Self-Built NAS Recommendations - Network Attached Storage



Having previously bought a dedicate 2 Bay NAS, it worked out ok for awhile, but now the NAS’s limited transfer speed is killing me, and the UPNP media server isn’t that great, and occasionally the UPNP server is interrupted, and etc/etc.

So I’ve decided to upgrade, and given the 2 years since the original NAS purchase, CPU’s have taken great strides, HDD’s have taken great strides, DLNA has taken great strides, Gigabit is now pretty much standard I’d have expected the NAS manufacturers would have taken great strides and greatly improved their offerings.

Ha! I really am a spring chicken. Current NAS offerings are generally the same products that were offered 2 years ago, or lower spec’d versions for cheaper. Urgh.

Given that transfer rates on these pre-manufactured NAS are quite poor, even internally, and standard PC’s with even old CPU’s can drive HDD’s at almost their full rated speed, I’ve decided to build my own NAS box, using FreeNAS, based on pretty much off-the shelf PC parts, which are relatively cheap, and some possibly lying around (ie DDR2 ram/optical drives).

Has anyone got any recommendations for the following:

[li]Low Power CPU/Motherboard/IGP graphics combination with at least 6 SATA ports.[/li][li]Case with side mounted HDD bays or lots of front accessible HDD bays - at least 6 HDD bays, and lots of ventilation.[/li][li]High Efficiency & Low Rating PSU.[/li][/ul]
If possible, I’d like to keep the guts of the system below 60W, excluding HDD’s, although, if I can keep idle power below 30W continuously, with occasional peaks for access, it would be acceptable.

Should I wait for intels new I3’s with inbuilt Graphics?
Hmm … intel + new = uber-expensive.


Would you be willing to buy a 1gb or 2gb stick of DDR3?, this would atleast let you upgrade the CPU down the line. Getting a DDR2 MB would eliminate a lot of cpu possibilities for the future. FreeNAS shouldn’t have a problem running with 1GB of ram?


So starting with DDR2:

MSI 785GTM-E45 AM3/AM2+/AM2 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $70
SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W ATX12V V2.31 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified $39
AMD Sempron 140 Sargas 2.7GHz Socket AM3 45W Single-Core $36 with the possibility to unlock the second core.
AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor 2.8GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core $59

edit: FreeNAS will run on as little as 256mb ram.
And here is a DDR3 build:

ASUS M4A785T-M/CSM AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
AMD Sempron 140 Sargas 2.7GHz Socket AM3 45W Single-Core
Crucial 1GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W ATX12V V2.31 80 PLUS BRONZ
Thermaltake Element S VK60001N2Z Black SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Not many cases meet your criteria, but this one is pretty darn nice I think.
DDR3 build totals $308. I think the single core cpu is best to keep power consumption down.


Upgrading isn’t really a concern, and DDR3 should be fine.
For a simple linux based file server, I honestly doubt more than 256MB is required. But 1GB is fine :wink:
The real concern is Power & a well ventilated case with easily accessible drives. I was considering ITX, but am not really sure whether these chips are widely available (and hence cost effective), and case choice is rather limited, and generally extremely compact - certainly not with heaps of HDD’s bays.


ITX doesn’t meet your needs for SATA support.

Its up to you if you want to use a Seasonic PSU and some Molex to SATA adapters since there are only 4 SATA connectors on the low wattage units. An alternative is the CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W, which has 6 SATA connectors.

I updated my above post with a DDR3 build and case.

edit: Also even though the Atom based CPU/MB combo’s would use the least power consumption, between cost, sata ports, cpu power, the AMD Athlon setup would win.


Thanks for the Tips Eric.

