FreeNAS Server

Hi there,

i want to build a small FreeNAS Server to store my big Files on and to work with eclipse for example on 3 different pc's with the same programm, options and files.

I will go for the following Hardware:

MB: ASrock Q1900m Board (Intel Celeron 4x2.00Ghz with 10 W TDP for the whole board)
CPU: See above
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport DIMM Kit 8GB, DDR3-1600
HDD: 3 WD Reds 3 TB with 4 Watt max. For RaidZ
SSD: ADATA Premier SP600 64GB, SATA 6Gb/s (ASP600S3-64GM-C) for ZFS Cach
maybe another small SSD for the OS or an USB stick.
Case:AeroCool Xpredator Cube
PSU:be quiet! Pure Power L8 300W ATX 2.4
And one Sata Controller i could need your help with.

So my questions are:

What Sata-Controller should i get (i havent that much money and i have heard a lot negative things about most controllers in the pricerange 10-25€) and how should i set it up (I got 2 MB Sata's and i would say the SSD('s) plugged in in the Motherboard and the HDD's in the Controller)

Any recommendations or anything i should know before starting to buy and assemble?

Greetings from germany


While I can't advise you on much of your hardware I would recommend a couple things, it looks like your trying to go low wattage which is a very good plan I would consider a different board and forget the sata controller card, something like the Asrock C2550D4I it has a ton of sata ports, uses standard 240pin memory, and dual Intel gigabit nics, yes it's a little pricey but if you shop around you might find a deal on it. I'd also recommend installing Freenas on a USB thumb drive (8gig is plenty) not on a hard drive or SSD as the OS will consume every bit of any hard drive you install to regardless of size and there really isn't any advantage as long as your mb will boot from USB, using a smallish SSD for system cache is another great idea.

I'd also consider upping the ram to 16gig over the 8gig, yes you can do that later if you plan ahead and don't populate all of your dimm slots, FreeNas/ZFS like memory and the more you can throw at it the better performance you'll get. Once you do your install on a USB thumb drive and boot up you can do everything you need to do via the web interface remotely including setting up your drive pool, you only need video for the initial install everything else can be done remotely.

You need ECC RAM to run ZFS. So you'll have to spend a lot more on ECC RAM and a motherboard/processor that's compatible with ECC RAM - Intel avoton-atom or xeon processors and motherboards that specifically state "ECC compatible" in the specs.

You don't need a RAID or SATA controller with ZFS unless you have more drives than your motherboard has SATA ports. With 3 drives plus an SSD cache, that shouldn't be an issue since most of the motherboards compatible with ECC will have 6 Intel SATA ports (some also have an additional 6 Marvell ports but FreeNAS doesn't like the Marvell ports ). The SATA ports will likely be a mix of SATA II and SATA III. SATA III will work when pluged into SATA II, but at a slower maximum transfer speed. Plug your SSD into one of the SATA III, for the Hard drives it doesn't matter which they are plugged into since they don't read or write fast enough to need SATA III transfer rates.

The psu and the hard drives look like good choices.

You may also want to pick up a battery backup UPS unit, if you don't already have one.

You should not need an SSD cache for a FreeNAS box this size. It'll just be adding complexity to the system that won't buy you anymore performance. It would be better to double the memory. The ASRock C2550D4I board and cpu suggested by @blanger would also be a better choice since you plan on having multiple people connected to this box and it supports ECC memory. The J1900 celeron processor on the Q1900m board does not support ECC memory which is essential for the error correcting functionality of the ZFS file system. It also means that you won't need a SATA controller card since the C2550D4I has 10 SATA ports on board, simplifying the system even more.

Edit: Realtek on board LAN is really slow and doesn't perform well with FreeNAS. ASRock C2550D4I board has dual Intel NIC's on board, another plus.

Thank you very much for your help guys.

So i wont use the Q1900m cause of the missing ECC Support and only 2 Sata's. But i don't think i have enough money for the asrock board (now) . Unfortunately my knowledge about hardware is not quite good and i have another question: Is there another option for a Mainboard and a CPU that needs comparable less energy, with ECC Support that is cheaper than 277€ (307$)?. (Sorry.. i really dont have any experience in CPU/Mainboards but my two builds with an FX-8350 and one with the Q1900M Board)

I will try to go for a board with ECC support, i didn't know it is necessary...

