Suggested Min-ITX config for home webserver?

Forum: Hardware Talk
Topic: Suggested Min-ITX config for home webserver?
started by: geodog

Posted by geodog on Sep. 26 2006,17:25
I would like to buy one of the mini-ITX systems to run a personal webserver out of in my home office. I'm imaging running a system with a hard disk, either inside the box, or in an enclosure connected to the box via USB (I am already running something like this with a Linksys NSLU, but the box is underpowered and the ARM Apache and PHP implementations are buggy). The system needs to be almost or completely silent, because my home office is also my spare bedroom that gets a lot of use.

Which of your system configurations would you recommend?


Posted by Zucca on Sep. 26 2006,18:28
I've found out that basic laptop with DSL and enough big USB stick are quite a silent solution. The more you have ram also the less it will use your HD as swap space.
I've been using my laptop as testing machine for my portable server USB plug. I always keep it powered. I makes no sound at all when I'm not using it.

Also 'toram' boot option keeps your CD-drive silent too. ;)

Posted by geodog on Sep. 27 2006,07:39
Your laptop must be a lot quieter than mine. I am still interested in a quiet Mini-ITX system.
Posted by dslfool on Sep. 27 2006,15:41
I have a Toshiba notebook (600MHz PIII) that frequently spins the fan when it's idle - not much noise, but definitely not silent.

The hard drive has been the biggest noise variable for me for otherwise quiet systems. I don't have any 2.5" drives newer than about five years old, so I don't know how quiet newer drives can be, but I put a 20GB drive in a notebook a few years ago that I could hear spinning from across a large room. I later bought another 20GB drive (same speed, 4200rpm?) to put into an external case, but when I noticed that this drive was MUCH quieter I put this one in the notebook instead. Now I can't tell if the notebook is on unless I'm close enough to touch it.

I've noticed that in hard drive reviews on, users sometimes comment on whether a certain drive is noisy or quiet. Does anyone else know how to tell ahead of time whether a particular drive will produce a lot of noise?

Posted by geodog on Sep. 30 2006,07:58
I guess no one has ideas re Mini-ITX systems?
Posted by dtf on Sep. 30 2006,14:39
Ok. Here is my experience.  I have a Mini-ITX home server I experiment with and use.  It is used mostly as a file/print/backup server.  The Mobo is the via 5000 board which is the least expensive and (I believe first) offerring.  I have played with trying serveral different serves ftp, ssh, vnc, http (using the dsl money server), edna (music server) skype (ip phone), storing and playing movies.

The only real problem I found with the Mini-ITX 5000 was the sound does not work well if at all.  I have read from another contributor that he had the same problem and found that if he jumper the front input pins on mobo for the front panel sound jack (since he did not have a case with a front panel sound input) he could get the sound to work.  However the 5000 does not have these pins on the Mobo so I could not try that solution.  I did purchase a usb sound jack and that will work for most things.  If I had to do it over I would look a later model for the higher processor speed, althought this one works fine for my purpose.  The 5000 is a 533M processor if I remember correctly.  If you want a fanless mobo you are limitted and of course there is a trade off with price.  

Most of the services I have tried work fine.  All of the file sharing seems to work well, samba, ftp, ssh. You can even setup a vnc server and remotely get at your computer.  Mine is setup as a headless server and I maintain it with vnc.  You can even access your server from outside your home network using vnc over ssh for secure access.  

Things that I have had trouble with and that did not work for me are:

Skype - while I got this to work the quality seemed poor to the person at the other end and since I had it on other computers that did not have this problem I did not pursue it on this box.

Video storage - there is a 2G limitation on file sizes for samba (i think) and this limits the size of video files that can be stored on the server.  I am experimenting with using a linux program mpgtx to split the files.

samba - this works well but does take some configuration and study but if you have hacked the nslu-2 you must have some experience.  Setting up a print server is a little challenging but I use samba on the server to print the raw file via cups.  In this way the print driver is on the client.  Getting the right driver for you printer on the server is not always easy since you selection is limitted.

When I first started this project I wanted to have a completely silent server so I set it up with a flash card and this work fine.  However, since I wanted large storage space available I added a hard drive and the flash seemed unnecessary and did have some limitations, like the number of writes you can make to a flash drive.  Using a hard drive does come with some draw backs related to noise.  I find that some drives can be relatively loud if you have the box sitting off the bed room for example.  However, you can use a good case to reduce the noise or with a headless box stick it in the closet.

I have not tried using this much as a http server since I really don't have much to put on it but for a simple http server monkey seems to work fine.  I do not know what it would take to upgrade to Apache nor how well it would work.

Hope this helps a little and have fun.

Posted by faroutscience on Oct. 01 2006,14:00
I have a M-10000N system with a Hitachi Travelstar 40GB drive. The hard drive is virtually silent. You have to listen very carefully to hear the drive. The CPU fan on the mobo is another matter. It does not have any speed modulation and runs at full speed continuously.


Posted by John on Oct. 04 2006,03:19
If you want to build a low stress silent server I'd recomend the Via 5000.  Many of the Via boards that are fanless still run very hot and require a case fan, or a case that is designed to be passively cooled.  Yet, the 5000s are very cool running.

For the site I am running a 5000 and a < Morex 2699 >.  I have a 5000 in there, with no case fan and its been running for about a year that way.

Posted by dtf on Oct. 04 2006,07:58
John - did you have problems with the sound with your server?
Posted by John on Oct. 05 2006,05:09
No, sound works fine for me.
Posted by geodog on Dec. 04 2006,07:59
I know that you recommended a EPIA 5000, but I am a little nervous about it being underpowered, and about the assembly required -- I'm not very handy.

What do you think of the "Bargain Fanless Mini-ITX BareBones Computer" as a silent 24/7 web server? I'm happy connecting it via USB to a 250GB Seagate HD I have in an enclosure. -- I am already doing it with the NSLU and it is quiet enough.

Would that work?


P.S. Also, what are the specs on the memory I would need to purchase? I'd probably go for 512MB.

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Posted by geodog on Dec. 10 2006,23:34
Actually, I was hoping to get this as a Christmas gift, but it looks like time is runing out for me to get the answers I need before XMAS.
Posted by faroutscience on Dec. 11 2006,12:09
Hi Geodog,

I'm running a home server on a Jetway EN1000 Mini-ITX system. It has an 80Gb Western Digital hard drive and 1 Gb of ram. I placed in a tower case that I already had on hand. I use CentOS 4.4 for the operating system. It works very well and consumes less than 30 watts in operation.

I wrote a howto at: < >

You can visit the working server at: < >

I have several other websites on the same server for experimental purposes. One that I'm working on will be the basis for a book I am writing. It is: < >   though it is still in its initial configuration.

It has been running for over a month without any problems. (I do have to stay on top of hacking efforts on a regular basis. :)  )


Posted by geodog on Dec. 14 2006,07:52
Thanks for the post and the details on your site. You gave me the courage to take the plunge. I bought the bargain server.

Now I need to find out what kind of memory I can put in it -- I sent email to the store.

I will report back on my experiences.


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