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Building a mini fileserver

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February 10, 2007 9:22:38 AM

We’re building and a Mini Fileserver that will hold 5 HDs. It’s small (180 x 180 x 250mm) and it looks good! Our plan is to have an exchangeable front cover. Get more pictures and follow the project here: http://www.myuninstalledlife.com/category/other/mini-fi....

Here are some early pictures of the prototype from the drawing table:


It’s possible to change front plate. Some examples:


Please reply if you have any ideas or comments on our project.
February 10, 2007 10:50:21 AM

take your scam somewhere else.
February 10, 2007 11:27:51 AM

Sorry if you considered this post to be a "try for sale" post but it wasn't. We just want to show our project and see what people think and maybe get some more ideas. So I've changed the post a little bit - hope you find it more suitable. And it's definitely not a scam.
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February 14, 2007 5:25:16 AM

To show you the real stuff, here are some pictures from the first prototype. A second prototype is on the way with many improvements.



February 14, 2007 6:10:31 AM

I thought 750 gig was the biggest available HD on the market? Or is there some commercial models that I just don't know about. I am intrigued.
February 14, 2007 6:39:52 AM

Both Hitachi and Seagate has announced their models. They're no available quite yet to the general public but we don't expect the first "production case" to be finished until then. So when they're released - we'll be first in line! :) 
February 14, 2007 6:56:39 AM

no hot-swap cages. Definitely a 'homebuilt' What controller are you using? Does it do its own XOR processing? If not, why not.

Basically, try to not flog your inferior crap on this website.
February 14, 2007 7:29:47 AM

whilst i like the idea and would be nice to own one it doesnt seem that any real thought has gone into this seems to me like an ITX? board with 5HDDS attached possibly running some form of Linux what will this retail for? ill make my own thank you!
February 14, 2007 7:43:37 AM

Our plan is only to make the case for the mini-ITX form factor. If you decide to run the VIA mini-ITX board with on-board CPU or any other mini-ITX formfactor motherboard - it's up to you. If you run Linux booting of a USB-key or Windows 2003 of one of the harddrive - it's up to you.

We don't have a plan to sell it fitted with the hardware - only mention what we know works.

The reason why we decided to make our own was because we couldn't find any case available on the market that was small enough nor affordable.
February 14, 2007 8:09:27 AM

ok that makes more sense what to you plan on retailing it for
February 14, 2007 9:22:35 AM

1. this is bullh*t, there are no 1TB hard drives. the max is 750 GB, but you mention that it would be possible if the drives arrive. :roll:

2. the box is way too small for the micro ATX mobo, with enough ata controllers, or a PCI ata controller. :roll:

3. there will be a serious cooling problem, despite the big fan in the back

4. if you need that much space, you're a serious (illegal) downloader, or a company, that can afford a 19" storage scsi server.

5. you are soo trying to sell this, read this parts from your site:
" it’s possible to change front plate to have different designs. Quite handy when testing airflow but also a good thing when considering the fact that not all people have the same taste, so this way we can offer some different designs and colors, maybe even custom designs."

Keep on reading the posts below for our progress of making the 5 TB Mini Fileserver. If you have any questions or are interested in this project, we’d love to hear from you. We might even start selling them!

so you are offering something and start selling them eventually? dudes get real!!

only post when you are serious.
February 14, 2007 10:23:54 AM

1. Not if - when. Seagate scheduled them for the first half of 2007.

2. Who said anything about micro ATX? Mini-ITX will fit perfectly. We might even change the design to fit a risercard and RAID-card. At the moment we're just using basic controllers with no RAID.

3. Have you tried? I have the prototype on my desk right now and none of the drives goes over the recommended manufacturer limit even when I stress the drives.

4. We don't judge what people have on their drives. This is not aimed for 19" racks but for home and most people don't have 19" racks at home.

The reason why we post HERE is not to sell it since we don't have anything to sell yet (thus changing the posts since people have pointed out this as irritating).

We want suggestions/improvements/thoughts/recommendations since it's still on the drawingtable. We have a prototype but before we make the next one, we want as much input from other users.

