Computers & Electronics

NAS alternative: My unRAID server build

  • Last Updated:
  • Sep 9th, 2015 11:59 am
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes

NAS alternative: My unRAID server build

This is a 7 year old thread (updated Jan 2011). The specs of my server have changed a lot, but I still recommend unRAID I've updated this first post a lot, but it doesn't resemble my current 24-bay case build. Up to over 40TB of storage now.


unRAID is a Linux-based media server alternative to a network attached storage (NAS) device.
From the wiki:
unRAID Server is a Network Attached Storage server operating system designed to boot from a USB Flash device and specifically designed for digital media storage. It employs a unique RAID technology, close to RAID4, but without striping, which provides for great configuration flexibility:

* Any combination of IDE and SATA hard drives may be used
* All the hard drives do not need to be the same size or speed
* Hard drives not being accessed may be spun down
* Can rebuild any single failed hard drive

Features:

It boots from a USB key: Any hard drives you put into it can be 100% used for storage.

Parity: Your data is protected from loss if a single drive fails. Just replace the drive and all your data will be restored. RAID 5 also does this.

Further protection: If a second drive fails before you replace the first failed one, you only lose the data on the two failed drives, not the whole array. RAID5 does not do this.

Expandable: Add more drives without needing to rebuild the array. Mix and match IDE and SATA drives.

Low Power: Using a Celeron 420 or other low power chip, and your power usage is going to be low, low, low... especially since any drives that are not being used can be spun down after a user-defined length of time idle.

Low Cost: Free for three drives. About $60 for up to 6 drives. $99 for up to 20 drives. Higher disk numbers will be supported soon.

Cheap to build: Just use any mobo that boots from USB. No need for a high speed CPU, and 1 GB of RAM is plenty. You can even recycle those old S939/S754 CPUs and make one cheaper than mine.



Here's something close to my build, with the following differences. I've substituted 1 TB drives where I got some 750 GB ones. The Mobo is also similar to mine, but not the same. I have 2 Promise TX4 cards in mine for a total of 12 SATA ports. My server can only house 11 drives total at the moment as I have a ThermalTake 3-in-3 device cage and two Coolermaster 4-in-3 device cages, rather than three 4-in-3 device cages. Overall, with falling hard drive prices, I spent about the same in total, adding drives incrementally as this build, which has an extra 2.75 TB over mine: Oops, I forgot to add the RAM in the pricing below. I use 2 GB of decent OCZ RAM that I got really cheap during the 2007 Boxing Day Sales.

[IMG]http://img401.imageshack.us/img401/4424 ... peczp4.jpg[/IMG]
[IMG]http://img523.imageshack.us/img523/7972/292181uk5.jpg[/IMG][IMG]http://img523.imageshack.us/img523/3307 ... ainjb7.jpg[/IMG]

The Coolermaster Centurion 590 is an excellent case with 9 optical drive bays. You can fill them with drive cages like the item on the right above. This allows four 3.5" hard drives to fit into three optical drive bays. The case comes with one as standard, so add two more for up to 12 drives!

Consider the price of this empty server without drives, and you see it's MUCH better value than an empty 4-bay RAID box.

With the drive cages with 120 mm fans on them, my drives rarely get above 35 C:
[IMG]http://img243.imageshack.us/img243/8250 ... 009md1.jpg[/IMG]
Nice clean browser based interface as seen in the pic above.

Network Shares I created:

[IMG]http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/3835/sharesla7.jpg[/IMG]
You have lots of control over which shares are seen and by whom.

It's faster than most NAS devices too- as fast as the motherboard or add-in card's gigabit ethernet. I use mine to stream HD video, audio and photos. I can make as many network shares as I like.

More details at the Lime Technology unRAID website.

I'm not affiliated with unRAID or Lime Technology. All I can say is that I've never run any Linux OS before, but the software installation was the easiest I've ever done for a complex hardware/software combo like this. I'm So happy with this thing!

