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First Home NAS Build

Hi looking for some advice on a NAS build. I’ve built several desktop PCs but I’m totally new to the world of NAS and servers. Currently I store most of my content on my PCs 4TB hard drive and external hard drive that I have a media folder shared on my home network so when I want to stream something off my PC to iPad Pro I just enter the local network IP and login details of my PC in VLC app I’m not sure what this type of streaming is called?

Anyway, I’m nearing max capacity on these drives and wish to free up space for more Steam games so was looking into the Synology and QNAP NAS solutions, but I find it quite limiting with 2 storage bays. However, when looking for more than 2 bays the prices skyrocket and I’ve read the CPU is quite anaemic so I’m swaying towards my own NAS build.

Hardware

For starters, I have the case from a previous build it’s a Thermaltake Urban SD 1 specs are here uk_thermaltake_com/urban-sd1_html (replace _ with . ) I did like the case L1 Tech used for GamersNexus but it’s pretty expensive for my budget NAS build may upgrade to it at some point.

CPU – I wanted to go with a Ryzen CPU something like a 3200G but have read Intel are better if using Plex because of support for Quick Sync so was looking at an i3 9100. Happy to spend slightly more for a noticeable improvement

Storage – WD Red (not the SMR versions) Have also read that if I use FreeNAS to get an SSD for the OS?

RAM – Would 4GB be enough? I’ve read FreeNAS works better with 8GB and comes with the benefit of dual channel configuration.

GPU – none for now hoping the iGPU will be up to the task?

PSU – 450W? Maybe 500W. Probably fully modular.

Motherboard – None in mind just going with the cheapest that supports the CPU. Not really a crucial factor with a NAS I don’t think?

Software/OS

So as previously mentioned I’m looking at using FreeNAS although have seen the L1Tech video on FreeNAS vs Unraid but feel FreeNAS is a better fit for me. Happy to be advised otherwise though. I will say that I want to be able to set my server up and leave it to do its thing I don’t want to be doing sysadmin every day with it.

Not sure if I need Plex? I want to be able to stream video that is mostly 720p and 1080p with some 4K content to my 4K Samsung TV a Q9FN and iPad Pro but not at the same time. Not sure if it needs transcoding? Currently I plug my external hard drive into to the TV and the video files play fine and from what I understand (might be wrong) transcoding is mostly for when streaming to devices outside the network. I don’t plan on doing this type of streaming but never say never I may want to load up a video one day.

Thanks in advance for any tips/advice given.

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This is true but dont discount the software capability and ease of use you can get from something like DSM. Theres something to be said about that.

However I dont blame you for building. I would too.

I dont transcode or use plex but I know theres support for GPU transcoding. I know you said none on the GPU but you might consider a quadro p400. they’re pretty cheap on the used market and can handle more streams + HEVC which I dont know if the iGPU can… just a thought.

If the ironwolfs are cheaper I wouldnt discount them. You can put FreeNAS on an SSD, but I dont know if you really need to. I did mirrored USBs when I did FreeNAS, but ultimately ditched FreeNAS for other things.

seasonic focus gold (gx model) are solid if you can find them. Good reliable power supplies are in short order right now. Just because its modular or 80+ rated doesnt mean its a decent model unfortunately. This is the one area where I would pay close attention due to limited availability.

You might think so but the sata controller does matter here. Given you want to run FreeNAS, youll likely want to check out unbuffered ECC RAM as well.

Thats a big depends.

I’d say both unraid and freenas are good and bad at this. I had stability issues on both requiring my attention.

Other contenders you may not have considered

  • Open Media Vault
  • Proxmox

You probably dont need plex but it would certainly give you a more unified experience. I dont use an iPad but last I checked there wasnt much in the way of file browsers and especially so over the network. Plex is probably the easiest way to get the content over the network.

This is more or less the gist of it. You dont need to transcode over local network mostly and you can safely just use plex without that feature.

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I use 16gb minimum for freenas.

My setup used an amd fx 8300, a cheapo passive gpu, 16gb of ecc unbuffered ram, and 4 8tb Amazon renewed ultrastar enterprise drives.

I would go with an evga 750 w psu, more sata is better. Plex is nice. I actually run plex on a dedicated server. But that’s probably overkill

I don’t think that an OS drive SSD will have greatly improved performance. But I do think having a separate drive for the OS is a good idea, and since so many boards have a convenient M.2 slot these days I think it just makes sense to drop in a small 250 GB NVMe drive. They’re getting pretty cheap.

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Waste of money. You are running about 30W of disk drives and <100W system components. Add a passive GPU and you are adding maybe 75W. So total load at peak is under 250W. Therefore a quality 450W semi.modular PSU would be fine.