And yes - we are serious - otherwise we wouldn't post this project.
February 14, 2007 10:41:55 AM

i was wondering, which mini ATX motherboard has 5 s-ata connections,
at the picture, the drives are connected using p-ata, this is dying technology, there won't be a 1 TB drive on p-ata
also, where do you put your PSU? outside brick?

so help me out here? :wink:
February 14, 2007 10:55:18 AM

At the moment, there are no mini-ITX fitted with 5 SATA connections. The best option would be for us to fit a riser card and an extra controller. The EPIA EN at the moment has 2 x IDE and 2 x SATA but that wouldn't maximize the storage.

Mini-ITX doesn't use traditional ATX PSU's, it uses a outside brick just as a laptop. Inside the case your either just have a DCDC-converter board which has all the connectors or even a microPSU that is extremely small - however, we're uncertain that those will be able to cope with all drives (max 120W whereas the DCDC-converter boards are up to 220Www). Pictures below.





February 14, 2007 11:14:10 AM

so, at the moment, it's just an idea, a concept
before you start building, you've got to have a solid plan, not a idea
you try to tell everybody you are building it, but:
- you are not sure how to give it power (a laptop psu, with some molex splitters?)
a hitachi HD has a startup power of 2Amps x 12v = 24 watts/HD
5 HD = 120 watts add the CPU, ram, mobo,.. could you find a external small power supply that can give you that on the 12v rail?
maybe there is, but couldn't find it on google
- there's no way to connect all of the drives because the big drives are all s-ata? (on a storage server? 8O )
- the box is too small for a riser and a 5 ports s-ata controller.

i don't try to flame you, but everybody can bend some metal, drill some
holes, at the right size and tell everybody: look a box for a mini-itx mobo and 5 hard drives.
everything got to be sorted out before you start building.

maybe you should had waited until it's 100% ok before you posted this here on a forum with a lot of enthusiasts?
February 14, 2007 11:36:55 AM

Yeah that could be. We're still in the planning phase - sorry if you tought we were producing it already - that's why we wanted to post - to get ideas from enthusiast and suggestions what we need to improve before building the real thing. Not to post in 6 months saying: "here it is - finished". We wanted it to be like a "building project log".

The first prototype don't even have fitted holes for the backplane connectors nor a good way to fit the harddrives. Since the first prototype, we've been planning around what to make better to the next version (we call it 3.1). And thanks to all comments we gathered here and on other forums, we'll probably make some adjustments to the next one.

When it comes to power, we'll go for the Morex/Universal 220W. This one is fitted with Molex and have enough power to run everything. So far, in the prototype, we're using regular bought molex splitters but since we want to save on cabling, we're planning to make our own splitters.

What we have learned so far is that we probably need to extend the height a bit to fit a risercard. Our initial plan was 4 drives but since 5 could fit in the width - why not - there might be future VIA cards with more than 4 SATA connectors.
February 14, 2007 11:46:37 AM

sorry, but i'm sceptic, nothing personal;
you say that your prototype doesn't have a good way to connect the HD-s, but at the photo's i see long holes to fix them? that seems relative good?

i'm reading at a previous post, you have one running at your desktop,
now, i'm wondering, are all the HD full up and running, and what OS,
pics please?

for smaller needs, you could go for a 2.5" drive version?
February 14, 2007 11:51:34 AM

if you do plan on selling these, you'd wanna make sure that it was competitive with a $300 dell POS. Keep in mind that most enthusiasts could very well make their own NAS, so you'd probs wanna sell it to semi enthusiasts/ppl how d/load lots/do lots of encoding/ etc etc, so as Croc said you might wanna make the HDD hot swappable as most ppl wont want to open up the entire case, and 'risk' damaging sum of the parts inside.

Another good idea would be to make your own version of Linux, and distribute this server with it included (have it on a USB stick connected to one of the internal USB pins) so a computer noob can use it 'straight' out of the box.

