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Redoing Server - workblog for NAS

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I'm about to re-do my Network Attached Storage Server. I thought I'd create a work blog here so that it may help other people get some ideas on stuff to do with spare parts/time or whatever they wish. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Constructive comments are always welcome. I will also take pictures and post them as I get parts in, build the server, and get things set up.


After converting my gaming PC from an AMD FX-60 to an Intel E6600, I was still left with a good computer. I have always worried about my backup information that was stored on my computer. These files are mainly movies, music, pictures, etc that I have collected over a period of time. I was also running out of harddrive space and room for harddrives in the computer. Previously, I had stored these files on a few external USB drives. But, having one of them knocked off the desk by my cat, and all the data lost has made me think about alternative solutions. So, the idea to create a NATS came into play.


I first purchase a pair of 500 GB Western Digital Drives along with a 2 x SATA Nic card (can't remember the brand). I put these drives in an old Duron 1.2 that I had laying around. After doing this, I installed windows server 2003. The system was a bit slow, but it worked. I formatted the drives and and put them in Raid 1. The remaining data that I had on the external USB drives was then transferred onto the Raid 1 drives. At this point, I decided how I was going to set up my network to include my gaming computer, the server, and a couple HTPC's I built. After searching ebay, I bought a couple of Netgear wireless Nic cards to put in the HTPC's. Then, after reading some reviews, I bought a Linksys WRT54G wireless router for the system. After a bit of networking advice from a friend of mine, I got a secure network up for both the wired and wireless connections. It worked great.


Eventually I bought a few more harddrives and added it to the system. It was then that I began to run into some problems. Since I used an older computer, which had an older motherboard, 350 Watt powersupply, etc, the system began to degrade. I noticed that the harddrives created an extensive amount of heat. After a bit of use, they would begin to fail in the raid setup. Letting them cool would allow them to run again. The speeds that I got with server 2003 began to slow even more. File transfers between the network and within the system began to take forever. I tried tweaking Server 2003, but it didn't seem to help.


At this point, I thought that since I had this FX-60, why not turn it into the NAS as well as use the computer as a dedicated gaming server with some of my friends using Hamachi. I began to devise how I would do the system. I knew that I had to have a good amount of cooing within the system in order to make sure I didn't have the problems I had before. So, when deciding on a case, I looked around to see what would hold a ton of harddrives, as well as have lots of fans to keep the system cool. After doing some research, I decided to go with the NZXT Zero Case. It has 7x120mm and 1x80mm case fans in it. This is surely more than enough to keep everything cool. I used the 550W Antec True II PSU that I had in my gaming computer to power the server. Having tons of molex to sata power connectors laying around, I used them for supplying the power to the harddrives. There was just enough connectors to supply power to all the fans, 6x 500 GB SATA drives (bought more harddrives when I built this system), a 250 GB IDE drive, and a DVD burner. Since the case can only hold a max of 6 hard drives in the 3.5 internal bay, I modded one of the 3.5 external bays to put the 250GB Main drive in. After getting the system on and stable, I began setting up RAID 1's, transferring files, and tweaking. I also bought a GeForce 7 series card that was on sale through Tiger Direct to put in here. Some of the games that my friends and I play require a higher performance card in the dedicated server in order to run it (GRAW and R6-Vegas mostly). I also used Server 2003 again. The system also has 2 GB of DDR 500? (can't remember now) G.Skill ram from my previous gaming computer. This is what I have currently running as my fileserver/game server. Temps run low, and it doesn't create that much noise. The wifi works great for watching movies on my HTPC's.


