NEW Plex / NAS server build


Looking to get some help in building a server for my home to do the following. Looking to spend about $1000 for all parts. I will not have any parts to start with.

What I want the server to do:
Home storage of photos / music / movies etc...
Run Plex no requirement for more than 3 streams.
Run a cloud app that can be put on IOS and android devices mostly for photo uploading.

Some factors to consider:
Not overly concerned with noise.. does not have to be silent. Will be in other room.
Will be on 24/7 as a cloud device NAS
Looking to start with 4 4TB drives in some sort of RAID configuration.

Dont want to rebuild this in two years, wont to buy some quality now and not have to mess with it for a while.

For software, learning more about Free NAS and feel I can get it to work for me. I would like some feedback on how well cloud apps work with Free NAS. ( will my wife be able to back up her iphone and to it and stop complaining her icloud is full). I have seen you can get Plex on Free NAS so not too concerned there.

Once set up how user friendly is Free NAS? If anyone could point to some videos or sites for some more feedback. Not sure what this jail talk is about.

I know WD did just come out with a NAS device labeled pro series that Plex is advertising that it will work, which is tempting to get a generic user interface, but I am betting that for the same money I can get a much better machine, only concerned about how easy it will be to use.

I have some experience and can follow instructions! I have already moved away from consumer routers and I set up and now using Ubiquiti's Edge Router lite and their line of AP's in my home.

Thanks for any help and feedback, I am in the Kansas city area so have good access to equipment.


So how important is your data?

It's fairly important, family photos and school work. Nothing business related. But it would suck to lose it for sure!

Mostly just determines if you want to shell out for ECC

Paul's NAS didn't use ECC, but I think he was upgrading that eventually....

Non ECC probably overkill NAS with a silenced case

PCPartPicker part list:
Price breakdown by merchant:

CPU: Intel Core i7-4790 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($294.99 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($29.49 @ SuperBiiz)
Motherboard: ASRock H97M Anniversary Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($66.33 @ OutletPC)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 32GB (4 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($114.94 @ Amazon)
Case: Fractal Design Define S ATX Mid Tower Case ($69.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Power Supply: SeaSonic 450W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($73.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Total: $649.73
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-07-28 22:58 EDT-0400

Think the i7 above is faster on clocks, might need something in that range for multiple streams, but for ECC, Intel Avaton and the parts listed here

Otherwise look into Xeon 1231v3 + ECC, with most of the same parts above

Thanks for the quick response. Just to make sure Im keeping up.... I know about ECC v. DDR just at the wave top level. To ensure longevity out of the device I am leaning towards ECC just so I dont feel the need to upgrade later. Do you feel for home use ECC is overkill? So for ECC you are recommending the Intel Avaton instead.

I watch the video again... Thanks again..


The avaton set up is nice because it's low power, you'll have to look into it more to see if it can do your streaming, but it does have 8 cores

the Xeon 1231v3 is the next step up for lower cost ECC support, and 8 threads at like 3.6ghz so it's faster than the avaton

and ya ECC should be in your NAS usually anyways if you can afford it, which you can, unless you just want to cheap out and go for an FX 8 core build and spend most of the money on hard drives or something

Mate, I'm sorry but this is not good for a nas. First, an I7 is a terrible pick for a Nas. Nas's aren't CPU intensive, so your wasting a lot of money on something that won't be fully utilized, and doesn't support ECC, which is very important when your dealing with FreeNas. Next, you only need 16gbs of ram for a build with 4x4TB drives, 32 is way over the top, and it should be ECC. Next, the define S doesn't even support 4 Hard Drives.

An I3 is all you really need for FreeNas and this level of functionality. The nice thing about the I3 is that it is the only mainstream part from Intel that actually supports ECC Memory, which you want. I then went with a WS Board from Gigabyte to get ECC compatibility on the Motherboard side, along with WS Reliability. Then I selected 2 sticks of Kingston ECC Memory at 8gb's a stick, which all you really need for this much storage. I then selected 5 of the Seagate ST4000DM000's, which were highly praised and had legendarily low failure rates in this BackBlaze drive report where they had nearly 35,000 of these exact drives running in their data centers:

Other then that, I added a cheapo video card as this particular Gigabyte motherboard actually has no video outputs natively on board. I selected a Fractal Design Arc R5 as the drive cases have rubber mounts and are well built, and the case is quiet and relatively small. Then I added a quality 80+ Gold rosewill power supply.

Very! I use it daily and its awesome!

Any drive will work, WD has great marketing and makes people believe they need Nas drives. The seagate drives I selected will work just fine.

Thanks for the awesome leg work... Caveman, would you recommend a small SSD for plex meta data files and to put Free NAS on or just use the thumbdrive method and store everything on the main HDD's?


Store FreeNas on a thumb drive, I wouldn't bother storing the meta data on SSD, i think it would be fine to store it on the HDD raid

Didn't notice that on the case, Suppose the R5 is fairly silent anyways

is an i3 really enough for the multiple streams he wants to do?

Do you guys have any CPU rec's that might be in the middle of the i3 anc i7 as far as price and passmark scores.. the i7 wat about 10K and the i3 was 5.5K... and support ECC. I appreciate the help! So much new info for me to wade through. Yall have cut down the research time tremendously.

Xeon 1231v3, it's just an i7 with no iGPU

or there are 4 core Xeons with no hyperthreading, but you pretty much might as well get the 8 thread Xeon

For three streams, it would be more than enough. The H.265 encoding and decoding will facilitate whatever he needs really.

