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Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

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dave559
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Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337284

Postby dave559 » August 31st, 2020, 10:45 pm

I'm thinking of buying a mini PC for use as a Linux-powered home server (eg, for backup drives and additional storage, etc).

There seem to be quite a few of these on Amazon, does anyone have any experience with any of these, or others, or any general advice?

This one is cheap, but perhaps not really a good bargain (only 2 CPU cores and a few negative reviews saying that it is very underpowered (although that could be more the case under Windows), and eMMC storage rather than a proper SSD, which somehow just always seems a little bit iffy to me?). Maybe just a little too cheap for its own good?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/ACEPC-AK3-Wind ... 08996J3NJ/

But it has a bigger brother with a much more useful sounding spec, although at almost twice the price:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/ACEPC-AK3-Wind ... 2N5J/?th=1

At the higher price range, there seem to be a few other options, including this one which has the benefit of a USB-C port, but with an unusual (although apparently similar) model of Celeron:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/AWOW-Desktop-C ... 087JRQWR4/

Thanks for any advice.

mc2fool
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337288

Postby mc2fool » August 31st, 2020, 11:00 pm

dave559 wrote:I'm thinking of buying a mini PC for use as a Linux-powered home server (eg, for backup drives and additional storage, etc).

If it's for backup drives and additional storage, what's the reason for not just going for a NAS?

dave559
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337291

Postby dave559 » August 31st, 2020, 11:30 pm

mc2fool wrote:If it's for backup drives and additional storage, what's the reason for not just going for a NAS?


I'd prefer something where I can manage the OS myself, that the base device is compact, but that I can easily add and remove USB connected drives myself.

I'd probably also want to run BOINC on it, and possibly other services, too.

I also get the impression that the software/OS that comes with entry-level NAS devices can sometimes be a bit lacking and sometimes poorly supported by the manufacturers?

mc2fool
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337293

Postby mc2fool » August 31st, 2020, 11:48 pm

dave559 wrote:
mc2fool wrote:If it's for backup drives and additional storage, what's the reason for not just going for a NAS?

I'd prefer something where I can manage the OS myself, that the base device is compact, but that I can easily add and remove USB connected drives myself.

I'd probably also want to run BOINC on it, and possibly other services, too.

I also get the impression that the software/OS that comes with entry-level NAS devices can sometimes be a bit lacking and sometimes poorly supported by the manufacturers?

Fair enuff on all points. :D

Itsallaguess
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337298

Postby Itsallaguess » September 1st, 2020, 5:53 am

dave559 wrote:
There seem to be quite a few of these on Amazon, does anyone have any experience with any of these, or others, or any general advice?


Have you looked at the ASRock 'DeskMini' series at all?

I've had a DeskMini 110 for a few years now, sat out of the way on the back of my 24" monitor, and it's the best Windows PC I've ever owned.

Note that they take desktop CPU's, and so are much more powerful than the majority of NUC's that are on the market. I've got an i5 in mine, but it's got an i7 upgrade path if ever I feel the need for it. In all honesty, I originally thought that I might have upgraded the CPU by now, but it does everything I ask of it and is a flying machine in terms of speed and also very, very quiet, so I've never had the need to actually carry out the CPU upgrade..

The majority of alternative NUC solutions that I was investigating at the time only took mobile-CPU's, and as such were much less powerful compared to the higher performance available from a desktop CPU in one of these small form-factor boxes..

I've got an M2 SSD and also two other SATA SSD's inside it, and I've also installed the extra USB ports via an available expansion set. I didn't ever think I'd own a smaller form-factor PC than my old Shuttle XP that I'd be happy with, but the ASRock Deskmini 110 has really blown me away in terms of how much power can be bundled into something as big as a normal desktop PSU unit...

ASRock have upgraded their line-up since I bought my 110, and now have the Deskmini 310 range for Intel chips, and the A300 range if you prefer AMD.

Some links here for info -

http://www.asrock.com/nettop/index.asp

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=as+rock+deskmini

Deskmini 310 review - https://uk.pcmag.com/desktop-pcs/121439/asrock-deskmini-310

Deskmini A300 review - https://www.anandtech.com/show/14251/asrock-deskmini-a300-review-an-affordable-diy-amd-ryzen-minipc

Cheers,

Itsallaguess

formoverfunction
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337300

Postby formoverfunction » September 1st, 2020, 6:45 am

https://puri.sm/products/librem-mini/

It's not the cheapets option, but it's a mighty "free" option.

Urbandreamer
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337329

Postby Urbandreamer » September 1st, 2020, 9:05 am

I wouldn't pick any of the devices first chosen for backing up amything.

They are physically too small and have too little storage.

That's not to insult them, I suspect that they are great desktop machines.

