Should my new server be a smaller form factor?

Joe Videtto May 13, 2012
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Hi all,

I’m planning to build a new PC, and traditionally I’ve used the mid to full towers to allow the most hard-disk expansion, and the ATX motherboard size. I would like my machines to fit at least five or six 3.5″ disk drives, each of 3TB or more.

Can I use a smaller form factor – so the PC takes up less space, and build just as powerful a machine for the same money, with a smaller form factor built with 2.5″ disk drives?

What other factors might I consider when trying to reduce the size of my new build?

  1. Joe Videtto
    May 14, 2012 at 10:37 am

    From your responses, if total cost, overall performance , and cooling are factors for me - which they are, the larger ATX form factor is the way to go. You just can't get the same in these areas per dollar in a proportionately smaller package. Thanks for your answers.

  2. Mike
    May 14, 2012 at 5:49 am

    Generally speaking it sure is possible. It all depends on the "length" you want to go to.

    You can easily fit 5 or more 3.5" hard drives into an mini ITX case.
    Some of them offer this by default (e.g. the Fractal Design ARRAY R2), some may require a drive cage or hot-swap bay like Bruce suggested, some others may require you to craft your own drive holder to fit it in.

    Either way it all comes down to the complete list of requirements and hardware selected. If you need a powerful CPU for tasks [other than file sharing] it also requires adequate cooling ~ which ultimately leads to bigger case to fit in the cooling solution.

    You can always maximize space usage by using a 19" rack case. They will neither look too good "lying around" and may have a higher noise level.
    Chenbro RM31508 (D x W x H - 445 x 432 x 132mm), 8x3.5" hot-swap, 2 internal

  3. Bruce Epper
    May 14, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Your limiting factor appears to be the number of drives you want to pack into it. You can use a 5-in-3 drive cage that allows you to put 5 hard drives into 3 bay spaces which will allow you to use a smaller case and still get the same (or even more) hard drives installed in it.

    Depending on what you are setting the machine up for, you don't normally need to go with a full-sized ATX board and equivalently large case. If you can find an ITX board with the features you need for the machine, go for it.

    If you are planning on using it for a server, don't go with the 2.5" drives as the capacities are less than their 3.5" counterparts and they are almost always more expensive when looking at price/GB.