My Design Requirements
This design is a little less cost-focused so I can use the latest Intel processor, faster SSD drives, and a sleek high-performance micro-ATX case. These new components currently add about $200 to the base $1,000 price, but as usual for high-end technology, those costs will go down. You can probably build it for less even now.
- Minimum of 4 cores
- Windows Server 2012 R2 capable. Hyper-V for Windows Server 2012 R2 requires hypervisor-ready processors with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).
- 32GB of fast DDR3 RAM
- Must support SATA III 6Gb/s drives
- Must have USB 3.0 ports for future portable devices
- Low power requirements
- Small form factor
- Budget: Around $1,200 USD
The processor I chose is the new Intel I5-4570S Haswell Quad-Core CPU. Even though all four cores run at a quick 2.9 GHz, it only uses 65W. The beautiful aluminum heatsink and fan included with the processor keep the CPU running at a cool 25° Celsius (77° F) at room temperature.
As before in my previous builds, RAM requirements drove most of this design. Memory is single most important component in a Hyper-V host. Pairing up a super-fast processor with quick reliable RAM is the key to a good design.
|Gigabyte Motherboard – Durable enough to cut a steak on it! J
Overclocking is not longer only used by gearheads and has moved to the mainstream. Most desktop motherboards include self tuning overclocking to get every gram of power out of their rig. I don’t use any of these features, even though they’re available. I prefer stability over speed – and this server is plenty fast enough!
I’ve also found that while all SSD are fast, some are faster. Drives with high IOPS provide a noticeably faster computer especially during bootup and long drive operations, like copying ISOs and VHDXs.
This build is more stylish than previous builds, using a sleek high quality Rosewill Slim MicroATX case. Most µATX cases are designed for desktops and, as such, they usually have small 250W-300W power supplies. The included Rosewill 300W µATX power supply works just fine for my build since all the components have low power requirements. Peak power requirements for this build is only 186W, giving me plenty of power to spare. This PSU is also designed to keep the case cool by exhausting warm air at the back along with another built-in 80mm on top of the case.
I ordered everything from Amazon because they had the lowest prices. And with Amazon Prime it was all delivered in just two days. Gotta love that! You can even join Prime for free for 30 days and cancel if you want after you get your gear.
Here’s the entire parts list for this server:
|1||Intel Core i5-4570S Quad-Core Desktop Processor 2.9 GHZ 6MB Cache- BX80646I54570S
This is a 4th generation Haswell Intel processor. It includes the newest Intel HD graphics and runs at a very low 65W. 3 year limited warranty.
|1||Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H LGA 1150 Intel B85 HDMI SATA 6Gbps USB 3.0 Micro ATX DDR3 1600 Intel Motherboards GA-B85M-D3H
I chose this LGA 1150 Micro ATX motherboard over Intel because it has 4x SATA 6Gb/s and 2x SATA 3Gb/s connectors. It also uses the Intel B85 Express chipset, has an UEFI BIOS, has 2x PCI and 2x PCI-Express slots, and USB 3.0 ports. 3 year limited warranty.
|2||Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (CMZ16GX3M2A1600C10)
1.5V 240-pin dual channel 1600MHz DDR3 RAM with built-in heat spreaders. Lifetime warranty. 10-10-10-27 CAS Latency. Great RAM at a great price. Each package contains 2x 8GB DIMMs (16GB). Be sure to buy two packages.
|1||Kingston Digital 120GB SSDNow V300 SATA 3 2.5 (7mm height) with Adapter Solid State Drive 2.5-Inch SV300S37A/120G
120GB SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) SSD used for the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system. 85,000 IOPS 4KB random read / 55,000 IOPS 4KB random write. 3 year warranty.
|1||Corsair Force Series GS Red 360GB (6Gb/s) SATA 3 SF2200 controller Toggle SSD (CSSD-F360GBGS-BK)
360GB SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) SSD used for active VMs (the VMs I normally have running, like a domain controller, Exchange servers, Lync servers, etc.). Toggle NAND for up to 90K IOPS random write speed. 3 year limited warranty.
||2.5-inch SSD/Hard Drive to 3.5-inch Bay Plastic Tray Mount Adapter Kit
Plastic mounting kit for 2.5″ SSD drives. Holds two SSD drives, stacked on top of each other in the left drive bay.
|1||WD Green 2 TB Desktop Hard Drive: 3.5 Inch, SATA III, 64 MB Cache – WD20EZRX
2TB Western Digital Green (low power) SATA 6Gb/s (SATA 3) drive. Used for storing ISOs, seldom used VMs, base images, etc. I usually configure this drive to sleep after one hour to save even more power. 2 year warranty.
|1||Lite-On Super AllWrite 24X SATA DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Drive – Bulk – IHAS124-04 (Black)
Great quality DVD burner. It’s cheap, too. I connect this to one of the SATA2 ports on the motherboard. 1 year limited warranty.
|1||TRENDnet 32-Bit Gigabit Low Profile PCI Adapter, Retail (TEG-PCITXRL)
The Gigabyte motherboard includes one gigabit NIC. It’s best practice to add another gigabit NIC for Hyper-V so you can separate host and VM traffic.
|1||C&E CNE11445 SATA Data Cable (2pk.)
I need 4x SATA cables for this build. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with two black 18″ SATA cables. Flat (not L shaped) connectors work best for this build. FYI there’s no technical difference between SATA2 and SATA3 cables.
|2||StarTech 6in 4 Pin Molex to SATA Power Cable Adapter (SATAPOWADAP)
The micro ATX PSU in the Rosewill case has four power connectors for drives, which is just enough — 2x SATA and 2x Molex connectors. Use these adapters to convert the two Molex connectors to SATA. Be sure to buy two.
|1||Rosewill Slim MicroATX Computer Case with ATX12V Flex 300W Power Supply, Black/Silver R379-M
Sleek mirror-finished micro ATX case with removable drive bay cage for easy access. Includes quiet 300W PSU, 80mm cooling fan on top, 2x front USB 2.0, and audio ports. Excellent quality.
It took about 90 minutes to assemble everything and take these pictures. The following slideshow shows how I put it all together. Click the slideshow to open the hi-res slideshow in a new page.
Windows Server 2012 R2 will install default drivers for all the server components. Next, you’ll want to update the BIOS to the latest version and install the optimized drivers available for some components. The Gigabyte GA-B85M-D3H motherboard includes a utilities and drivers disk. Pop the disk in and run setup.exe in <DVD Drive>:\Utility\GIGABYTE\AppCenter. This will install the Gigabyte AppCenter utility on Windows Server 2012 R2.
Use AppCenter to download and install the latest drivers and utilities. AppCenter can be accessed using the icon in the notification area near the clock. Select Live Update and choose the following updates:
|First half of the utilities and updates to install.|
|Second half of the updates to install.|
It will take a few minutes to download and install the software and updates. You may need to restart a couple of times to complete the installation. Live Update in AppCenter makes it a lot easier to install the necessary utilities and drivers to keep your hardware up to date.
|Installing utilities and updates.|
My motherboard shipped with version F4 of the BIOS. At the time of this article, the latest BIOS version is F7. The @BIOS utility in AppCenter was unable to download the latest version for some reason, so I went to http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4567#bios and downloaded the F7 BIOS manually, then used the @BIOS utility to install it from the file.
|Updating and flashing the BIOS.|