As to date, the system works well, however, I'm limited with network speed due to using the Linksys router and wifi. I've also been noticing problems with running dedicated games on the server. Since I live by myself, I don't have to worry about the HTPC being used while gaming, so this isn't a problem. I feel that the problem may be that Server 2003 really isn't the proper OS I should be using for the NAS and a dedicated gaming server. So, recently I decided I might start another project to create a NAS server, leaving the gaming server out of the loop. After talking to a guy with whom I work with that owns an audio studio, I was told that he selling a majority of his equipment due to the lack of bands wanting to hire him to do their recordings. Through this discussion, he was telling me of some of the items that he has in his studio. One particular item that caught my attention was that he said he had what sounds like an 8u rack that has a few equalizers and amplifiers in it (not sure exactly, waiting to see). The best part is that he just wants to get rid of it, so it isn't going to cost me a thing. My thoughts now are that if I use this rack, then I can then get a large capacity 4u case to build a NAS with. If it is an 8u rack, then I'll also be able to add another 4u case in the future if the desire arises. This Codegen 4u case is what I've been thinking of getting. It even has a combo deal where I can get a 600W PSU with it. This case and a few fans would be a good start to the NAS in my opinion, but I'm always open to suggestion for a 8+ HD Case like this that is within a reasonable price range ($100-200). If I were to add more drives than what the 3.5 internal bay can hold, I was planning on getting this Silverstone HD enclosure to give me more 3.5 bays. This will eliminate the ability to have a CD/DVD drive in the NAS, but after I install the initial OS, what do I need the CD for anyways? Also, I don't feel as though I have the need for any hotswap bays. I do not plan on removing the hard drives from the case once they are installed, that is, unless one goes bad.


While thinking of the NAS and the amount of hard drives I'm going to have in it, I had to decide on a motherboard that would be good to run in the NAS. It was then that I realized that I had an awesome one sitting here with my FX-60 processor still in it. This DFI SLI-DR Expert board has 8 SATA ports on it, which is perfect for helping me save money on the NAS. It also has gigabit ethernet controllers in it which will work with an upgraded network. I could connect 8 drives, 4x2 Raid 1, for storage without having to add any more PCI raid solutions. If I do add more later, I will have to get a raid card, but for now, it will work. I began searching around one day while I was bored and found a DFI SLI-DR expert on ebay. The gentleman that was selling it was getting 0 bids and the price was extremely low. He stated that the mobo was pulled from a computer that was DOA when he got it. After a few emails back and forth, I found out the history of the computer he pulled the motherboard from. It had a AMD64 3200 chip in it. He tested the CPU on several other computers and it didn't work. He said that the rest of the equipment from the computer functioned well, but he could not test the motherboard due to not having another 939 chip sitting around. I made the guy an offer of $40 including shipping and handling, and took it. So now I have this motherboard on it's way. I then searched on ebay for the cheapest socket 939 chip I could find. I compared prices I found there with those of the name brand retailers. Eventually I came upon another 3200 retail that was slightly used. I won it for a mere $30 and planned on using this within the NAS. So now I have a CPU and mobo for a mere $70.


Other parts that I need for the nas would be ram, a simple hard drive for the OS, and a video card. I can pull all of these from the old duron computer. I have a stick of 512 mb DDR 400, a PCI vid card, and a small IDE harddrive from that build. Using these will help me save some money in the long run anyways. The next problem I'm facing is what to use as an OS. From my experience with server 2003, I think it is overkill for what I'm wanting to do. I've considered using Ubunu, Windows 2000 professional, and Windows XP professional. I've even checked into a Linux program called Freenas to use in this build. However, my main concern is that 1) i don't know jack shizzle about Linux 2)I read on their forums that Linux drivers for Siil 3112 and 3114 chips are very buggy (which is what the DFI board has). Comments and suggestions on this would be greatly appreciated.


