Specifications

  • Lenovo ThinkServer TS440 70AQ0009UX
  • Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 Processor (8MB Cache, 3.20GHz)
  • 4 GB DDR3 1600
  • Intel HD Graphics P4600

Additional Hardware and Software Added

Server Needs

I needed a replacement for my aging Shuttle SH67H3 computer running Microsoft Windows Home Server 2011. Although my current server is still running OK and has served me very well, the drives have run continuously over 3 years and the OS has a 2 TB size limit. I also needed substantially more capacity. Over the years I had to resort to other servers and devices to contain all my digital files.

I considered purchasing a QNAP or a SYNOLOGY box but wanted more control and did not need all the many features both these systems offer. Either of these solutions would be more expensive.

My Lenovo solution allows me the option to easily update the OS in the future to a Linux distro, FreeNAS or a Microsoft Windows server OS. I did not want to have to learn or deal with a DC (Domain Controller). With this in mind I decided to go with an OS I am familiar with and use on a daily basis... Microsoft Windows 10.

I purchased the barebones Lenovo ThinkServer TS440 Server from Amazon for $317.00 with FREE shipping and NO Tax.

The only other items someone might purchase would be:
Solid State Drive
Hard Disk Drive
Additional RAM
Operating System - If you use a Linux operating system then the operating system cost is FREE.

The Lenovo server will be used for file serving, media server and computer backups.

Disassembly and Installation Notes

The Lenovo ThinkServer TS440 barebones computer is a breeze to work in. It is an old-school case; large with lots of room for expansion.

I always test my new computer builds before installing a hard drive or OS with a bootable USB Linux drive. Booting Linux Mint into memory found all the hardware... everything worked perfectly, fast and quiet.

I installed Windows 8.1 with Update 1 Professional from a Mushkin Enhanced Ventura Ultra 120GB USB 3.0 Flash drive. I have subsequently upgraded to the many Windows 10 Professional versions without any issues. The only time I connect a monitor, mouse and keyboard is when doing a major Windows 10 upgrade. Other than those times, this is a headless server.

I chose to use the older BIOS and not the UEFI partitioning scheme on the Samsung 250 GB SSD.

I let the Windows installer set up the default partitions.
350 MB - System Reserved
233 GB - C partition

I used GPT (GUID Partition Table) on the Western Digital 6 TB HDD's.

Partitioning

The Device Manager showed a few drivers missing. After going to the Lenovo website and determining which drivers were needed and installing them everything was OK.

I decided not to upgrade from the included 4 GB of RAM. So far I have not experienced any issues.

I purchased the 6 TB drives from different vendors at different times. This allows a margin of safety and reliability for a bad batch of hard drives.

I unplugged the Optical drive. This will save 5-10 Watts easily.

I turned off System Restore and Remote Assistance to gain 10% performance increase.

I am using Acronis True Image to automatically backup my Samsung 840 EVO 250 GB SSD to drive 1 weekly every Monday. I chose Monday as this will happen the day before the monthly "Microsoft patch Tuesday" and the "Microsoft Office patch Tuesday."

I currently have two 6 TB drives (Named 1 and 2) in the server at all times. This is not a RAID setup. I automatically (4 AM every morning) or manually run SyncBackFree. I have the option to turn off the syncing if needed. Occasionally I will place a third 6 TB drive (Named SAFE) in the server and manually run SyncBackFREE. I then remove that drive and put that in a safe.

My philosophy in this server setup is "complete control." From the Windows OS to being able to connect any drive to any computer running Linux, OSX or Windows and being able to access my data.

All critically data is stored off-site on a fourth encrypted hard drive.

I also plan to implement Amazon Glacier at a future date for critical data.

I disabled Microsoft OneDrive.

I am getting data transfers of up to 155Mbps from drive 1 to drive 2.

The Windows Experience Index (WEI) using Windows 8.1 Pro is 5.0.
Windows Experience Index (WEI)

I am using 2BrightSparks SyncBackFree for syncing my drives instead of RAID. I have my reason for using this method. Periodically I will insert a 6 TB drive and make another off-site backup. The image below will explain this process.

SyncBack Free

I turn off the Lenovo server once a year and blow out any accumulated dust.

Once a year I rotate the HD backup drives to get uniform usage on all three drives.

The Lenovo server uses .68 kWh/day x 30 days = 20.4 kWh/month.

Based on .17 cents/kWh x 20.4 kWh = $3.47 per month to run the Lenovo Server.

Closing Comments

I took a few months experimenting with different hardware options, etc. I decided on the above setup. So far, the Lenovo server is extremely fast; works well in my home network environment and allows me many years of future upgradeability.