One addition that caught my eye is an auxiliary power connector that enables you to power a number of additional 12VDC devices off the computer’s own power supply. In particular these can be used for powering those additional external hard drives, which is great because it reduces the number of plug sockets you need and removes the clutter of extra power bricks, but you can of course use it for any number of other things.
Inside things are as cramped as you’d expect and upgrading would be a tricky business – not impossible but it’ll need a lot of care and planning. Taking the back panel off reveals the secret to the T7 chassis design. The case is actually the heatsink for the CPU. A thin section of aluminium extends from the walls of the case and across the motherboard onto the top of the CPU. This small piece is enough to draw away the majority of heat generated by the CPU and conduct it out to the body of the chassis where it can dissipate out into the air. It’s a simple system that works well and although the chassis does get decidedly warm, it’s not worryingly hot and, more importantly, it’s silent. Just make sure you keep it in a well ventilated area that doesn’t exceed 37 degrees Celsius.
In terms of components, what you get inside is a single hard drive, which in this case is a whopping 1TB in size, a VIA C7 CPU running at 1.5GHz, 1GB RAM, basic onboard graphics, four USB ports, a 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet port, and even a serial port. There is also a cheaper version that has half the RAM quota and hard drive size and is available for about £170 less, in fact the basic model now starts at a very reasonable £299. Although both systems seem quite low spec, Windows Home server is far less demanding than any usual installation of Windows so even the cheaper system should be quite capable of serving up your files in a timely manner.
Setting the Home Server up is incredibly easy. Just plug the power, network, mouse, and keyboard in, along with as many extra hard drives as you want to use, then press the power button. After the usual wait for the system to boot, you will be greeted by a login screen. Here you must enter the default username and password, which can be found in the manual, to start configuring things.
Once logged on, the all-too-familiar Windows desktop gives you access to the usual tools and programs, so if you’re already feeling the stress of setting up a server you can at least have a quick game of solitaire to calm your nerves. Apart from that, though, there’s not much to do on the desktop, unless you need to install a specific driver or application, so the next step is to open the Windows Home Server Console and start configuring your server.
At this point it’s worth pointing out you can skip this first step and configure the server remotely. To do this, simply plug the power and network connections into the server, add as many external hard drives as you want then turn the server on. Now you can just go to another PC that’s connected to the network and install the Windows Home Server software and configure it from there. The software installation is very straight forward and logging onto the server is a simple one step process. Once logged on you are greeted by the same console as you would see if you opened it locally.