Nas/media server for cheap

Hello all,

This I should my first time posting here, so if I have the wrong category please let me know. I inherited a busted rack nas that contained 12 400gb seagate hard drives. I would like to turn those hard drives into a cheap nas (was thinking freenas) and then run a media server on the nas.

So here is my list of requirements:

  • stream media to my PS3 and PS4 (I don’t have a smart tv, nor do I want one)
  • I would like to use up all 12 hard drives, so lots of sata connections
  • smallish footprint (2 foot cube doable?)
  • cost under $300

Most of the guides I have read about freenas say to use intel because the support for and is so bad. I tried using pcpartpicker to find something cheap that had enough sata connections but the motherboard alone seems to be $250ish. Any suggestions, or am I being unrealistic here?

Many thanks!

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Welcome aboard the community. Short answer is this is very much achievable for $250

FreeNAS will work fine for your needs and you can run Plex to stream to those devices or setup a share and pre-transcode the media to a format either can read. Many guides online for this.

You say you have a rackmount case already? Presumably with a backplane. Are you ditching this and want to go with a smaller case? 12 drives is a lot for a small footprint case.

Don’t try to get a mobo with 12 ports. Just use a HBA. Look for a LSI compatible card with a couple of SAS connectors that will break out into 8 ports. Use the other 4 ports from the mobo. You can get a decent HBA for $40, leaving $200 for any CPU and Board combo.

If you want new look at low end Ryzen, works fine (intel point is old news).

If you don’t mind a couple of years old used kit look at an i3 or i5 haswell or newer.

Make sure you budget for ram. You will need 16GB minimum for a good experience.

Good luck and ask any other questions you may have


Can second that. I’ve built a couple of these systems. Having enough RAM is much more important than the fastest CPU. I would get a decent 64 bit 4 core processor.

The next thing is how to actually make use of those drives. You can use ZFS or BTRFS to make a large and resistant volume out of them. Before you do, please read more about these file systems so you know what you’re doing.

In my latest build I used a smaller SSD to install the base Linux system on and used the spinning HDD’s for the data. I can really recommend doing this, as your system speed will increase and you’ll have a separation between your system files and the actual data.

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Thank you both for the well thought out responses!
I don’t have anything to mount the rack to, nor any idea if it event worked and no equipment to check if it was working. So I took it apart to see how it was designed just for fun, saving the drives and the pieces for connecting the hard drives (had hot swap things attached).

For the case I was thinking of the fractal node 804, which seems like it could handle 10 drives?

How important is it to get a mobo with a 10g intel nic? From reading freenas they say it is a requirement. Can you recommend one that will be compatible with the ryzen cpus? I was thinking the 3300g would do?

How much should I care about getting ECC ram? Again reading freenas they make it sound like you absolutely need it, but I have seen people build without, but they don’t have any follow up to say if that worked out ok for them.

People have been building NAS boxes long before ECC RAM became a commodity. They worked just fine lol

What exactly would you use a 10GbE for? If you’re streaming from the NAS, you’ll also need 10GbE on the other side, and even then you won’t saturate the channel. It’s only useful on a NAS box if you’re transferring from multiple devices to it, or if you already have a 10GbE switch…

IMO, it’s better to use a PCIE slot for a good Wifi card.

I don’t think I would saturate the 10g connection, but all the freenas ligature says that it isn’t important to use an intel nice since the drivers are better and the Qualcomm often cause problems

ZFS needs ECC ram for all the same reasons any file system needs ECC ram. That is to say, if you care about the data then you should use ECC, if you dont then you shouldnt.

Pretty important because of driver support. You dont need 10g though, 1g is fine.

This… So much this.

Dont fall for the meme. If you dont know why you’d want to use ZFS then you probably dont need to be using ZFS.

FreeNAS and ZFS are cool, but theres some downsides and caveats to it.

It would be a pain to have to re-rip all my video content, but that is doable so for me ECC shouldn’t be needed. I am more concerned with stability of the system. Freenas since it is based on FreeBSD seems to be picky, so I would rather build the system once with known good parts instead of multiple times trying unknown configurations.

I have read up on ZFS as it peaked my interest before I ever thought about a NAS(I used to work for the library of congress).

BSD is pretty stable in general but theres some qualifiers about driver support there. If you’re set on ZFS you could do something like proxmox instead, or even just plain ol ubuntu server with ZFS on linux.

In my experience and based on information I have read from people who have investigated this errors that ECC helps with are quite rare. When they do happen it could be a very big problem if you don’t have ECC, which is why businesses care a lot about this, but especially for home use I would say this is more a nice to have than a necessity as long as you have regular backups you should be fine here.

Theres lots of schools of thought about this but the bottom line is no checksumming filesystem can correct data that was written to disk incorrectly from the start.

I’m not saying ECC is necessary or not. I’m saying if you care about the data, then you get ECC.

Also ZFS + ECC doesnt mean you can get away with just not having a backup either

Some people dont think about backups when they buy parts to build a NAS and then find out the hard way later.

Make backup solutions a priority now, before you build anything.

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This advice is the best advice. You really need three times the amount of storage you need in order to keep your data in all cases. 3-2-1 still applies, whether you use ZFS, BTRFS or FAT and whether or not you use a RAID system.

RAID will only save you time whenever there is a drive failure. It will not save your data if there is an electrical failure in your system, if you accidentally delete something and find out a month later or if you have a malware attack. And if you think you’re safe with less, think again - there are always possibilities you just can’t see coming.

I once saw a computer shop owner fry 3 computers in a row because he could not believe the printer I returned to him could have blown my computer. But it did.


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