Introduction: How To: Personal Minecraft Server in Custom Block Case

Picture of How To: Personal Minecraft Server in Custom Block Case

I've been wanting to build my own Minecraft server for quite awhile now, and thought it would be extra "cool" to build one in the style of a grass block from the game.

Here were some of the goals for the project:

- Small form factor

- Low energy consumption (since it will be running 24/7)

- Quiet

- Allow 4-8 players at one time

- Very few cables running off of it (preferably only 1 for power)

What is a Minecraft server? For those who don't know, a Minecraft server allows players to play together online or via a local area network. This is a dedicated Minecraft server, so it will always be running and connected to the internet (ideally), with its only purpose being hosting the Minecraft world. Players can log into the server from any location or computer as long as the connection speed is fast enough. The server isn't actually loading models or playing the game, it is only responsible for sending information about the world to the connected players and updating the world as players manipulate it. For a server to run smoothly, internet speed and components like the CPU and RAM (size, not speed) are important factors to consider.

Step 1: Pick Out the Parts.

Picture of Pick Out the Parts.

For this build I used the following parts:

Processor: AMD Athlon 5150 APU (4 cores, 1.6ghz) with stock CPU fan. This processor runs 25W at load, so negligible hit to power bill. Minecraft is supposedly capable of taking advantage of multiple threads in some ways, but largely it seems to be single threaded for now. The 4 cores won't get used to their potential other than with Java garbage collection. I would, however, expect Minecraft (and most other games) to continue to move in a more parallel direction in the future. The integrated GPU is massive overkill here, as it basically won't be used...but it was essentially free, and I just like the idea of it. AMD also makes a 2.0ghz model of this chip for like $20 more...if you can get it on sale then do that instead.

RAM: 4GB(2 x 2GB) Crucial 1600 Mhz. The processor I chose is 1.6ghz, and I'm just a fan of matching frequencies...1333 would've done just fine here. (Technically the faster RAM also helps the iGPU I'm not using) I bought 2 sticks of 2GB on purpose thinking the chip/mobo support dual channel, but alas they do buyer beware...just buy the cheapest single stick of RAM and then double it later if you need more.

SSD: 64GB ADATA, I'm all about the solid state drives, and a slow drive technically could bottleneck a server if the internet is fast enough (mine isn't).

MOBO: ASUS Mini-ITX (Also needed mounting screws and spacers)

PSU: Mini-Box pico-PSU-160-XT (160 watt), Fits in case wonderfully, but does require external power brick. Probably major overkill as I expect the system to never break 30W total, they sell a lower wattage one that would probably work fine, and allow for a smaller/cheaper power adapter.

WiFi/Bluetooth: Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe card plus a Mini PCIe to PCIe adapter and Intel WiFi antenna, this ended up being a bit of a headache...but it works wonderfully now.

Case Fan: 40mm Noctua with low noise adapter

Power Adapter: 12v/16A AC-DC

Power Button: Green LED ring button from SparkFun

Case: 8x8x8in acrylic ballot box from Amazon

4 Rubber Legs for bottom

Vinyl: Fedex printed white vinyl with 16 bit grass block texture

System Benchmark: The only benchmark I've run on the system so far is the Windows Experience Index, and the results were as follows: Processor: 5.3, Memory(RAM): 5.9, Graphics: 4.6, Gaming Graphics: 6.1, Primary hard disk: 8.1

Step 2: Assemble the Core Components and Make Sure They Work.

Picture of Assemble the Core Components and Make Sure They Work.

I won't go into the specifics of basic PC assembly here, especially because it's fairly straightforward with these parts. The CPU comes with thermal paste pre-applied, and the CPU fan installation is simpler than most. The important thing here is to get everything hooked up and make sure the parts power on and show the BIOS, that way you can RMA any defective parts early on.

Refer to your motherboard's manual to make sure everything is hooked up where it needs to be. Just as an extra precaution try to work in a static free environment, or ground yourself prior to touching the parts directly.

Step 3: Mount the Motherboard.

Picture of Mount the Motherboard.