I bought some motherboard USB header to USB slot adaptors so that I can house my unRAID OS flash drive inside the server case.

Before starting, you MUST read this excellent guide on what to do.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
1015 replies
Deal Addict
Oct 17, 2001
1205 posts
37 upvotes
Burnaby
Hello...

Let me get this clear... You build a pretty cheapo computer, with some drives, stick a USB key into with the software and boot off it. Then the thing becomes browser accessible where you set up some disks and that's it? I guess you must denote one of them (probably the largest) as the parity disk?

Can you somehow set up all the disks as a single volume? Or are they all independent? I guess this works like PAR2 files do, only on drives...

hades
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
hades wrote: Hello...

Let me get this clear... You build a pretty cheapo computer, with some drives, stick a USB key into with the software and boot off it. Then the thing becomes browser accessible where you set up some disks and that's it? I guess you must denote one of them (probably the largest) as the parity disk?

Can you somehow set up all the disks as a single volume? Or are they all independent? I guess this works like PAR2 files do, only on drives...

hades
Yes, basically all the first paragraph is correct.
You can make it all one volume, or as many as you want. You can assign certain disks to make up part of a volume, and even decide how the drives fill up. e.g. the one with the most space gets written to, or all drives get a more even distribution of data.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Expert
User avatar
Jun 12, 2003
15057 posts
1455 upvotes
Markham
i don't understand how it will work with drives of different sizes AND still have parity

almost sounds too good to be true... there must be some downside to this
ShadowVlican
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
ShadowVlican wrote: i don't understand how it will work with drives of different sizes AND still have parity

almost sounds too good to be true... there must be some downside to this
Nope it works, and has been working for a long time with many users.
The stipulation is that your parity drive has to be the largest drive in the array, but your storage drives can be as large as it (just not greater).
unRAID has been described as "RAID4 without striping", if that means anything to you.

As far as I know, there is no catch... and that's why I was happy to pay $100 for a Linux-based server os.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Addict
Nov 30, 2003
3248 posts
58 upvotes
Mississauga
Gonna give this a try, OP. Thanks. Here's a quick comparison of the ones I've used so far:

FreeNAS: uses BSD, can boot from a USB drive or in my case, an old CF Microdrive that was just lying around. One downside is the lack of drivers for some add-on SATA cards.

NASLite - boot from a floppy. I don't have floppy drives anymore. :(

OpenFiler - also build off of Linux, but I don't have extensive use of this one.

ClarkConnect - essentially a prebuilt Linux server with sharing. Again, I haven't used it as much, but I don't think it's as "idiot-proof" as unRAID sounds.

The upside for the ones above, are that with the exception of NASLite, they are all free, regardless of the number of drives.

I'm curious if the mini itx board from Intel (with the celeron 220) will be enough grunt to power a video storage. That would take very little power AND space.

I'm going to give unRAID a test drive, so thanks again to the OP.
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
You're welcome, Topher.
I thought about FreeNAS for sure. In the end, the ability to use any drives I had lying around, the ability to add on as I went along, and the possibility to lose two drives from the array simultaneously and not lose ALL my data convinced me.

I had a couple of NAS devices, each with 2 additional external drives attached. When I needed more space, I could have got another NAS, but then I was already out of Gigabit ports on my router. Plus, decent NAS devices cost as much as the server anyway, and in fact use the same amount of power.... not to mention the heat!
Topher wrote: Gonna give this a try, OP. Thanks. Here's a quick comparison of the ones I've used so far:

FreeNAS: uses BDS, can boot from a USB drive or in my case, an old CF Microdrive that was just lying around. One downside is the lack of drivers for some add-on SATA cards.

NASLite - boot from a floppy. I don't have floppy drives anymore. :(

OpenFiler - also build off of Linux, but I don't have extensive use of this one.

ClarkConnect - essentially a prebuilt Linux server with sharing. Again, I haven't used it as much, but I don't think it's as "idiot-proof" as unRAID sounds.

