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sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:33 pm

Hello friends welcome to Sam's NAS Project Thread.

So to begin .... The entire NAS experience would be divided in to three big parts.

1. Introduction and Comparison
2. Quintessential Features of NAS
3. Online Access and Security.

@@@@@@@@@@ - PART 1 :: Introduction and Comparison - @@@@@@@@@@

I have been working on my NAS project for a pretty long time now, and though it was up and running a week back, tweaks and upgrades made me stop posting my thread, as I thought it would be better to post it when the entire array is running with everything.

So finally after more than a month of Research n Development finally I have my NAS ready, with all the quintessential features.

So here we go ...... Its gonna be a long long long seriously long post/thread :D so bear with me, but people who really are interested in building up a DIY NAS with a very decent affordable price, kindly take the pain to read everything....


**********THE HARDWARE**********

NAS needs even lesser powered hardware then an HTPC and I have been screaming about the same where ever I can ... :D. You DONOT need i3sss, or i5sss not even the C2Qsss, A simple early generation C2D is more then sufficient.

This is how I chose my hardware.

1. Processor :: As I said you dont need a befy processor for a NAS. Anything post Pentium 4 would do. I chose the oldest of a Pentium Dual Core processor E2140

2. Motherboard :: You need to be a bit specific in choosing the mobo as you do not need quite a few things that are there in current gen boards. What you need to be very sure is....

A. It has atleast 4 SATA ports, more the better but we can start with 4, and dont worry I am gonna ans the doubt "What if I want to add more HDD"

B. A Non Gigabyte board if you are using the OS which I am using. Reason I will explain in detail later.

C. AHCI complaint, which usually all the Core 2 Due boards are, but still make sure it is there. (needed for Hot Swapping plus drive write speeds improves a lot)

D. Atleast one PCIe x4 slot.

E. Can boot from USB

All these are very trifle requirements, but never the less they are needed and hence I am mentioning them. I went for MSI P43 NEO

3. RAM :: Any generic ram. 2GB recommended, 667/800 Mhz. Transcend is the VFM here. I went for Transcend 2GB 800Mhz

4. GPU :: No need for a gpu as the on board gpu is more than sufficient. We wont need a display as such. The only time you might want to have a display is while doing the initial setup of the OS and BIOS or in a rare case of web gui/Telnet not responding due to some network failure.

5. Cabinet :: This is the part where it would depend entirely on how high you wanna go. You can start with a basic PC case and go up to a dedicated 10-15-20 drivebay NAS case. I would suggest start with a mid level PC case that can let you add 4-5 internal SATA HDDs and also have a 4-5 5.25" drive bays, wherein you can fit external HDD bays that can support 4 more HDDs. I went for Cooler Master Elite 334 PC case, that can support 5 internal HDDs and 4 external 5.25" bays which I can use to add another set of 5 HDDs. (using external Hard drive bays.) So in total with this case I can have 10 HDDs. Plus the case has 2 fans for cooling and the option to add one more. The HDDs cage have screw-less design and over all case quality is very decent.

Later as and when you increase your array, you can go for a dedicated NAS specific cases.

6. A Gigabit LAN :: If you mobo supports it well and good else go for an external one. I went for a D-Link DGE-528T Gigabit LAN card.

7. Hard Drives :: Again absolute no need to go for 6Gbps HDD or SSDs. A normal 3Gbps SATA II 7200rpm/5400rpm drives are more than sufficient to provide the bandwidth for even BD ISOs. Its the network throughput that needs to be good. I went for WD Green 5200 RPM (basically the cheapest one)

8. PSU :: Another major component that needs to be quality, as your NAS would be running 24x7 in all probability and since HDDs are the only major thing that would be running you dont needs a high wattage PSU. To give you an idea, A 500W PSU would be sufficient to run the above hardware with 15, 7200 rpm drives.
I opted for Cooler Master Elite Power 460W

******** That is about it where the basic hardware ends as far as setting up a basic 5 drive NAS is concerned ********

If you want to upgrade and have further features like external Hot Swapping, additional hardware can be added to the above existing one. I will discuses that as well.

