What happened to the Mini File Server

Back in 2007 we started to develop the Mini File Server here at Boks Design. We made a bunch of prototypes and also sold 10 to local computer enthusiasts. As far as we know, some of them are even in use today!

However, we realized that they would end up too expensive to make locally and we simply didn’t have the muscle to send a big order over to China. So the project was put on ice…

It’s interesting to see that since then, we have seen similar cases such as the HP Microserver and the Fractal Design Node 304. I wonder if they got the idea from us 😉

We will keep the website online for some time. You never know if we get another idea… In the meantime, if you have any ideas, please send us an e-mail.

Let us know if you want the Mini File Server as CAD-files…

New name competition status

The competition is over and we got hundreds of suggestions! We are now in the process of registering the name and once we get through (if it gets OK), we will announce the name and the winner.

Save money on your electricity bill with the Mini File Server

Have you realized that you can save a lot of money and the environment by using a Mini-ITX system instead of a normal ATX system?

Let’s say your normal miditower server that you have running 24/7 in the closet draws 150W which is not unusual for a pretty powerful computer. What if you can lower it to 50W using the Mini File Server and a Mini-ITX motherboard instead? Read on and you’ll get an example how to calculate what you save.

And not to mention that you also save the environment – priceless!

This is how much power a Mini-ITX system consume

One of the main reasons why you would want to have a Mini File Server is to save on the electricity bill and environment. We’ve done some testing using a power consume meter:

Power Consume Meter

An ATX-computer with a powerful CPU and graphics card could draw hundres of watts – even on idle. Some graphics card consume even 100W even on their own. So how does it compare to the Mini File Server running the Mini-ITX motherboards? There’s also a post on how much money you save on the electricity bill.

Here are the results when running tests while idle, but not in sleep mode:

Mini File Server: 62W
Mini-ITX VIA EPIA EN12000EG, 5×3.5″ PATA/SATA harddrives, extra PCI-controller
At high load (using HeavyLoad that reads on all harddrives and 100% CPU), the consumtion went up 8W.

Mini File Server: 30W
Mini-ITX VIA EPIA M6000, 1×3.5″ PATA harddrive

Mini File Server: 40W
Mini-ITX Commell LV-667, Intel Core2Duo 1.83 GHz T5600, 2 GB DDR677, 1×3.5″ SATA harddrive

Normal Miditower: 100W
ATX ASUS P4T-E, Pentium4 2.2 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce 6600GT, 2 GB memory, 1×3.5″ PATA harddrive

20″ Widescreen Monitor: 40W
Philips Brilliance 20″ widescreen

Network Hub: 10W
3Com Office Connect Dual Speed Hub

Rule of thumb is that a VIA Mini-ITX motherboard in a case with a fan does not draw more than 25W, less than a lightbulb. Each harddrive will add on that. For example, Western Digital’s high performance drives WD Caviar SE16 has the following specifications:

Read/Write: 8.77 Watts
Idle: 8.40 Watts
Standby: 0.97 Watts
Sleep: 0.97 Watts

But if you go for their power saving WD Caviar GP models, you get:

Read/Write: 7.50 Watts
Idle: 4.0 Watts
Standby: 0.30 Watts
Sleep: 0.30 Watts

Also make sure to read the post on how much money you save on the electricity bill.

Prototype 4.0 available

Just before christmas we made the version 4.0 prototype. Some major improvements of the old version are:

Here are some pictures:

Boks Design Mini File Server protoype 4.0 Boks Design Mini File Server protoype 4.0 Boks Design Mini File Server protoype 4.0

Dedicated site

The Mini File Server started out as a hobby project and has grown! It’s almost a fulltime job and we suspect more cases will come out of this project. So it was time to move from our sister blog My Uninstalled Life to a dedicated blog and site. We decided to call ourselves Boks Design. This is where we keep our development blog when developing new case.

Temperatures in the Mini Fileserver

One of our concerns in the the Mini Fileserver is the heat. 5 harddrives and a motherboard squeezed into this small box generates quite some heat. So we decided to do some testing in our prototypes.