The upside for the ones above, are that with the exception of NASLite, they are all free, regardless of the number of drives.

I'm curious if the mini itx board from Intel (with the celeron 220) will be enough grunt to power a video storage. That would take very little power AND space.

I'm going to give unRAID a test drive, so thanks again to the OP.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Addict
Oct 17, 2001
1205 posts
37 upvotes
Burnaby
Yes, basically all the first paragraph is correct.
You can make it all one volume, or as many as you want. You can assign certain disks to make up part of a volume, and even decide how the drives fill up. e.g. the one with the most space gets written to, or all drives get a more even distribution of data.
Just to verify, I can stick in 4 HDs (let's say 500gigs each), denote one as parity, and make the other 3 a single share under Windows as a single 1.5tb drive.

Then tell it to write to the first drive first and when it fills up start the 2nd? It must write all of the file to the same drive, otherwise it's not recoverable. So technically I could break the RAID at any time, remove the drives and recover the data by sticking it into another Linux machine (just to see the interface)?

Can you please post a few more screenshots of the browser interface? Or can I download it and stick it into any computer and use it without destroying the drive in the computer?
i don't understand how it will work with drives of different sizes AND still have parity

almost sounds too good to be true... there must be some downside to this
If you download from newsgroups, they use PAR2 files which work EXACTLY like this. Some parity files are created, but the source files could be of any size. This must use the same basic algorithm.
http://www.techsono.com/faq/par.html

The computer does nothing BUT fileserve, right? Have you noticed any slow writing speeds (because the computer has to create the parity information via CPU)?

hades
Deal Addict
Oct 12, 2005
3806 posts
23 upvotes
Topher wrote: NASLite - boot from a floppy. I don't have floppy drives anymore. :(
I have box fulls @ $5 each :lol: :lol:

Thanks for posting your list of NAS software. I'm using a NAS portable enclosure but might start up my full sized NAS once high capacity HDD prices stabilize. I love my VantecLX but it's not REALLY a NAS without the RAID feature.
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
hades wrote: Just to verify, I can stick in 4 HDs (let's say 500gigs each), denote one as parity, and make the other 3 a single share under Windows as a single 1.5tb drive.
Yes, this is what you can do. I have this exact same setup, but with 750 Gb drives currently; 2.25 GB of storage, plus parity.
hades wrote: Then tell it to write to the first drive first and when it fills up start the 2nd? It must write all of the file to the same drive, otherwise it's not recoverable. So technically I could break the RAID at any time, remove the drives and recover the data by sticking it into another Linux machine (just to see the interface)?
The way your shares are setup is simple, but you can use High Water or Most Free to control how drives are filled up. High Water will write to a disk until it's half full, then start on the next drive, then the next. Once they're all full, it goes to the first one again until half the free space remaining is filled up and so on. Most Free writes to the drive with the most free space. You determine the split level, so you can even ensure that whole folders are written to the same drive.

hades wrote: Can you please post a few more screenshots of the browser interface? Or can I download it and stick it into any computer and use it without destroying the drive in the computer?
I'm at work now, so this will have to wait until later. Since it'd be booting from the USB key (make sure your is compatible), it should be fine to try out. The interface detects the drives, and won't build anything until you start the process, but you better check before you try, as I did mine a few weeks ago now. You should be able to reach the interface from another computer. Just read the info on the Wikis at the Lime Tech. pages.

hades wrote: The computer does nothing BUT fileserve, right? Have you noticed any slow writing speeds (because the computer has to create the parity information via CPU)?
Mine is only a fileserver. Others have added functionality such as FTP, mail serving etc. The source codes are available in the forums to add various "plug-ins". Others have even made dual boot machines to use as office machines by day, and media servers by night.
I'm not sure of any slow downs. I see about 10 MB per second written to the server when transferring files thorugh WinXP. It would be much faster if I used a telnet session. For playback of 1080p files, there's no problem at all. In fact people stream multiple videos with unRAID.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Addict
Apr 1, 2004
1582 posts
34 upvotes
I've skimmed these NAS programs.... are they really that much easier to use/setup than a full fledged linux (Eg. ubuntu) + mdadm setup?