**********THE PRICE**********

Now let just calculate the price one needs to spend to get a basic NAS setup, taking the above hardware as reference. (All prices in INR)

1. E2140 Proc + P43 Neo ...... I managed to get it for 3000 (USED)
2. RAM 2 GB 800Mhz ............ 500 (NEW)
3. Cabinet CM Elite 334 ........ 2500 (NEW)
4. Gb LAN ...........................800 (NEW)
5. PSU ................................2900 (NEW)
Total =============== 9700

Only ofcourse thats without HDD.

Lets add HDD. Assuming you are using the free version of the NAS OS that I am using, you can use 3 HDD at the max. The Plus version lets you add 4 more hard drives....... but thats gonna set you back another ~3500 for the OS (you cannot have the pirate version for this :-) ....sorry!!).

Anyway lets add the hard drives and calculate. With free version 3x2TB HDD will give 6TB NAS that equates to 3800x3=11400 approx. Add this to my above price and we have a 6TB ready NAS for 21100 ..ONLY

This would give most of the resource hungry people out there a decent start in to the world of NAS. If you want more, ofcourse you have to spend more

********Lets see what else we can add to the above existing Hardware to make it a more professional NAS ********

1. Sata Add on Card :: P43 has 6 Sata ports which would be pretty sufficient for most of the people to start of with, however I am sure with time you would like to add more Hard Drives to you Array and thats where the PCIe SATA Add on cards come in to the picture. SATA Add on cards let you add more sata drives from 2 to 8 drives. Something like Add-on Card OC-SASLP-MV8. A bit expensive but worth coz you would have 8 more sata ports at your disposal if at all you feel the need to. I personally have not gone for this as 6 ports have given me 5 TB of space (2+1+1+1+2) (parity)). One 2TB is for Parity which is not used for data.

NOTE ::: I am using the PLUS version

2. Hot Swap Drive Bay :: Hot Swap bays as the name suggest gives you the ability to add/remove/exchange drives on the fly right from out side of your case. However your OS and BIOS both should be able to support it. My OS does and AFA Bios is concerned thats where AHCI comes that I mentioned above under Mobo catagory. To support hot swap your Bios/Mobo should have AHCI support. Ofcourse AHCI is not just for this. It also improves the drive read/write performance. I bought just one Hot Swap bay as I just wanted to have a way to copy data to my Array via internal sata drive instead of LAN (because of speed ofcourse.)
Following are few pics of my Hot Swap Bay, and a small video of how it works.

Image Image ... r_embedded

3. NAS Case ::: When you add the sata port addon card you also would like to have a dedicated NAS Case, that can give you more space and ease of expandability. Though I personally feel for a Home NAS, a decent PC case with an external HDD bay is more then enough you need. However for people who do wanna have something exrta, you can choose of one of
THESE.You can also go for something like Antec 1200, its a huge case and can accommodate 4x5HDD cages giving you a capacity of whooping 20 Hard Drives.

**********THE OPERATING SYSTEM**********

Now comes the the most important question......Which Operation System????

Two broad categories

1. Windows
2. Non Windows.


Windows has its offering called WHS (Windows Home Server) in the NAS/ Media Server segment, but frankly and personally I did not want to go for Windows. Two main reason,

1) Huge, just like windows 7, so in compassion difficult to maintain. A separate complete HDD or partition for it. etc etc

2) It uses mirroring for data security, so this means you have to have double the space of your data to make it secure. One disk protection for one, not worth unless you have a mission critical data in which case some people go for even triple replication.

There are other very technical reason as well, which I would be comparing in a moment as those reasons were also the reasons I did not opt for other non windows OS.

