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Re: Building for Windows

I've been reading your pages on building a NAS and home theater PC. Very good info.

One very big benefit with using a PCI or PCIe SATA card with hardware RAID5 is that the card and drives can be moved to any other PC and Windows won't have a problem with it because as far as Windows knows it's one single large drive.

More than one device can be connected to a SATA port by using a port multiplier. They're pretty much like a network switch for SATA. The controller has to support port multipliers. I don't know how they affect throughput or if they can enable a RAID controller to put more than 4 drives into an array.

My HTPC is a Compaq EVO 300 Small Form Factor desktop with the slim case and a custom flat black paint job to not look so much like a computer. 3.something Ghz socket 478 Pentium 4 with a 300 gig hard drive, DVD burner, forget how much RAM, XP Pro, nVidia 5800 low profile AGP card with HDMI (that was a hard item to find). There are low profile AGP cards with HDMI, at prices for which I could assemble a complete new quad core box! Vendors who have those cards must really looooove them so much they never want to see them leave.

Circa 2005 was my last major upgrade on my big box, "Megatower 2000". Back in 2000 I was totally fed up with cramped mini and mid tower cases so I bought the largest full tower case I could find, with 12 drive bays. I had a 300 Mhz Slot 1 Pentium 3 in it and a 1x DVD drive, amongst other goodies.

13 years(!) later the case is the only part of the original left. A couple of years ago I had to retire "old putty", the very first (and only brand new) 1.44M floppy drive I ever owned. It went through so many different PCs in its lifetime... that floppy drive and MT2K are the only bits of computer kit I've ever named.

Currently it has a Fujitsu-Seimens OEM version of an MSI K8N-Neo4 (MSI-7125) motherboard, 2 gig RAM, a single core Athlon XP 3500+ Socket 939, one IDE drive for XP, one for data and a RAID5 array made of four 200 gig SATA2 white label OEM Seagate drives connected to a PCI card. (total storage capacity of 0.75TB) It was quite difficult to find a PCI SATA card with hardware RAID5 *and* all four ports internal. I snagged the card on eBay and the drives through some online vendor, all for under $200. Video is some ATi PCIe x16 with 512meg and I have a PCI firewire card, a PCIe x1 eSATA card, a PCI Leadtek Winfast 2000 TV tuner (NTSC obsolete) with S-Video in for recording old tapes (bought specifically because Leadtek told the industry where they could stick macrovision), and two IDE DVD burners. I'm not using the 4 integrated SATA ports.

To mount the 4 RAID drives I used floppy drive 5.25" adapter brackets. The holes in the front allow lots of air to be drawn in by the pair of Antec fans in the top rear of the case. I looked into one of those boxes for stuffing four 3.5" hard drives into the space of three 5.25" half height bays but yikes! the price, and I'd have to do some bending or cutting of the little support ledges on the case.

I already did cutting for the bottom front fan by cutting out the restrictive circular hole grid and opening the hole to the full square with rounded corners to eliminate any airflow restriction. I also trimmed away the whole bottom under edge of the case front and a 1/4x4" slot up each side. I used to have a powerful AC fan in there, switched on by a relay. That old PIII and other CPUs I had in there ran HOT. That AC fan would vacuum up any little bit of paper that got too close. Now I have a Silenx fan there, should get some to replace the ones in the top.

Right now I'm waiting for a dual core Athlon 64x2 3800+ CPU to arrive by slow boat from China. WTH makes people think 5 years gone obsolete Socket 939 x2 CPUs are worth so dang much? Snagged this one off Amazon for $17. Typical prices on the dual cores are way higher. (RAM and CPU were actually free. I used $5 Amazon gift codes I got using Swagbucks.)

Old it may be, but it's still quite fast, holds its own against any current single core box and processes video faster than realtime (after the painfully slow realtime recording from VHS tape). The dual core CPU will help a lot with video work.

Upgrading to 2 gig RAM and the faster, dual core CPU was far cheaper than a new motherboard, CPU and RAM, especially since boards with 3 PCI slots seem to be getting quite rare. I NEED those 3 PCI slots, though could probably do without the firewire card.