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162 posts

Master Geek

Lifetime subscriber

#92550 1-Nov-2011 13:02

Hi team,

Due to increasing amount of my media being stored in HD formats I am thinking about building a file server and would like to know if any of you have previous experience.  Ideally I would like around 10tb of storage to start with, but may expand in future.   The server would primarily be used as a headless PVR/file share, most likely with either XBMC installed. 

So I am thinking about running 5 or so 2tb drives in a RAID 1 array, but I want advice on what sort of controller/cpu/ram I would require.  Would it be best to go for a dedicated raid card or would onboard suffice?  I don't really have anything in the pipeline as yet so am completely open to suggestions.

Budget of around $1500 though could be flexible....


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4064 posts

Uber Geek


  #540034 1-Nov-2011 20:11
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LOL. double your budget from last week - spinning disk prices have shot through the roof since the floowing in thailand!

seriously though, you could look at the windows home server stuff, if you like integration, or go ahead and build your own multi-protocol box doing cifs/smb (windows), vfs, dlna streaming, ftp etc.

If you're creating a RAID-1 array, you're only using 2 disks. so with -6- 2TB drives you would have 3 x RAID-1 arrays with a total useable space of 6TB (6TB lost to the mirror).

you can dabble with RAID-5 or RAID-6 but recovery can be an issue if you lose hardware components, so i'd recommend sticking with RAID-1.

its hard to find decent chassis for hosting more than 6HDDs, so if you're thinking about expanding then you might want to take that into account. Perhaps 3 x 2disk Raid-1 networked units might be a better option? Or a Thecus pre-built NAS box which takes 2 disks and does RAID-5 (some other members here use thecus units with success, i believe)


lots more to consider/suggest.... lets start there :D


You will find anything you want at MightyApe (affiliate link).

162 posts

Master Geek

Lifetime subscriber

#541194 4-Nov-2011 15:33

Thanks for the input Regs.  I've found some drives to tide me over for now so this project is on hold for now.

640 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #541281 4-Nov-2011 18:55
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Yup, my FreeNAS project is on hold now. That'll teach me not to buy the drives the night I decide to press ahead with the project!

26605 posts

Uber Geek


  #541437 5-Nov-2011 13:06
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My experiance with cheap drives in raid-5 has been horrific, always failing and needing resyncing, drives all testing fine on their own but then bailing during the resync.

Might be better with a hardware or a "hardware" raid 5 card vs the inbuilt windows one, but I dont really like being tied to a particular controller card. Im just regually dragging in the USB drives and backing up after adding media to the library before I delete it off of downloading boxes. Can then send those drives offsite when I want to make another offsite backup on someone elses computer ;)


1333 posts

Uber Geek

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  #541452 5-Nov-2011 14:17
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I have a headless fileserver set up as follows:

i5 2500k with 16GB memory
5x 2TB Samsung HD204UI in RaidZ2
1x 300GB drive
2x Icy Dock MB453SPF - 3 disk 2 bay Storage drive cage - 3.5
Vmware ESXi 4.1
1x Freenas 8 VM (HDD devices are raw mapped)
1x Windows Server 2008R2 VM (Terminal Server/web server/online and local backup manager)

This setup reads and writes around 100MB/s over the network and between VM's.

Because I run from a home office, this is also linked in with a Pre-Eden release of an XBMC Live Zotac Ion box.

I would recommend this, and it is pretty easy to set up too.


367 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #544518 12-Nov-2011 10:30
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Regarding cases that hold lots of drives. Here's a good one. The Fractal R3.

Holds upto 8HDD's, has amazing Cooling & Cable Management while remaining quiet. :)


1332 posts

Uber Geek
Inactive user

  #544565 12-Nov-2011 13:07
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I've built an unRAID server ( which is the perfect solution for my storage needs.

