New project: a DIY NAS - need some help

I recently got some harddrives from a local PC store that fell into insolvency. Now I’ve got five 12TB HDDs (4x12 TB WD Red and 1x12TB WD white from an external WD MyBook drive) available.

Since I always wanted to get rid of all HDDs from my PC I’ve decided to get a NAS but I don’t like the limited power that QNAPs and Synology have with some older Intel atom dual cores (I only consider regular affordable models not some enterprise NAS they also offer).

So I thought about using an AMD APU or amybe a cheaper Athlon if these also have 4 cores with a B450 ITX board since I don’t want any Intel CPUs with all their security bugs in a small server.

My idea was to use the four WD Reds as main data HDDs and the WD white as spare drive for a Raid 5 configuration. But I really have no idea on what to use as OS, since there seem to be quite some options like OMV, FreeNAS/XigmaNAS and the likes. Do you have any recommendations for my setup with the most available disc space? Is ECC RAM necessary if I’d just use the device as central file server with some streaming capacity in a local network?

Best Regards,


The most amount of disk space is JBOD of course but that’s also the second fastest way to lose a ton of data, just behind raid0 aka deathwish raid.

Raid5 (3+ drives, one drive redundancy) is not a bad idea for the amount of drives you have but the individual drives themself are pretty big. So in case one of the drives fails any form of rescue will take a long time with no tolerance for additional problems. Therefor I would go with two drives of redundancy.

I still think FreeNAS is currently the best option for a fire and forget approach. You’ll have to set it up once and that is gonna take some time (just to learn how to deal with ZFS). But after that it is just there and doing it’s thing.

ECC is not necessary to run ZFS. But it is another layer of protection of course. In the end it is a personal choice. Do you want the maximum amount of protection for your data and are willing to pay extra for that or not. Personally I like having ECC memory running in my NAS.

The problem is: AMD APUs don’t support ECC. So you would either have to go Ryzen CPU with some form of cheap GPU or headless.


Totally agree with @noenken. FreeNAS would be ideal for you and there are plenty of detailed tutorials. You just add the drives into a “vdev” and select the level of redundancy (one drive) and it will just work ™. Set up a share and you are done. The devil is in the detail around performance, other features (backups etc) and what happens when it gets full, although if you are filling 40TiB you have bigger problems.

If you want to use all 5 drives beware of ITX motherboards as they often have only 4 ports.

One point here to add to @noenken‘s feedback. Usable storage is not the same as raw disk capacity. You need to effectively half your disk storage capacity in a setup with 5 disks given you need one drive for resilience (parity) and another one for cold backup. In your case I’d do either:

  • 2 pools of mirrored vdevs (ie Raid 1) with the reds and keep the white as a cold backup drive. Total 24TiB storage with high resilience and separate pools for different things (easier to shuffle data between them.

  • 1 pool created from a stripe of 2 mirrors (ie raid 10). Still 24TiB storage but in one big pool and more performance. Same amount of resilience. White still backup

  • 1 pool of 4 disks with 1 disk parity (raidz1, same as raid 5), 36TiB capacity with one disk redundancy and one big pool. Harder to expand but functional. 4 disk raid 5 is unusual but does work. White as backup again

Anything beyond that is a variation and gives no material improvement for the hardware you have.

If you have a gpu to hand for the First setup you can get more performance for similar price by getting a first gen ryzen 3/5/7 rather than an Apu The apu functions are not used in a NAS and it just wastes energy. You can remove the gpu after initial setup and run headless.

Note 5 disks can create a lot of heat, make sure the case has adequate cooling.

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I was actually thinking about raid6 (raidZ2) with all five disks. I don’t see a reason to put drives that are usable right now on a shelf for later. There will be drives available for purchase when something happens. :wink:

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Raidz2 really needs 6 drives. Otherwise you are basically running at 50% parity and it will bit a waste of disks. For just 5 disks raidz1 is good enough (with backups)

Are you saying you are going to ignore backups and just run resilient drives to protect your data? What happens when your PSU goes bang and you lose all 5 at once, or your friend / relative connects to the NAS with their laptop running wannacry? Keep a disk for backup… you won’t regret it.

