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Advise on building a Freenas NAS

TH3R4POR

Established Member
Hi guys,

I'm looking at building a NAS for my (large and growing) movie and music collection but am struggling at the first hurdle, the components. I really want to make the system as future proof as possible with respect to both hardware and software so I’d like to have Freenas running as opposed to an off the shelf enclosure as it offers far more flexibility in the future, room for expansion and is potentially cheaper. My current movie collection is ~2TB.

My basic requirements from the system are:

  • To be able to run Freenas.
  • Up to 4 x 2TB SATA II drives in a RAID 5 array (probably the Samsung ecodrives).
  • Low power (it’ll be on 24/7).
I have an old Asus mobo (ASUS A78X-X) I am not using but all the 4+ port RAID control cards I’ve found are PCI-e and I only have PCI on the mobo. I have found a card that might have worked (an adaptec) but the maximum volume size was 2TB so it doesn’t have the capacity I require.

I’m now thinking the cheapest and easiest option might be to buy a new mobo and recycle my case and other hardware that will be compatible with the new mobo. I have my curser hovering over the ASUS AT3IONT-I DELUXE as I think that would be perfect, but if anything it offers more than I need. Can anyone suggest a cheaper board that will allow me to set up a 4-6 drive RAID array for under £150? I was looking at the mini ITX motherboards because of the power consumption (the external PSU seems perfect for my needs).

If I went down the route of finding a 4-6 Port PCI RAID card I'd need a new low power PSU, new cooler, etc and this potentially would cost more than the new mobo?

I’m a little paranoid about future expansion so the more SATA ports the better as basically the total capacity is the only thing that I might need to upgrade in the future once the system is up and running. I suppose future improvements with HDD size might overcome the need for additional SATA ports but better to be safe than sorry ;)

Sorry if it feels like the question has been asked before, I struggled to find a relevant thread on here (or via google) with everything either being off the shelf options or hardware that exceeded my budget.

Cheers in advance! :

Dave
 
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MikeK

Prominent Member
You can buy 4 port SATA PCI cards off ebay for around £10 - not RAID5 cards per se, but should work fine for FreeNAS (I have one which works fine on OpenSolaris) - for example:

4 Port SATA SERIAL ATA PC PCI CONTROLLER RAID I/O CARD on eBay (end time 05-Jul-10 07:03:00 BST)

Not the last word in high performance disk subsystems perhaps, but more than adequate for the average consumer DIY NAS!

If you did want a new motherboard, the GA-G31M-ES2L would only cost about £35 - coupled with a £35 E3300, it would be more than enough. It has 4 SATA ports built in, and would probably consume a fair bit less power than an old Athlon XP based rig!
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
I'm a little confused about the function of that card :)D). it only supports RAID 0 and 1? Neither of those are an option for me.

That mobo looks interesting and has the added advantage of a built in 1Gb network adapter. I think I'll go for the mobo/cpu bundle and then then get a Zalman to passively cool it and a low power PSU.

Cheers for the advise :)
 
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MikeK

Prominent Member
I'm a little confused about the function of that card :)D). it only supports RAID 0 and 1? Neither of those are an option for me.

I wouldn't use either of the card's Raid modes, just use the card in JBOD mode and let FreeNAS build the array (JBOD=Just a Bunch of Disks).
In JBOD mode, the card just offers any drives in native (ie individual) form to FreeNAS, and you then configure FreeNAS to take care of the RAID5 array configuration.

Just to be clear, FreeNAS is a RAID OS in it's own right - it does not need any form of RAID card in order to build a RAID5 array - it can create one from any 3 (or more) discs to which it has access!
One of those cheapie cards and the Gigabyte motherboard will mean you can offer FreeNAS up to 8 drives (4 on the motherboard and 4 on the card), and FreeNAS can build a RAID5 array from those drives, if that's what you want!
 

deckingman

Prominent Member
You don't need a hardware RAID card, FreeNAS will do software raid (pretty well anything you like including RAID 5)

EDIT - beat me to it - much better explanation too.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
perfect, gotya!

I was under the impression from reading NAS system specs that the array had to be hardware controlled and exist outside of Freenas, it also appears Freenas is pretty picky about it chooses to work with, again that didn't give me much confidence.