I used an Antec case and it has 4GB RAM, i3, and a SuperMicro motherboard as well as a 650W PSU. Attached to the motherboard are two PCI SATA expanders and all the SATA ports are connected to four 5x3 IcyDock cages.

It will fit a total of twenty HDDs when it is full but only has four 3TB drives at present. The downside is that the unRAID software requires a single drive as large or larger than the largest drive for parity. I plan to continue expanding the storage space as I need it but have only archived ~6TB of media as yet.

It can sustain a single simultaneous disk failure and recover all data but if you lose two or more at the same time it will lose the data stored on those disks.

It runs monthly S.M.A.R.T. tests and I am able to monitor HDD temperature so the likelihood of even a single disk failing without me noticing beforehand is next to nothing.

Additionally, it is possible to run your own software as unRAID is a sawn off version of Slackware. I know that the Transmission Bittorrent client and the SABnzbd+/Sickbeard software combination run. There is also an early release of the Plex Media Server built natively for unRAID which I use for home media. It is able to stream to three (as many as I have) devices simultaneously with one being HD. I have heard reports of it streaming five HD streams at once but haven't been able to test that.

I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a home media storage solution.

1622 posts

Uber Geek

  #550051 25-Nov-2011 16:11
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I'm a storage bod by trade ... so I went for an idiot proof power-up and forget solution :-)

Just buy a NAS device, fill it with disks, and leave it alone .. easy peasy!

The one I got was a Thecus N4200Pro, put in 4 * 2TB Western Digital WD20EARS drives, configured it as RAID-5, hooked up my existing USB drives to the back of it for local "rsync" backups and away it goes.

Performance wise it gets 102MB/s write speed via gigabit, could get more out of it if I had a switch that supported LACP or EtherChannel .. and a computer with more NICs.

In terms of specification it is :

1.8Ghz Dual core Atom
4GB RAM (OK I caved and upgraded that bit .. just because I had a stick spare)
6 * USB 2.0
2 * USB 3.0
2 * eSATA
2 * Gigabit
And teeny tiny power supply so it sips cents rather than guzzle dollars :-) 

software for it is a bit rough, but since I only use it for sharing via CIFS, AFP and NFS I'm not bothered .. it'll do all the Twonky, iTunes, printer server things but not needed for me so they're all turned off. 

Much easier than DIY in my opinion ... and you have someone to log support calls with if it goes wrong. 

258 posts

Ultimate Geek
Inactive user

  #550067 25-Nov-2011 16:36
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I too have a unraid server! works great, ATM im just using p4 3.2Ghz CPU, but thats more then enough. I have 2 x 2TB drives and place to get another one when they come down. Im planing a larger version, but this will a slow build. I recommend unraid!

310 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #553655 4-Dec-2011 19:32
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I went through this recently and finally decided on the following:

HP Proliant N40L microserver (only supports RAID 0/1/JBOD using onboard I/O controller but has 2xhalf height/length PCIe slots so you could add a HW RAID card)
Upgraded the 250Gb HDD to 4xWD 2TB Green drives (these are expensive now)
Upgraded the 2gb RAM to 8gb RAM
Running FreeNAS 8.0.2 off a 4Gb USB flash drive I had lying around
Drives in a ZFS RAIDZ1 (giving me 1 drive redundancy and 5.2Tb of usable space - basically software RAID5)

Raw I/O speeds on the server: 150Mb/s write & 280Mb/s read
Speeds via CIFS (SMB) from my windows machine - approx 90Mb/s (saturating the gigabit lan speeds I have - which I tested with iPerf)

Q6600 @ 3.2Ghz (400x8) | GA-X38-DQ6 | 4Gb Corsair Dominator@800Mhz 4-4-4-12 | HIS HD5870 | Creative X-fi Fatality Pro | 2xWD SATAII Caviar Black 640Gb / 1xSeagate SATAII 7200.12 1000Gb | 2xASUS IDE DVDRW | Silverstone OP1000 PSU | Silverstone TJ09 Case

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