Looking for a small home server solution

Hopefully this time I will break my bad habit of talking about new hardware, but never actually getting it!

I will be moving soon, and need to work out a new solution for my personal server. I currently have a very old dell sff pc, with a core 2 duo (2.13GHz), and 8GB ram, and it is both loud and power hungy. I also don’t trust this machine to meet any reliability expectations.

What the server is for:

  • File storage. I currently have a 1tb desktop hard drive as the only drive for my server. I hope to move to having 2tb of usable storage in the new solution.
  • Game servers - I would like to run a few different game servers; Two minecraft servers (take about 6GB ram between them at peak use) and a garry’s mod server (requirements are fairly low for this). These already run on my old server
  • Possibly act as a DVR - I currently use a raspberry pi 2 for this, and it massively exceeds the requirements. I may want to use this machine as the DVR instead, to stop using an additional machine.
  • Act as a dns server (pi-hole), and dhcp server for a “no internet” network. (The isp operates by allowing certain mac address to their network, without routing between devices), potentially something extra with vpns here, but that is a software problem, so I might make another thread about this.

Other requirements

  • Must be silent: I will be sleeping in the same room as this machine, so need it to be fanless, not have a reputation for coil whine, and be able to power down hard drives after a certain inactivity time.
  • To support at least one sata hard drive, and one m.2 drive (for most options).
  • Cheap if possible, as long as it meets the other requirements well. I don’t see the duties for the server changing much.
  • Low power if reasonable - Electricity is a flat rate, but I don’t like the heat from computers using a lot of power.
  • Decently compact.

Current ideas
So I have a few possible solutions for the hardware side of this, please comment on merits/issues with these, or anything better.

  1. Intel nuc kit (quad core i5?) - fit this with 16gb ram, a 256 gb m.2 drive, and a 2tb laptop drive. This should have no issues with performance, I’m sure it will have hard drive power features, but I’m not sure about having to make even more regular backups (no raid), or expansion options. I also don’t 100% know if this is fanless.
  2. Build a small pc, (favouring ryzen 3), with same ram and core specs as above nuc idea. Spend extra for a fan less power supply, and a huge heatsink. I could possibly use older haswell age hardware, and fit new cooling and power supply (thinking second hand desktop).
  3. Look into third party mini pc’s (similar specs to above), see if any would support desktop size hard drives.
  4. Adding a bit of complexity, I could get a dedicated hard drive runner, and use a nuc or similar to access files from it over the network. Not quite as ideal about noise and power, but better for redundancy (allows raid, and could re-use my current hdd in the raid).
  5. This idea is kind of random, but could be a possibility - I have an nvidia jetson k1 dev kit, and if I could run debian (sadly almost no chance of getting freebsd) on it, it has a sata port, and I could consider using that as a low power server (single drive), but this won’t run all game servers. I would only need to buy power supply and drive to use this.

I would really appreciate opinions and ideas!

Following all the specs you’re looking for I think one the ASrock Desk Mini barebones is what you’re looking for. It can fit 2 NVME drives and 2 SATA drives with RAID1 options so you can have some redundancy. Is really as small as it can get and maybe you can set it up to be silent at night slowing down the CPU fan with a really aggressive curve. Or even programming something like an Arduino Nano to override the PWM signal from the motherboard from a set hour to another and force the fan to stop spinning.
Since you’ve been able to run everything off of a Pi2 and a Core2Duo I think any modern CPU with 4C/4T or more will do the job.

I have a Chenbro SR301 that I’m planning to use as an off-site backup for my main file server. Just need the disposable cash for some large hard drives.

It has four hotswap bays and you can build a nice ITX based system in it. It’s very quiet even with the large built in 120mm fan.

ebay dot com slash used dell poweredge

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Odroid HC2

Cheap, quiet / passive, small power consumption, small dimensions. Capable of saturating 1Gb/s.
Perfect for physical separation from the main server. Or as an additional backup.

By the way, let’s buy it too … :wink:


Those Desk Mini barebones look like a pretty awesome option, provided I could build one to be fanless - Building an arduino control for it could be a good idea, but I would be concerned about thermal damage or forced shutdowns, so might need to do a little more research into how much heat the processor options actually put out.

Thanks for reccomending those to me, it looks like that would be a fairly cheap option with no performance compromise.

Just looked into those - they look amazing!

The big issue I see with them is that I would have to run backups at a high frequency to get any redundancy, as I would eat into the ethernet bandwith to have a ‘master’ drive mirror constantly to another - but doing more backups to run one of these is still worth considering to me as they are so low cost. Maybe a single drive server and one of these for high-frequency (rsync every half hour or so) backups?

Another thing I’m not as sure about is that it looks like I can only run their linux images - it is unlikely to be easy to install my own debian, and I probably can’t run freebsd on it.