I have a HP small form factor PC (Elite or Elitedesk) that I use for the purposes that you describe.

The big advantage is that you can have multiple hard drives and replace them easily.

The PC's are cheap second hand on ebay too.

Given the use that you intend to put the machine to, it can be tucked out of the way. Without monitor, keyboard or mouse. Instead use SSH from your main computer to maintain it and set up backup scripts, run automatically.

GeoffF100
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337335

Postby GeoffF100 » September 1st, 2020, 9:30 am

If you want a tiny computer and want to run Linux, using a barebones that is known to run Linux (or better still is certified to run Ubuntu) is worth considering:

https://www.ebuyer.com/store/Components ... +ascending

Nonetheless, if you can find the space and are not worried about the power consumption, a used PC is going to be cheaper and perhaps better. I got an HP 4300 SFF from eBay for £49. It arrived spotless inside and out and runs Xubuntu like a rocket. I only had to replace the 500 GB hard drive with an SSD, but it will take a faster processor and more memory if needs be.

Itsallaguess
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337336

Postby Itsallaguess » September 1st, 2020, 9:32 am

Urbandreamer wrote:
I have a HP small form factor PC (Elite or Elitedesk) that I use for the purposes that you describe.

The big advantage is that you can have multiple hard drives and replace them easily.

The PC's are cheap second hand on ebay too.

Given the use that you intend to put the machine to, it can be tucked out of the way. Without monitor, keyboard or mouse. Instead use SSH from your main computer to maintain it and set up backup scripts, run automatically.


The SFF route is a good option, and as you say, are a pretty good sweet-spot between size and flexibility (although I've got to say that getting an M2 drive and two additional SSD drives in my ASRock DeskMini 110 is ample for my own requirements, along with the usual USB expansion options as well..)

There's often some good 'Renewed' options for Windows SFF boxes on Amazon, and I see that there's an i5-4570, 8gb RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 10 Profession option currently available for just £147 -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07843N5G6

Note that some of the user-reviews on the above page mention SEremarketing as being good sellers in this area, so it might be worth considering those as an option for around the same price -

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B07843N5G6/ref=dp_olp_NEW_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=NEW

Cheers,

Itsallaguess

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337347

Postby UncleEbenezer » September 1st, 2020, 10:13 am

GeoffF100 wrote:If you want a tiny computer and want to run Linux, using a barebones that is known to run Linux (or better still is certified to run Ubuntu) is worth considering:

https://www.ebuyer.com/store/Components ... +ascending

Nonetheless, if you can find the space and are not worried about the power consumption, a used PC is going to be cheaper and perhaps better. I got an HP 4300 SFF from eBay for £49. It arrived spotless inside and out and runs Xubuntu like a rocket. I only had to replace the 500 GB hard drive with an SSD, but it will take a faster processor and more memory if needs be.


I'm surprised those are so expensive. Every one of those costs significantly more than my desktop box - a perfectly-adequate Lenovo on which I run Debian. Bought (new) some years back from one of the big box-shifters - possibly ebuyer.

For the OP, isn't the obvious solution raspberry pi?

xeny
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337377

Postby xeny » September 1st, 2020, 12:00 pm

UncleEbenezer wrote:
For the OP, isn't the obvious solution raspberry pi?


That was my immediate thought (stick to Version 4 for the faster USB and ethernet) unless the OP wants internal drive bays?

GeoffF100
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337382

Postby GeoffF100 » September 1st, 2020, 12:21 pm

UncleEbenezer wrote:
GeoffF100 wrote:If you want a tiny computer and want to run Linux, using a barebones that is known to run Linux (or better still is certified to run Ubuntu) is worth considering:

https://www.ebuyer.com/store/Components ... +ascending

Nonetheless, if you can find the space and are not worried about the power consumption, a used PC is going to be cheaper and perhaps better. I got an HP 4300 SFF from eBay for £49. It arrived spotless inside and out and runs Xubuntu like a rocket. I only had to replace the 500 GB hard drive with an SSD, but it will take a faster processor and more memory if needs be.


I'm surprised those are so expensive. Every one of those costs significantly more than my desktop box - a perfectly-adequate Lenovo on which I run Debian. Bought (new) some years back from one of the big box-shifters - possibly ebuyer.

For the OP, isn't the obvious solution raspberry pi?

A Pi will cope with "backup" and "extra storage", but what about "etc"? A used PC will be cheaper than a Pi with all the accessories, but take up more space and consume more power.

The GB-BLCE-4105C will certainly run Linux:

https://translate.google.com/translate? ... ch&pto=aue

A nice little toy. A powerful processor for running Linux, but it is likely to be subject to thermal throttling if it is hammered.

