To be honest, I’ve not built, technically assembled, a computer in over six years. I used to build all of my own computers when Windows was my primary operating system and I was developing a lot of Windows applications. Back then it made sense to build your own because it was more cost-effective. These days, unless you’re a gamer or have very unique desires, it’s way cheaper (and less frustrating) to go to a big box store and buy off-the-shelf or order online.
Like I said in my last post, the reason to build this is to understand my solution and learn something. Additionally, aesthetically I want this to look more like a stereo component than a box on my desk or another computer tower on the floor. So on to the parts list.
I should mention now that I was not trying to build this cheaper than an off-the-shelf NAS. So if you’re going to do this and money is an issue, I’d strongly advise just ordering a pre-built NAS from an online store. You’ll probably save money and tons of time (which is money) and frustration. While I did do a little bit of comparison shopping, I ended up ordering most of the parts from Amazon to take advantage of Amazon Prime shipping (free 2-day shipping).
If you have an old or unused computer (of the wintel variety), that’s a good place to start your build. I acquired an unused HP xw4400 workstation for free with the following specs:
- Intel motherboard w/ NH82801GR/SL8FY chipset:
- Intel Core 2 Duo @ 1.8 GHz, 800 MHz front-side bus, 2MB L2 cache
- 1.5 GB RAM (DDR2/667MHz)
- 82801GR/GH SATA RAID controller w/ 4 SATA ports
- Gigabit Ethernet
- A dual port video card
- DVD optical drive (only needed for install)
- 80GB SATA disk (not needed)
- 460W Power Supply, Chassis Fan and SATA cable
That’s plenty of hardware for a FreeNAS build which requires a minimum of only 128MB RAM. So now to fill the hardware gaps…
I want my NAS solution to look more like a stereo component than a typical computer or NAS device. I bought a SilverStone LC10S Aluminum Front Panel ATX/Micro ATX Computer Case (Silver) for $85.49. It has four 3.5″ bays to hold the hard drives, but cooling may become an issue even though it has front and rear chassis fans.
Next, instead of using a spinning hard drive to boot the FreeNAS operating system, I found this link which utilizes a Compact Flash card as the boot disk. This is a good solution because a normal hard drive can fail and uses more power and generates more heat. You can also boot from the LiveCD or a USB keychain drive. FreeNAS basically loads the operating system into RAM and only needs a writable drive to store configuration files. In order to get the BIOS to recognize the Compact Flash card, I’d also need an IDE-to-CF adapter. I bought the Syba Ultra Adapter Dual IDE 40/44PIN To Compact Flash for $13.98 and the smallest, cheapest Compact Flash card I could find in two minutes, TRANSCEND 2GB Compact Flash Card for $17.29. 2GB is way overkill considering FreeNAS only needs 32MB, but whatever, I was in a meeting when I ordered these two parts!
The hard drives that I’ll use in a RAID5 configuration were the easiest parts to select. I went with the Western Digital Caviar Green 1 TB Hard Drive 3.5″ for $79.99 each. I ordered five of them—four will be used in the array and one will be a spare that I’ll keep in case I encounter a drive failure. I went with the WD Caviar Green because it’s an efficient drive that uses less power and runs cool and quiet. To connect the drives, I got three Tripp Lite P940-19I Serial ATA (SATA) Signal Cable (19 Inches) at $9.00 each. The fourth cable is from the donor machine.
To handle the removable drive component of my plan, I needed to get a FireWire card since the Intel motherboard from the donor machine does not have FireWire built-in. It does have built-in USB, which will be handy, but I wanted a bit more speed for the replication. I got the Allegro 3PORT Firewire 400/800 Pci Card for $64.78.
Here’s the list of the components with totals:
|Donor Machine: Intel chipset w/ Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz, 1.5GB RAM, 460W Power Supply, DVD optical drive, GigE, 4x SATA RAID||1||0.00||0.00|
|SilverStone LC10S Aluminum Front Panel ATX/Micro ATX Computer Case (Silver)||1||85.49||85.49|
|Syba Ultra Adapter Dual IDE 40/44PIN To Compact Flash||1||13.98||13.98|
|Allegro 3PORT Firewire 400/800 Pci Card||1||64.78||64.78|
|TRANSCEND 2GB Compact Flash Card||1||17.29||17.29|
|Western Digital Caviar Green 1 TB Hard Drive 3.5″||5||79.99||399.95|
|Tripp Lite P940-19I Serial ATA (SATA) Signal Cable (19 Inches)||3||9.00||27.00|
So there’s the parts list we need for the build. Next up, I’ll build this thing. Stay tuned…