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Thread: Building a low-cost storage machine

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    Question Building a low-cost storage machine

    I've got a two-disk Synology server, which is starting to get full. I've got an old Chieftec case sitting next to me which is empty. And built like a tank. So I'm thinking it would make sense to consider building a very low-cost NAS machine with expandable storage simply to act as long-term bulk storage, while I use the convenience of the Synology server for handling downloads, temporary stuff, FTP, etc.

    I've not kept up to date with components for a while, so am not sure where to start looking in order to build a low cost, low wattage, low noise system. I expect I'll put freeNAS on it, or suchlike. Ideally, I'd like to run it passively (or at the very least, with a modicum of airflow). The Chieftec case only accepts 80mm fans, so if I do need a bit of airflow, I'd rather use a very quiet psu and tape up all the empty case exhaust fan spaces.

    Can anyone help spec me a system? I don't think RAID capability is necessary (just drives up cost, and none of the data is critical - anything irreplaceable is mirrored either on my compuyer or on the Synology box, or backed up on dvd) and it just needs to run freeNAS (or something similarly simple).

    It also needs to be, in order of priority:

    - low cost (obviously money will be spent on hard drives, but I want the components as cheap as possible)
    - low wattage/low noise (I figured these two go together as a system that draws less power will produce less heat, needing less cooling).

    Many thanks in advance.

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Will you consider used components? You should be able to bag a bargain on used PIII servers or parts on eBay or the wanted section here to build a NAS server. This fulfills your requirements of low cost and power consumption, you could also easily get away with running the lot passively. (plus less headaches when it comes to compatibility too)

    Just bung in a new PSU, several HDDs and PCI controller card(s) and done!

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Quote Originally Posted by DDY View Post
    Will you consider used components? You should be able to bag a bargain on used PIII servers or parts on eBay or the wanted section here to build a NAS server. This fulfills your requirements of low cost and power consumption, you could also easily get away with running the lot passively. (plus less headaches when it comes to compatibility too)

    Just bung in a new PSU, several HDDs and PCI controller card(s) and done!
    With a P3 machine there will not be native USB2.0 support, and the power usage aren't as good as you think it is. You'll need a SATA card, USB2.0 card, Gigabit ethernet card and that also adds up to something. Also a P3 underclocked to the speed to run passively would be quite slow.

    I would just suggest getting a Eee Box and perhaps a USB2.0 hub and just hook up all the harddrives you needed. Or just get another NAS, or replace the hdd in your Synology to a bigger one. Does the Synology not support USB harddrive add-on?

    If you do go the DIY route I would suggest a cheap Athlon 64 single core (these can run passive at stock speed undervolted).
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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    I gave an old ex-office Dell 800MHz PIII server to a friend for file serving duties, I replaced the heatsink and the shroud with an averaged sized Socket A heatsink and left the rear 80mm case fan to do the rest. I installed a cheap 4 port PCI SATA card and four 500GB SATA HDDs, all running off a modified 300W Seasonic PSU.

    It's pretty much silent, it runs NASLite off a CD.

    Oh, I might of missed something but why does the NAS Server need USB 2.0?

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Quote Originally Posted by DDY View Post
    Will you consider used components? You should be able to bag a bargain on used PIII servers or parts on eBay
    Thanks for the suggestion - and having taken a quick look on ebay, there's a lot of obsolete stuff on there. Some of it at silly prices. I'm not too convinced by a PIII though - I used to have a PIII @ 500MHz back in the day, and quiet it was not. I have seen passive PIII slot 1 CPUs on ebay, but of course, of that era they need feeding with SDRAM. And I've just found that I've got a couple of sticks of PC2700 DDR RAM that I should use if possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by arthurleung View Post
    With a P3 machine there will not be native USB2.0 support, and the power usage aren't as good as you think it is. You'll need a SATA card, USB2.0 card, Gigabit ethernet card and that also adds up to something. Also a P3 underclocked to the speed to run passively would be quite slow.

    I would just suggest getting a Eee Box and perhaps a USB2.0 hub and just hook up all the harddrives you needed. Or just get another NAS, or replace the hdd in your Synology to a bigger one. Does the Synology not support USB harddrive add-on?

    If you do go the DIY route I would suggest a cheap Athlon 64 single core (these can run passive at stock speed undervolted).
    I don't really want to go down the route of separate external USB hard drives - too many boxes, too many transformers, too many power points needed. A premade NAS with lots of expandability (i.e. 4 bays or more) is seriously expensive. Replacing the hdd in the Synology sounds simple but means finding somewhere to put the data while the drive swap is carried out. An Athlon 64 undervolted sounds interesting - when you say these run passive, do you mean with a stock cooler, or something rather more exotic (and expensive!)?

