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  1. #1
    New Lounger
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    I currently have:
    Windows Media Center desktop
    Windows 7 laptop
    Windows Vista laptop
    2 IPOD Touchs
    Samsung plasma Internet TV
    1 network printer
    Wii gaming system

    All the above are connected (or can connect) to my home network via wireless router. Since I got the Win7 laptop I find that I seldom use the desktop anymore. I've tried to do some research on the advantages and disadvantages on making the desktop a home server. Currently it's full of the usual software/downloads that one accumulates after 4-5 years of use. I am only getting more confused during my research efforts.....is there a simple answer as to the benefits and ease of turning the desktop into a server...or, since everything seems to work fine now, should I just leave well enough alone??

  2. #2
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    I purchased an HP OEM Mediasmart Home Server a couple of years ago. It is WHS with some HP software addons. I see the advantages to be a centralized automatic backup of up to 10 PCs (no, I don't have that many). On a client PC you can do a bare metal restore or restore individual files. You can also backup the Home Server easily to a USB drive. There is a central location for me to save pictures, audio, & video that can be streamed to any compatible device in the network. I can save any file I wish to the network for archival or sharing purposes. Once I give an account access to WHS I don't have to worry about configuring shareing and access between different client PCs. I can configure any data (music, pictures, etc.) folder to be duplicated on the server which stores the duplciate file on a different physical drive in the server. Thus, another level of safety. I have remote access to the server should I need it.

    Most older desktop systems would work well for WHS. The only thing you may need is to add a hard drive or two. Hard drives can be added internally or externally. What are the hardware specifications for the old system?

    Once you become comfortable with WHS you can find quite a few addons to enhance the functionality if you care to. Many are free. Some are not.

    You ought to check out MS Windows Home Server, MediaSmartServer.net The Windows Home Server Enthusiast Community, or We Got Served - Connecting Your Digital World.

    Joe
    Joe

  3. #3
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    I work on the "if it does what I need at the moment leave it alone" principle, so my 5 year old laptop still performs as my day to day machine and my server is only for backup / additional storage and the odd bit of testing.

    cheers, Paul

  4. #4
    New Lounger
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    I have a similar situation, but I question the use of a desktop PC. Unless it has lots of disk space, you will quickly run out of room to make backups, especially full backups or images of existing disks. The CPU power would probably be fine, but the internal room for additional disks might not give you much extra space for those TB sized disks you will probably need. You can use external drives, but generally they are slower, unless you also have USB 3 disks, which few older desktops support. I would also ensure your network wire can handle 1GB speeds. Backups over 100MB connections take a good while when you are throwing GB sized backups around. Forget wireless for large backups, they would take hours even at wireless n speeds. It is OK for smaller stuff though.

    To save yourself some time, backup only what is not replaceable, and then back that up several times on different hardware. You can nearly always re-install Windows or other programs. You cannot replace those photos, etc. One rule we us is "How long would it take to replace the missing item?" If the answer is not to your liking, then back it up early and often. Hope this helps.

  5. #5
    New Lounger
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    Mark-
    I have three Windows desktops, two Windows laptops, a Windows netbook, a MacBook Pro with dual OSX/Windows partitions, a PS3 and Wii. In the center of this sits an HP MediaSmart Home Server running MS WHS to which two printers are connected via USB that contains 2 1Tb hard drives (there is room for two more). The desktop machines and the server are connected via 100Mb ethernet through a Verizon FIOS router. Everything else is connected wirelessly (802.11g). The server has the following uses:

    Backup: Perhaps its most valuable function. Every one of the PCs on my network get fully backed up each night automatically beginning at midnight. The server keeps a grandfather/father/child set of backups going back to the first day of the last three months, the first day of the last three weeks, and the whole last week for each machine (this scheme is user configurable). At any time I can go back into any of those backups and restore individual files or entire images. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me from something as simple as an inadvertently deleted file all the way to a full image restore after a laptop hard drive crash or a malware infestation. The backup is seamless, hands-free, robust and consistent. It just works.

    Printer Server: The two printers (a laser B/W and a color dot-matrix) are hooked up physically to the server via USB and shared with the whole network. Pretty straight forward. Also works as it should.

    File Sharing: You can create shares like with any other Windows networked machine. I have mapped the My Pictures/Photos folder on all our machines to the server so that all the pictures in the family are in one shared spot. For the safety of those precious memories, the Photos folder on the server is configured to be duplicated on a different drive so that if we ever lose a drive the pictures won't be gone. You can do this with any folder (music, videos, whatever). Very handy and you never have to wonder which machine pictures are on. You can also download files to a shared folder on the server and install programs from there.

    Media Serving: The server "serves" pictures, music, and video to any machine (including the PS3). Very cool at family gatherings to have pictures streaming on the HDTV and music streaming on the Home Theater audio. The video streaming leaves much to be desired on my setup because of the slow "g" wireless connection. I would imagine that if I had "n" wireless or a wired 1Gb network connection it would be adequate. Right now video streaming is not good enough to use.

    External Access: You can create external shares that, with the correct credentials, can be accessed from the internet. This can be anything from a place for grandma to log in and look at the latest family pics to sharing files with friends and colleagues. You have to be careful with this feature as many ISPs do not allow hosting a server on their service.

    As someone else on this thread mentioned, there are many addins to do things like share iPod libraries, run an FTP server and a myriad other things.

    Bottom line: Would I buy it again, in a heart beat.

    The only issue with your scenario, as someone else mentioned, may be the inability of using the large, fast hard drives required to run this server on older hardware. But if you have the machine laying about anyway, why not give it a try.

    Hope this helps,
    -Fernando

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