How To Set Up A Server At Home: A Beginner’s Guide

How To Set Up A Server At Home: A Beginner’s Guide

At first glance, setting up a server at home can seem like a daunting task that only the most experienced network technicians can accomplish. But with the right knowhow anyone can actually set up a server on their home network

In this beginner’s guide we’ll walk you through the necessary steps to setting up a server at home, from choosing the right hardware to configuring your server operating system. 

Step 1: Determine your Server Requirements

The first step is to determine what you will be primarily using the server for. This will influence the hardware and software choices you make. If you’re going to be using the server for data storage and transfer you’ll want to choose a motherboard that has the capacity for many hard drives and high transfer speeds. If your server’s intended to support web hosting, then you’ll want to prioritise the network components so that the server can handle the web traffic. Servers are powerful devices capable of many things, defining what you need yours for will make the process a lot easier.

This is also a great time to determine whether you’ll be in need of more power points or optical cable installation to support your server and its hardware. If this is the case, your first step should be to call an electrician to complete these preliminary wiring, cable installation and any other electrical works for you.

Step 2: Find the Right Hardware

Servers are computers; they have many different components working together and you need to balance each component to get the most out of it. Like computers, you have the option to build your own with the added benefit that you can choose each component to suit your needs, or you can purchase a pre-built server that might save you a bit of time and money. 

Here are some of the hardware basics you’ll need when setting up your server:

  1. A CPU – the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brain of the server and will be responsible for most of the processing power of the system. 
  2. RAM – Random Access Memory is the short-term high-speed storage of the system and is where the computer will store any data that it requires for applications that are open.
  3. A motherboardyour motherboard is the foundation on which your server is built. A good motherboard can support many components with the ability to upgrade in the future. 
  4. A reliable power supply – as its name would suggest, the power supply distributes power to the components of the system. Power supplies are rated based on their efficiency and reliability. 
  5. A network carda network card connects your system to the internet and to other networks. The power and capacity of your network card will determine the total bandwidth your server can use. 

Step 3: Setting Up Your Hardware

Once you’ve chosen the components right for you it’s time to assemble the server. The first step is to install your CPU, RAM, and storage drive. You can do this easily by simply following manufacturer’s instructions for all these components when installing them into your motherboard.

When these components are all securely in place, it’s time to secure the motherboard itself. This can be done by placing the motherboard into your PC case and screwing it so it’s securely installed. Be careful not to over-tighten the screws holding your motherboard in place as the additional pressure may cause damage to your motherboard or other installed components.

Next, install the power supply and connect the CPU, motherboard and storage device or devices up before then installing the network card (if your network card isn’t already integrated) and establishing an ethernet connection. Now, all that’s left to do is briefly turn the system on and see if it runs and can stay on. If it doesn’t turn on or stays on briefly check your components are installed correctly and everything is properly connected. 

Once your system is powered on and fully operational, you can continue on with installing your server OS.

Step 4: Install the Operating System 

Your OS (or operating system) is tasked with managing and coordinating all the resources on your network. Unlike a computer OS that’s tasked with managing data inputs/outputs for just one device, server operating systems manage data transfers across multiple users.

Selecting the right OS for your server can depend on a few key factors, namely what you’ll be intending to use your server for. If you’re looking to do some basic gaming and media streaming, a Windows server could be a great starting off point for you, as these are readily accessible and easy to set up. For those who are looking to code, however, you may be more comfortable with the flexibility and added versatility of Linux distributions. Options in this category are ubuntu server, centos and Debian. These are much more flexible than competitors but require a deeper understanding of coding languages.

How to Install Your Server OS

  1. Create a bootable USB drive

Using a tool like Rufus, create a bootable USB and install the operating system ISO file onto it.

  1. Boot from the USB

Connect the USB to the computer while it is off. Turn the computer on and go to the boot screen, this is usually done by pressing F12 on startup.

  1. Follow installation instructions

Follow the on-screen prompts as it guides you through setting up your server’s operating system.

Step 5: Configuring Your Server

Once you’ve completed your operating system installation, you can now start to configure the server to your needs. Here, start by making sure your OS is up-to-date by checking online to confirm you have the most up-to-date drivers. Most operating systems will have a section in their settings menu where you can check for updates and download/install system updates from there.

From here, connect your computer up to your new server with remote access so you can make changes without needing to open the server, and download and install any software you need for your purposes such as Apache for a web server or Plex for media servers.

Step 6: Secure Your Server 

Security is critically important to the setup of your server. Some of the basic measures you should start with include firewalls and antivirus software — the same security measures you’d use to protect an individual computer OS and device. 

Another evergreen security measure whose importance we cannot overstate are secured user accounts with strong, case-sensitive passwords. One of the major benefits of having a private server on your home network is that it’s private. If unauthorised parties access your server, it may result in a data breach that leaves your personal and device data vulnerable.

Step 7: Test the Server 

Upon installing your server security software and hardware, you should be all set to start jumping online and transferring data to your heart’s content. But before you do start streaming and sending files, we highly recommend that you run some tests on the server to better gauge its functionality.

You should be testing to see if all devices are connecting up to your server. It’s also wise to test file sharing speeds and server capacities. This can be done by streaming or gaming and running speed tests simultaneously, or seeing how many members of your household can perform high-capacity actions like gaming at any given time.

Your server testing should also include a trial backup. This means attempting a backup and restoring from the server to see if the backup system is working properly. Think of this like a fire drill – you want to make sure that if a security breach does occur, your system can be rebooted promptly. 


Using the method outlined above, you should be able to set up a stable server on your home network. And trust us – once you do you will never look back. 

From faster video streaming and file sharing to web hosting without the need for third party hosting services, backup functionality and more, the power that a home server grants you is endless. So get to work to see what kind of server you can set up for your home network today.

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