Now to the network portion. All of the systems I'm planning on having within the network have gigabit ethernet ports in them. Since I'm using the Linksys router, it is limited to 100mb. What I'm wanting to do is upgrade the system to a gigabit network, as well eliminate the wifi cards that I use in the HTPC's. A friend of mine has a spool of Cat5E that he is willing to use to make me the cables I need for connecting the various systems to the network. I can run them along baseboards and such through my apartment. I was thinking about getting this Linksys gigabit switch to use within the network. I was planning on hooking the various computers to this switch, which is then connected to the linksys router, and finally to the surfboard modem I have for internet. I still have some more research to do before I finalize this. I did have my friend make me a Cat5e crossover cable to connect the FX-60 to my gaming comp to compare speeds. It was like night and day in comparison to 100mb or the wifi connections. I just plugged the computers together, gave each ethernet port its own ip addy, and voila - gigabit connection. Instead of taking 10 minutes to transfer 6-8 GB backup files, it only took 2-3 minutes. The only concern I have is the switch. Is there a better switch to use within the same price range or even a router that I can upgrade to that will work better?


As for the FX-60, I think I will eventually either sell it, or put it into another 4u case to store below the NAS. I can then use this FX-60 for a dedicated gaming server if I wish. Since it isn't a priority right now, I haven't given it too much thought.


As I stated before: your constructive comments are always welcome. I plan on updating this project with pictures and what not as I get parts in and things put together. Again, I do hope this might at least help someone make a decision or aid them in their own server project.

Edited by jack_of_java

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An update...now that I have some free time. I bought a new digital camera on Sunday. It is the Kodak Z712 IS digital camera. I started out by taking some pictures with my old camera. I hated the pictures. I noticed that there was a constant red haze in the background. The camera is old, so it was about time to invest some money into a decent camera. Having done some research on Cnet and checking the local best buy add, I found this midrange camera for a decent price. Below are a few pictures I took of my current office/network setup. On the left with the 30" Dell screen is my gaming PC in the Mozart TX case. On the right in the NZXT Zero case is the server I am currently running.



This second picture I took to show off my current server configuration. As you can see, I don't have much desktop space, so this is partially why I'm wanting to create this NAS. I will take more in-depth pictures of the internals of the NZXT case as I take it down to pull the harddrives and stuff from it to put in the NAS. Hopefully, by using the NAS, I will be able to put the rack under the desk and give myself more desktop work area. (Yes, the pink comb is for my cats in case you want to know...couldn't find a more manly color for what it does)



On Saturday I went and picked up the rack as I stated in my previous post. I was hoping it was an 8u, but it seems that it is closer to a 6u. Too bad. I think I will just put the server into it for now, and maybe modify it a little bit in the future to fit a second 4u case if need be. Below is a picture of the rack I am going to use. It is still in very good shape. I only found a small quarter size chip in the wood on one of the side, as well as it needed to be dusted. That was it. Other than that, I am just waiting for the rest of my parts to come in later this week to put into the NAS.



Surprisingly, on Monday, my eBay parts showed up in the Mail. I decided to post them up to show what I was going to put inside the case so far. As more items come in, I will take some shots of them and post them here. In the pictures, you can see the DFI SLI-DR Expert motherboard, a stick of 512mb DDR 400 Ram (cheapo), and the Athlon 64 3200 processor with fan.



This is where I am at so far. I can't really do anymore work until more parts come in this week. I was hoping I had another PSU laying around to test the motherboard, but unfortunately I don't. So it will have to wait as well. One other note: I took the copy of Windows Server 2k3 that was given to me and slipstreamed it to include the motherboard Raid drivers and a few other things. I also removed tons of stuff within the OS so as to have it run as little as possible after I install it. The total size after slipstreaming: 264 mb down from 543 mb.

Edited by jack_of_java

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I was hoping to have my NAS up and running this weekend, along with some pictures showing everything. The rest of the parts came in this week, so I hooked them all up. The splash screen shows, followed by the CPU, DRAM, and IDE drives, but then the system hangs at a CMOS Checksum error. I contacted a guy recommended over at DFI Street about the bios, since I thought it was corrupt. You can follow the conversation here. So, tonight I'm going to repair the busted cap on the mobo and give it a try.

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i hope that replacing that cap remedies the problem, GL.


from reading this post everything looks good.


FreeNAS look like a good way to go but if you have 2K3 server i would continue using that.