Backups inside the same box I don’t consider backups at all, so I’m completely ignoring that aspect for the moment.

Wait … isn’t that just basically raid6? Pretty sure that works just fine with five disks.

Ty for the fast replies.

I’d use the NAS mostly for my movie collection (too lazy to use my Bluray disks all the time), so mostly non vital data on it. It’d just take ages to re-encode/remux them again. That’s why I came up with the idea of a Raid 5 with maximum storage and one spare drive. I keep my actual backups on several external drives, so no problem here.

@Airstripone: I have an old HD4850 somewhere, just need to find it (if it still works, haven’t used it in ages). What would be consuming less power, an APU or a 1st gen Ryzen (3, since more looks like overkill) in average?

I’d strongly recommend going with raidz2 instead of raidz1. Raidz1 is generally only recommended for small capacity drives 1-3TB. Rebuilding a 12TB disk can take multiple days. During that time the other drives drives are continuously hammered and probably have a higher failure risk.

36TB out of 60TB usable (60%) is decent if you consider that any two random disks can fail without losing data.

Linus’ explanation:


It will ‘work’ but it is not recommended. You would basically be running at 40% data space for parity. Most people use z1 for 3 to 5 disks and z2 for 6 or more.

Various reviews online cover tdp and actual consumption but the ryzen cpu will have more features for the power envelope and if you did want to go more advanced with virtual machines or plex you would do better with the cpu.

On 12TB drives that is a sacrifice I would be willing to make. That extra safety net for the moment a drive goes down… I would prefer that over capacity or having a spare drive. And we are still talking about 36TB in usable storage.

Even if it’s “just movies” and you still have all the discs, having to do all the ripping again just because another drive died on the rebuild? That would be a giant pain for me.

Yup, exactly that! :+1:

I would go with an all out Ryzen CPU and find a motherboard for it that had eight SATA ports, like the ASUS x370-Pro (or 470, or 570). ECC does work with those. Of course you can find other boards too. Or maybe you want a SAS RAID adapter instead of a lot of motherboard ports.

Grab a cheap GPU like the RX 460 or anything you have lying around. Put it all into a Fractal Design Silencer case. Or something similar.

That’s basically what I built two years ago and it is still running great with six HDDs and two SATA SSDs. Very quiet, and about 55W power use at idle.

I’m going to play the Intel shill here. If you wanted ECC, and didn’t want to sacrifice integrated graphics or a PCI-e slot (if you were doing an ITX build, for instance), the i3-8100 and 9100 aren’t bad choices, and both have T series variants with 35W TDPs, if you wanted low power usage in sustained load (Worth nothing AMD’s Ryzen 3000 chips are also very power efficient at idle). You’d also gain Intel Quick Sync for transcoding, if you plan on doing any video streaming from it.

The majority of recently discovered security vulnerabilities aren’t really things that should massively concern home users, and these chips don’t have Hyperthreading, which also means they’re not effected by quite a few of them.

As always, you’re better off going with the best value solution you can find that does what you want it to do.

For reference, my Ryzen 7 1700 with 4 disks, 3 SSDs, dual NIC and lower power GPU draws ~65W continuously at 10-40% CPU. My ASrock B450M Pro4 mobo supports ECC as well

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Yeah, I have a Ryzen 3 1200 on A320 for a router running ECC. The quicksync for transcoding might be interesting if it is supported though.

@Zavar I just looked it up out of curiosity and to me it looks like you need a plex pass to use quicksync on plex. Do you know if that is correct?

Can confirm.

I also don’t use it, because I’m running a 4th gen chip, and transcodes look like a blocky mess with it. Newer chips are apparently world better, but not a bad idea looking into it more.

Sure but I want to go for a smaller case, it is already hard enough to find smaller cases with more than three or four slots for 3,5" drives.
I am still using my define R6 for now, but I don’t want to have another midi tower case around (also no idea so far where I’d put it). So I need to get either a smaller board and hope that it got enough SATA ports or get an expansion slot ready for additional ones.

Yesterday I’ve seen that AMD did a new revision of the Ryzen 1600 in 12nm, maybe that would be an interesting option there.

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