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Cheap Media NAS

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February 4, 2013 2:58:49 AM

I need the expertise of all the experts out there. I recently made a HTPC from a Zotac ZBOX Nano AD10, 64GB SSD and 4GB Ram. I experimented with XBMCbuntu but eventually installed W7. I found XBMCbuntu did not offer any advantages over XBMC running off of W7 for me. Anyway, hardware is in no way my area of expertise so here is what I want to accomplish with your help:

I would like to build an inexpensive NAS to host my media. I would like to build this for about $200 without the hard drives. More is O.K. if there are advantages. I am looking to build this with the intention of a 3TB hard drive with the option to add more as my media collection grows. I really like the Mini ITX cases as they would allow a small footprint. I also am thinking something along the direction of an AMD low consumption MB as it will be running 24/7. The MB's with 6 SATAs seem fitting. I have been searching for a few weeks and have not found what I am looking for. tom's hardware forums have assisted me in MANY projects/fixes in the past so I am confident the geniuses reading this will be able to help.

If you think this is possible, please guide me. If not, please explain why. Thank you and I appreciate any feedback.

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a b B Homebuilt system
February 4, 2013 11:03:01 AM

It is possible, but Mini ITX boards are hard to find. I'd go with a MicroATX minitower. Here is a low wattage build; http://pcpartpicker.com/p/BpZu
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 4, 2013 12:24:52 PM

As hardware is no way your area :)  I recommend looking for a pre-build NAS-Box. There are a bunch out there for 1-4 disks from Synology, QNAP, Thecus and others. Small foot print, low power consumption and so on with warranty. They seem to be a bit expensive in the first place, but Mini ITX boards and cases (for 6 disks?) aren't cheap as well.
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February 4, 2013 12:41:29 PM

It may be worth checking out FreeNAS. www.freenas.org

FreeNAS is a FreeBSD based NAS solution that has minimal hardware requirements while not skimping on the features and functionality. FreeNAS uses either the UFS or ZFS file system, depending on the amount of RAM and if a 32bit/64bit cpu. A 64bit CPU with 1GB of RAM per 1TB of hard drive storage is the rule of thumb for optimal ZFS performance.

As an example, I am running FreeNAS to stream 720/1080 movies over a gigabit connection in my home. The cpu is an old Pentium D 640 with 4GB RAM on a Supermicro PDSME+. FreeNAS is so small that I have it running off of a 8GB Compact Flash Card as the boot drive rather than a full size hard drive. FreeNAS can also run off a USB flash drive as the boot drive! Attached to the mobo is an old 3Ware 8506-12 hardware RAID controller card running 4-2TB drives in RAID5 (4TB total space for movies and videos, 1-2TB drive for hot swap in case of RAID failure), 1-500GB jbod just for mp3's, and 1-500GB jbod drive just for photos and misc files. I also have 1-3TB drive that I use as a back-up for important files/photos, etc. I leave this NAS running 24/7/365 and only occasionally reboot, maybe once every 3 months, just for the heck of it. I have never had OS issues but have run into hard drive failures which are mitigated by having a back up drive. But then again, adequate back up can not be understated...

You do not have to have a dedicated hardware RAID controller, as it just the storage option that I chose to use, given the fact that I had the card from a previous build when putting together my NAS. This is where the number of SATA port on the mobo comes into play and having enough RAM to take advantage of the ZFS (software) RAID options. Yes, ZFS RAID is a software RAID solution but that should not deter you if from using it as it is very robust and reliable.

The issue you will run into isn't the size of the mobo, an ITX mobo will be more than enough providing it meets the cpu and RAM requirements to run FreeNAS. However, you will be limited by the size of the case the ITX mobo fitws into. Specifically, the case will limit the number of drives you can keep attached to the NAS. If 1-3TB drive is enough, then a small case will do what you want, but if you want multiple drives, the a small case will limit you.

IF a BSD based NAS OS doesn't suit you, then check out Ubuntu Server. Also, as mentioned by noidea_77, there are plenty of pre-built NAS linux based solutions on the market if building your own is not an option. A friend of mine has a 4 bay QNAP and it is impressive.

