New computer config for home data/backup/storage.

I was thinking of getting a middle of the road computer for home that just barely fit the bill. Now I am thinking of upping it a bunch to serve as a storage device for all of my DVD’s, CD’s and most importantly, our digital video-8 cassettes (might as well get them into an easy to use format finally). The logic being that for a few hundred dollars more I could backup just about everything I own along the video/audio lines with a 500gig HDD. I’d have the originals in the basement, just in case. And if all goes well, then I’d be able to transfer everything onto newer media as technology progresses and/or add another HDD of the same size. The founding logic of this is that the replacement cost of just 20 DVD’s would equal the cost of a huge HDD that could store 100 DVDs on it. So I’m looking at this as a 20% insurance cost for the future.

So, recommendations and advice are needed. But the goal is to have something that:

A) allows me to copy everything I own fairly easily.
B) can be hooked up to my TV to play
C) Won’t make me wait forever and ever

This is planned on being a large tower box computer, so I should have space for multiple DVDs and HDDs and card readers and ???
RAM should be pretty high, I suspect. Is there any relationship between RAM and speed w.r.t. large HDDs?

There are a couple HDDs I can buy that are around 500gigs, 7200. What are the differences between one large one, or two 250gigs, or ??? I see all types of HDDs offered from IDE to SCII to Cheetah speeds to 8mg to 16mg to the god-box external 1000gig, 15000rpm $1000 HDD. Any help sorting this out for my goal?

Should I have Windows on the same large HDD, or should I get a smaller HDD for daily activities and the big-daddy one just for storage?

The video and sound card - I don’t play games on the computer, but it now seems I will be playing back my CDs & DVDs. What should I go for as a minimum?

What do I need to copy my old video-8 cassettes into my computer? What software is needed? I was planning on using the camcorder itself to play back the video 8s, but is there a separate device that I should consider?

Any differences in DVD burners these days or are they all pretty much the same? Should I have two, one for playing, one for burning?

Any other ideas?


I dunno; I think you’d be better off with two computers; a client and a server; the server doesn’t even need to run Windows (in fact, it’s best if it doesn’t) and this can have an extensible RAID array in it, then have a desktop machine that you use for everything else - linked to the media server by gigabit wired ethernet. You don’t need a particularly high-performance machine to play digital video and audio, in fact the only thing you have mentioned that actually demands high performance is video capture.

OK, I’ve done the server route a long time ago when I had my small biz. I used some type of free Linux (Mynix? Morphix? M-something). Now, I haven’t touched that in, oh, lets say 4 years. I don’t know if I want to go through all of that trouble again. Why would I be best served with 2 separate machines instead of just 1 with a few HDDs? I don’t know if I can afford three (more?) 500gig HDDs in a RAID setup (let alone be able to DO the RAID setup myself). It seems this option quickly ups the cost by $1000 or so. And then there is the time…I’m no longer a computer tinkerer, I just want the damn thing to work.

The reasons for separating the functions are quite diverse and many of them are arguable and/or subtle.
-I wouldn’t entrust the safe storage of masses of data to a machine that I used for everyday computing, especially if that computing was done on a Windows OS; I would feel that large amounts of locally stored data would get in the way (Windows is going to want to index the files, the virus program is going to want to scan them, disk errors - God forbid they ever afflict you - will be massively more time consuming and complicated to resolve)

-I would also consider the possibility that I might want the data accessible by more than one device at some point; for example, one of those network audio player components in a HiFi, or a media PC devoted to video functions.

-I think the system as a whole will perform better with the two functions separated; a file server doesn’t need a fancy GUI and so very impressive performance can be had out of quite modest RAM and processor specs (possibly even being made from a rebuild of your existing machine), whereas a desktop machine will generally work better if it isn’t having to manage the storage of large volumes of files.

That said, there’s no particular reason that will prevent you doing it all in one box. Another possibility is to get one of the standalone Network Attached Storage devices that are available now - these are essentially self-contained disk drive enclosures with a very minimal file server OS running from firmware.
The Netgear Storage Central looks nice.

Now that’s a good idea! Thanks. I looked at the Netgear Storage Central and think that it’s the bee’s knees. I can use it mainly for the home system, but I can also use it for a backup for my office notebook (as it says you can setup partitions and mirrors). Plus, if I want to transfer large amounts of data or ??? I can just move it around and load the software where needed. It is pushing the price up a bit (especially with a wireless router).

THAT SAID…I have a ?..If I were to use a small-ish HDD for the main one with Windows, and then have a separate large HDD for storage…Can’t I setup the large HDD as a file server in and of itself? I have friends with all types of setups, can’t I give them the large HDD, tell them to hook me up with linux or ???, then install it into my new computer and have it come up as a lettered drive or ???

