NAS operating system to add populated drives


Novice Member
I'm having a hard time finding the answers to this question so wondered if people here had any first hand experiences:

I have a bunch of drives that already have data on them. I don't have enough spare space to copy stuff off to empty the drives.
I'm also interested in trying out the NAS operating systems that are out there (eg, WHS, FreeNAS, unraid etc).
Which ones will allow me to add a populated drive without it being wiped?

I don't want to add these populated drives into a RAID array, i know thats not likely, but i would like to share them over the network.

Or am i better off sticking with a regular operating system. Eventually i'd like to move to some sort of redundancy, but not yet.

Oh, i'd also like to have sleep and WOL available

Last edited:


Well-known Member
I'm assuming that the drives you have are windows used ones.(probably formatted as NTFS) and that they are of varying sizes.
I had a look at some of the well known makers of NAS enclosures.(QNAP,Synology). The installation guides indicated the drives would be formatted before use.

unRAID - v4.7 is stable, v5 is beta. It is Linux based.
FreeNAS - v8.0.2 is the current release. For NTFS drives to be recognised must use FreeNAS 8.0.1-RC1 or later.
WHS 2011 - Like any windows OS,once installed you should be able to connect up drives with data on them already.(assuming they are formatted in a recognised way).


Novice Member
yep, sorry should have said. Currently NTFS as that was the most compatible format to give me both Windows and Linux usage.

So, as unraid is linux based, does that mean i can add the populated drives as long as i don't want them in the "pool" (or whatever its called)?
Thats all i'm after to be honest. I can't afford more drives at current prices, but when they come down again i could add a blank drive, copy data on, add empty drive to pool <rinse, repeat until all drives are in the pool>

Unraid was my preferred choice, as you seem to get the most storage space. Is that true?
I'm finding the WHS pages on the MS website very confusing. They're so dumbed down they are practically useless. My guess is that WHS would be the best bet for guaranteed sleep/WOL.

Quite tempted by the WHS price too. Ebuyer have it for £35. Is that right? Seems cheap. Cheaper than unraid (considering i have more than 3 disks)
Microsoft Windows Home Server 2011 - Licence and media.. |
Not sure what 10 CALs means though.

Thanks for the help


Well-known Member
UnRAID Manual - unRAID

Sorry to spoil things but have been going through the documentation and like the NAS box manufacturers the first thing it does when a new disk is introduced is to wipe it.

WHS price is correct. 10 CALs means it can have 10 seperate machines connecting to it at any one time.


I think WHS is the best fit for your needs. As long as your drives are NTFS you will be OK.

WOL/Sleep works perfectly but I recommend a great add-in called Lights-Out which provides an easy to use interface for automatically waking and sleeping the server. It monitors usage to keep the server awake. It also comes with client software that includes a built in WOL utility.

So my server is on only when needed. This does mean a 15 second delay for the server to wake, but once switched on by a WOL it monitors IP addresses until they are all off. I use xbmc live htpc and the server is always available by the time xbmc is loaded from sleep.

I also have a couple of Squeezebox music players, these players never sleep so the IP is always alive. So instead Lights-Out monitors a file that changes when the players are actually being used.

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