I’ll make a list of parts I have, research power consumption, cases & etc, and ponder the best course of action in the next few days :slight_smile:


If you want good experience I’d highly recommend you to go for an Intel platform mainly because Intel chipsets are much better supported in FreeBSD 7.2 (that would be FreeNAS 0.7) than ATi/AMD chipsets not to mention Intel NICs unless you want to use FreeBSD 8.0 which is a fully featured OS. You might also think how many drives you want, if you want more than 5 in the long run go for a motherboard which has a PCIe 8x slot that is usable with onboard graphics (I’m not sure if Q45 based motherboards supports it) and buy a SuperMicro AOC-USAS-L8i or a SuperMicro AOC-USASLP-L8i which are darn cheap for good performance 8-port controller cards while they’re available at a low price. FreeNAS will probably run on 256Mb RAM with subpar performance, if you want to use ZFS you need at least 2Gb (4Gb is highly recommended)…
I’ve setup a few NAS / File servers using FreeBSD 8.0 and ZFS and they perform very well =)


Hey welcome back Danne :slight_smile:

The intel solution adds so much cost with the add-on card. Too bad they don’t have inexpensive boards with 6 SATA device support. I checked the freenas forums and their are people using 785G boards so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Debro, I guess if the NIC performance doesn’t meet your expectations an add-on card for ~$20 should do the trick.


Huh? The addon card is need no matter what motherboard you use if you want more than 6 drives in total and as for AMD chipsets I can already tell you now that they will perform worse and Intel LAN (which is included on Q platforms (Q35, Q45 etc) performs much better than Realtek. To clairfy, AMD aren’t bad but FreeBSD 7.2 doesn’t have great support while 8.0 have much better…

I can tell you right now that my friends Q35 chipset setup gets about 30-40mbyte/s better performance on a RAID-Z array (4 HDDs) compared to my AMD computer (HDD performance). It might be more, I don’t remember exactly but I can look it up if you want to :wink:

A Q45 board is 90 bucks over at newegg

Add a Dual-Core CPU (it will be handy if needed otherwise just enable EIST)

This PSU is a bargain

As for memory I wouldn’t go below 2Gb if you want serious (decent) performance.


That’s some solid advice Danne. I hope Debro doesn’t have issues like those geniuses on Newegg had :eek: LOL, no IDE connector the sky is falling. But it does have an Intel LAN and six SATA connectors like he wanted, he will be able to re-use a stick of DDR2 as well. I would suggest to go with the Intel Celeron E3200 instead of the E3300, with the $10 saved you could buy a jumbo burrito or a tube of AS5. Personally I would stick with Seasonic or the 400W corsair, but thats up to you.


At least FreeBSD comes with memory stick images nowdays, not sure if FreeNAS does… =)


I have serious concerns about ongoing power usage for the above configurations.

A quicky comparison:

I think I might end up going with the ION platform with Atom330 to minimise power. The chips above are overclocked … the atom 330 is a dual core 1.6Ghz chip.

At about 30W @24/7 -> it’ll chew up about $70au (plus HDD’s) worth of power @ double current electricity costs.
A standard ATX style, full power CPU, system is likely to chew up more than 3-4x that, which will easily cover the difference in costs within a few months, even assuming I got the system for free …

I’m considering the POV ION330-1 motherboard & CPU for about $250au ($225US):

It has 5x Sata onboard + 1x Esata + a PCI slot, with everything on board.
A cheap Sata PCI card can get me an extra 2x Sata ports & maybe an IDE port(?) and I’m pretty sure I have at least one of those lying around somewhere …
The Gigabit ethernet is a realtek, but this isn’t a mission critical application that requires 125MB/s, and the HDD’s will be standalone anyway, not raid 1 or raid 5.

The ITX form factor shares the same plugs as an ATX power supply (except a -5V pin), and a subset of atx standard mounting holes are compatible with the ITX standard, so I can use a standard ATX case with it (probably).

