The point of this article will be to get you started on building a simple low-power home server with off-the-shelf consumer components that use as little power as possible without compromising on form or function. This is similar to a server we built ourselves for a home lab and for tests. Keep in mind you could buy a lot of those components second-hand to save some money without much of an impact on reliability (we still recommend getting new hard drives as much as possible since it can be hard to guess how much usage/stress they were put under).

This PC/server was built with a Zen 3 (5000 series) AMD CPU as a base since we could obtain a Ryzen 5600 cheaply off of a local ads website. The 5000 series by AMD is still pretty good and should be enough for most people especially if you are trying to keep it cheap. But if you’ve got some more money to spend, it couldn’t hurt to upgrade to a Zen 4 (7000 series) CPU for futureproofing. This article will cover both (the parts we used and some recommendations for more up-to-date components.

Our home server has been assembled around 6 months ago and has been running 24/7 since! No errors have been detected with the RAM or hard drives or any other component. So if you’re interested in building one, we’re linking some of the components, we might earn a small percentage for purchases made through those links 🙂

PLEASE NOTE: Follow this guide by either selecting components compatible with the 5000 (Zen 3) or 7000/8000 (Zen 4) CPUs. Skip the other sections


We are starting with the CPU since The choice of processor will impact the selection of other components such as the motherboard, RAM, and the need for a GPU.

Our choice: Zen 3 AMD 5600 (Needs a GPU)

Why? We chose the Ryzen 5 5600 since it comes with its own cooler and is more than plenty for our use case (Proxmox Hypervisor running mostly Linux VMs and almost no CPU-intensive applications, excluding tests and temporary installations). It is also possible to enable “PBO, Precision Boost Overdrive” in the MSI BIOS (which should be under the overclocking section) and limit the CPU to 45W. In most cases, performance should be minimally affected.

With its 6 cores and 12 threads clocking at 3.5Ghz (with a turbo of 4.4Ghz), it’s plenty fast enough for our use-case. Running multiple docker containers, home automation software and a dedicated virtual firewall, Proxmox indicated an average of 1% CPU usage. Keep in mind Linux is great at managing its CPU usage, if your environment is exclusively using Windows, your mileage may vary.

This CPU also has a TDP of 65W which is great for building a low-power home server! Keep in mind it does not include integrated graphics so you will need a GPU which could increase the energy usage of the server. However an old GTX 1050 or even a GT710 should do the job just fine without requiring too much electricity. We had a spare GT710 lying around.

5000 series alternative: Ryzen 5 5600G (GPU optional)

If you don’t have a spare low-power (remember the point of this article? low-power home server! ☺) GPU, the Ryzen 5 5600G comes with integrated graphics and does not require a GPU. It runs at a base clock of 3.9GHZ and turboes up to 4.4Ghz. It also has 6 cores with 12 threads, which should be plenty for most people starting with a home server. It also runs up to a maximum of 65W TDP which keeps everything running smoothly without as much of an effect on your electricity bill.

Zen 4 upgrade: Ryzen 5 7600 (GPU optional)

For the Zen 4 AMD CPUs, the Ryzen 5 7600 would be a good upgrade, it is very similar to the Zen 3 (5000 series) 5600g in the sense that it does not need a GPU because of its integrated graphics, it also boasts 6 cores and 12 threads but its base clock speed is 4Ghz with a boost clock of 5.2Ghz which is much faster.

This higher clock speed could be useful if you plan to run applications that rely on core speed like database-heavy services or specialized software. And like the other CPUs, it runs at a 65W TDP.


All of the CPUs mentionned include the AMD Wraith cooler which should be enough in most cases. If you plan to really push the CPU, it might be a good idea to upgrade to a new CPU cooler. Though nothing prevents you from starting with the default cooler and upgrading if needed, simply keep an eye on those temperatures.

Some good options would include one of Noctua’s famous coolers, they are known for the incredibly quiet operation and high quality. We have never had any issue with Noctua. A good option that should fit any case would be the Noctua NH-L9x65, a low-profile cooler measuring at only 65mm in height. A cheaper option would be the DeepCool GAMMAXX AG400. DeepCool is a well-known brand with consistently good reviews and we have also used them in the past (including in a professional work environment for custom builds). Note you will need 150mm of clearance or so for the case.