This step was fairly tricky, and I sort of messed it up. I attached the metal spacers to the bottom of the motherboard, and then placed it inside of the ballot box to mark out where I needed to drill. Unfortunately when I actually drilled, the spacing shifted a small amount and DVI connector was a fraction of an inch too far forward. Instead of re-drilling I just shaved that fraction of an inch out of the inside of the box with my Dremel. I would recommend starting with one of the back corner holes first, screwing the motherboard in from there, and then drill the other three holes once you can see exactly where the metal spacers are lined up.

WARNING: Drilling into acrylic can be tricky, always start with a small bit and then slowly work your way up to larger bits so that the acrylic doesn't crack.

Step 4: Add Power Button.

Picture of Add Power Button.

Here I had to start the drilling with a small bit, work my way up the largest bit I had, and then get the Dremel out and slowly increase the size of the hole by shaving the inside in circular motions.

If you look at the motherboard manual it will show you where the front panel connectors are (system panel connectors), and you'll wire the power switch pins (PWR and Ground) from the motherboard to the button switch pins. Basically, anytime the button is pressed the PWR and Ground pins are being connected. If you want to test this logic out just try turning your computer on by using a flathead screwdriver to connect the pins.

Next, hook up +5V and GND for the LED (usually located right next to the ON/OFF pins, sometimes referred to as PLED+ and PLED-). For this particular button, I soldered 4 wires onto it and then just used some heat shrink wrap to cover them. I then plugged these wires into an old front panel adapter cord I had lying around.

NOTE: Refer to the data sheet for whatever button you choose, and just match the pins up with the motherboard manual's description.

Step 5: Add Case Fan (optional).

Picture of Add Case Fan (optional).

This part I probably didn't need, being that the CPU is only 25W, but I figured better safe than sorry. Again, mounting was kind of a pain, and then I just drilled a series of holes in the fan blade area. I've always used Noctua fans in builds because they're super quiet and also generally come with low noise adapters.

In retrospect, I probably would've instead just cut out the fan blade area entirely, and then just covered the small square area with a spray painted mesh grill...I still may go back and do this.

Step 6: Attach Rubber Feet.

Picture of Attach Rubber Feet.

Pretty self explanatory, just stick them onto the bottom. Not the sides or the top...but the bottom.

Step 7: Finish Basic Assembly and Organization.

Picture of Finish Basic Assembly and Organization.

All that is left in terms of case modifications is to drill one more hole for the power supply/power adapter hookup. Being that this is the only cord external to the case there is no cluster of cables to manage...just plug it in.

I also had to jump through a few hoops for the WiFi/Bluetooth method I chose. For one, I needed a Mini PCIe to PCIe adapter that supported bluetooth. Like most PCIe wifi adapters they have the antennas mounted to be outside of the case. To fix this I had to desolder and re-solder the antenna mounts so that they were turned inside, and then use the more flexible Intel WiFi antenna.

If you decide to go the PCIe wifi route, you'll have a hard time finding a card that will fit inside the box with the standard antennas and mounts. An easy alternative is just to cut one more hole and run ethernet through it, I'm just stubborn and hate cords.

Having said that, I didn't do anything too fancy for internal cable management...basically just zip ties, heat shrink wrap, and 2 sided tape. It was good enough to get the job done.

Step 8: Install Operating System and Test Minecraft Server.

Picture of Install Operating System and Test Minecraft Server.

I started out using Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to run the server, but have since migrated to Windows 8. Whichever OS you choose, just google "how to setup minecraft server in (OS of choice)" and you'll be presented with a plethora of help here.

A few things I noticed that helped server performance:

- Setting the server properties file to max render distance at 16

- Update Java to the newest 64-bit version

- If you're using Linux it's also helpful to have SSH and Screen installed, so that you can SSH into the server and attach to the Minecraft process if you need to do any server maintenance.

- If you're using Windows, the remote desktop connection feature comes in handy here, I just enabled remote desktop within my local network, and it works flawlessly. Another thing you'll probably want to do is disable any sleep or hibernate settings, and do manual updates to prevent unplanned restarts (another option is to create a batch file for starting minecraft and run it on startup).

NOTE: The exact command I use to run the minecraft exe is as follows:

java -server -Xms2048M -Xmx2048M -XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC -XX:+UseParNewGC -XX:ParallelGCThreads=2 -jar ./minecraft_server.1.8.exe nogui

Breaking this down:

-server : this flag forces Java to use the more optimized server JVM

-Xms2048M : Occasionally prevents the JVM from needing to resize its memory allocation, 2048M = 2GB of RAM allocation

-Xmx2048M : Specifically allocates 2 gigs of RAM to Minecraft

-XX:+UseConcMarkSweepGC -XX:+UseParNewGC : Uses the concurrent mark sweep collector and is parallel, this is said to be a superior garbage collector for Minecraft.