I think my quickest option is that cheapie card on my existing Asus mobo, Freenas installed a CF card (which I already have) and then if I outgrow capacity I can transplant the array+CF card onto a different mobo and expand using it's ports.

If Freenas is picky about that card I'll go down the new mobo route and gaven't lost too much.

Thanks again for the quick replies :)
 

fidgety

Established Member
The array doesn't have to be hardware controlled, but it certainly helps.
Raid 5 requires calculation of parity information (Xor), and in case of a defective drive at some point, loads of computer juice. If you need to rebuild an array in software, freenas could give you a bit of a headache if your not familiar with freebsd / linux derivatives.
So, you could have a cheap motherboard + cheap processor with a dedicated raid card (hardware), or you could do freenas do the RAID in software (by itself, no additional software required).
When I was researching for my NAS, I settled for freenas, and one piece of reading I did find useful was this Build a Cheap and Fast RAID 5 NAS : Introduction , have a read, and good luck.
I'm running freenas with hardware raid by the way. The card is SATA 4 ports, with 3 X 1 TB discs in raid 5. And the motherboard and processor are ancient, all bits I had lying around.
 

fidgety

Established Member
Just remembered, also check the freenas/freebsd hardware compatibility list when putting the parts together for the project. I couldn't use the ethernet port on the motherboard and had to get a supported one (just £15 or so) but meant another trip to the pc parts shop for a part.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
... one piece of reading I did find useful was this Build a Cheap and Fast RAID 5 NAS : Introduction , have a read, and good luck.
That's a really good article with some good pointers. I'll definitely be referring back to that as and when the install troubles start. He doesn't seem to rate a software RAID setup too highly, obviously Hardware is a much better choice but I think if I am keeping the OS stable and literally just using the box as NAS I shouldn't have too much issue once everything is running.

I've had a major change in hardware, I'm now using an old Athlon 2600+ based Compaq my brothers had but the HDD failed some time ago so he burried it in his garage. It's much better suited to my needs as it s a much less power hungry system all based inside a Mini tower case as opposed to the full tower I was going to recycle and the Compaq is like new! :) I stripped it down last night and removed everything I don't need and I also got the new drives ordered, installed the OS on a CF card and checked the board worked. I can hardly hear the thing when its on, but i'll still be replacing the little 60 and 80mm fans with some 120mm ones running at a lower RPM.

I'm not sure what Freenas will make of the budget components in this system but I have a few spare NICs if it doesn't like the onboard offering (that's going to be the main issue I think, along with the RAID card), I'm just gonna buy some more RAM as it has a massive 256MB (DDR-333 :lesson:) installed as standard, 1GB is the minimum I'd want.

Wish me luck! :suicide:
 
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MikeK

Prominent Member
Just bear in mind that the article on Tom's Hardware was written 4 years ago - things have changed quite a lot since then! In IT it can be misleading to assume that good advice from 2006 (if indeed it was), is still good today!
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
Just bear in mind that the article on Tom's Hardware was written 4 years ago - things have changed quite a lot since then! In IT it can be misleading to assume that good advice from 2006 (if indeed it was), is still good today!
Things move on in 4 months let alone 4 years :laugh: But you are quite right, I won't take it as gospel.

You also have to bare in mind that the majority of the hardware I'm using is of the same date as the article ;)

I'll be back here picking your brains when things start to fizz and pop and the magic smoke is released.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
unRAID you say...

OK, I'd never heard of it and after some Googling it seems quite positive, but basically the world and his dog uses Freenas so I'd assume:

a) There is a reason they all use Freenas.
b) The more users means more information available and more support?

The above can probably be answered by the fact unRAID it isn't free for the setup I would require (more than 3 drives), it costs $69 :(
 
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deckingman

Prominent Member
From what I've managed to glean, the main advantage of unRAID is that you can build an array from any mix of HDDs and use them to their full capacity (providing they are no larger than the parity disc). Usually, you have to have HDDs of the same size or lose some capacity (but there are "geeky" ways around this). Also, increasing storage is easy - just bung another disc in.

Compared to freeNAS it seems easier to set up but lacks a lot of the features. I've no experience but it looks interesting.........
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
True, you'd like to assume software becomes more compatible with each subsequent release but you never know.

The HDDs just arrived at work but I'm still waiting for the RAID card so can't get anything finished over the weekend.

Freenas booted up from the CF card last night but it wouldn't load completely without any drives attached.
 