Any motherboard from a reputable brand should do the trick, but we chose motherboards in the standard ATX format since, on the cheaper side, they often have more features than their micro-atx, mini-ATX and ITX counterparts. We selected boards that had:

  • At least 1 m.2 NVME slot for future-proofing and, if desired, to install the OS on
  • From a reputable brand with a good warranty (3 years for MSI in general, for example)

Note that prices vary a lot based on when you decide to buy one, so other brands and models might work. Simply make sure to get an ATX board with enough IO.

5000 Series Zen 3 – 5600/5600G

We decided to go for the MSI B550 Gaming GEN3 Gaming Motherboard for the amount of PCI x4 slots that were going to be used for a 4 ports gigabit network card, a XZSNET Gigabit Network Card using a BCM5719 Chip (chosen specifically because its chip was compatible with ESXi and other specialized software we needed).

This motherboard was on the cheaper side at the time of writing. The only feature missing from this motherboard would be the PCIe Gen4 NVME drive, but for our applications, Gen3 speeds are more than enough and will never be a bottleneck.

For anyone who might need those PCIe Gen4 NVME speeds but does not necessarily see a need for as many PCIe x4 slots, another very similar option to consider would be the MSI B550-A PRO which is slightly higher-end but has a similar cost.

7000 Series Zen 4

There are many Zen 4 motherboards available right now, and being a new platform they may be more likely to be experiencing issues. Which is why we chose the ASUS TUF Gaming B650-PLUS.

Being part of Asus’ (non-ROG) TUF series motherboards, it includes all of the latest bells and whistles to make sure your machine will last for years to come.

  • A 5 years warranty which makes it a good choice for a machine that will need to run a lot
  • Support for PCIe 5.0 m.2 NVME drives
  • New DDR5 memory
  • 2.5Gb Ethernet
  • Wifi 6
  • USB 4


Operating System

Assuming a server running a hypervisor (Proxmox, ESXi, HyperV), we recommend using an SSD for your main storage. USB keys can work to a certain extent but are not treated the same in some cases. We’ve encountered issues of servers not booting up because the OS had been installed on a USB key and after power cuts, it would not detect it before it was reinserted. This was fixed by using a cheap SSD.

We use Timetec 128GB SSDs as our operating system drives. They have proven reliable over the long term and we use them at work when modifying or building new computers. None of them have failed so far over the last year and a half or so.

Main storage

For the main storage, if you can afford it, we’d recommend choosing enterprise drives or at least NAS drives. Buying 2+ of them will allow you to combine them in RAID if your hypervisor solution supports it. Proxmox supports ZFS and ESXi ONLY SUPPORT hardware RAID. So make sure you know what you are getting into.

Those NAS drives are normally meant for server environments and, as much as they might cost you a little bit more, they are more likely to survive a 24/7/365 operation. Consumer drives are not meant to run non-stop so the constant wear and tear could have more of an effect on them.

We personally bought 2x Seagate IronWolf 4TB NAS drives with 3 years of data protection and warranty. They are slower but more thoroughly tested and should work for a long time. Our setup has had them running almost 24/7 for 2 years and counting.

However, any NAS drive from a reputable brand will work. Simply make sure you have enough storage for what you plan and consider

GPU (optional)

A GPU is really only necessary when you need to work with video editing solutions, 3D software or AI models. This guide will not go into details for GPU recommendations since the choices are extremely varied. If your CPU does not have integrated graphics, we recommend sourcing a GTX1050 or GTX1650 from your local ads website or eBay, for example. Even a GT710 could do the trick in a pinch, assuming the BIOS was updated for UEFI (not required, but good for future-proofing since old BIOSes are going extinct). This is a low-power home server so we are focusing on something small without external power.

This GPU does not need to be strong, it needs to be power efficient and recent enough to be able to display an image and work with a UEFI BIOS. A quick Google search should help with that. Anything from the last 10 years should do the trick.


