How to Build a Server Computer

Overview

If you need a server computer, for your network why not build your own? Today, many organizations and businesses are virtualizing the host computers on their networks. In order to virtualize, you need a computer with the ability to serve multiple virtual machines over the local network. In our computer lab, we are engaging this current trend; we are implementing virtual host computers, but we are in the need of servers capable of handling the greater demand on system resources. Instead of purchasing a few expensive enterprise level servers, we decided it would be less expensive and more fun, to just build our own.

Purchasing Online

Here are some great online stores for researching and purchasing your computer components: newegg.com, tigerdirect.com, frys.com, and amazon.com. To build our lab servers, we purchased all of our computer components from newegg.com. Newegg offers regular 24 hour deals, rebates, and promotional codes if you are a regular shopper. You can find great deals if you are not in a hurry, and your are willing to not buy all of the parts in only one day.

Here is an outline of the computer components we used to build our servers:

Computer Cases

We decided to go with a server style case that could mount on a rack. Rack mounted servers and networking devices are labeled in 1.75 inch height units like 1U, 2U, 3U etc.. The cases we bought are 4U, meaning 4 x 1.75 inches tall. The key question when researching a computer case is will it fit the motherboard you are purchasing? In our case, we needed to make sure that we had a case that could fit a 12″x13″ motherboard (see below), which is unusually large. You also want to make sure that your case has enough fans to properly move air through the case, keeping the system from overheating. For a server, you want to consider purchasing a computer case with a locking front panel, protecting unauthorized people from quickly accessing the server’s optical drive, USB drive, power and reset switches.


Rosewill 4U server cases with locking front panel and front panel fans

 
Inside picture of the server case, showing interior fans and motherboard plate, standoffs and standoff hole patterns


Motherboard standoff and case plate holes

See the video tutorials for this project starting on the next page: How to Build a Server Computer – Page 2

Author: Dan

Dan teaches computer networking and security classes at Central Oregon Community College.

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