Also WHS only supports RAID 1 and 0.

~~~~~NON WINDOWS~~~~~

It was fight in here, with loads of options to choose from. Few completely free and few offering only the basic version free.Let see what were the options to choose from. We will try to compare them extensively as well to get a better picture in comparison.

Lets first list what were my main criteria that I needed to have in a Non Windows OS for my NAS. (these points are mere from a layman perspective) as and when I researched more, there were more technical reasons I found that made better sense to choose what I finally went for.

1. First and foremost being a Linux Layman, it should be as easy as possible to configure.

2. Easy expandability, it should not be difficult to expand my storage when ever I want.

3. Easy swap-ability.

4. Secure

Following were my options ...

1. FreeNAS
2. FlexRAID
3. Free BSD
4. Openfiler
5. Unraid

My initial choices were FreeNAS and FlexiRAID, but with extensive research I went for [COLOR="Black"]UNRAID[/COLOR] and before I go further let me tell you that I was/am so impressed with UNRAIDs performance that I finally bought the Plus version. (Details in a moment).

Lets have a basic comparison between the Operating Systems


The most common and the most known solution for a Home NAS is Free NAS specially when its free., but when I did a extensive googling, I found there are many aspects that do not go into the favor of my requirements listed above.


1. Free NAS was pretty close to Unraid when it came to ease of installation.
2. Very low resourse hungry even lesser then Unraid in this aspect
3. Uses ZFS filesystem which is much faster than ReiserFS that Unraid uses.
3. More protocols to share than unraid
4. Since its Opensourse its Free so no limitation on any of its features.

However there are majour conss than pros specially with the kind of Home Media Server I wanted (infact most of us would want)

1. Configuration was complex. I tried FreeNAS on my VM machine (under Free BSD) followed couple of tuts, but was totaly unimressed by the interface and the configuration.

2. FreeNAS is inflexable, not very forgiving if you have two simultanous disk failure, as it uses a more traditional RAID setup (RAID5), which uses stripping. Which means if you loose 2 disks you loose the entire Array. This is not the case with Unraid.

3. Difficult, to expand.....As I said it uses striping of data scross drives, expanding is not as easy as just popping any size drive in to the array and start using it. Yes you can add hard drives, but what you need to understand here is, ..... once the array is constructed (under Raid 5) and running you can not add further hard drives to it. If you want to add more disks, you need to create a new array. Which is not the case with Unraid.


FlexRaid is another freeware NAS os based on linux. Its very much like unraid, when it comes to how the data is stored. FlexRAID also does not strip data across drives unlike FreeNAS, which has its own advantages and disadvantages as well. I was about to go for FlexRAID when few of the features put me down. e.g.

1. Though it works on parity like UNraid, its actually a snapshot based system. Meaning that the way it takes a backup is by taking the snapshot of the parity, so unless the parity of the files do not change you are ok. For this to happen properly you have to refresh the parity every now and then (isnt automated and hence called Snap Shot). Media files do not change frequently to an extent I agree, but I still would like to have a more robust parity backup system like Unraid.

2. Second major disadvantage for me was, FlexiRAID is not an OS in itself, it more like a software that is installed on to the host, so you need something like WHS or W7 to run FlexiRAID. This might be use full for those who do not want to venture in to Linux catagory, AT ALL, (for doing other server based tasks) but still want a linux based OS for their NAS.

3. Does not have a WebGUI, need command line management Advantages.

Major Advantage over other OS

4. Multithreaded.

5. Parity may be spread across multiple drives

6. Works on windows so easy to add features and other stuff for your server then linux based Unraid.

OpenFiler and FreeBSD--

Did not venture much in to these two as I alrady had started to lean towards Unraid ..... but if people are interested google is your mate... :)


Coming to what I finally chose. UNRAID develop by Lime-Technology. gives everything that a home linux based NAS OS should give, baring few exceptions that still makes it worthwhile.

Before I go on why I chose UNRAID, let me introduce you to the UNRAID mega thread on AV Science Fourm. If you do decide to venture out in this product then read as much as possible, I will also provide complete instructions to how you can install UNRAID............ plus links to various fourm thread and articles that would be beneficial to you.