    Quote Originally Posted by DDY View Post
    Oh, I might of missed something but why does the NAS Server need USB 2.0?
    I don't know. I need SATA connectivity, which in the case of old hardware would be provided by a PCI controller card. I need keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports, VGA connection, ethernet connection (everything on my network is gigabit, except the trusty Linksys WRT54G router, so gigabit isn't essential), PATA for optical drive, and potentially USB to attach a card reader to load freeNAS on an old CF or SD card.

    Thanks for the replies, further advice much appreciated.

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    As long as the case fan is moving small amount of air, a low end Athlon 64 can run passive on stock heatsink, provided you reduced voltage to lowest (Usually 1.1V). Some motherboard can do as low as 0.8V, I've found my Athlon 64 to be able to run at 0.95V at stock speed.

    I suggested USB2.0 for connecting things like USB flash disk (either for transferring data or for installing OS). I had a P3 server which without USB2.0 was quite annoying when I need to copy large amount of data quickly.

    If you want to swap disk on your Synology, the easiest way is:
    1. Connect the larger HDD to your computer, perhaps a USB caddy.
    2. Copy data from Synology to USB HDD
    3. Break the Synology array
    4. Copy data from USB HDD to the removed harddrives from Synology
    5. Put new drive in the Synology and build array
    6. Copy data back into the Synology.

    It will take quite a lot of time (probably 2~3 days of waiting, but not much user input is required) but is probably cheaper than getting a new server.
    Or you have the option of getting another Synology, build array, copy data over, and sell the old one. (Save a couple of steps)
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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    What kind of budget are we talking here anyway?

    For e.g. you could get a 'home server' bundle for £117.90 from linitx.com that would more than do the job.
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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    You might want to look at getting something like this
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Product.aspx?W...TX...See+Info+

    Stick some spare RAM in there (or get a gig brand new for £12) and you have everything you need to get started, including CPU, gigE, VGA, USB2 etc. Chuck a PCI card in if you need more than 4 SATA + 1 PATA HDD. Dob an old CPU heatsink onto the northbridge if you want to go fanless. I was close to impulse-buying one and starting in on the old A-Open tower case in my cupboard but then my spare PC started acting up and is now in bits all over the study floor and taking up all my patience

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Another vote for a cheap Athlon64 box here. Those Atom boards look like nice toys, but I think 58 quid is too much if you are looking for cheap rather than small.

    Get a CPU for 19 quid and you have about 40 quid left to get a microATX mobo, and you should be able to get something with gigabit ethernet for that much. You also swap a small buzzy chipset fan on the atom board for a big lazy CPU fan on the A64.

    A board like this?

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Why not stick a TB onto one of your Synology boxes via USB or ESata (depending on the model you have)
    ?

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    Re: Building a low-cost storage machine

    Quote Originally Posted by b0ned0me View Post
    You might want to look at getting something like this
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Product.aspx?WebProductId=847366&Product=Gigabyte+GA-GC230D(Atom)%2c+i945GC%2c+Built+in+with+an+Intel+Atom+230+CPU+(1.6GHz)%2c+Mini+ITX...See+Info+

    Stick some spare RAM in there (or get a gig brand new for £12) and you have everything you need to get started, including CPU, gigE, VGA, USB2 etc. Chuck a PCI card in if you need more than 4 SATA + 1 PATA HDD. Dob an old CPU heatsink onto the northbridge if you want to go fanless. I was close to impulse-buying one and starting in on the old A-Open tower case in my cupboard but then my spare PC started acting up and is now in bits all over the study floor and taking up all my patience
    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    Another vote for a cheap Athlon64 box here. Those Atom boards look like nice toys, but I think 58 quid is too much if you are looking for cheap rather than small.

    Get a CPU for 19 quid and you have about 40 quid left to get a microATX mobo, and you should be able to get something with gigabit ethernet for that much. You also swap a small buzzy chipset fan on the atom board for a big lazy CPU fan on the A64.

    A board like this?
    Cheers guys - that Atom board when I first saw it I thought "bingo! that's what I've been looking for!". But those AMD Athlons are sooo cheap. And generally have more SATA ports on the motherboards.

    The way I see plus and minus points of each:

    Atom board:
    + more energy efficient
    + all in one solution
    + only has a 20pin ATX connector, which is what my old Chieftec PSU has
    - up front price quite high
    - fixed configuration, only two SATA

    Athlon 64 solution:
    + more horsepower?
    + choice of motherboards, more SATA
    + cheaper for the components themselves...
    - ...but needing a 24pin ATX connector means shelling out for a new PSU
    - and either undervolting the CPU or spending money on a large passive CPU cooler



    Oh decisions decisions! At least it's not urgent - I've been through the contents of my Synology and just deleted stuff I decided I don't want to keep, which has liberated a fair few gigs. I'll probably not need to start on my home-made NAS for a couple of months now, but would like to get a firm idea of where to start.

    Can anyone suggest the cheapest AM2 board that would do what I need (which isn't a lot as it's a NAS box - just a basic chipset, rock solid stable and with as many SATA as possible since this avoids shelling out for a controller card!)?

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