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My only concern with using FreeNas is this: support for SIL 3112 and 3114 Raid chipsets. I read on one of the linux forums that the drivers for those chipsets in Linux are not reliable. And those that agreed stated that they would not use those chipsets in a system to backup. So, I guess that answers that question. I'll be sticking with 2k3...but right now I want to get this motherboard working!



***Got the motherboard capacitor replaced. A picture can be seen in the link to the bios doc I have above. I'm in contact with him still to try and find out if the bios is trashed or what not. So, I might go ahead with putting stuff in the NAS - harddrives, PSU, etc. I also have to set up my Gigabit raid network.

Edited by jack_of_java

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I mentioned before that I would post a picture of my old server that I was using. The case is a NZXT Zero case, which has 8 fans for cooling and plenty of space for other hardware as you can see. In this case, I had 7 harddrives: 6x500 GB SATA and 1 250GB IDE drive. Also in this case were 2 DVD burners (one with lightscribe and one without), an FX-60 processor, a DFI SLI-DR Expert motherboard, 2GB of GSkill DDR ram, and an XFX 8600 vid card. I used Server 2003 on this machine, which served not only my file storage needs, but a way to host games that I played online with friends of mine. As you can see in the pic from the side, wire management was problem when it came to hosting so many harddrives. This picture was taken after I removed some of the cable ties I had in place to take out the hardware. The FX-60 processor and DFI mobo came from my other gaming machine before I updated to the E6600.




Now on to building the server. As I posted before, I had bought a motherboard off ebay, in an attempt to repair/fix it to work. According to the guy I bought it from, the problems seemed rather small. However, this was not the case. Having fixed one capacitor that had seemed blown on the board, I was running into the same problem with it locking up during post. I sent a shout out to the bios doc to see if he could help me out with what I couldn't figure out. In the end, I have a new bios chip heading my way to put into the motherboard. This was not good enough for me this weekend. I wanted to have my NAS up. With having the whole day free on Sunday, I decided to use the expert board from the NZXT and just put it into the NAS. Since it is the same board as the one I bought off ebay, I just decided to go with it. So, without furthur waiting, here is what I did today for the NAS.


In this first part, I will show you the Codegen 4u case that I got for the NAS. This will fit into the rack that I mentioned earlier. The packaging for this product was rather unlike any other case I had received before.




In my experience, most cases are easily pulled out of the packaging by just opening up one of the short ends of the box, and then just lifting the case out whilst holding the box down between your feet. This was not as easy with this case. I believe it was meant to be laid on its side and then have the box removed around it. Eventually, after almost dropping the case a couple of times, I removed it without any problem. The packaging was quite study and the case showed up with no scratches on it (just a little dust).




After removing all the packaging material, I was left with a nice 4u case, that seemed to be quite heavy in comparison to other cases of its size (like the NZXT), but this was probably due to the fact that it is made of metal rather than aluminum and plastic.




At this point, the top was removed to expose the parts provided within the rack case. Codegen gives you plenty of hardware to mount your components in the case. For those that are not wanting to mount the case in a rack, they also include some rubber feet that are peel-and-stick. In the following pictures, you can also see that there is a PCI support bracket that goes over top of the internal components. This bracket has space to house two more harddrives if the user wishes. In this build, I will not be putting any harddrives there, but it leaves me the option to put more storage there later.






At this point I started taking the case apart. The nice part about this case is that the 5.25 bays, the harddrive rack in the front, and the middle bracket can all be removed to ease installation of your other hardware. After taking all the parts out, I replaced the 80mm fan in the back of the case with 2x80mm Silverstone fans. The front of the case has a 120mm fan that blows air across the harddrive rack. I also replaced this one as well with a Silverstone fan. Silverstone is just my preferred fan.




At this point, I completely took out the 5.25 drives bays. The front covers were removed and I prepared the Silverstone Harddrive rack that I bought to put in their place.