I'd have to be pretty quiet, any more then a fan and it might be too noisy for sum users. instead of making the case bigger, try rearranging the components (eg, Rotate the HDD's 90 degrees, or sumthing).
February 15, 2007 2:47:10 PM

duthoy: here are some pictures of the prototype rig.

It's running 5 harddrives, 3 x IDE and 2 x SATA. All harddrives are connected to one single Molex that has been splitted up and it works out fine - and that's on a 120W PSU (!). Mini-ITX doesn't take more than 12-15W, even during load.

Right now it's running Windows 2003 but used to run FreeNAS on a USB-stick.

When I said we didn't have proper holes for the harddrives is because they're just connected at the top at the moment. Also, we're moving to fixed holes instead of long ones so we can put some noise damping to stop the vibration from the harddrives to move out into the case.

2.5" wasn't really an option because of the price and storagesize.





February 15, 2007 2:57:03 PM

bLAKEpERKINS: Thanks for your suggestions!

Making our own Linuxdistribution is probably out of the question. There are so many others that make it so much better, such as FreeNAS. But including it - why not!

We also thought of a hot-swap bay, just as the uDat project did but all of the hotswap bays I've seen (such as this) would cost more than the whole case altogheter. But I agree - it would be really nice.

When it comes to heat - that's one of our biggest concerns. Even though our test rig runs at lower temperatures than the manufacturers recommend - we suspect that the result might differ depending on harddrives (RPM) and mobo (although we even use one of the most powerful VIA mini-ITX ones that is also fanless). Everything cooled by a giant 120mm fan. The fan used at the moment is the most quiet ones we could find (SC120SF, Scythe 120mm) and there are many other pretty quiet ones but more powerful.
March 24, 2007 3:12:01 PM

People asked about the heat and temperatures when we squeeze so much stuff in such a small box. Now we’ve done some heavy testing!

Here are two final temperatures after running some tests for an hour during harddrive stress.




If you look at the manufactures specifications (Examples: Samsung=60C, IBM=55C, WD=55C, VIA=50C), we didn’t cross any of the recommended limits. However, we’re pretty close. Do remember that this was the most silent, and therefore not the most efficient, fan we could find. There are some very quiet fans out there that will be able to move more air that would probably lower the temperature even more. One reason why the case keeps the harddrives pretty cool is because there are about 5-10mm’s between the harddrives which lets the airflow through.

If anyone has any suggestions for a good 120mm fan except for the Scythe S-FDB one we’re using now – please let us know!

Here’s the complete posts with more details how we ran the tests:
http://www.myuninstalledlife.com/temperatures-in-the-mi...
March 24, 2007 7:05:23 PM

Have you thought about more venting of the case, like 1/4 holes in the top? Seems like the air is trapped other than the front panel.
March 24, 2007 7:49:34 PM

My big concerns are heat and robustness. Typically with something like this, you want to set it up, then forget about it. With only one fan, I'd certainly want a very long-lived fan, and I'd want to know when the interior temperature got above a certain point (maybe due to fan failure).
March 25, 2007 8:42:26 AM

We have added som holes in the bottom to see if that makes ventilation better for the mobo. I don't know about adding at the top. By not having holes at the top you force all "fresh" air to flow through the harddrives and get out the back. What do you other guys think?

Also, I will look to see if there's some basic alarm system for the fan. You could monitor it with some application on the OS but then the users have to install that themselves - maybe better with a simple buzzer if the RPM goes down to 0 RPM. Anyone seen such a simple buzzer?
March 25, 2007 8:47:07 AM

Hot air rises, let it escape and more "fresh" air will pass the HD in the flow. Not all that scienific, just common sense I think.
March 25, 2007 1:04:13 PM

hard drives don't need much to keep cool. that one fan should be enough, however the other componets are close, so it might not be the case here.

try reversing the fan and see if that lowers or raises the temps.

have a look into the vents at the top see if that improves it any.

Also see if you couldn't get any airflow under the HDDs, mabye a few small fans (thinking northbridge fans). Or you could try to fashion a new Heat Sink that draws the heat infrount of the fan (kinda like a laptop HSF)?
!