Hope this helps. Good luck!
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February 4, 2013 6:53:23 PM

noidea_77 said:
As hardware is no way your area :)  I recommend looking for a pre-build NAS-Box. There are a bunch out there for 1-4 disks from Synology, QNAP, Thecus and others. Small foot print, low power consumption and so on with warranty. They seem to be a bit expensive in the first place, but Mini ITX boards and cases (for 6 disks?) aren't cheap as well.

I am not sure how much I want to expand it in the future but I want the option. From what I have seen with the pre-built, I will be paying at least double over building my own. More if I want 4 or 6 bays. It is still an option I am considering. Thank you.
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February 4, 2013 7:01:26 PM

chunkymonster said:
It may be worth checking out FreeNAS. www.freenas.org

FreeNAS is a FreeBSD based NAS solution that has minimal hardware requirements while not skimping on the features and functionality. FreeNAS uses either the UFS or ZFS file system, depending on the amount of RAM and if a 32bit/64bit cpu. A 64bit CPU with 1GB of RAM per 1TB of hard drive storage is the rule of thumb for optimal ZFS performance.

As an example, I am running FreeNAS to stream 720/1080 movies over a gigabit connection in my home. The cpu is an old Pentium D 640 with 4GB RAM on a Supermicro PDSME+. FreeNAS is so small that I have it running off of a 8GB Compact Flash Card as the boot drive rather than a full size hard drive. FreeNAS can also run off a USB flash drive as the boot drive! Attached to the mobo is an old 3Ware 8506-12 hardware RAID controller card running 4-2TB drives in RAID5 (4TB total space for movies and videos, 1-2TB drive for hot swap in case of RAID failure), 1-500GB jbod just for mp3's, and 1-500GB jbod drive just for photos and misc files. I also have 1-3TB drive that I use as a back-up for important files/photos, etc. I leave this NAS running 24/7/365 and only occasionally reboot, maybe once every 3 months, just for the heck of it. I have never had OS issues but have run into hard drive failures which are mitigated by having a back up drive. But then again, adequate back up can not be understated...

You do not have to have a dedicated hardware RAID controller, as it just the storage option that I chose to use, given the fact that I had the card from a previous build when putting together my NAS. This is where the number of SATA port on the mobo comes into play and having enough RAM to take advantage of the ZFS (software) RAID options. Yes, ZFS RAID is a software RAID solution but that should not deter you if from using it as it is very robust and reliable.

The issue you will run into isn't the size of the mobo, an ITX mobo will be more than enough providing it meets the cpu and RAM requirements to run FreeNAS. However, you will be limited by the size of the case the ITX mobo fitws into. Specifically, the case will limit the number of drives you can keep attached to the NAS. If 1-3TB drive is enough, then a small case will do what you want, but if you want multiple drives, the a small case will limit you.

IF a BSD based NAS OS doesn't suit you, then check out Ubuntu Server. Also, as mentioned by noidea_77, there are plenty of pre-built NAS linux based solutions on the market if building your own is not an option. A friend of mine has a 4 bay QNAP and it is impressive.

Hope this helps. Good luck!


Very helpful and informative. Your setup is what I want to eventually end up with. What do you think of TheN00bBuilder's build? I think it is exactly what I'm looking for and what I came here for. Do you think the RAM will be sufficient? Can I add more to that setup? I will be starting with simply a 3TB then later add another two and convert it. I need a storage solution immediately but am not able to currently afford the other two drives. I am not worried if later I have to get a new case. There is a small chance I will start off with three drives. Thank you.
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February 6, 2013 1:39:25 PM

db00 said:
What do you think of TheN00bBuilder's build? I think it is exactly what I'm looking for and what I came here for. Do you think the RAM will be sufficient? Can I add more to that setup?
Yes, the recommended build would be enough for a basic NAS. The RAM is sufficient. Just remember if you use a software RAID solution (like ZFS RAID), the rule of thumb is 1GB RAM for every 1TB of storage.

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February 12, 2013 3:17:03 AM

Best answer selected by db00.
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