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Salvaging old system for new NAS setup

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April 11, 2009 9:06:21 PM

Hi guys, I'm thinking of setting up a NAS system to store and watch movies from. I have an old system that I was thinking of salvaging for this purpose. I need suggestions on whether this is gonna be a decent NAS system - i.e. fast at serving files and stable. Here's what I have so far

Case: Antec Plus 1080 case w/ TruePower 430W power supply
Motherboard: ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe
CPU: AMD AthalonXP 3000+
CPU Fan: Zalman CNPS7000A
Memory: 2x256MB Corsair Twinx + 512MB, all PC3200 DDR 400MHz
Graphics: XFX GeForce 6600GT 128MB
Hard Drive: WD2000SE 200MB

This computer still works so the cheapest thing to do would be to install FreeNAS on it and add some hard drives but the case is ugly and the whole thing is noisy. This is gonna be standing right beside my home theater system so it shouldn't look completely out of place and while I am going to be using xbox360 to watch the movies, this system is actually even louder than that :)  (I think it's probably the graphics card)

So what I was thinking of is getting a new case and putting everything but the graphics card in it, plus add some hard drives.

For the case I'm thinking NZXT Alpha Black Steel ATX. It's attractive, solid build quality and ventilation, and good price.
An alternative is Antec Three Hundred Gamers Case. I can actually get it for $10 cheaper (in the next few days) and it also seems to be a solid case, however, it doesn't look as nice.

For hard drives I'm thinking of 2x1TB either WD or Seagate, in a RAID setup. (but these are the easy choices)

Will I be able to move the PSU from the Antec case to one of these new cases? (I figure 430W is pretty good, and it served me well for years, no reason to pay for new one)

Am I doing the right thing not using the 6600GT? As I understand NAS doesn't really need graphics card since it's basically just storage, but maybe I'm wrong.

Is the a7n8x motherboard up for the job? It only has 2 sata ports, meaning that in the future if I want to expand the system I need to either switch drives for larger capacity ones, or buy new mobo, which means new CPU and new memory most likely.

I appreciate any suggestions.
Cheers.
April 11, 2009 9:28:25 PM

The Alpha seems fine.

I have to wonder how long your old MB will last though. They have definite lifespans.
April 11, 2009 9:54:45 PM

Is that Antec PSU really 6 years old? Would be no problem changing cases for the PSU/
Not using the 6600GT? You'll need to have it installed just to get the system to boot, right? Or at least some video card.
RAID1 for backup?
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April 11, 2009 10:32:49 PM

First off, I doubt that board has a 1Gb Nic and some new motherboards allow combining the 2 1GB onboard Nics; so, just that will help speed & accessing files(and you also would need a gigabit switch which only cost $25-30).

If you want to set up your pc and not have to worry about it for the next couple of years, then you would want to upgrade everything now. Its just a matter of time before something dies, and depending on what part dies, you might need to replace the entire system anyways. Also, I wouldn't trust a PSU that old with important data. When a PSU dies, sometimes it can take other parts with it.

Are there more people than just you that will be accessing these files?
April 12, 2009 1:03:25 AM

Just gonna toss this in.

My old A64 3200 does file server / PVR / Other stuff and works rather well
I get about 35-40 megabytes/sec on transfers(its a Via NIC card, so enough said)

It serves its purpose well and take about 70 watts from the wall.

Whats in it.

K8V SE
A64 3200
2 x 512MB Value Select memory
1 x 120gig hard drive(good use for it, Windows)
2 x 500gig hard drives(one for PVR one for files)
Geforce4 MX400 @ 1920 x 1200 :)  I keep downgrading to save power
Used to have a SB Live! but was causing intermittent issues with TV recordings getting scrambled(Via related)
Antec Sonata 1
Antec Earthwatts 450 watt psu (The psu with it still works but was on another system and this thing is silent)

I think you should have a good NAS system on the cheap there.
April 12, 2009 3:01:35 AM

Proximon said:
The Alpha seems fine.
I have to wonder how long your old MB will last though. They have definite lifespans.