First lets be clear few things UNRAID is not popular for, os shall I say lets point out the cons, negatives of UNRAID first, that might provide a better insight in to the comparison

1. Unraid isnt actually work on RAID 1,5, so not stripping here. the performance lacks for sure, the Read/Write speed is something that Unraid would not be proud off. Read/Write performance is limited to a MAXIMUM of single disk performance. Tt will be more less because of parity overhead, depending on the system CPU and memory available.(Still enough to have BD ISO stream over a gigabit lan). UNRAID is more like RAID 4 (but without the stripping part)

2. Unraid requires/uses ReiserFS which would not allow a disk with FAT/NTFS to be used straightaway, it needs to be formatted per Unraid. Doing it the usual way is a looong tooo long a process, there are scripts that would do a "Preclear" on the drives and prepares the HDD for Unraid. Though the preclear process is again toooo lengthy (15 Hrs for 1TB drive), the good thing is....... it works in the background and you still have your Server for use in the foreground (unless you are preclearing your first drive, which is but obvious)

3.One of the major deal breaker for Unraid can be the fact that if at all you want to make your NAS Server do anything else apart from the basic Out-of-the box functionality, like torrents, RSS Feed, Media Streamer, VPN...etc etc, you need to climb the somewhat steep learning curve of Linux, its commands and how it works...... Sure you can just follow the steps and tuts, but not all tuts cover absolute every troubleshooting steps
one can do...... in case things dosent work or go wrong. So you got to have some level of knowledge of linux OR have the tenacity, and the persistence to read, learn, implement and then re read, re learn if that implementation does not work. If you feel that you are up to this, you gonna enjoy UNRAID like once configured it a pleasure to work with.

**********What UNRAID is Worth For**********

Lets come to the main point, what Unraid is worth for.To start of with......I downloaded the basic version of Unraid which is free, test and see what it actually offers.

The major limitations of the basic version are ....

1. Support for only 3 drives
2. User Share security not present.

Apart from this it almost has every thing that the pro version has. Detail comparison can be read HERE. Ok so off I went and downloaded the Basic version and followed the installation tutorial. (I will share that later) At that time I had only 2 disks, one 2TB and one 1TB. The entire installation takes place on a flash drive and the OS runs off the flash drive itself. I now am amazed that an entire OS that does so much runs off the USB stick....
not taking more then 512MB of space. The entire basic installation and configuration of Unraid took not more then 30 minutes. Infact installing on the flash drive is a 5 minutes job, you then boot from the USB and is presented with the Unraid Linux command prompt.

Rest of the few configuration is done on the command prompt itself. Before you can use your disks in an Unraid Array, you need to do a preclear on the disks. Preclear is a utility to "burn-in" a new disk, and is done via script. The advantage of the script is that you can run the process at the background,...... and if its not the first disk on your array, you can keep using your array while the preclear is going on at the background.

Anyway coming at the advantages of UNRAID which makes it worth...

1. Very Easy install

2. Uses parity protection (think Raid-4 minus stripping), instead of the conventional[/i]

RAID 1 or RAID 5 for data protection. Unraid does not follow the RAID route exactly, it provides aggregate parity for individual disk fault tolerance and parity is calculated for all disks. This approach provides two major advantages....

A. First you dont need double the amount of disk space since its not mirroring as in RAID 1. With this approach 15 Disks can be secured using one parity disk (it should be equal to or more then the height capacity disk in your array)

B. If you loose any one disk in your array, the disk can be rebuild using the paraty drive, however in case of a two disk failure, you still wont loose ALL of your data (like in a typical RAID-5 setup), you will only lose the data on the 2 disks. All other disks will be fine. With a conventional setup like Raid 5 if you loose two disks you loose the entire array.

(Reason being that the data is spanned across all drives, stripping is there. with Unraid Single parity and no striping allows for less chance of total data loss when two hard drives fail.)