I’ve got a old coolermaster centurion 5 (R1) which hopefully has the right mobo mounting holes, and an old 330W PSU sitting around (non 80+, but probably still OK). I’ve also got a tiny 40GB 5400rpm 2.5" HDD sitting around in my draws … so it might prove interesting. Alternately, I have a IDE to CF adapter sitting around, so I could get an 8GB or 16GB CF card to install freenas … decisions, decisions …

Wish me luck :wink:


So for a 785G and Athlon 1400 (single core), review on newegg where people used a kill-a-watt meter, some had servers and others unlocked the second core. One guy said unlocking the second core increased the power draw by 10-15W. One guy with the second core unlocked and the cpu undervolted to 1.05V had it using 49W idle and 66W loaded, so it would be a lot less if it were just the single core. So just to point out their are a lot of factors because people aren’t stating their whole system, the PSU also comes into play because some are very inefficient at light loads. Another person with a home server says it idles at 60W, so again we don’t know how many HDD’s he has. Another person states 58.5W at full load. Another states 50W at idle with 2 HDD’s.

Theirs the potential to undervolt the cpu, lower the IGP speed (and voltage) and setup MB power saving features like cool and quiet.

The ION will probably still use a little less power but it will not perform as well I don’t think.


[QUOTE=debro;2485930]I think I might end up going with the ION platform with Atom330 to minimise power. The chips above are overclocked … the atom 330 is a dual core 1.6Ghz chip.[/quote] This will only work correctly if FreeNAS can actually use the energy saving settings of that mobo. I don’t think it should be a problem though.

I have a FreeNAS running on an old Compaq P3 900 MHz, 100Mbit onboard NIC, 10 GB IDE boot disk (gonna change that to a CF type II card in the near future), 500 GB IDE storage disk. Runs perfectly (hosting website, ftp server, torrent, upnp xbox 360 720p movies and backup is no problem) and saves energy by enabling all the applicable power settings when not in use.

I’ve also got a tiny 40GB 5400rpm 2.5" HDD sitting around in my draws … so it might prove interesting. Alternately, I have a IDE to CF adapter sitting around, so I could get an 8GB or 16GB CF card to install freenas
A 1 GB CF should be more than enough. Just check if your CF and your CF adapter are compatible with each other’s speed and type (I , II, etc).


ION (and Atom CPUs) will perform quite poorly due to performance and you’ll very likely have compatibility issues especially with FreeNAS using nVidia chipsets and given their earlier track record I wouldn’t even touch nVidia…
Intel EIST etc works well in FreeBSD but I’m not so sure with AMDs/nVidias counterparts. might be interesting to read (much of it doesn’t work in FreeBSD 7.2)


Well … Eventually after all the hullaballoo, I ended up with the HP MicroServer N36L (now Superseded by the N40L), for a lowly $230au … cheap :slight_smile:

The Unit came with …

Dual Core AMD Neo II 1.3Ghz
4x 3.5" Serial-Scsi / Sata(2)/3000 (not hot pluggable)
1x 5.25" Bay with 1x Sata(2)/3000
1x E-Sata (Sata(2)/3000)
4x Front USB2, 2x Rear USB2
1x PCI-E (x16) [low-height] expansion slot, 1x PCI-E (X1) [low-height] slot expansion slot.
Also came with a 250GB HDD, which I’ve promptly whipped out …

I dug out an old 1GB USB stick, after a bad start with Freenas7 embedded, I installed freenas 7 [6694] (full), worked out a few issues (upnp db access problems), and everything is now working fine.

I’m currently running 3x mixed 2TB HDD’s, and 1x 1TB HDD … and working fine.

SMB access gets me 20-35MB/s read/write (starts at 20MB, stabilizes at a sustained 35MB/s after 45 seconds).

FTP gets me 65-75MB/s.

I can ssh into the box, if I really want.

Seems to work great, the CPU cores are generally running at 100Mhz, when the box is mostly idle.

The room is no longer 15degC warmer than the rest of the house…


Awesome! thanks for keeping us posted. So how many watts does it draw? :slight_smile:


Peaks at 97W during boot (all 4x HDDs spinning).
34W while idle (my meter doesn’t have a minimum setting, so it’s just the least I saw in a period of about 30s after I’d been out for a few hours).
37W while streaming SD (1x HDD running, I guess).
41W while conducting FTP transfers from the unit.