Or would I be forced to have Windows format it and assign it a letter?

Or am I just confused?


You can’t have Windows and Linux running on the same machine at the same time (at least not easily). You could just install a moderately-sized hard drive and install Windows to it, then add more, larger hard drives and use them for pure data storage, but Windows is going to want to be involved in the management of them in some way, if they are locally installed, and the shared data on them won’t be available to other devices on your network if your computer is switched off.

OK, thanks. I will be travelling back to the USA in a few weeks and will go look at what I can get my hands on for cheap (electronics of all types are just dang pricey here), that might have a bearing on my decision.

I’m still open to suggestions on the other components.


Storage has gotten *seriously * cheap. I just looked at a terabyte NAS box for $620 (Buffalo TeraStation) after rebates. It connects via Ethernet, and is pretty slick. Out of the box, it presents itself on the network as four 250 GB volumes. With a little configuration, it can be a 1 terabyte spanned (RAID 0) volume, two 250 GB (500 GB total) mirrored (RAID 1) volumes, or one 750 GB volume (RAID 5)

RAID 0 gives you lots of space, RAID 1 gives you backup, and RAID 5 gives you fault-tolerant, rebuildable backup.

As a NAS device, it has no operating system to speak of - really just some low-level intelligence to talk to a network and shuffle data. Administration is via a web browser from pretty much any computer than can run a web browser, znd it’s got USB ports so you can even plug a portable drive into it to make a backup.

It’s not yet trivial, but VMWare is your friend here.

DVD’s = $20-30 per 100 blanks.

I built my own RAID5 with 5x200GB drives. The drives were ~60 each (.30/gig), and that’s still a good rate.

Unless you need instant access to the media, DVD’s win hands down.

Oh, but if you’re thinking about building the soft-copy backup anyway, you do not need Cheetah’s. You don’t even need SATA drives as you can easily get by on PATA drives.

The only reason you’d get an uber-huge drive (>300GB) is if you are limited more by space than by wallet.

As for RAM, 512MB will do it, more is better but will make virtually no difference.

CPU could be something as simple as an old Athlon or P4 1.7GHz. You do not need horsepower for a simple data server. If you are going to be multi-tasking, then yeah, you’ll want something beefier- a P4 2.8 or Dual-Core Opteron (don’t get suckered into an X2 when the Optis are so much better) and a solid gig (or more) of RAM.

Motherboard does not need to be anything special, either. Without games, you could even get onboard video and be totally fine.

I have a couple-three HTPC’s that I use in place of TiVos, and those have Hauppauge tuner cards, but you shouldn’t need anything like that unless you plan on scheduling TV shows. Hauppauge, again, is a favorite of mine, so that’s what I’m going to recommend:USB-Live USB 2.0 Interface Video Capture Device. No muss, no fuss.

I’d focus on HD size vs. price; nothing else really matters. My linux box (Ubuntu… you were using MythTV I presume?) is just a PIII 800 with 320Mb handling web traffic, routing, file serving, and miscellaneous other tasks, and the only issue when accessing files is bandwidth (that and the fact that even my 300G drive is getting tight nowadays). Even my slowest 5400RPM ATA 66 drive can provide data way faster than the 100MB card can transfer it.

In fact, now that I think about it, depending on your $$$, etc., you might want to think about using gigabit cards in at least some of your PCs. From the reviews I saw a year ago, there were some minor issues with the first cards, but the prices on current hardware seems pretty reasonable - low end is ~25$ for cards and 50$ for switches.

That was in fact one of the things I was thinking of in the bracketed modifier (‘not easily’).

Yeah, I know, but…

DVDs take twice as long (rip and burn). And they are individual backups (one DVD per copy), which is probably safer, but, I sorta want to have one central place with ALL of my stuff on it. With DVDs I might face the unpleasant experience of having to re-rip and re-burn everything (say my folder of 100 DVDs gets stolen or lost), whereas having it on a drive can mean that in a year or two, I can back that whole drive up onto another drive, and so on and so on (with the only risk being that the HDD crashes between now and then)(which is why a RAID or mirror also makes sense). If I invest the next 6 months into ripping a few DVDs a week, then I’ll have everything in one spot, handy and convenient, with the originals in their boxes in the basement (I’m not the type that actually likes to have a wall of DVD and CD boxes next to the stereo and TV). Get an SCART out and Bob’s my uncle.

Yes, I will have a DVD burner and use it for important things or ??? But my 5 seasons of Simpsons? Sheesh, I just want those in a folder to watch occasionally.

Thanks all for the info, it is helping me work this out in my mind.