3. Expandability ::: Expandability is the easiest and the strongest part of Unraid. Since the data is not spanned and stripped, every drive is individual in its own, not like one big hard drive of an Array as the conventional raid works. You just pick the HDD any size and throw it in the Unraid Array and it expands, Unlike Free RAID (Which works on conventional Raid 0, 1, 5 and JBOD) where more planning is involved when it comes to upgrade strategy.

4. Better Power management :::: Unraid aims to maximizes useable HDD space, and as it does not strip files across multiple drives, they can individually spin-down, when not in use! or can be spin-down as groups. Automated spin-down can also be set for the drives. A very nifty feature if you ask me. Some good threads to ponder on the comparison of Unraid with other OSs

unRAID or FreeNAS

Windows Home Server vs unRaid (or similar)? - AVS Forum

To NAS or not to NAS - AVS Forum

**********Unraid Interface**********

Everything you need to monitor, is done through the WebGUI of UNraid. Make sure to install, Unmenu (instructions in the tut), which is another plug in for better Web interface and experience. For the most basic functionality you only need to go to command prompt couple of times, like while preclearing the HDD, installing Unmenue, etc. Once all this is done and you have your drives in the Array, you dont need command line. You manage your drives, shares, permissions via Web Interface, plus all monitoring like disk uasge, disk spin up, bandwidth, is also done through web interface.


As I mentioned earlier, its only when you want extra features and want more out of your Unraid server, you would have to venture in to the earning curve of linux on the command line. Even that is no rocket science. Step by step tutorials are provided all over Unraid fourms and we have one of the best supporting Unraid fourms over net. Now lets look at the web interface of Unraid. We access the web interface by just putting the ip of your Unraid server.Below is how the web interface looks for Unraid 5 Beta 11. If you plan to start with Unraid 4.7, the interface is different.
You can see how neatly its been laid out. I have 4 disks (2+1+1+1) and no parity yet, which I am planning to get this weekend (another 2TB drive - Parity should be equal to or greater then your largest drive). The array is online right now, and we have spin up & down buttons that would immediately do the same if intended (individual disks can also be spun up/down which I will show in other snap shot). You can see white blob infront of each drive except disk1. They are not white actually but are blinking white and green (were white at the moment I took the snapshot), meaning that disk 1,2 and 3 are not being used and are not spinning. Disk 1 is.

Here check out the snap when all disks are sniping, you get the temperature and other details as well.


When you have to add a new drive in the disk, you need to shutdown the server, plug the drive in the SATA port and boot it again. If you have set your Array to auto restart then you will see the array online when you boot back. Stop the array and you shall be presented with the screen below.


You can see that I have disk5 and cache as well. Since I have Plus version of Unraid I can add maximum of 7 drives including parity or Cache. Depending on the way I manage. I can have 5 data disks, one parity and one for cache OR 6 data disk, one for parity and omit cache .......and like wise.

NOTE :::: Before you add the drive from the drop down to the array make sure it is been precleared as been directed in the tutorial. Once that is done. You just add the drive in the array from the drop down menue. A format option appears and drive is shown unformatted under device status. Format takes only a minute at the max if the drive is already precleared. When the formats completes just start the array and you have expanded your Array ......... as simple as that.

Rest options on this page are self explanatory.

Let look at other tabs ..

SHARES .......

Shares tab is the place where you create shares. The concept of shared in Unraid is very very different than the usual folders. It would be a bit out of scope and lengthy to explain the same here, so I am providing you the link that explains it very nicely, and I do request people to read it carefully as that would effect the way you copy and access the data on to your NAS.

Un-Official UnRAID Manual - unRAID

Read the entire article, but the concept of shares start from SHARES. Very interesting to read I must say. Clicking on the share itself brings the share properties.


Here we can set how the share behaves when data is copied on the disk. Plus the user share security (ONLY AVAILABLE FOR PLUS, not for Basic version). Details again in the article that I have shared.

SETTINGS ............


Clicking on the settings tab will bring the settings page, where you can set all your settings. Every thing is explained in the tutorials. As an example showing the "Disk Settings" page. You can see I have set the spin down auto delay to one hour.


