Small desktop for media storage
November 20, 2008 11:06 AM   Subscribe

BuildMyComputerFilter: I want a new desktop. Tiny, affordable, more specs below the fold.

I have a 24 inch Acer monitor. I currently have about 300GB of data that I need to retain, but that number will probably reach 700GB-1TB by the summer (fieldwork recordings). I need the data to be really secure, most likely with a RAID configuration. I use the computer to write, use the internet, do sound editing, watch movies, and play a few games (Right now we can eek Civ 4 out of our current machine, but we would like something that can at least play Oblivion if not Fallout3).

The house will probably have an iPhone or Android phone by the summer. We have other PC laptops that would ideally be able to access the data on the desktop. We might get an MBP through work this summer.

What's the smallest, cheapest, most reliable setup that you would suggest now, and how much would your suggestion change if I waited until the summer to get something?
posted by billtron to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, although I might have up to 1TB of data, that number might increase, so I'd like to know the possibilities for expanding storage later. Thanks!
posted by billtron at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2008


The Budget Box from the Arstechnica guides might fit your needs as far as cost go, and you can just upgrade the hard-drive to fit your needs maybe...
posted by Grither at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2008


That would be cheap, Grither. But is there a way to make the box smaller than a microATX? Would having one tiny RAID box and one tiny PCU box be a reasonable alternative?
posted by billtron at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2008


I don't think the budget box will run Fallout3. The Hot Rod will though.
posted by Bonzai at 11:35 AM on November 20, 2008


here is a post about how to build a PC i put up for a different question if you don't know how to match parts or anything like that yet. my response is second to last. i would order most of your part from newegg. they're running a black friday sale that is supposed to be pretty ridiculous if you want to order that soon.

hard drive. i would recommend getting 2 different hard drives for that much storage. to run your operating system you can get a WD black drive that is faster than normal hard drives but still a reasonable price unlike the 10,000rpm raptors. then for storage i recommend a WD green power drive that use less power consumption but are slightly slower. won't make a noticeable difference if you are just occasionally putting on pulling off files. i'm using each of these in my unRAID server. this may seem like a lot of storage but trust me you will fill it up quicker than you think.

i'd get a quad core processor.

for your motherboard i would tell you to get one that has gigabit ethernet, firewire, preferably 2 PCI express 2.0 slots. i've been very happy with my ASUS board

power supply
that has 2 pci express

then of course the video card. i have a 9600 GT that has no problem running any games i've tried so far. but the 9800 GT has dropped in price and is 109 w/ a rebate right now

as far as waiting til summer. intel just came out with a core i7 processor that is quite pricey right now but come summer could be affordable. but the quad core is more than i have ever needed for anything. i've had 3 media converters open at one time attempting to rip my dvd collection to computer and other programs still ran with no problem.

you can message me if you have any questions.
posted by no bueno at 11:39 AM on November 20, 2008


Repeat after me: RAID is not a backup solution.

RAID is about availability and, if you turn on the scrubbing options, integrity. RAID is not a substitute for proper backups: If you need your data to be secure, then you need backups. Some of the backups need to be offsite & possibly encrypted if the data is sensitive in any way.

RAID does not protect you against human error, fire, flood or data corruption elsewhere in the system. It introduces extra complexity which can itself be a source of failure.
posted by pharm at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2008


Data security and a tight budget will be difficult to reconcile. I would suggest an external RAID enclosure. A 2 TB Buffalo DriveStation Quattro runs $700-ish but does proper RAID 5. The 1 TB model is more like $400-ish. RAID 5 is less susceptible to drive failures and by having the storage external the drives will still be easily accessed if you have a machine failure. That's USB or eSATA.

If you want network access to the drive then there are a few consumer-grade RAID NAS solutions available but they're usually more Lacie has a RAID 5 and 6 capable NAS box with 2.5 TB for $900.

You can always just get two identical drives and use software mirroring on them for cheap via Linux or if you run windows 2000 or 2003 instead of Vista or XP.
posted by GuyZero at 11:42 AM on November 20, 2008


Repeat after me: RAID is not a backup solution.

True! For $5 a month I use Mozy at home which does backups online. There's no data limit - I have multiple 10 GB files with raw home movie footage backed up with them. So if you're not concerned about availability but only slow recover for disasters, yeah, skip RAID and sign up for one of several unlimited online backup products.
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 AM on November 20, 2008


GuyZero: Mozy, or something like it, sounds like it will cover my backup needs quite well.

no bueno: I could take parts from my frankenstein computer. Would a 450W power source be sufficient? I also have a dvd-RW drive.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. Any additional recommendations for inconspicuous cases?
posted by billtron at 12:05 PM on November 20, 2008


Best inconspicuous cases I've seen are the Shuttle barebones although that means you have to go with the micro ATX form factor. On the upside, they're small enough to sit on your desk, expandable and very very quiet.

I don't really see the point in the more expensive Shuttles since they mainly seem to give you better (onboard) graphics capabilities and a bunch of technologies which aren't mainstream enough to be cheap enough.

Therefore I'd just pick up the cheapest one you can (that you like the look of) and then put in a graphics card, CPU and hard drive that suits your needs. You can always upgrade them later.
posted by mr_silver at 2:23 PM on November 20, 2008



What's the smallest, cheapest, most reliable setup that you would suggest now, and how much would your suggestion change if I waited until the summer to get something?


With all the OEM sales going on now because of the holiday season and OEMs up to their necks in non-selling parts I would suggest buying a pre-built machine and an external drive enclosure for storage. Toss in an nvidia 8800 for graphics and call it a day.

Dell black friday deals here.

2TB external drive $219
No RAID, just JBOD.

If you need RAID then go with something like this.

More sales here and here.

Set the drive to RAID 1 for redundancy, which will get you 1TB, and back it up somewhere.

Thats on the cheap. Reliable? I'd move up to a RAID 5 device, perhaps a dedicated NAS. Or 2 or 3 1TB drives and a decent sata raid card. Make sure the case you buy has room and ventilation for this.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:32 PM on November 20, 2008


I'm not an expert.

But I'd skip the raid.

Whatever data drive you get, get an identical drive and put it in an external case. Then get a program to mirror the drive (I use Casper XP).

As you bring new data onto your computer, burn it to DVDs. Keep track of what you are burning. Take those DVDs off site (a good, reliable friend's house is a good place to keep them). Regularly mirror the backup drive.

This is what I do with my photography. It seems to work and is relatively bulletproof. If my house burns down, I got my DVDs. If one drive fails, I can mirror the other one. I've lost data in the past and it sucks. Offsite backup is a really good idea. But also having a mirror drive handy is a pretty good idea.

BTW once I destroyed both my backup drive and my main drive within weeks of each other, losing everything. It sucked. Let me tell you.

Oh and I had a shuttle once and it was awesome. You may be able to get a good deal on an old one.
posted by sully75 at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2008


I can't recommend the Shuttle K48 enough. It's the size of a damn toaster, it's quiet as hell, able to handle everything you mentioned (no RAID, but really...why?) and it only set me back around $100 for the barebones.
posted by piedmont at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2008


he is also talking about a decent amount of data here. do you really want to burn 1tb of dvd's? it also depends what you're going to be doing with the data. and i wasn't talking about RAID it was unRAID. it doesn't use striping like RAID does, you can add and remove different size HDD's to the array at any time, if one disk crashes you don't lose any of the data, in the unlikely even that two crash simultaneously you only lose the data on those 2 disks unlike RAID where you would lose all of it. you should check it out.
posted by no bueno at 8:29 AM on November 21, 2008


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