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Building a FreeNAS


Hey guys first post here so bare with me if I do anything taboo or noobish. I recently built a new rig and wanted to make a FreeNAS out of spare parts available to me. The FreeNas would be for backing up my work stuff (4k video, audio, Photoshop files), Plex/media (backups of blu rays/dvds) and usenet stuff. I’m currently keeping everything on a ton of external hard drives that I’ve accumulated over the years…

So option one would be:
-i7 4790 (Already own)
-Corsair Vengeance Pro 32GB (4 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (Already own. I would eventually upgrade to the recommended EEC memory. I get the risk.)
-I’d need a motherboard, and there’s not a whole lot of options for new parts, but the one I picked was: ASUS Q87M-E/CSM DDR3 1600 LGA 1150 Motherboard
-EVGA 450 BT, 80+ Bronze 450W
I also have a 128GB SSD that I could use for caching or running jails, but I’ve read that for FreeNas it’s pretty use case specific if you’ll gain any benefit from it. I haven’t really read into this that much so any input or links to helpful articles would be appreciated.

Option two:
I have the following available to me from work:

“HP ProLiant DL360 G6 Server Rack-mountable -Dual Xeon E5506 2.13 GHz Processors - 24 GB PC3-10600E-9 Memory- 4 300GB 3GHz SAS 10K Small Form Factory Hot Swap Hard Drives - DVD - HP Smar Array P410i controller ATI ES1000 - Redundant Power Supply Gigabit Ethernet - 3 YR NBD Warranty”

If I did this, I’d want to put it into a traditional form factor atx case (if possible) because I don’t have any place for a gigantic rack mounted beast that sounds like a jet engine.

Any pros with going with option two?

Being completely honest, I don’t know a lot about the hardware of option two. I pulled that information off our original purchase receipt from 2010. I’d ideally like to end up with around 16TB of storage. Any suggestions on which drives to use? I don’t know if it’s worth shelling out more for 7200 RPM given the extra heat, etc.

I was looking at the Fractal Design Define R6 as a case given the huge amount of hard drive space, quiet nature and clean aesthetic. Thoughts?

Lastly, if I wanted to transcode the backups of the blu rays and DVDs to be smaller sizes, would that be a GPU based task/even feasible on the FreeNAS? Is it even worth it? I’d like to keep the quality relatively the same but just shrink the size.

Thanks in advance if you can read all this mental diarrhea!

  1. New ECC ram is normally significantly more expensive then new non ECC ram. However if you are ok with older gen used ECC ram then the price drops can be significant.

  2. The i7 does not support ECC ram, and idk about the mobo. You would have to buy a Xeon for ECC support.(ECC support is the main selling point of lower end Xeons)

  3. Ram for the DL360 G6 is cheap as it is ECC registered ddr3

  4. You should be able to upgrade to dual six core CPUs after a BIOS upgrade. X5650s are cheap(around $25 USD each) and still quite powerful.

  5. Before swapping the server to a desktop case, check the power supply connections, fan headers, front panel headers, etc to make sure that they are not proprietary but are standard. If they are proprietary, you might be able to get or make an adapter(or go without). Also check the form factor of the mobo, including mounting holes. One or two missed mounting spots are ok as long as you make sure that the standoffs missed are either insulated or removed.

  6. I really like my Define R5, and the R6 apparently even better.

  7. Is the 16tb total HDD space or total useable space?

  8. I personally would stay away from low to mid range Seagate drives whenever you have multiple drives next to each other. BackBlazes storage model is to buy the cheapest drives and stick them next to each other and they have lots of Seagate drives fail. I do not know about Seagate enterprise/NAS level drives. I personally have had good experiences with both HGST and WD drives.

  9. Video transcoding is CPU only with most programs. However it is normally very multithreaded which means coresghzipc=performance assuming that your disk(s) can keep up.


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer everything. I’ll probably go with the DL360 G6 as my rig then! Just have to stop being lazy and actually take it off the rack and what not. Can’t seem to find online if it’ll fit in an ATX/E-ATX case.

And to answer your question, I want to end up with 16TB useable space. I’ll probably go with WD Red’s then. Seems like they have a better reputation over Seagate.


Before buy drives, make sure you know ZFS arrays works as it is the only option for file system with Freenas.

More knowledgeable people then me have fights over whether raid-z(raid5), raid-z2 or stripped mirrors(raid10) is best for a particular situation.

I personally would go with 4x 8-12tb drives in stripped mirrors, it gives the best performance(vs 3-6x drives in raidz/raidz2) and quickest rebuild times but you lose the largest percentage of raw HDD space to redundancy. It also allows you to add another pair of drives in the future for more space.

Do some research and figure out what drive config works best for you before purchase. Also look at what space you might need a couple of years as ZFS arrays can be a pain to expand, although you could just make another array when you get more drives.


I’ll give you some input on this… as I’ve been running ZFS at home (and in my work test lab as a poor man’s san replacement) for about 6-7 years now…

Definitely read up on ZFS and understand the difference between

  • Pools
  • disks
  • VDEVs

The big ones that may catch you out are:

  • once a VDEV has been created, you can only expand it once all devices in the VDEV have been increased in size
  • the IOPs for a VDEV are equal to the IOPs (not throughput, IOPs - make sure you understand the difference) of a single disk in the VDEV. Thus, for more IOPs you want more VDEVs

The second one there is probably not a massive concern for home use as a NAS/archive server, but it will come into play if you plan on using it as a backing store for VMs.

The first one however WILL influence how easily/cheaply you can upgrade storage. VDEVs with smaller number of disks in them can be upgraded individually and ZFS will auto-balance writes across different sized VDEVs in your pool.

e.g., if i had 4 disks i could create:
1x RAIDZ. to upgrade I’d need to replace every disk
2x mirror. to upgrade i could do 1 VDEV at a time and get more space replacing only 2 disks

if you run out of space, buying 2 drives is a lot more affordable than buying 4.

Peformance on mirrors is also better. You lose more capacity than RAIDZ but gain flexibility and performance.

For performance, you should be trying to create as many VDEVs in your pool as possible whilst maintaining the level of fault tolerance required. If you do something like create 1 big RAIDZ2 or RAIDZ3 VDEV with say 10 disks for your pool, performance will suck vs. other options (such as 3x RAIDZ with a hot spare, 5x mirrors, etc.). Additionally, you’d need to buy 10 disks at a time to upgrade, rather than say 3 to upgrade a single RAIDZ VDEV at a time in it.