You will want more than 4GB ram. Ixsystems recommend 8GB these days.

As others have said I wouldn’t discount these. For a beginner NAS a mirrored pair of 8TiB drives would be ideal for your use case. If you do build your own then I’d stick with a 2 disk mirror for now and when you need more space add a second mirrored pair. For your use case you don’t need an SSD cache.

I dont think he was recommending the 750W for capacity but rather for the additional sata connectors.

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Right, but it has 9 sata plugs. You can’t find for less wattage

Or you could get a semi modular Corsair supply and order some extra SATA connectors.

Example:

I wouldn’t use splitters but first party adapters are cheap and readily sourced. Like I say just an option.

i use splitters for my SSDs. and some molex to sata, but not the shitty ones. i really wish i could get a pcie to sata adapter

Hi guys apologies for the late reply really busy the moment. Have looked through all your replies and they have been of great help for me navigating the NAS world. Some things I’ve noticed…

• ECC supported motherboards are expensive having checked the boards on PC Part Picker for socket LGA1151 I don’t think I need ECC memory I’m not doing anything mission critical mostly just storing some video files for playback and I can’t seem to find x2 4GB DDR4 sticks they start at 8GB at least from what I see on PC Part Picker so feel I’d probably get more benefit from dual channel memory no ECC. Is a Xeon /server grade CPU required for ECC memory by the way?
• The Quadro P400 would be within my budget but a cursory google search has flagged up some Plex issues with the P400 seen here. forums_plex_tv/t/disappointing-transcoding-results-with-quadro-p400/547295/5
• From what I gather 4K transcoding is probably going to be a problem no matter the hardware as HDR content isn’t handled well. If I can watch 4K content as is from external hard drive connected to my TV does that mean that same file will play fine through plex with no transcoding required?
• Having looked at the passmark score of the Celeron CPU in the Synology NAS boxes I imagine the i3 9100 could do pretty much anything the Synologys could since the i3 has a higher passmark?

On another note, doing the research for the above has lead me down a bit of a rabbit hole on Google and YouTube having watched the L1Techs video on Synology Surveillance Station I’m possibly coming down with the bug of wanting to do a second project (on top of this Plex/media consumption server) a home surveillance system with BlueIris Software and Amazon Rekognition (I like the Synology software just hate their licensing approach) If I decide to embark on this second project would it be able to work off the same NAS (i3 9100, 8GB DDR4) running a Plex Server?

I’ll be frank here. FreeNAS and ZFS in particular needs decent ram to operate well. You havent said anything about array size but your chosen ZFS features and capacity are going to dictate how much ram you should have. ZFS really should be used in conjunction with ECC memory but there are plenty of reasons why one might not do so. I think if you arent going to run much memory and its not going to be ECC then theres really no reason to use FreeNAS here.

yes and no, only the i3 support ECC on the consumer end

yes. if you only ever play back via local network then theres no need for transcoding at all.

Yes and no. Theres software available in DSM that only exists there. You might not care about that software though. I’m confused as to why youd want the i3 if you arent going to run ECC and you are trying to remain budget here.

I’m not sure what issues you have with it. How many cameras are you looking to run?

youll need to virtualize for your planned software and that will definitely require more RAM. Probably more than double to give yourself some breathing room.

I gotta be honest here, you can pick 2:

  • cheap
  • capable
  • reliable

I’m not wedded to idea of using FreeNAS, I’m open to any OS I just mentioned FreeNAS originally because that was the main OS mentioned when I was looking at the DIY NAS approach I also thought it would be similar to DSM.
Basically, all I want to do as of right now is stream media to my TV or iPad on the same home network. Looking ahead to the future I’m looking at 1 stream (transcode?) of a 1080p video to an iPad outside of the home network. And probably further down the line I’d like to set up a surveillance system as a hobby project using 4 cameras and to experiment with Amazon Rekognition. In terms of RAID I wasn’t planning on setting it up seems overkill for movie streaming?
As I said, I would pick a Synology but I’m not keen on how inflexible they are for future upgrades.

FreeNAS is nice. I’m not trying to stop you from using it. Its not anything like DSM however. It has some specific limitations. I think you’ve been meme’d (as was I) into considering it when it doesnt really fit your use case.

You can set up a single disk vdev of ZFS. FreeNAS wont stop you. I will however question your sanity for choosing such a set up.

The more you talk about what it is you actually want to do with your nas, the more I’m inclined to recommend you go that route. I’m not sure what inflexibility you’re referring to here with upgrades but in the end you’d have to replace hardware if you built your own anyway. It seems as though it checks every box you have minus the rekognition software.

I support your assessment that you can get by with low end hardware. A Synology or qnap Nas, or even a cheaper asustor, will be fine for your needs. You can even buy used or refurb and save a few £$¥€.

