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How to build your own Windows Home Server rig

By Michael Brown
April 2, 2009 12:00 PM ET

4. To add a user, click the Add button (you'll find it under the primary menu row). Use the same log-on information to create a Windows Home Server account that the person uses to log on to their regular PC; otherwise, they'll have to provide a name and password every time they need to access a file on the server.

5. You'll also need to grant or deny each user remote access (the default choice being to deny it). Granting a user remote access enables them to access shared folders on the server from anywhere they have Internet access, and also to access and remotely control any client PC connected to your Windows Home Server machine -- provided that it's running Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business, Enterprise or Ultimate editions.

This feature is not supported by Windows XP Home or by Windows Vista Home Basic or Home Premium editions. You must use a strong password to enable remote access; the privilege cannot be granted to the Guest account.

6. Next, decide which shared folders the user will be able to access on the server. Windows Home Server defaults to granting full read/write access to the user's own shared folder only (which it will create at the end of this step), but you can change this to grant each user full, read-only or no access to any other users' folder and to any shared folders (e.g., Music, Photos, Video) located on the server.

Note that Windows Home Server Power Pack 2 greatly improves the way in which Windows Media Center Extenders connect to the home server. Previously, these devices had to rely on a Windows Home Server guest account; now media in shared folders (e.g., Music, Photos, Video) can be streamed directly from the server to the extender.

7. Click Finish when you've made your choices. Windows Home Server will establish the permissions and create the user's shared folder. Click Done when it has finished.

If you ever decide to change a user's access privileges, click on User Accounts, right-click on the user's name and click on Properties from the pop-out menu. You can change which shared folders the user can access, change the user's password, disable the user's account or remove the user from the system entirely using this same process.

Finally, if you intend to stream media from your Windows Home Server machine, open the Settings menu again and click on Media Sharing in the left-hand column. You can turn sharing on or off for all files stored in the Music, Photos and Videos folders. Be aware that if you enable sharing on these media folders, anyone who has access to your network will be able to access their contents regardless of the individual user-account settings.

Prebuilt Windows Home Server Systems

HP MediaSmart Server
HP MediaSmart Server
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Don't want to go through the hassle of building your own rig? If you'd prefer to buy a preassembled server, here are a few of the systems available now or coming soon:

HP MediaSmart Server: HP offers two server models: The MediaSmart ex485 and ex487. Both feature 64-bit Intel Celeron processors running at 2.0 GHz, 2GB of DDR2 memory and a Gigabit Ethernet interface. The ex485 ($599.99) is outfitted with a single 750GB hard drive, while the ex487 ($749.99) features two 750GB drives.

Both models have four hard drive bays, four external USB 2.0 ports and one external SATA port. One of the features that set HP's servers apart from the competition is that they can also automatically back up Macintosh computers.

Shuttle Home Server
Shuttle Home Server
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Shuttle SH-K4500 and SH-K4800: Shuttle announced two servers at CES in January, but neither machine was shipping at press time. Both machines will be based on Intel's 64-bit Celeron processor and will be outfitted with 1GB of DDR2 memory, a Gigabit network interface and a single 500GB hard drive.

The model SH-K4500 ($449) will have two internal drive bays and the SH-K4800 ($499) will have three. Both models will have four USB 2.0 ports.

Velocity Micro NetMagix HQ HomeServer
Velocity Micro NetMagix HQ HomeServer
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Velocity Micro NetMagix HQ HomeServer: Velocity Micro is a build-to-order PC manufacturer that allows you to custom-configure your server however you'd like. Its basic NetMagix HQ HomeServer ($899) consists of a dual-core Intel Pentium E2180 processor running at 2.0 GHz, 1GB of DDR2 memory and a Gigabit Ethernet interface.

The system comes with one 500GB hard drive. The chassis has four drive bays, plus four external USB 2.0 ports and two external SATA ports.

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