I completed my Intel Atom-based WHS build last night. This is a project that has languished for about a year and started with a “free after rebate” mini tower case from Fry’s, a spare motherboard, CPU and RAM. I bought a 5 drive internal SATA backplane like this one and five 500GB SATA drives (these days, I expect you can get 1TB drives for the price I paid).
The build was left incomplete for a while because (1) the SATA backplane didn’t actually fit in the free case, (2) in another case it required surgery to fit without hitting the motherboard, (3) the motherboard wasn’t compatible with the SATA RAID card I had, (4) the other motherboard was not suitable for a WHS build since it was too powerful. You know what it is like: the quick weekend project that ends up consuming time, parts, blood and sweat.
Fast forward to today and I came across the Intel D945GCLF2 board. It sells for around $80 and has Gigabit Ethernet, one PCI slot, one PATA port and two SATA ports. All you need to add is RAM and storage. Note that there is also an Intel D945GCLF board, which is very similar other than it has a single core Atom and a 10/100 Ethernet adaptor. I specifically wanted GbE for this application. I’ve had good luck with Intel boards, though there are a few other Atom-based mobos out there.
For installation, I temporarily added an IDE CD-ROM drive. This also proved useful for installing the motherboard drivers, since the out of the box WHS install didn’t recognise the network driver.
Since this board only has 2 SATA ports and I need 5 for the SATA backplane, I added a cheap 4 port SATA PCI card based on the Silicon Image 3114 chipset. Fry’s had a Sabrent one for $25 but this was either DOA or incompatible (no card ID banner on POST and unrecognised by WHS). I picked up an otherwise identical but differently branded card from another store. This card displays a Silicon Image RAID BIOS banner on POST and once I installed the driver and management utility, appeared in WHS. The SATA board is configured in pass-through mode so that it isn’t doing any form of RAID, leaving WHS to manage the drives, which appear as SCSI devices.
With everything set up, WHS now sees the two drives connected to the motherboard SATA ports and the other three drives connected through the PCI card. It has a “whopping” 2.5TB of storage!