-XX:ParallelGCThreads=2 : Sets max number of threads garbage collection can use

nogui : prevents the gui window for the server from opening, instead only uses command line (or terminal)

Step 9: Apply Vinyl.

Picture of Apply Vinyl.

This step was terrifying, as I have the world's most unsteady hands and only 2 of them. The method that ended up working best for me was to focus on getting the corners squared up, and just allowing small air bubbles to form initially. I then went back and poked very small holes in the air bubbles and pushed the air out. By the time the air pocket was gone the hole wasn't even really noticeable. There are better ways to do this, and I would recommend googling them or maybe finding another instructable explaining it in more detail.

The graphics I used for the 8x8in vinyl I've included above.

Step 10: Profit.

Picture of Profit.

I've had the server up and running for a couple of months now and it's working fine for the most part. There were some wifi instability issues in Ubuntu that I'm attributing to a driver issue for the Intel chip I used. As a result, I've switched over to Windows 8 and so far it's been running without issues. Plus, being able to remote desktop into it has come in handy and works really well. As for heat and noise, the system produces neither. I'd say it would be safe to forego the case fan altogether since the AMD chip runs super cool and the case is fairly spacious.

Feel free to message with any questions you may have about the build. Thanks for checking it out!


flyerminer (author)2014-10-29

How much did the whole thing end up costing? I'm curious because I may save up and make one myself! And if the price is right then maybe I'll upgrade a lil' :P

foxwater (author)flyerminer2014-10-29

I think it ran me about $350 total, the case was like $80 of that ($50 for vinyl, $20 for box, $10 for power button and legs)

anv3D (author)foxwater2017-08-11

Is that in Canadian or US dollars?

flyerminer (author)foxwater2014-10-30

Thats not too bad! and would you say it pays for itself as far as having one of these vs paying for a hosted server online?

foxwater (author)flyerminer2014-10-30

It kind of depends, I would say at the very least it mitigates the cost of a really fun project. You also have to remember that you'll have to set your network up so that you can access the server, which can sometimes have added owning a domain and in our case we use dynDNS as well. But again, you learn a lot...and have some form of server bragging rights.

flyerminer (author)foxwater2014-10-31

Unless of course I decide to just attach a screen when I need to :/ haha!

but a program like dynDNS or Teamviewer would be handy. Cool! guess I know what I'm saving my money up for.

anv3D (author)2017-08-11

I want to make this!!! How much $$ did this cost you to build? Not including the case because I have a 3D printer.

JeluSugas (author)2015-09-15

I Made It

Lightning3285 (author)2015-08-20

Hi the is me

Coolvlad (author)2015-05-13

Have a question can that work on server boxes

dormint (author)2015-02-09

An alternative to ubuntu+server stuff is MineOS, a Linux operating system that can be managed from a web browser, and can host any version of bukkit server, given you have the .jar. I used it for a while, and it is very useful and combine the.

neemanee (author)2014-11-02

wow that's really cool, and I'm impressed. was it hard to set up the electrical componits?

DemonMonkeyTech (author)neemanee2015-01-14

Building a computer is not that hard. There is plenty of tutorials online how to build them and there's also forums that if you have any questions they will be answered with in a few hours.

RubbaBoy (author)2014-11-12

I noticed on the motherboard box and on amazon it said Windows 8.1 ready. Does that mean it comes with windows 8.1 or it it best with windows 8.1? Thanks!

EdDruino (author)RubbaBoy2014-11-25

it just means that the motherboard is compatible with windows 8.1. Usually you don't get OS's with the motherboards

RubbaBoy (author)EdDruino2014-12-07

And i have a question: If you upgrade the RAM to say 8 GB, it can hold more players (say around 30-40 people) and doesn't need to be just a small server, right? Thanks!

DemonMonkeyTech (author)RubbaBoy2015-01-14

You can add more people with more RAM but it also depends if your CPU and motherboard can handle that much RAM. Other wise you should be all good.