I remember the first time I installed it (having never installed linux before), my 16 drive raid 6 was still up and running within 3 or 4 hours? (And since its linux, tons of little addons like apache and ftp servers were trivial to have installed and running...)
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
Icedawn wrote: I've skimmed these NAS programs.... are they really that much easier to use/setup than a full fledged linux (Eg. ubuntu) + mdadm setup?

I remember the first time I installed it (having never installed linux before), my 16 drive raid 6 was still up and running within 3 or 4 hours? (And since its linux, tons of little addons like apache and ftp servers were trivial to have installed and running...)
Depends. I had 4 years' experience with SGI UNIX 8 years ago, so I was pretty rusty with my CLI stuff. The server took me 90 minutes to build. After that, it was up and running 20 minutes later. I literally couldn't believe how fast it was. I would be lost using a fully-fledged Linux, but maybe eventually I'll go that route for adding more functionality. For now, I just needed a more versatile/cheap/safe media server compared to the NAS devices in my price range.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Fanatic
Nov 18, 2005
5063 posts
1444 upvotes
Kitchener
have you tried setting up a print server on it? Would it be as simple as connecting a usb printer to a port?
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
Drthorne wrote: have you tried setting up a print server on it? Would it be as simple as connecting a usb printer to a port?
Sorry, I haven't tried it:
me wrote:Mine is only a fileserver.
However, the users on this forum, have done all sorts of add-ons and customisations.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Member
Jan 18, 2007
338 posts
26 upvotes
Thanks for the heads up on this solution. Looks very interesting.
There's also drobo that promises to do similar things, however that supports only 4 drives.

I was wondering what is the write speed you usually get? Does the parity get created as you write or some time later as it's idling.
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
budric wrote: Thanks for the heads up on this solution. Looks very interesting.
There's also drobo that promises to do similar things, however that supports only 4 drives.

I was wondering what is the write speed you usually get? Does the parity get created as you write or some time later as it's idling.
As far as I know, the DROBO is USB attached, not network. I wanted something that I could put in the computer room, away from my HTPC.
The DROBO is a RAID5 with parity allowing one drive to fail; a second failed drive causes data on ALL drives to lose data. unRAID will only lose data on the failed drives in this scenario. Also, for RAID5, I believe all drives have to be the same capacity, or you lose the extra capacity on the larger ones if you want parity protection.
Using a Windows XP machine to manage the data transfer, i.e. from Explorer folder to folder, I get around 10 MB per second transferred. That's with gigabit ethernet paths. If the Windows PC is on a 100 Mbps NIC, the transfer is ~5 MB per second, even if the transfer is between devices that are all gigabit capable.
I believe Parity is written on the fly, but may be wrong about this.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Member
Jan 18, 2007
338 posts
26 upvotes
oh, few more question. Have you tried to fail a disk? The data has to be restored before it can be accessed. Correct? So you need space on the volume to restore the lost data?
[OP]
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 4, 2003
4401 posts
103 upvotes
budric wrote: oh, few more question. Have you tried to fail a disk? The data has to be restored before it can be accessed. Correct? So you need space on the volume to restore the lost data?
I believe that you replace the failed drive and the data gets rebuilt, but I'm not really all that sure what you mean by a failed drive.
Yes I do have heatware. Look over here! Yes, here! Heatware: fitbrit
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jun 11, 2001
9470 posts
1603 upvotes
I only glaced over the site but any difference between the free version vs the paid one?

Probably build a multi terrabyte nas later this year and this looks like a good option. I'm no linux guru either. -sg
...zzz...zzz...zzz...

www.heatware.com

Top

Thread Information

There are currently 2 users viewing this thread. (0 members and 2 guests)