atom processor.? They average around 8-13 watts idle which is a fraction of what the average lightbulb uses.

Motherboard- the motherboard choice should be made based around what type of CPU you are choosing (compatibility wise) and how much storage you plan to have.? I used something with only 2 Sata ports for hard drives, meaning I don’t plan on throwing in too many extra hard drives in this build.

My motherboard/CPU bundle choice…cost: $79.99

RAM- your memory is very important in a server based on your needs.? Web servers that will be accessed on the internet will need more RAM rather than a big powerful processor.? If you plan on using this with any 64 bit software, I suggest no less than 4 GB of RAM but since I was installing Windows Home Server v1, I only needed 1 stick of DDR3 (fast and low power) memory.

RAM…cost: $22.99

Hard Drive- Hard drives consume power based on their use, but the are now options for green and smart hard drives.? Green/Smart drives are hard drives that take low power and will almost require NO energy when it is sitting idle (usually most of the time a server will spend is in an idle stage).? Since I took the hard drive out of my last external, I did not need to spend anything here.? It was a 1 TB Western Digital Green Drive.

Hard Drive…cost $0.00

Case- The outer aesthetics of your home server rely only on the case you choose to house your computer parts.? Since my board was a mini ITX form factor (ultra small design), I could choose a compact case that I could keep tucked away somewhere.? Make sure you choose a case that can house some hardware in it without being too much of a tight fit and it is not made up of cheap material.? A good case can absorb a lot of the noise you hear from hard drives or the CPU, so I went with a budget pick that as a smart find!

Apex MI-100…cost $53.24

After I had my parts, I put them all together ready to build.? Order: Open/prep case for installation, RAM on Motherboard, Motherboard in case, install hard drive, connect power to all components, close case, install operating system.

I gathered my parts and took them out and placed them in the order they were to be installed.? As I said before, prep’ing the case means to really clean it out and understand the best way to mount your hard drive, where to install components so the wiring can be done efficiently, putting in the backboard I/O plate for the motherboard and seeing if your components might run into any low or tight housing issues.

I put the RAM on the motherboard and then installed it into the case:

Maybe I should’ve read some of these? … Nah…I’ve come to far.

I mounted the hard drive and then closed the case!

While I never took a picture of what the case looked like at the finish product, I found a picture of the same case and its form factor size to give a good estimate to what I currently have.

After that, the rest is history.? I installed Windows Home Server using a bootable USB I created with the Microsoft Tool covered here.

Conclusion: A home server can be a cheap build that is low power and very efficient.? My home server currently draws about 27-28 Watts at idle which is half what a 60W light bulb would take in an hour.? That is a very inexpensive way to own your own cloud of storage, data and streaming capabilities.

Some people ask why I did not use a DVD drive…Personally, I see no need with everything readily available on USB drives today.? If I really wanted to rip a home movie off a DVD, I can stick it in a laptop or another computer and then just port the file over to the home server.

The total cost of my build was $156.23 after using the hard drive from an external I rarely would need.? That’s incredibly cheap for a desktop PC (could just install Windows 7 and use it as a desktop for the family as well!) that has enough power and juice to handle all of your file sharing and media streaming needs.

Using low-powered parts and some recycling of old parts gets you a brand new home server that can do some very impressive things.? If you have computers in the house that are no longer being used that often, convert them into a Windows Home Server…old computers can do it too!