That level of control over the OS is not essential, but I would like to have the option to trial bsd, and would like enough control of the OS to ensure I can keep updating past the manufacturer’s support of their images.

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Lol, true.

Though that depends where you position your server and how loud the server is in general. But the Dell Poweredge servers are pretty cheap to get, especially the R710 though the R720 is better choice.

I do not see a major problem with backups. Two HC2 or HC1 and two disks with the capacity you need. One HC will master the second slave. And copying … without exaggeration, how many changes do you have on your disk per hour or per day. Normal rsync systematically and hardly notice this network traffic. Unless you do rotations of several TB every hour, it can be less pleasant. I do not see much difference here with a large server with several hdd ones.
Yes, you can have a raid but raid is not a data backup. You can lose data with HC2 + HDD and a large server with multiple disks. Physical separation of the backup made in 1: 1 only gives you confidence.
Two HC2 or one HC2 and a usb drive for backup. Only if usb, remember that HC’s only have 2.0

I use the Odroid HC1 at home (same as HC2 only for 2.5 hdd). If you are interested in a typical NAS, then OMV or bare Armbian is available, in other words, a stable Debian. So, freedom of action and broad possibilities.

FreeNAS/FreeBSD is not likely to run. You need ARMv7 and it’s well prepared for Odroid HC / XU / MC. But Is OpenMediaVault. The perfect solution on NAS, for HC2. It’s very easy and you do not have to tinker. And if you want it, underneath is the armbian / debian stable.


OP wants something quiet because he will be sleeping in the same room so … :slight_smile:

Quad core, 16GB RAMNVME + HDD. It is fanless. I’ve got one and it works great for NextCloud, and a Minecraft server. If you need to expand it, you could always use the USB 3 ports.

oh not bad

This is an odd reccomendation, but a mac pro 3,1. Mine doesn’t hardly use more than 180 watts until I tell it to do something, and even then 300 is hitting its most for my use so far with it, and doing the stuff you’re doing will be much lighter.

Its got SAS, dead silent, lots of ram, and dirt cheap. I got mine for 150 bucks but he wanted a server I had instead so we traded.

100 bucks more you get nehalem support and 12 cores.

Thanks for all the suggestions guys, I think i’m a lot closer to getting to a nice solution.

For those suggesting a more traditional desktop/server, I would normally go down that route, but I really need the server to be silent, not just quiet. More than 100W will also be a lot of heat to deal with in the small space available. My workstation will be enough of a problem in that regard. I will keep your suggestions in mind for when I have a place with a space better suited to that sort of solution however.

It looks like my solution will end up being a fanless mini pc, with an arm board to run a hard drive used to make very regular automatic backups, instead of a raid1. I’m now trying to find a barebones option for @COGlory’s suggested option - it turns out intel nucs seem to have a fan :frowning:. I also think if I won’t use an i5+, I really should be picking a quad core, low frequency cpu, to make sure I have enough performance.

The thing I don’t like about going with this is the lack of upgradability (should not really be an issue, but I’m still concerned I will find something new to use my server for, or need more capacity than a 2.5" drive has available), and the fact I can’t re-use the hardware used for this setup later on as a spare pc, upgrade it for a workstation, etc. The mini case options suggested by @marasm and @MetalizeYourBrain might fix this, but will cost more, and it will be an issue to make the server fanless.

As using ARM+HDD and mini PC server for my solution is likely a better and probably cheaper fit to the current requirements probably outway this though.

I wouldn’t trust an SBC with USB drives attached for reliable and frequent backups. Maybe find one with a SATA interface. Also what you could do is paying a cloud storage services and have it synced with your SBC. So if you buy a powerful enough SBC you could run the HDD, DVR and PiHole off of just that. And if it’s something with 4GB of RAM even one Minecraft server (can’t say it would run two) all at the same time. What’s really the issue is the amount of power to run all your games servers at once and storage reliability. Maybe even buying a cloud machine could be better. I know it’s not on your hands and on the long run will cost more than having a PC. But that would solve all your problems.

Odroid HC2 is reliable. One of the better SBC solutions for one hdd at a low price as a NAS that is available on the market.
The SATA port is based on JMS578. And usb type A are not a reliable solution in themselves.
The alternative is NanoPi Neo2 + NAS hat. Or Helios 4 if one disk is not enough.
Definitely not raspberry pi if someone thinks about NAS. But the Odroid HC2 / 1 is a class in itself if we talk about SBC.

If noise and other things are so problematic for you, then maybe go towards a solution based on a dedicated server or even VPS.

And locally, Odroid for lighter things. He can easily handle things like Pi-Hole and others. Even Kodi …
Although the gaming server will not be suitable. Although I probably saw someone who tried … youtube + odroid xu4 minecraft.
XU4 is almost the same as HC2 and HC1, the same CPU and RAM.

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