Well, I bought the system in 2004 and replaced it with a new one in 2007, since then it has seen minimal use, so I think that mobo still should have a few years ahead of it (most likely will be upgrading the NAS in a couple of years anyway, if nothing fails ;) )

WR2 said:
Is that Antec PSU really 6 years old? Would be no problem changing cases for the PSU/
Not using the 6600GT? You'll need to have it installed just to get the system to boot, right? Or at least some video card.
RAID1 for backup?

As I mentioned above, technically only 5 years old, and have been heavily used for only 3 of those. I do have to say I'm weary of the PSU failing, since I had that experience with a barely 1-year old PSU. I'll consider getting a new PSU.
As for the graphics card, I was thinking I'll use it for install and then once everything's setup and working I'll just disconnect the power, and if I ever need to I can just plug it back in.
RAID1 for backup, just the usual stuff - two identical drives and a controller.

specialk90 said:
First off, I doubt that board has a 1Gb Nic and some new motherboards allow combining the 2 1GB onboard Nics; so, just that will help speed & accessing files(and you also would need a gigabit switch which only cost $25-30).

If you want to set up your pc and not have to worry about it for the next couple of years, then you would want to upgrade everything now. Its just a matter of time before something dies, and depending on what part dies, you might need to replace the entire system anyways. Also, I wouldn't trust a PSU that old with important data. When a PSU dies, sometimes it can take other parts with it.

Are there more people than just you that will be accessing these files?

The board has Marvell 88E8001 Gigabit LAN and Realtek RTL8201BL LAN PHY, but I didn't realize I could combine the two (although if you say only new mobos can do that then I doubt this one can). Is that what the gagbit switch is for, or would I need it in any case?

As for upgrading everything now. Well it basically means buying and assembling a whole new NAS. The whole idea of this project is to salvage as much as I can from the old system. It already looks like I'll be needing a new PSU in addition to the case.
The thing is, this system is just standing there collecting dust, and it's just a shame you know. I mean it's still a very workable system (I just recently installed win7 on it and gave it a test drive with a few programs, everything went smoothly). I considered using it to play around with linux (so as to not risk my main system if I do something stupid) but I just have neither time nor space for messing about with a full on 2nd system. So I figured I'll setup the NAS and "forget about it" as it were.

@nukemaster: Not bad, that's almost as ancient as mine :D 

So I wanna understand this whole thing about graphics cards - 'cause I'm getting some mixed messages here I think (not this thread I mean but in general). Do I need one?
I mean, I realize I need one to install if my mobo doesn't have built in graphics, but beyond that, isn't NAS basically just a fancy hard drive whose job is to deliver files to other computers? Why would you need even a cheap graphics card? Or does NAS do some encoding/decoding before it sends the files (like divx files or something), and it needs it for that?

Anyway, I do think I'll probably go ahead and "splurge" on a new PSU - it's extra peace of mind, plus with only 2HDs spinning and no graphics card(?), I think I should be fine with 300-350W PSU (could I go 250W?) and save some power and reduce heat in the process.

Thanks for the quick responses (didn't really expect to see any till tomorrow) and I appreciate the suggestions... keep'em coming :) 
April 12, 2009 2:25:11 PM

In general most motherboard will not boot(the just beep at you) without a video card(boards made for specific jobs[nas/remote server(like windows home server and so on)/ect] can boot without a video card, but those boards are made to do this and the bios will boot without anywhere to send video. Even a cheap PCI card will do the trick for this(keeping power levels low is a good thing for a system that is on all the time).

Before that I did have some file server / team speak on a XP 1800+. before that a duron 1000 for TS/music......Now thats old.
April 12, 2009 9:02:37 PM

Hmmm, didn't know that about mobos, I guess a $40-50 graphics card isn't too bad but a shame I have to get one at all.

A Duron, huh? I almost totally forgot about those :) 
April 12, 2009 11:13:29 PM

It still runs :) , but all the usb ports are dead due to bad caps.

Keep an eye out at the local shops and used item shops. Even a cheap PCI card(i have several, but they would not do the right rez, but if you are running a linux NAS unlike my windows MCE/TS/File server/Web, you do not need anything fancy) will work.
!