But with a budget of $1000, he could easily get like an i7 and be set for life

You wouldn't want an I7, you want ECC, so you would want a Xeon that has integrated graphics, because of the hardware accelerated H.265 acceleration. Although, for 3 streams, an I3 will be much more than enough, and he has the option to drop in a Xeon with full ECC in my build if he decides in 4 years that he wants to be able to handle more streams. Honestly I have seen the Avoton 8 core do quad 1080p streams without problem, and this I3 is faster and has hardware acceleration that the Avoton didn't have.

Also, I wanted to explain this when I did my initial parts list but my friend is having friends over, so I got a skype call from three chicks, and I could not pass that shit up.

The type of Z Raid you should be using with 4TB drives. Raid 5, or Raid Z, is not suitable for this type of build. The problem with that large of drive and a Raid 5, is that when a drive fails, your rebuild time for drives of this capacity is going to be long, like because your rebuild is at best, half the write speed. This means a couple things, mostly the stress it will put on all the drives in your system. With a Raid 5 or Raid Z, your going to be stressing all the drives more than if you had a Raid 6 or Raid Z2, as less work has to be done by each drive. Also, by having a raid Z2 or Raid 6, you can have 2 drives fail, and not lose any data. This is important for drives of the 4TB capacity, and really any drive larger than 2TB, as the rebuild time means that a second drive failing during the rebuild process has a large percentage chance. Thusly, I would recommend Raid Z2 with my build with the five, 4TB drives. With Raid Z2 under ZFS, you lose two drives capacity as that is taken for parity calculations that need to be done to ensure that you can reconstruct a lost drive's data in the event of a drive failing. This is largely the same as traditional Raid 6, although ZFS does the equivalent of ECC for your hard drives on a software level. So if you have a bit flip, ZFS can detect that and correct it.

So, in short, Raid 5 or ZFS Raid Z is bad for drives this large, so use Raid 6 or ZFS Raid Z2. You will have roughly 12TB of usable space with my build and a proper Raid Z2. This ensures maximum data safety, as you have the best possible chance of successfully rebuilding your array in the event of a drive failure, and prevents bit rot as ZFS will correct any bits that get out of line.


H.265 is still pretty rare and more CPU intensive than H.264.

@OP: My FreeNAS box with an Atom can stream 2x 1080p without issue, and I don't see 3 or 4 being a problem as it has 8 physical cores.

True it is still rare, although the I3 6100 has hardware acceleration for both H.264 and H.265, which would make it superior to the Avoton which doesn't have hardware acceleration for either if I remember correctly. The IGpu can be leveraged for these kinds of things as well :) Plus, 265 will be prevelent eventually and having hardware acceleration for that will be handy when he has more H.265 clients.

WOW! amazing contributions thanks to everyone.

Caveman - you are recommending a 5th HDD to run Raid Z2, is that correctt? That is about the only change so far. You mention the size of the HDD and the problems for it to repair. Would it be beneficial to get a 5th but smaller HDD maybe 3TB?

You didnt mention a CPU cooler, do you not feel I would need one? Or was it included with another component.

For the CPU discussion, you mention getting a XEON, do you have a particular model you'd recommend?

This discussion is past my level of understanding on CPU's. Same with H.265 / 264.

Thanks again!

No you want all the drive sizes to be matching. Raid Z2 with five of the four terabyte seagate drives would net about twelve terabytes of usable, and raid Z2 ensures that your rebuild would be absolutely fine with this setup and five identical drives.

The I3 comes with an Intel stock cooler, its much more than enough than you would need, although you could throw in a hyper 212 evo if you wanted too.

The Xeon 1245v5 would be the one I would look at, as it is modern skylake architechure and has onboard video which is very nice for accelerating plex streams.

H.265 is the new compression and streaming technology that has been trickling out slowly. It is optimized to use less bandwidth and stream faster, and the integrated gpu on an intel skylake cpu can be used to accelerated this process. H.264 is the older variant of H.265, and does the same things but less efficiently. H.264 will be in all your devices but new devices going forward will support both H.265 and H.264. The Xeon I listed above and the I3 will both be able to accelerate this process due to the on board video chip on these parts. StreetGuru suggested a Xeon 1231v3, which although a good part, does not support acceleration of either H.264 or H.265 as this particular Xeon part does not have onboard video, which is why I would not suggest this part for your use case.

Three streams of Direct play and three streams of transcoding is very different. If your Plex Client cannot direct play then the server will need to transcode the file into a file type your client can play. This is applys to Video codec, video bitrate, video encoding type, audio type, subtitles etc. If you device cannot direct play any parts of the video/audio file it will need to transcode. There is a whole bunch more you can do to optimize your library so it doesnt have the need to transcode but that is beyond the scope of this.

Unfortunately Plex does not leverage integrated graphics for transcoding so having a integrated graphics will not help you much with plex. Transcoding H.264 is VERY CPU intensive and can bring almost any CPU to its knees. For really high bitrates and H.265 encoded files takes a lot of CPU. So all in all only get an integrated graphics for hooking up a monitor to it, not much else to use it for in this case since FreeNAS will run headless

Sizing your CPU will depend on what quality of media you have and what you will be transcoding it to. If you just have DVD quality 480P video encoded in H.264 then Three transcoding streams would probably be ok with an i3. If you want to transcode three streams of UHD 60Mbps streams to 12Mbps and have good video quality on a 75inch TV then you will need something a lot more powerful, Think i7 or Xeon (4core/8 threads).

I would guess you will be somewhere inbetween so I would get a Xeon (Quad core) with some ECC ram and have at it. It should be good for most 1080P transcoding sessions.