MikeK

Prominent Member
Freenas booted up from the CF card last night but it wouldn't load completely without any drives attached.


That's odd, it should boot normally even without any data drives attached - though I've never booted it from a CF card (whether that makes any difference I'm not sure - can't see why it should though).
Did you install the full OS rather than the embedded one?
Where does it stop?
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
I think I went for the embedded file as I heard you shouldn't use the Live CD ISO if you aren't booting from a CDR? I'll have a check when I get home from work (downloaded from Browse FreeNAS Files on SourceForge.net of course).

It sits on a prompt window after what appears to be it checking for the HDDs. It doesn't kick out an error, just says it can't find drives and can't retry. I'll type out the proper text this evening.

It'll take 2 minutes to change the OS on the CF card if that's what you think is wrong?
 

MikeK

Prominent Member
It'll take 2 minutes to change the OS on the CF card if that's what you think is wrong?


I'm not sure TBH - it may be worth a try though.
I'd install without a swap file though if using a CF card with the full install!

Usually though you'd pick the embedded install, especially if running from a CF card!

The Live CD image gives you a choice of what to install onto the hard drive (or CF card in your case)
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
Well no hurry until I get the card and can fit the HDDs, I just skim read the prompt text and it appeared to be looking for drives which seemed a logical reason to fail.

I'll try it when I get home in an hour or so and see what it's actually saying, I have 2 CF cards so can install the other version on the other card and see what that does.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
Code:
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): TEST UNIT READY. CDB: 0 20 0 0 0 0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): CAM Status:SCSI Status Error
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): SCSI Status: Check COndition
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): NOT READY asc:3a,0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Medium not present
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Unretryable error

(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): TEST UNIT READY. CDB: 0 40 0 0 0 0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): CAM Status:SCSI Status Error
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): SCSI Status: Check COndition
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): NOT READY asc:3a,0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Medium not present
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Unretryable error

(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): TEST UNIT READY. CDB: 0 60 0 0 0 0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): CAM Status:SCSI Status Error
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): SCSI Status: Check COndition
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): NOT READY asc:3a,0
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Medium not present
(probe:umass-sim0:0:0:1): Unretryable error

as I said, sounded like HDD errors to me.

edit: I just dumped the Freenas OS onto a spare USB stick I had and it boots through to the Freenas Menu screen (then goes onto an error) so the error seems to have been the CF card.
 
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deckingman

Prominent Member
I've booted freenas from a usb stick with no HDDs physically connected (just to chcek my hardwat=re was compatible) without any errors.

BTW, I've just tried unRAID and am now converted. For me, it is a better product as a "media store only NAS" than FreeNAS.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
unRAID isn't an option though as I don't want to pay for the software when I can get freenas for nothing.
 

TH3R4POR

Established Member
All up and running, the Compaq's onboard NIC worked fine without a problem, it's only 100MB so might upgrade to 1GB at some point.

I had problems initially getting freenas to boot, that was solved disabling every port and onboard options in the BIOS and just using the ones I needed. I'll narrow down exactly which is causing the problem when everything is settled.

The cheap PCI SATA Card works perfectly with no problems at all :)

The only outstanding issue is one of the Samsung HDDs is dead, I can't get it to spin up or anything so that's being replaced at scan.

Next jobs will be to remove the 60mm CPU fan and get a bigger 1200mm fan on a speed controller to make everything silent (although it's very quiet at the moment).

Just one question, if I decide somewhere down the line I want to increase the total capacity can I add another RAID card and add those drives to the same (RAID5) array as the existing 4 drives even if they are on a diffferent card?
 
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MikeK

Prominent Member
All up and running, the Compaq's onboard NIC worked fine without a problem, it's only 100MB so might upgrade to 1GB at some point.

In a PCI based system, and on a PC bus shared with the disk controller, you won't get anything like true gigabit speed, but it should still be faster than 100Mb though!


Next jobs will be to remove the 60mm CPU fan and get a bigger 1200mm fan on a speed controller to make everything silent (although it's very quiet at the moment).

That's a very big fan :)


Just one question, if I decide somewhere down the line I want to increase the total capacity can I add another RAID card and add those drives to the same (RAID5) array as the existing 4 drives even if they are on a diffferent card?

AFAIK there's no official way to expand existing RAID5 arrays on FreeNAS!
 

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