Help with new home server build?

Hi everyone!

I have decided that I want to upgrade my current solution to UNRAID, so, I would like some help from you.

I currently have these parts that I plan to use, I bought the MOBO/CPU/RAM combo used, however I doubled the RAM (originally came with a set of 16gb from gskill - a friend of mine upgraded his PC and gave me his old set) and I also upgraded the CPU just because FOMO (I still have the Celeron that came with the combo):

My needs are simple, mainly media storage. Gonna use Plex server (I bought Plex pass a while ago) for movies and music, family videos and photos backups, and a couple more things like pihole, radarr, sonarr, qbitorrent, etc.

I’ve been running the server from my desktop PC for years but decided to make a dedicated box, so started experimenting with a raspberry pi and then bought the hardware listed above and installed truenas scale but decided against it, tried OMV and decided that unRAID is better suited for my needs.

So, the plan is to use unRAID as the OS, but I still need the HDDs and maybe a couple of additional parts.

  1. HDDs are easy, just go for the cheapest price-per-gb CMR drives I can buy, which may be 16tb Seagate Enterprise or something like that. In any case, if you have a recommendation for this, thanks.
  2. The (jonsbo n1) case takes 5 3.5" HDDs and 1 2.5" SSD/HHD, so, my understanding is that I should seize the 2.5" slot for an SSD and I should install the applications (Plex, sonarr, radarr, pihole, etc) on the 2.5" SSD right? According to a YouTube video I saw, I’ll get more performance if I install the apps on solid state drives rather than the mechanical drives.

2.1) If so, how big should be this SSD? Can I get away with a random 128gb? Should I sprint for a 2TB high quality one? What’s the recommendation here? What should I expect from it?

  1. The motherboard only has 4 SATA slots. If I want to use 5 HDDs plus 1 SSD for the apps, I’m gonna need some sort of expansion card, so I was thinking about using the nvme slot to add more SATA ports (this MOBO only has 1 NVME slot, so it will be gone) with an adapter like this one (ORICO M.2 PCIe M Key to 6 x SATA 6Gbps Adapter Card for Desktop PC Support RAID-PM2TS6) and like that I’ll add 6 more ports, leaving 4 additional ports to be used in the future. Alternatively, I could use a cheaper adapter like this one (ChenYang M.2 NGFF Key B+M to SATA 3.0 6Gbps Adapter Converter Hard Drive Extension Card JMB582 2280) with only 2 ports and save some money?

3.1) can I plug the 6 drives (5 3.5" HDDs and 1 2.5" SSD) to the expansion card in the NVME slot? Just for the sake of proximity/simplicity? To my understanding the bandwidth from the PCIE slot is more than sufficient, but please, those smarter than me, correct me. And the MOBO will recognize every drive as an individual drive, right?

3.2) the idea of using the nvme slot is to leave the pcie slot free in case I need it in the future for something else, like adding an expansion card or even a GPU like the T1000.

  1. cache? How do I incorporate it into my little “home server” (more like a nasbox)? Do I go add another 2.5" SSD and double-sided-tape-it inside the case? If I go for the larger nvme SATA expansion card I could simply add a additional SSDs inside the case. What about redundancy? (I don’t even know why is that important in the cache) do I add 2 more 2.5" SSDs with redundancy for the cache? Can I use the aforementioned expansion card to plug them in and just stick them inside the case?

4.1) if I added 2 more 2.5" SSDs (or even 1, if redundancy wasn’t needed) to the build to serve as cache drives, how big should these drives be? Should I add fast drives? Expensive drives? What am I looking for here specwise?

4.2) alternatively I guess I could just use the PCIE slot and add a expansion card for dual NVME drives, and add 2 NVME drives to the expansion card for the cache and redundancy. Is that a better alternative?

4.3) same question as 4.1., what kind of NVMEs am I looking for?

  1. What kind of pen drive should I get for unRAID as an OS? Is there a recommended brand/model? Ideally we want to avoid problems.

  2. am I ok with the stock cooler? Should I upgrade it?

Those would be all the questions for now. Thanks you in advance.

It’s best practice to run apps off of SSDs because it ensures that the HDD array goes to sleep properly and it’s not there spinning constantly. And, in turn, using too much power for the job and generating heat.

Capacity and quality aren’t often linked. You could get a good quality SDD in lower capacity. A good quality one will give you piece of mind and, if it’s equipped with RAM, way better performances when multiple apps are accessed at the same time.
Capacity is up to you. If you’re not gonna store any data on it, 500GB should be cheap enough from a reputable brand.

Is good practice to avoid RAID cards because the array created by an hardware card cannot be recorvered unless you get another of the same cards. Also software RAID is now more advanced and offers better data protection.
You should use an HBA (fancy card, costs more, does more) or a SATA controller so that the system can properly create a software RAID array.

These JMicron based cards are good enough, but are usually equipped with pretty basic firmwares or don’t entirely support power saving features. If you want to get a JMicron card check the JMB585 boards because they’re known to not use SATA multipliers (another big nono when it comes to SATA cards). In my opinion the ASM1166 cards are better and properly support PCIe power saving features. You can even get firmware updates for them, if something isn’t right with it.

Yes, no bandwith will be lost if you buy a PCIe 3.0x2 card. The system will address every single drive individually.

Cache is usually done with mirrored drives to increase reliability since SSDs have a finite number of writes. But you could also get by with just one drive. With a PCIe non-M.2 expansion card you could get more SATA ports, but always be mindful of SATA multiplier as said before. In that case you could add an SSD array to the system. Mount the SSDs wherever you got space for them, it doesn’t matter.

Size depends on the amount of files you need quick access to or the amount you usually dump. If you often access the same 200GB a 256GB read cache is enough. If you dump 100GB on the system every day a 128GB SSD will do. Depends on your needs. Keep in mind that ZFS uses RAM as a read cache so if you access the same 10GB of files usually that can be kept in RAM with 32GB of total system memory. There are also metadata volumes that store the address of each file on the HDD array, making access to that data quicker.
The speed of the SSDs you want to use depend on the LAN speed the system has access to. Up to 2.5Gbit SATA SSDs are fast enough. From 10Gbit and over you’re gonna need an NVME SSD.
In my opinion the most important values are TBW and sustained IOPS at low queue depths. This ensures the drive is snappy and durable.

I’ve had good luck and performances with the Samsung BAR USB drives. That’s my recommendation.

Sorry to come here and crash the party, but, regarding HDDs… You can do it, but unless you have a need for more than 20TB storage (6x4TB SSD is roughly $1000 right now, which is quite affordable), investing in a HDD array in 2024 is kinda dumb. You are much better off investing in m.2 infrastructure or u.2 infrastructure so you are ready to hit the ball out of the gate when the 8TB and 16TB m.2 reach affordable levels (8TB should hit before december this year, 16TB should hit early to mid 2026, and by late 2027 32TB SSDs should go below $400, maybe even $300).

HDDs are reaching the end of the road but are not yet at their end station. You can see it on the horizon now though. :slight_smile:

As for the rest of the build, pretty sweet for something you already have purchased. Power draw is a slight concern, but should be fine.