Building a NAS

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Building a NAS

22-240-010-03As houses get multiple computers, we start using them for more things, and as we find more and more media files to keep around, it starts to make sense to look at a NAS, or Network Attached Storage.

For me, a NAS has made sense for some time. I don’t like having backup drives hanging off of each computer in the house, and sometimes you want access to files that are on one computer only. Instead, I like to have one backup location, and one location for saving shared files. Then all the music and video can get saved to one central location. I like having a storage system that is attached to the network via ethernet.

ReadyNASWhen I build my first NAS there were not the options we have today. Today, devices like the ReadyNAS, and the Drobo exist, but they still seem expensive for what you get. I did a survey of them in August. The pluses of those devices are lower power, and simplicity. The disadvantages seem to be cost and flexibility. So this series will be on building a NAS powered by Linux.

First, many people have a machine that could be used. For the purposes of this series, I will be looking for a machine that can use 4 drives. One CD-Rom to install the OS, one drive of any size or type (PATA, SATA) to hold the OS, and two more drives for the data. The data will be stored on a Linux software raid 1 array, forming a mirror. We will get into that much later.

Foxconn MotherboardAnyway, my current box had failed. At one point I had a box that could only take PATA drives, so I added a SATA card. That is one way to go with older hardware, but I will not need it this time. My case, power supply, CD-ROM (actually a DVD, but it doesn’t matter unless you want to try creating backups onto DVDs) all work fine. What I need is a new motherboard, CPU, and memory. You may not need all three, but I usually update all three at once. This way you know they all work. Notice I did not mention video card, network card, or sound card? I don’t need sound on this box, and I will just look for a motherboard with built in video and Ethernet (they usually come with sound anyway). After a little searching on New Egg, this is what I came up with:

Total for the above: $140.97. Ok, I need to fess up. I kinda goofed on ordering the memory. I had a few different motherboards and memory kits in my saved list, and I picked the wrong one when I went to purchase. I don’t need the 1066 memory to go with this motherboard and CPU, but it won’t cause the box to catch fire and burn up at least 🙂 I could have saved a little bit more with PC-800, but oh well.

This motherboard has on board video, on board Gigabit Ethernet, 4 SATA connections, and 1 PATA conector (that you can attach 2 devices), so I can use my old DVD and OS drive. The CPU is not the fastest on the planet, but I picket it because at 45 watts, it is one of the cooler running CPU’s I could buy new. The memory, like I said was a bit of a mix up, but I went with 2 gig. That is overkill for a NAS. Sort of. It depends what you intend to run. In the past, I have run a desktop, and MythTV on this box too. When they were running with Samba, NFS, CVS, and Apache, I was running out of free memory with 1 gig, so to be safe, I went with 2. It will only cost you $20-$30 for¬†2 gig. With this box and this series I am only looking at running the file serving services, but you never know…

Hard DriveOk, one last purchase. The drives. I am going to mirror 2 terrabyte drives. I went with the green drives from Western Digital. I had been using Seagate drives because of their 3 year warranties, but the green drives sounded appealing. I bought them a few months ago. 2 for $200. It was a deal then, about average now.

Assembling this is pretty easy. There are lots of tutorials that will go into more details, but I found even the documentation that came with the CPU and the motherboard to be not too bad. Here is an article on building computers. A couple of things to note: First, don’t use too much conductive heat paste between the CPU and the fan. If you buy a retail AMD CPU like the one above, it actually comes with some stuff already applied to the fan, and you can just use that. I usually scrape that off and use arctic silver. Second, the CPU’s are in a metal case now, and you don’t need to be quite so paranoid about crushing them with the fan. I say this because it will seem like you need a lot of pressure with the little lever to lock it down. Don’t worry, it will be fine. (likely) Third, I would insert the CPU and memory into the motherboard before putting it in the case, but others don’t. I set the motherboard on the static bag it came with, then some of the cardboard packaging it came with. Fourth, don’t forget to use a static strap, or make sure you ground yourself before touching anything. Have fun.

Series NavigationDeciding on the NAS Software