PRO DR MR BOB (author)2014-11-09

is there a way to make a minecraft server with only a rasbeary pi ?

Vitim (author)PRO DR MR BOB2014-12-18

not enough processing power bud

RubbaBoy (author)PRO DR MR BOB2014-11-10

That's a good point, which makes me wonder, Is it possible with an ATMega? I mean you would need alot of stuff to go with it, but hay, more experiance and work comes with ALOT more bragging rights!!!

RubbaBoy (author)2014-11-08

So say i didnt have the case and vinal, how much would one of these cost, and where is the cheapest place to get the parts? Thanks, and by the way AWSOME tutorial, i'm hoping to make one, because within a year you can rack up like $120 saying its $10 a month!

oferguson (author)2014-10-27

you said it lags when someone goes to the nether so im going to guess that it will not run big in depth modpacks haha. anything to make it more powerful to run more?

foxwater (author)oferguson2014-10-27

Yeah, it'd be pretty simple...just choose a more powerful processor and mobo combo. If I were to do it again I'd use the Intel Celeron G1840, 2.8Ghz and still only ~50 the power supply I used should be able to handle it. This would also require a mini-itx lga 1150 mobo. Cost would be like ~$110 for the cpu/mobo combo.

Also, since moving my setup to Windows I haven't noticed any nether related lag, but you're probably right about the modpacks none the less.

oferguson (author)foxwater2014-10-27

yea because i pay 10 bucks a month to a hosting company for a 2gb server on a company called fadehost. This would pay for itself in no time and have bragging rights. however how does it treat the internet it uses? does it slow it down or what

foxwater (author)oferguson2014-10-27

I haven't noticed any slowdown on our network, but our server never gets hit too hard. If you have reasonably fast internet, I'd doubt you'd notice.

kmonarch (author)foxwater2014-11-01

Would I be able to host on my home connection with split bandwidth? For every device on our network, it cuts chunks out of the overall network bandwidth like slices of a wheel of cheese. If it was only my computer on the network, directly connected to the modem, I would be pulling 78.5mbps download, with an upload speed of 10.2mbps. But normally there are around 3-5 devices already on the network. This slices it down to around 18.3mbps download, 3.1mbps download. This would work on my home connection?

ninjanody (author)2014-10-31

Nice project. I really like the vinyl look and the idea of cube case as mc material..

tiger42l (author)2014-10-29

Very nice project! Great idea, will help me make mine! Can you tell more about the vinyl printing at Fedex?

foxwater (author)tiger42l2014-10-29

Yeah, just go their website:

I found the grass block textures online, brought them into photoshop to scale them to the size I needed (8in x 8in), and then just uploaded them and ordered. Fedex print shop contacted me to confirm the order and like 2 days later it was at my door.

pennypushers (author)2014-10-28

Got an image of the back?

csleong98 (author)2014-10-28

can it run on crack minecraft versions?

PenguinKing23 (author)2014-10-27

Thats pretty cool!

Awesomaster (author)2014-10-27

Just awesome

foxwater (author)Awesomaster2014-10-27

Thanks! Especially coming from the master of awesome.

Dwargh (author)2014-10-27

Nice Job it is! ;-)

I admire your final product here!
Where did you get those printed vinyls? I'm looking for an adequate store here in germany. The case is interesting as well. Do you have any links for me to browse in?

foxwater (author)Dwargh2014-10-27

Thanks! I got the vinyls printed at a local Fedex print shop, most print shops are capable of printing vinyl decals, Fedex just happened to be the cheapest around for me.

uberwald (author)2014-10-26

What's the gray thing taped to the top of the case?

cwgoodman (author)uberwald2014-10-27

The antenna specifically came from this:

foxwater (author)uberwald2014-10-26

That'd be the wifi antenna

uberwald (author)foxwater2014-10-26

That's what comes stock with the Intel 3160? Or what antenna is it?

foxwater (author)uberwald2014-10-26

No, it didn't come stock with the 3160, it's actually strange...I can't seem to find it online anywhere, my roommate had it from a previous network adapter he ordered, and I just traded him two standard antennas for it. Coincidentally, it is an Intel antenna though.