My first Nas was a buffalo disk station thing. UI was appalling but it served data and was cheap, quiet and reliable.

I then built my own freenas box out of an old consumer desktop. It did not have fancy ram or a fast CPU. You do not need ECC. If you do want to build your own you don’t need to spend much, not for a basic setup. Just a cheap pc is fine.

I don’t agree with you @Adubs. For consumer workloads with consumer data transfers (like a video file) then ECC adds negligible data protection. Even a small production workload would struggle to see the benefit. I’d agree with you if this was a commercial build with any level of in memory activity but for a home user setting up his or her first NAS I would encourage users to try freenas. It has great features, runs on a potato and is free.

Its not about data protection. Its about ZFS featureset. FreeNAS requires more memory than other NAS options because of the nature of ZFS. You dont find lots of memory on many potatos IMO. Frankly he doesnt need ZFS. FreeNAS does nothing special that other NAS software can do. I’ve used FreeNAS with success but theres a lot of shortcomings that people gloss over. Quite frankly its not a ‘first nas’ solution.

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The inflexibility I’m referring to with Synology/QNAP is that if the CPU needs upgrading or the motherboard for example fails it renders the entire unit worthless. Synology is limited to max 8GB RAM and can’t add a GPU if required later I also can’t just move the entire system into a new case if I choose to buy the Silverstone NAS case at a later date. Basically I can build a more capable NAS for £205/$258 (this includes UK tax) less than the Synology solution.

What OS Would you recommend for my use case? There’s a lot to be said for what (to me) looks to be quite an intuitive browser UI, the jails feature, and a robust support forum. If I do plan to use Blue Iris in the future I’m aware it is windows only so maybe I should look at Windows Server OS?

You’re talking about upgradeability of the NAS itself, but one of the downfalls of freenas is its use of ZFS and how that affects growing the size of your pool. If you wanted to add storage down the road with redundancy, you need to match it with your existing vdev. Given you want to do a single drive vdev, you will never have fault tolerance on that pool. If you bought more disks and set up a vdev with fault tolerance, you must now expand your pool with a vdev of a similar size meaning you have to grow multiple disks at a time.

If you wanted to run windows on freenas you can via bhyve.

I think for your use case, unraid makes more sense. You can have fault tolerance while growing the array one disk at a time. You can virtualize and containerize. The UI is even more intuitive. It requires less ram because it’s not using ZFS. Theres a community “app store” full of containers. Way more stuff here than freenas, only downside is its not free. I think its well worth its price.

on the topic of synology, you absolutely can build something way more capable. Its fair to want to do that. You cant however build something that is as easy to use and manage IMO. Its a set and forget solution. You will spend more time working on freenas and other OSs.

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I’ve done some more research today and have concluded you are indeed correct FreeNAS is probably not a good fit for my situation.
I am deciding between Unraid and Open Media Vault what are your thoughts on these two? Two things that concern me with Unraid one is that boots off USB and runs in RAM with guides saying not all USBs drives work and they will fail quite quickly. The other concern is I’ve looked up some performance comparisons and it lags behind FreeNAS.

Alternatively, would Windows Server be a better option if I embark on this Blue Iris home surveillance project? I mean I could run it in a VM but wouldn’t it be more efficient to run it natively?

Would you recommend an SSD for cache? I’m looking at a WD Red 10TB for my media and whatever else I decide on and in the future, for the home surveillance a 1-2TB WD Purple. What sized SSD is would be the absolute minimum feasible for this?

Is the Quadro P400 better than the Intel iGPU? The thread I linked to on my previous post about some people experiencing issues with Plex and the P400 concerns me but if its just an isolated issued I’m tempted to get a Threadripper 1900X given its significantly higher passmark score over the i3 9100 for very little more money and would I hope mean I could get more longevity out of it. I understand I would sacrifice Quick Sync but then I’d hope the P400 would make up for that.

Finally this may be a stupid question but my current PC ethernet speed is 1Gbs, with the NAS I am looking to build can I just put in a 10Gb ethernet PCIe card to improve the network speed? If so does it matter which one or can I just get a cheap one?

OpenMediaVault is decent but has caveats. It is installed on top of stock debian, so if you are wanting to do some home server things, it is a great option. The problem is that the web gui does not have options for everything, and I have had occasional problems with it. So if you are willing to do things in the terminal and over ssh when the web GUI does not sufice, it is great, if not then maybe something else is better.

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Unless you are directly connecting, you would also need to upgrade your network switch (or router). Then still you will not see a benefit unless you are accessing the NAS from more than one device at once, or you also buy a faster card for your main PC.

Intel is also making 2.5gbps networking cards, which is something else you can look into.

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