If you plan on building a home server, check out this guide. It lists ten motherboards that are perfect fit for any kind of home server. We got your back no matter if you want to build a simple dedicated server for gaming or cloud storage, a high-end VM machine, a powerful media streaming solution for your household, or a beastly gaming server that will replace multiple gaming PCs.
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Differences between regular and server motherboards
You might use regular, off the shelf motherboards for some servers. But in most cases, a server motherboard is recommended.
In short, server motherboards have more robust components and are made to run 24/7.
Server motherboards support server-grade CPUs. They come with more memory slots and support ECC RAM. They can feature 2 CPU sockets. They feature more SATA ports and have support for high-speed LAN. They offer many features not found in general-purpose boards such as IPMI, SAS ports, and SFP transceivers. Finally, they come with better circuitry made for working non-stop.
Why you might need a home server
There are dozens of potential scenarios for building a personal home server. The most common ones are home servers used for backup and storage and media servers. The storage and backup server is the most common one. You can use an old PC or a laptop and hook it to multiple HDDs. That way your whole household will have easy access to lots of storage. Perfect for downloading and accessing large files. But also great for setting up backups for every PC in your house. Hook it up to the internet and you have personal cloud storage.
Media servers are also very popular. They can store loads of video files accessible to anyone. And, in combination with platforms such as Kodi and Plex, media servers can offer video streaming for each member of the household. Some people even create personal servers that offer media streaming to multiple locations.
Small hosting servers are also pretty common. With one, you can run your own personal website from your own home. They are great for web developers to show off their skills. Also, one of these is great for everyone who has their own CV-hosting site.
But these home servers are just the tip of the iceberg. You can do pretty much anything with your own home server. Creating a personal CCTV system. Creating your own VPN server along with an anonymous Tor node. This is perfect for everyone who wants to always be anonymous on the web but has lots of computers in their house. BitTorrent servers can host tons of files for downloading and seeding.
You can even build a personal email server. Nowadays, home automation servers are gaining traction. These control smart devices, providing a centralized hub for them to communicate. Finally, you can access them remotely so you can always have a way to watch your home automation system.
There are also dedicated servers for gaming. Many popular online titles support dedicated servers. And instead of renting one, you can build it yourself. They are cheap to build and don’t ask for powerful components. Perfect role for old PCs.
VM (virtual machine) servers are a separate story. You can use them in a myriad of ways. Developers are using them for testing purposes. They can run every PC in a house. Virtual machines are great for doing tasks on them that can crash your personal PC. Or for various tweaking purposes that would otherwise require major changes in your work PC. There are even more reasons to set up a home server but we just cannot cover them all in this piece.
But most usage scenarios combine various home server tasks. You can run a storage server and use it for monitoring PCs in your house. But that’s not all. This server can also run your local VPN instance. You can integrate your CCTV system into it. And use it for streaming. Finally, you can host your email server on it. It can also play the role of a dedicated server for gaming. And as a general backup for every PC you own.
Just remember, the more tasks you throw at it, the more powerful components will be needed. You can create a simple storage server with a Raspberry Pi. A multi-purpose server, on the other hand, can fully utilize top-end CPUs. Such as the AMD Epyc server processor line or Intel Xeon CPUs.
Building a centralized home server for gaming needs
One possible reason to create a home server is to build a centralized gaming hub. If you need multiple gaming PCs in your house (more than 2) you could just create an a powerful VM server and run multiple virtual machines on it. First of all, equip it with an AMD Epyc or Thread Ripper CPU with 32 or more cores. Pack it with loads of RAM (128-512 GB) and multiple graphics cards. Now you have a one-to-rule-them-all PC capable of running multiple virtual machines. Each of them being more than capable gaming CPU.
On top of its role for gaming, this server can be used for all kinds of other purposes. You can reserve a couple of cores and run a NAS server for storage and backup. You can even add a streaming server to it. And finally, you can get serious work done on this machine, not just game on it.
Best server motherboards for home use
Now, let’s talk a bit about motherboards used for home servers. The thing is, you can use a variety of motherboards depending on your needs. Simple storage and media servers can utilize Raspberry Pi. A complex VM server or one that is constantly used by more than a couple of persons will need powerful components. Such as server CPUs and server-grade motherboards.
We decided to offer five budget and five high-end options. The first part is for users who want a home server for various purposes that doesn’t include heavy workload. The second part if for those who need lots of virtual machines or who need a reliable, mixed usage home server.
Budget server motherboard options
Raspberry Pi 4
This small computer can be the heart of a perfect little home server. You can run a variety of home servers with it. It doesn’t require lots of space, can be configured for various tasks, and it’s really cheap. It doesn’t come with lots of ports but it has everything you need to hook it up to external HDDs. Raspberry Pi 4 also has a solid ethernet chip and you can hook it to 2 monitors at once.
A perfect low budget solution. This off-the-shelf motherboard can be a great server motherboard. Combine it with a cheap 1st gen Ryzen 5 CPU and you got yourself an excellent system for a variety of purposes. The GIGABYTE GA-A320M-S2H supports up to 32 GB of RAM and has 4 SATA and one M.2 slot. Great for affordable media streaming servers.
These two boards are the ultimate budget solutions for affordable NAS servers. They support Intel 1156 socket Xeons and you can get those CPUs for cheap on eBay. Next, you can get up to 32 GB of ECC RAM making sure you’re NAS will be stable. There are also 4 or 6 SATA ports and plenty of PCIe slots for storage expansion. Finally, the -F version supports IPMI for remote monitoring. All that for a ridiculously low price. The alternative are Supermicro X9SCL/ X9SCM boards. A bit more expensive but with support for faster CPUs.