RGon (author)2014-10-26

For correctly sticking the vinyl, you could spray soaped water onto the surface and the vinyl, stick both and with a ruler start pressing trying to get water bubbles out. I used this technique and it makes everything a whole lot easier and the final product looks incredible and with zero bubbles.

foxwater (author)RGon2014-10-26

Thanks, I'll have to give that a shot next time I use vinyl

bigme (author)2014-10-26

This is a beautiful build! My son's Minecraft server is hosted on a raspberry pi (it will only handle 5 players total) and this has inspired us to see about seeing if we can fit the pi into a small redstone lamp. It will be a tight squeeze but it might just fit, now we need a free weekend and some dremel bits.

foxwater (author)bigme2014-10-26

Thanks! I initially thought about trying the pi and making it an even smaller block, but the limited specs deterred me. The small form factor opens up a lot of possibilities though, good luck and happy dremeling.

tramage (author)2014-10-26

This is such an awesome project! I may have to try it out. Like another commentor said, a lightweight GNU/Linux distribution will give you power to spare (i.e., Windows desktop environment or X11 in the case of Ubuntu/other larger distributions). And since most GNU/Linux distributions come with OpenSSH installed, having a local headless server will remove any need for access to any media ports. And you'll always have the option to add a swapfile for more memory access, which should speed things up since you're using a SSD.

All in all a great build though, love that you were focused on power consumption, as having a server lying around could get a bit pricey otherwise.

I'm kinda tempted to replicate this with some white LEDs inside and a glowstone decal...

foxwater (author)tramage2014-10-26

Thank you! Yeah, I think I will probably eventually move to a less resource intensive OS. In the meantime Win8 seems to be working okay, with the added bonus that I can use Remote Desktop, which mostly eliminates the need for access to media ports and it's like having a wireless display.

I was also tempted to go the glowstone LED route, I'd be really interested to see how that ends up looking.

joldham2 (author)2014-10-26

Love This! Any chance of getting your template foe the vinyl? ;D

foxwater (author)joldham22014-10-26

Thank you! Yeah, I'll try to upload the image files to the Instructable.

Blackice504 (author)2014-10-26

I like your case well done.

But seriously running any type of server over WIFI is just crazy, WIFI is not intended as a dedicated anything WIFI is mean just for your laptop or your pad / phone ect."FIY hosting is what i do for a living".

Also you might want to think about getting a better CPU for Minecraft especially since minecraft does not have multi-threading. "since the last time a checked"

Higher Frequency is better for single threaded applications or in your case Game.

you might think wait i have wifi AC with around 1Gb/s and Ethernet is 1Gb/s yeah maybe but they are not the same speed. "i made them same bandwidth as an example"

because your Ethernet is 0 ms or in your case been a standard home user with normal user end stuff maybe 2 ms

where your WIFI can be anything from 25ms or 45ms, for a server this is horrible.

In short bandwidth does effect speed but not in the way you think simply the packets are larger but your TTL Time to live means way more especially on a server, thus Ethernet will always dominate over WiFi unless they do something that does not use physics as we understand it. "FreeSpace Optical is something that might make cables vanish but its cost is huge", but as for Radio waves = ms = LAG.

Your next thing is Windows 8 as a server, its a desktop OS and one of the worst ones from microsoft well not as bad as Windows 10 but that's early days, you like it for the remote desktop well you can easily do that with ubuntu, or take it to the next step and go really professional and use a web interface to control your server,

again if you need help just give me a pm.

here is a link for a webmin module designed for minecraft.

Side note:

Microsoft limits its concurrent connections you may have herd of this if you do torrenting and there are ways around this limit but there is a limit to even that of 500 concurrent connections after that you cant go any higher due to other limitations put in place. "there is a reason these where put in place mainly for network viruses and yes it does slow them down, but that's what your virus scanner is for really".

Why waste your limited resources on GUI?

there is no reason to.

If you would like me to help you setup a professional server with web interface i can just pm me.

Solution to most of your problems.

Drill a hole in the perspex at the back for a nice Ethernet Cable.

cut your RJ45 off the end of your cable.

follow that to match up what cable you have.

get a RJ45 head off ebay or your place of choice, here is one from ebay.

$2.43 for 50pcs

you will need a crimp tool, but this thing pays for it self especially when friends want exact size cables ect.

good luck mate and i hope you continue enjoying computers and remember computers love to be pushed to the limit. ;)

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