Mini-ITX Home Server

A few months ago, I got a new home server. I wanted to replace the old desktop with something quiet and low-power that could be left on all day. This led toward an mini-ITX motherboard. A fanless processor was better since I didn’t need the performance for video or anything heavy. I also wanted something upgradable to four SATA hard drives and with Gigabit Ethernet. All of it needed to cost less than $500 without drives.

The only case mini-ITX case with space for four hard drives I found was the Chenbro ES34069. It was a little expensive but turned out to be nicely designed and well made. The hard drives go in caddies which plug into a SATA backplane. It also has space for a 2.5″ hard drive, thin CD drive, and memory card reader. I decided to get a CompactFlash card in an IDE adapter for the system drive. I skipped the CD drive and reader.

For the motherboard, I wanted to balance having 4 SATA ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and fanless processor. The VIA EPIA SN10000EG would have worked well with 4 SATA ports and fanless processor but was too expensive. I chose to get the Jetway J7F4K1G2E which has a fanless VIA C7 processor, Gigabit Ethernet, and only 2 SATA ports. When I made the decision, the Intel Atom motherboard, the D945GCLF, had just been released. Unfortunately, it did not have Gigabit and the chipset uses more power than the processor. There are now more Atom motherboards with Gigabit and even 4 SATA ports that would work better.

The first problem with the install was forgetting the adapter cable from 40-pin IDE on motherboard to 44-pin notebook IDE connector on the drive. The second problem was the lack of mounting holes in the right place for the non-standard position of the 2.5″ drive. I was able to wedge it in place. The CompactFlash card was nice because I could put in the memory card reader on my desktop to write the root filesystem. When I do decide to go to 4 drives, I will need get a special riser card to use a PCI SATA adapter. That will be a tight fit in an already tight case. The case has a place for everything put it requires putting together in the correct order to get it all to fit.