**********UNRAID Unmenu interface**********

Unmenu is the intrinsic part of Unraid and simply cannot/should not be avoided. It is an enhanced Web management page for unRAID that provides a number of user-requested features, and is relatively easy to extend. Installing it now gives you access to screen and email notifications, both of which are useful for preclearing hard drives.

Unmenu page is accessed by putting the Unraid ip:8080 and below is how it looks ..


I wont discuses all of the options here .... too lengthy a process, but as I said every single tutorial is there for the same. I will however share the myMain page as that also provides a very nice pictorial presentation for the NAS.


Here you can see under spin we have the icon that the disk is spinning. As I mentioned earlier we can individually spin up or down the drives. Just click on the icon and the disk spins down ..... and vice verse. Clicking on the icons under info provides further detailed info about the disks, very neat.

**********UNRAID Installation**********

I would not go in to the step by step instructions of installation, not because it gonna be tiring BUT because the tutorial is so very very self explanatory and so well written that, it does not let you do any mistakes. Just make sure you READ every thing properly and follow it. Here is the link to the installation tut. Configuration Tutorial - unRAID

@@@@@@@@@@ - End Of PART 1 - @@@@@@@@@@

This would end the PART 1 of the Sam's NAS project powered by Unraid. Next in part 2, I will discuses, how I have configured the quintessential features of the NAS, like ..

1. Hot Swapping.
2. ftp access to your server
3. VPN access
3. Configuring telnet
4. Using Putty

Part 3 will discuses one of the most important aspect of your NAS, Online access and security, which we would further divide it in to two parts

First :: NAS access across internet
Second :: How to secure your NAS when its accessed Online

Hope you have enjoyed and learnt few things form this venture I have been working on for a month now, after my HTPC project. Thanks for having the patience and interest to read this through (I hope you did :D). I shall try to extent my experience as much as I can if people do decide to DIY their own NAS based on UNRAID.

Stay put for the next parts .....

Sammy :)
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:39 pm

Hakkaa päälle!
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:03 pm

tl;dr .......... ??????????
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:24 pm

sam9s wrote:
tl;dr .......... ??????????

Too Long; Didn't Read

Also, for most of us on TR (95%+?), the audience is primarily Americans. So your INR pricing to USD$ is as follows:

sam9s wrote:
Now let just calculate the price one needs to spend to get a basic NAS setup, taking the above hardware as reference. (All prices in INR)

1. E2140 Proc + P43 Neo ...... I managed to get it for 3000 (USED) $65
2. RAM 2 GB 800Mhz ............ 500 (NEW) $11
3. Cabinet CM Elite 334 ........ 2500 (NEW) $54
4. Gb LAN ...........................800 (NEW) $17
5. PSU ................................2900 (NEW) $63
Total =============== 9700
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:05 pm

thegleek wrote:
sam9s wrote:
tl;dr .......... ??????????

Too Long; Didn't Read

lol ...I can imagine ...........but thats ok.......... I think I mentioned at the beginning ..

Its gonna be a long long long seriously long post/thread :D so bear with me, but people who really are interested in building up a DIY NAS with a very decent affordable price, kindly take the pain to read everything
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:35 pm

2) It uses mirroring for data security, so this means you have to have double the space of your data to make it secure. One disk protection for one, not worth unless you have a mission critical data in which case some people go for even triple replication.

Windows Home Server doesn't need RAID 0 or 1 (let alone the other types) because it uses "Folder Duplication", basically Windows' Shadow Copy technology to keep mirrors of individual folders. You don't have to mirror your whole server (a bonus compared to RAID 1), just the folders most important to you.

I don't have Folder Duplication turned on for every folder in my WHS system, just ones that have mission-critical data. In this way, I found it far more flexible than RAID 1, with less storage requirements than RAID 5/6.
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Re: sam9s NAS Project! powered by Unraid!!

Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:49 pm

Just for reference I currently have a FreeBSD system running 6.2 on a 3ware RAID5 setup. Passing year four and runs like a champ right out of the box. Something to consider for those reading your quite informative novel. :D

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