We have tested the case with several different fans. All tests are available in this post. In general, all tests were performed with the following hardware but each step usually involves different prototypes:

Test using Scythe 120mm S-FDB

* Prototype case 1.0
* Scythe 120mm S-FDB

Here are the temperatures before we got started when the server had been idle for many hours:

HD0: 38C
HD1: 33C
HD2: 32C
HD3: 33C

Here are two charts showing the HDs and motherboard temperatures during idle which showed pretty stable:

temp2

temp3

Then we started some testing with HeavyLoad. However, none of the harddrives went up more than 2-3C so we decided to go a step further. We created numreous looping batfiles that copied 200 MB files between all the different harddrives. We ran them all simultaneous. To break the risk of just using sequentual reading, we also started some looping “dir /s” that continously made a dir /s on all harddrives. At this time, also the CPU went up 100%.

We left that running until we saw the temperatures stabilizing (around 1 hour) monitoring the temperatures and here are the maximum results we got to. Here are two examples:

HD0: 42C
HD1: 39C
HD2: 36C
HD3: 36C

So in general, the temperature went up 3-6C (4C average).

If you look at the manufactures specifications (Examples: Samsung=60C, IBM=55C, WD=55C, VIA=50C), we didn’t cross any of the recommended limits. However, we’re pretty close. Do remember that this was the most silent, and therefore not the most efficient, fan we could find. There are some very quiet fans out there that will be able to move more air that would probably lower the temperature even more. One reason why the case keeps the harddrives pretty cool is because there are about 5-10mm’s between the harddrives which lets the airflow through.

Temperature testing using Noctua NF-S12-1200

* Prototype case 4.0. This also included a dustfilter which will stop the airflow a bit
* Noctua NF-S12-1200 120mm fan

Thank you very much Noctua for sending us a sample of your fan. The NF-S12-1200 comes with a 6 years warranty and MTBF of >150.000 hours so we expect it to keep on running for a very long time in our server. Read the detailed datasheet.

Noctua NF-S12-1200

We used the included rubber vibration compensators to attach the fan more easily and also for less noise.

Noctua Vibration compensators

We started out with a normal server running under low load and these were the temperatures of the harddrives:

HD0: 45C
HD1: 39C
HD2: 35C
HD3: 40C

One thing to notice regarding the fan was that we couldn’t even hear the noise from the fan, even though we changed it from 10% to 100% fan speed. All we could hear was the harddrives, the fan was extremely silent.

Then we put some load on the system using HeavyLoad and normal file copying.

HD0: 49C
HD1: 45C
HD2: 37C
HD3: 41C

So in general, the temperature went up 2-6C (3C average) – less than with the other fan. The reason why the temperature in general is higher is probably because of the dustfilter.

New prototype 3.0 manufactured

We just made a new prototype of the Mini File Server with another “flames” front. Check out the pictures below. Please comment what you think.

minifileserver3

Here are some picture with the front cover:

minifileserver4

minifileserver5

Here are some pictures without the front cover:

minifileserver6

minifileserver6

Power Supply for the Mini Fileserver

When it comes to power supply, Mini ITX doesn’t use a traditional PSU as ATX. It uses a PSU outside the case, just like a laptop computer. Inside the box, there’s a small DCDC-converter board which in it’s turn is connected to the connection on the motherboard to give it power. This board also has outlets for harddrives etc.

A problem with this is that there’s no standard on mounting or form factor on these DCDC-converter boards. Morex is one of the larger suppliers, then there’s Lex, Universal and the powerful 220W model.

This is how we fitted the DCDC converterboard in front of the mini fileserver.

minifileserverpsu1

One alternative would be to use the picoPSU model which doesn’t take up much place at all. However, then you’re limited to 120W and that could be close to the minimum if you have the case fully fitted. However, our prototype is fitted with a motherboard + 5 harddrives and a 120W power supply can handle the load. Here are some pictures of the picoPSU:

picopsu1

picopsu2

The Mini Fileserver – different front plates

First of all we’re building a fileserver case, but we also want to put some effort in designing the case so that it can easily be turned into a regular PC or HTPC. Mounting holes and brackets are made to fit several configurations. Of course we want the case to be as flexible as it can be so it will be compatible with most Mini-ITX motherboards and several PS cards.

It’s possible to change front plate to have different designs. Quite handy when testing airflow but also a good thing when considering the fact that not all people have the same taste. I prefer basic holes whereas Daniel prefer flames or a logo.

frontplate1

Next Page →