MSI B450 Tomahawk Max
An excellent mainstream motherboard that can run 3rd gen Ryzen 7 CPUs. The MSI B450 Tomahawk Max supports up to 64 GB of RAM and has six SATA ports. There’s also one M.2 slot along with 2 x16 and 3 x1 PCIe slots. The board doesn’t support ECC RAM but that doesn’t matter much considering the price. You can equip it with a powerful Ryzen 7 CPU and turn it into a multipurpose server or even VM machine.
ASRock Rack X470D4U Micro ATX and SUPERMICRO MBD-X11SAE-M-O
The first one is an interesting server motherboard that supports consumer-grade Ryzen CPUs. Great for those who want a full-fledged server motherboard with extra features that cannot be found in regular models. Such as ECC RAM (up to 64 GB) support, integrated IPMI, and high-speed LAN. You get six SATA ports as well as 2 internal NVMe connectors. There’s also one PCIe x16, one PCIe x8 and one PCIe x4 slot. The ASRock Rack X470D4U Micro ATX can fit into most regular cases thanks to its mATX form factor. A bit expensive but great server motherboard for those who don’t have money for HEDT CPUs.
The second option is a relatively affordable server board for Intel CPUs. The SUPERMICRO MBD-X11SAE-M-O supports Intel Xeon processor E3-1200 v5 along with 6th gen Core i7/i5/i3 CPUs. Get a cheap used i3 CPU and you can build a reliable streaming or multipurpose home server. There’s also support for up to 64 ECC RAM memory and 8 SATA ports. Expansion slots include 1 PCIe x16, 1 PCIe x 4, and 1 PCI 5V slot. There’s also gigabit LAN, which is a regular feature in most off-the-shelf motherboards. The board features mATX form factor meaning you can fit it into most regular cases.
High-end server motherboard options
Gigabyte X399 Aorus Pro
|Memory||8× DIMM, DDR4, max. 128 GB|
|Storage||3× M.2, 8× SATA|
|Multi-GPU Support||4-Way/3-Way/2-Way SLI, 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way CrossFire|
|Expansion Slots||4× PCIe 3.0 x16, 1× PCIe 2.0 x16|
|USB Ports||1× USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C. 1× USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C, 1× USB 3.1 Gen 2, 10× USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4× USB 2.0|
A surprisingly affordable board capable of running 1st and 2nd gen Threadripper CPUs. This is a beast that’s great for virtually any type of home server. The Gigabyte X399 Aorus Pro supports up to 128 GB RAM (ECC supported). It has eight SATA and three M.2 slots. There are also five PCIe x16 ports (one of those running at x4). There’s also high-speed LAN and a bunch of connectors on the back of the board.
You can base a powerful VM machine on this board. Or build a home server that does all sans making your morning coffee. Great choice since 1st and 2nd gen Threadripper CPUs are relatively affordable nowadays. This one doesn’t have advanced features found in server motherboards but it’s much cheaper than those.
Gigabyte TRX40 Designare sTRX4
The ultimate 3rd gen Threadripper motherboard. Support for up to 256GB of ECC memory that can run in the quad-channel more. 8 SATA and four M.2 slots. Two PCIe x16, two PCIe x8, and one PCIe x1 slots for any expansion cards you need.
Dual gigabyte LAN and a plethora of connectors on the back allow for hooking up a ton of peripherals and great access speeds. The Gigabyte TRX40 Designare sTRX4 is also the only 3rd gen Threadripper model with a Thunderbolt header. An excellent choice for a workstation/VM server.
With the last three recommendations, we are entering the realm of high-end server motherboards. The first one is a SuperMicro model with one AMD EPYC 7000 socket. You also get 8 SATA ports and support for 8 SAS3 ports. If you need more SATA ports, there’s a version with 16 SATA ports. There are also 2 M.2 NVMe slots and one M.2 SATA port.
You can hook up to 1TB of ECC RAM and there are also dual gigabit LAN chips that ensure high-speed access. The board offers 3 PCIe x16 and 3 PCIe x8 slots. You also get all server board bells and whistles such as IPMI. Best of all, the SuperMicro MBD-H11SSL-NC-B has the classic ATX form factor.
The Gigabyte MZ32-AR0 is an excellent choice for the ultimate VM machine. It supports up to 1TB of ECC RAM and has dual gigabit LAN ports. You have 6 SAS ports that allow for eight SATA connections along with 2 M.2 slots built-in on board. There are also connectors for 4 additional NVMe storage units.
The board comes with 4 PCIe Gen 4 (the only server board with PCIe gen 4 support at the moment) x16 ports, but that’s not all. You also get 1 PCIe gen4 x8 slot, one PCIe gen3 x16 slot, and one PCIe gen3 x8 slot. There’s also support for all advanced server board features, along with a built-in remote management controller. The only downside, sans its price, is the fact that this board is really hard to find.
Finally, we have a high-end server board with two AMD EPYC Rome sockets. The SuperMicro H11DSi-NT supports up to 2TB of ECC RAM. It features 10 SATA ports along with support for multiple M.2 SSDs. You also get 2 PCIe x16 and 3 PCIe x8 slots. The high speed 10 gigabit LAN offers maximum access speed for any kind of usage scenario. This is the top of the line motherboard for every type of server. You can also get a version that has two EPYC CPUs (64cores/128 threads) preinstalled if you really want the best.