Since that harddrive rack takes 3x5.25 slots and this case has 3x5.25 slots, it was a match made in heaven. This Silverstone rack also has a 120mm fan in the front of it. It glows blue when running. Silverstone also includes a converter to change the fan 3-pin power connection to a 4 pin molex connection. Some screws for mounting the harddrives are also included. Using this rack gave me a place to put in 4 more harddrive into the NAS. I first put in 4 of the 500gb harddrives from the old server. On the outside of the Silverstone rack, there are removeable sides that have some rubber grommets that attach aid in lowing the vibration noise caused by the harddrives. After removing these, you can get access to put screws into the side of the rack to hold the harddrives in place. The 5.25 mounts were then popped back into place, and the Silverstone rack was inserted into the 5.25 rack that came out of the server. Also, the main 40gb IDE drives that will be used for the OS was put in the bottom of the 5.25 Codegen rack, where a place was left for an external 3.5 device (presumable a floppy drive).









Finally the device was ready to be put into the case. I went ahead and hooked up the IDE cable to the IDE drive at the bottom, just to make it easy to connect it later. I slid the 5.25 rack into the case to make sure it fit. I also finished putting the other 4x500gb harddrives into the harddrive rack that sits in the front of the case. One problem I ran into when using the Silverstone rack was that the door to the front would not close. I realized that the front of the rack stuck out a bit in front of the case, hitting the plastic cover to the filter. Using some pliers, I quickly cut out a rough shape to make it fit.








At this point, I decided it would be easier to put the PSU in now rather than later. When I bought the case, it came in a combo deal with a 600w Codegen power supply for a few bones more. After installation, I also began routing some of the wires in the case to help with airflow, and also to figure out how I would get power to which device.






At this point, I was almost finished. I moved all the wires I could out of the way to prepare for the motherboard being put in the case. I carefully removed the TT Big Typhoon off of the motherboard and replaced the standard brackets for a retail heatsink/fan. The offsets were then put into the case for the motherboard, followed by the backplate. I had to remove the 5.25 rack in order to get the motherboard in with ease. After I did get it into place, I screwed it down and added the ram, PCI vid card, and the CPU. All connections were made to the motherboard.






As you can see from the pics, wire management isn't my best quality. However, I did manage to put some zip ties here and there to bunch cables up. It is a very tight fit in this case with the components I installed. I did take into consideration the airflow involved. But, after screwing around with running wires for 30 minutes, I finally hooked up some of the peripherals to get the machine up and running. I decided that I was not going to put a CD/DVD drive into the NAS when I built it. I would have no use for it, since the computer's only purpose is to store files. I attached a CD drive externally to install windows. After I'm satisfied that I have a good install and the hardware is all working properly, I will then remove the CD drive and cable, and then tuck the molex I used for it down into a hole.




I finally plugged in the power cable, and the NAS came to life! SUCCESS! At this point, I began loading windows server 2003 onto the machine. With a good install, I updated as much as possible, including drivers and windows update. Later I will go through and remove all the crap that is installed with the server that I don't need. I will do some research on what is there and what can be removed before I do that. But for now, I am moving files over from one raid 0 harddrive set to another. After I finish everything, then I will simply slide this case into the rack I was given, and either place it on the floor under my desk, or mount it on a shelf somewhere. I have yet to decide.




I'll post a final pic of everything when everything is said and done.

Edited by jack_of_java

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Here is the final picture as promised. I have 2 TB of storage space in this NAS with a 2TB Raid 1 for it to backup all the files. Server 2k3 loaded nicely on it, and I have it all tweaked out for file transfers. I got some server case experience and made things the way I want. Hope that this guide might help those that are contemplating making a NAS or have questions with parts, etc.


Mission accomplished. :bah:

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That looks nice dude, lengthy write up too (across all posts)

I always enjoy it when someone has the patience to write that much about their entire project :D


If I had the cash I would do something like that as well, you can always use more storage...


Hopefully it all works out and no other problems arise ;)

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Guest ajmatson

Kudos to you very nice job. I was thinking of turning my servers to 1u racks and seeing how you made that mini rack gave me the inspiration to do it. Keep up the great work.

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