It is recommended to use ECC memory with the ZFS file-system to prevent corruption. It's not a mandatory requirement. However, if you are using FreeNAS in a production environment, ECC is the way to go. This is regardless of any file-system that you use.

I'm not trying to split hairs, but I don't use ECC memory in my home servers as I don't see the need (Other than ZFS being a resource hog...)

Yes.. i also heard about it and a friend of mine got a server running several years with RaidZ without having any (big) problems without ECC...

But the problem is, i will not have any backups for everything on the Server. I will just trust the RaidZ and for the really important data i have another 2 TB plate so i wont die if all the files are lost.

Well, i read a few articles about ECC, RAM and ZFS and i think this is probably not the best idea to use not ECC when not having a backup...

I decided to go for an ECC System in any case with this memory: Kingston ValueRAM DIMM Kit 8GB, DDR3-1600, CL11, reg ECC (KVR16R11S8K4/8) for 57€ thats a very good deal.

I think i have enough money for the serverboard soon so i could buy the ASRock C2550D4I.

I want to keep this server several years without upgrading and now i am considering taking the ASRock C2750D4I (the big board with 8 x 2,4Ghz) then taking the small with 4 x 2,4 Ghz because i want to use compression, and an owncloud server in the FreeNAS. Do you think i should take the big one or the small on?

But if you have a recommendation for another CPU + MB setup (with ECC and low power consumption and cheaper than the Serverboard) please let me know.

And just for the record: What would you say is the risk loosing all of my data? Are RAM-Errors that likely?

thank you in advances guys, you probably saved my data from getting corrupt with your ECC tipp.

Personally, I wouldn't run a FreeNAS server with the current hardware you listed in your initial post. I'd recommend running a server Linux install with Logical Volume Management and just RAID-5 your WD Reds. Or run an easy software RAID-5 still in a server Linux and have that accessible as a network drive.

Well i will try it with FreeNAS cause of the Owncloud-Service. And RaidZ cause of the great security for my files because i cant have a backup of all the data. Later i will try a normal server Linux maybe.

My current setup is:
MB: ASRock C2550D4I or C2750D4I (could use your help for this decision)
CPU: See above
RAM: Kingston ValueRAM DIMM Kit 8GB, DDR3-1600, CL11, reg ECC (KVR16R11S8K4/8)
HDD: 3 WD Reds 3 TB with 4 Watt max. For RaidZ
Case:AeroCool Xpredator Cube
PSU:be quiet! Pure Power L8 300W ATX 2.4

So should i get the big or the small board. Or ist there any other, cheaper solution with ECC and (super) low power consumption?

I want to use this Server for FreeNAS, Owncloud, my own javaServer and Fileserver. It will use compression and RaidZ any maybe encryption.

I'm not an expert on this stuff, so I'm not going to argue the point.

Jep, i read exactly this article and no i ordered the ECC RAM.
The last decition is between these two boards or another board + CPU combo.
I just dont have enaugh experience to be sure this is the best option for me because i dont know that much cpu's and mb's and i dont know exactly how much computing power FreeNas + Owncloud + RaidZ + compression (+ probably encryption) i will need.

So i ordered the big board with the quadcore now.
But with the HDD's i am not sure if this is the right choice: I dindt broke much HDD's before so i have not that much experience with the livetime of them. I heard that the WD Red's are very good drives but isnt RaidZ for crappy HDD's?
So what about buying the Intenso 4TB, SATA 6Gb/s (6513123) for less money with more space?
Any tipps about that?

For parity RAIDS like RAIDz1, you need hard drives that are designed to be in a RAID. They should have ERC (Error Recovery Control) also known as TLER. Without ERC, the firmware on the hard drive can interfere with the RAID.

I don't know about the intenso drives. We don't have them in the states, and I can't find much on the internet that isn't in German.

WD Reds are the cheap option if you want new drives.

You may be able so save some money by buying refurbished or recycled enterprise drives like WD RE or HGST Ultrastar.

Ah ok Thank you. i thought RaidZ just works with software implemented Checksums and you should use goood HDD's that you dont have to change the drives every week.

Thank you for your help i will buy the red's next month. You guys helped me a lot.