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337416

Postby Infrasonic » September 1st, 2020, 2:15 pm

https://nascompares.com/guide/synology-versus-freenas/

There’s no denying it NAS are expensive devices. It’s never really been a secret that when you buy a Synology or QNAP NAS, half of what you’re paying for isn’t the hardware, but the software included. It is no different from when you buy a PC for the home, you aren’t just buying a CPU, memory and a computer to put it in – in order for a PC to function you need to purchase an operating system. Similarly, when you buy a NAS, you are buying both the hardware for the NAS Server and the software that lives upon it. The cost of NAS can often put people off when they realised that the CPU and memory inside could easily be out-built by a customised PC. Custom built NAS is not a new thing and for those who feel brave enough it is certainly an option worth considering. So today I want to look at one of the most popular Synology NAS devices you can buy in the market today, the Synology DS918+, and compare it against a FreeNAS custom build where you buy all of the hardware components individually to see which is best for your data.
Cont.

You can put the Synology DSM OS (custom Linux) onto your own hardware using XPEnology...https://xpenology.com/forum/
No official support, but the people who do it tend to be the knowledgeable techie types.

AF62
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337493

Postby AF62 » September 1st, 2020, 8:39 pm

Infrasonic wrote:You can put the Synology DSM OS (custom Linux) onto your own hardware using XPEnology...https://xpenology.com/forum/
No official support, but the people who do it tend to be the knowledgeable techie types.


Not all of us are!

Maybe we can just follow some instructions. Anyway my HP N54L (from the crazy days when they were selling for £175 then £100 cashback) has been happily running XPEnology for the last six years.

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337510

Postby dave559 » September 1st, 2020, 10:45 pm

Itsallaguess wrote:Have you looked at the ASRock 'DeskMini' series at all?


Thanks, I wasn't aware of those. They look nice, but, once kitted out, they would end up being a fair bit beyond my price range. I'm really just looking for something fairly cheap and cheerful at this point.

dave559
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337514

Postby dave559 » September 1st, 2020, 11:24 pm

Thanks for everyone's advice. I intentionally didn't consider second-hand desktop PCs, although they would be quite suitable for this, as I am rather short of space, hence being interested in something like these very compact mini PCs that I could just plug a couple of USB drives next to. The size factor is quite an important consideration for me.

A Raspberry Pi could indeed maybe be a possibility, would one work reliably for long/permanent uptime given that the OS is on an SD card?

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337517

Postby swill453 » September 1st, 2020, 11:32 pm

If you want a USB drive with minimal size, you can just use a standard SSD drive connected with a USB to SATA cable like this https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/USB-3-0-To-S ... 3507291620

No enclosure necessary, SSD drives are well enough protected in themselves.

Scott.

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337523

Postby servodude » September 2nd, 2020, 1:21 am

dave559 wrote:A Raspberry Pi could indeed maybe be a possibility, would one work reliably for long/permanent uptime given that the OS is on an SD card?


If it has the grunt you need I don't see why not; especially if you make the rootfs mount as read only (no writing means minimal chance of corruption)

I've not done this for a Pi but I do it for commercial "embedded linux"(1) hw
- first google hit: https://medium.com/@andreas.schallwig/h ... c0f7be7353

- sd

(1) - folk say "embedded linux" but it's literally just linux on an embedded system

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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337531

Postby Urbandreamer » September 2nd, 2020, 6:49 am

dave559 wrote:A Raspberry Pi could indeed maybe be a possibility, would one work reliably for long/permanent uptime given that the OS is on an SD card?


My experience using a Pi-3 is that the SD card needs reformatting and a fresh install each year. I suspect that even the Pi dedicated linux distros write to the SD card too much.

However the Pi-4 will allow you to boot from a USB SSD.

The problem that I see using a Pi is electrical power. Most USB hard disks are powered from the USB. Not so much a problem for SSD (unless you go daft with LED sparkles), but that gets quite expensive if you want a very big disk. Rotating hard disks take a lot more power.

I confess that I'm also less than convinced about using USB disks unless needed.

I'm not recommending it, but you might consider an Odroid HC1.
https://www.odroid.co.uk/index.php?rout ... uct_id=817
It's quite limited in USB's, but designed as NAS hardware.

didds
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Re: Looking for a mini PC for use as a home server

#337552

Postby didds » September 2nd, 2020, 9:15 am

If its effectively a NAS you need then I'd consider a Raspberry Pi - there are plenty of turtorials/howtos online to make a NAS from one. Its as small as you'll likely ever find currently, and has a fully controllable OS (raspbian - version of linux). On top of the Pi itself you'll need some external hard drive provision which could be as simple as a usb drive(s).

Depending on how sexy you want to get you could incorporate RAID into that etc etc for data intergrity purposes

didds


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