When it comes to RAM, there isn’t a right or a wrong answer. anything decently fast will do the job. Simply make sure to buy it in a pack of 2 maximum (assuming 4 total RAM slots) to give yourself room to upgrade in the future. We recommend starting at 32Gb or even 64Gb if you can afford it. Hypervisors normally need between 2-4 Gbs of RAM at a minimum and you never want to push it over 90% not to cause instability issues.

Zen 3 5000 series

This pack of 64Gb of DDR4 running at 3200mhz would be a great choice if you can afford it. It will give you plenty of room to grow and test different services that require more resources to run correctly, including databases and monitoring software. We bought this set of Crucial Pro DDR4 running at 3200mhz

On the cheaper end is Timetec’s 32Gb of DDR4 running at 2666mhz. It’s ideal for small workloads or for a mostly Linux environment:

Zen 4 7000 Series

Zen 4 CPUs require DDR5 memory. This one by Corsair runs at 5200mhz with 64Gb total. If you can afford it, it’s a good way to future-proof your build and make sure you won’t get stuck trying to run more complex software

For smaller workloads or experienced Linux users, this pack of 32Gb of Crucial Pro DDR5 running at 5600mhz should be plenty

Case (Do not cheap out)

Any case will work as long as it is large enough to fit the motherboard and CPU cooler. It is important to not cheap out on the case since this is a component that could last you a lifetime if maintained correctly. We recommend a case with the following attributes:

  • Metal chassis (optional but less likely to get damaged if accidently hit or dropped
  • Good cable management
    • Hidden power supply
    • Multiple cable passthroughs to the back
  • Lots of space to maneuver for an easier installation and more upgradability in the future, including fans, GPUs and coolers

We chose to go with the DeepCool CC560 in white or in black since it could be obtained at a discount at the equivalent of around 45$ USD and fit all of the criterias above.

However, we recommend looking at local stores like BestBuy, CanadaComputers or anything regional. Since cases are pretty big and heavy, you might be able to find large discounts in brick-and-mortar stores (from our experience at least).

Power Supply

The power supply will mostly depend on the components you choose, the most important component to consider would be the GPU. If your CPU comes with integrated graphics, you should not need a powerful power supply. In our case, (AMD 5600, GT710 and fans included with the case) 500 Watts was plenty and we didn’t need a modular power supply. It would be convenient but not necessary. For something cheap but well-rated and reliable, this 500W Thermaltake PSU is gonna be sufficient. It also has a 5-year warranty to cover any default.

Please do not cheap out on the power supply, it could easily cause disastrous issues with your system. Stick to well-known brands like EVGA, SeaSonic, Cooler Master or Thermaltake for example. This ThermalTake power supply is cheap and well-reviewed and should do the job. Something bigger might be needed if you need to use a higher-end GPU.

Modular options could be better if you can afford them but are not a necessity. They simply make the build easier to assemble initially.

Software (Proxmox, ESXi)

We won’t go into details on the software side of this in this article, but for a basic start, assuming 2 hard drives for data storage, we recommend going with Proxmox (or ESXi if you want it for work experience). Proxmox is not widely used in the enterprise space, but it will give you a lot of the functionalities that ESXi free keeps behind a paywall. It will also allow you to use ZFS raid to keep your data protected (keep in mind that ZFS raid uses 50% of your RAM by default, but that can be changed. A good rule of thumb is 2 GB of RAM + 1 GB of RAM per TB of storage. There are plenty of tutorials online.

If you mainly want to use the server to build meaningful experience for the enterprise space, ESXi could be a good option. The free version is slightly more locked down but offers more of the capabilities of the paid version (mainly excluding VMWare’s VCenter)

Get Building

Hopefully, this guide was helpful and has given you an idea of how to build a low-power but effective server for a home lab or simply for testing purposes. It has been more than enough for us.

If you need any tips relating to this guide, let us know and we’ll try and help as much as possible. Having something reliable for personal use should be a priority, you wouldn’t want hours of work to go down the drain because of an old power supply or a 10-15-year-old CPU like what could be found in an old, cheap server! Not to mention the absolute power drainers these can be.

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