WOULD LIKE: Cool, quiet Desktop with plenty of storage


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May 14, 2005
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Hi. I'm hoping some kind soul(s) could take me under their wing(s) and help and/or advise me with the purchase of a new desktop system.

Firstly, I need to centralise my media. At the moment I have all my media on about 5 or 6 external hard drives ranging from 250gb to 2TB. I'm looking to come up with a way of simplifying this and maybe enabling everything to be viewed together. I don't know if I can get a desktop to do this or whether I would need to have my storage separate. Suggestions would be very, VERY welcome though. I would be looking to have my network connected to my A-200 Popcorn Hour Media player or perhaps use the PC as a Media Centre connected to my HDTV and 5.1 AV Receiver.

Secondly, I run my PC 24/7 and it is in my bedroom so I'd like to be able to run quietly and cool.

Gaming is not a priority as I stick to consoles mainly but I'd like a competant performance. I'd also be looking to have a BluRay player to play my multi region blurays that my PS3 won't. Apart from that obviously I'd like as much bang for my buck as possible.

My price range is flexible but I was hoping to keep it down to around the £700-£1000 area.

Now I know the storage problem is the main issue here so I'm very open to any ideas for solutions. I'm also keen to hear from any people with large Media collections and how they deal with them.

Thanks for reading.
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how much storage do you actually need, are we looking at about 6TB here?
Thanks for the reply. :)

Well, I'm looking to create an expandible library really. I want to centralise and organise what I have but also be able to add more storage as I go.

I've seen some good ideas in this thread but it all seems very complicated. I'm not a PC builder and know very little about networking. If someone could tell me exactly what kind of components to buy and point me in the direction of a step by step guide that would be ideal, but I suppose that's not going to happen is it?

I see JBOD and NAS multi enclosures can go for a lot of money. I do like the idea of a RAID array so I can backup my files and simply replace HDDs as and when they fail without losing data.

In my mind what I want is something like a 10 bay enclosure which I can fill with 2TB HDDs that plugs into my desktop via USB3.0 or whatever and is recognised as one drive and backs itself up. I could base this enclosure away from the Desktop PC , even outside my bedroom to keep the heat out. I haven't got complicated needs have I? It's just for video and audio, not important business records. Do I really have to be spending £2k to achieve this?
In my mind what I want is something like a 10 bay enclosure which I can fill with 2TB HDDs that plugs into my desktop via USB3.0 or whatever and is recognised as one drive and backs itself up. I could base this enclosure away from the Desktop PC , even outside my bedroom to keep the heat out. I haven't got complicated needs have I? It's just for video and audio, not important business records. Do I really have to be spending £2k to achieve this?

I don't see why you cant just build a mini-server, based on the hard drives you have all set up in Raid 0 using an onboard raid controller on a decent motherboard. Then network this in so all the files are accessible by LAN that way you could access all your files via LAN instead of USB 3.0 which would be faster I think. I don't think what you are asking for is too complicated but maybe other people can provide some technical knowledge that I don't have about this kind of obscure request :D
What you are looking for is called a NAS.
Im no expert on this ,but i think you can put your hard drives on a home network and have it so you can access them on any pc in your house with wifi
Thanks for replies guys!

I'm just not a PC builder. I'd love to build my own 18 bay server for £200 but I'm not sure that I'm up to it. I'm sure I could if I did enough research but I not sure if I can be arsed and I don't even have a suitable surface to do that kind of thing - small London flat : (

I'm tempted to get the Synology DS411j with 4x2TB drives which should be more than enough for now and the next couple of years and then I can maybe decide if I actually need something bigger than that and perhaps then I can build my own server using unRAID or Windows Home Server or whatever is recommended.

Hopefully there'll be more places building decent home servers in the UK in the future. I found this one but I don't know that I can spend that much on something I've never used before, hence why I think the 4 bay Synology might be a good beginner's setup to use in conjuction with my current PC.

So the DS411j with 4x2TB Samsung F4s comes to just under £500 at Amazon. Or the above myhtpc assembled "XL-1400 14 bay storage server (26TB max)" with 4x2TB HDs comes to £870. So the question is, should I invest another £370 to have a much larger, easily expandible, probably more technically demanding server or stick with a smaller but much easier to use 4 bay server?
So does anyone have experience of an UnRAID setup like that or that DS411j. Are they easy to use?
They seem to have put the price up on that UNRAID server unfortunately. What kind of price should I be looking at for something like that?

It does sound like exactly what I want assuming I can handle the UNRAID software. I could get myself a nice quiet new PC to complement it, perhaps with a SSD to save on power and heat.
I had to rejig the unraid server prices because some of the individual prices had changed and I had to use different (more expensive) components based on some tests I ran. I also now include advance swapout of any failed disks which I've had to cost in (to be honest that may have added just a pound or so to each disk)

The reason for the price by the way is that you can have anything from 3 to 6,12, or 14 disks in the particular models. The wiring and components are all installed to assume the maximum number of disks will be used.

For example the XL-1400 can take 14 disks. To support anything above 6 it requires a SAS raid card with breakout cables. This is installed and cabled up including supplying the drive bay converters for the last 4 disks. All SATA and power cables are wired in and close to the location of where the disks will be. All you have to do after the initial purchase is to add disk - no extra work - just slide it in and tell unRAID.

Of course if you wanted a bare server with the minimum number of disks without the sas card then things can be done. My contact details are in my sig

The DS411j and QNAP equivalent are good little boxes. Obviously you only get 4 bays so 3 usable disks of storage. Additionally the advantage of unRAID over standard RAID 5 on the DS411j is that if you were to lose a 2nd disk before replacing a failed disk you would lose the contents of the entire array on raid 5 - on unRAID you'd only lose the contents of that disk.
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That all sounds fine. I just need to know whether I'd be able to use it easily or would I have to do a lot of reading up on UNRAID forums to get it all up and running.

The Synology, from what I've read, seems to be quite foolproof but the UNRAID tends to be something favoured by very techy types. They of course are mostly building them themselves but I'm wondering if I get a ready build would I just be able to plug and play as it were?

Is there a guide to using one around?

Graham, what model HDDs do you use in those servers just out of interest?
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I'm currently using Samsung F4s (alll drives built since Jan 11 have the firmware patch that fixes data corruption issue). The unRAID wiki is a bit out of date and doesnt state that. As in any of our machines we can use any drive you wish. Given the reshuffle in the HDD market I'll be switching to Hitachi 5k3000 SATA III drives for new machines.

unRAID is a tinkerer's heaven :) But once its setup you dont really need to touch it (ours are pre-configured). Adding disks is straigtforward from the gui - you dont need to get to unix commands to do that.

Out of the box it doesnt come with all the bells and whistles a traditional nas from Synology and QNAP et al. You can add a lot of those features but you need to do this at a unix command prompt. unRAID is designed to be a storage server not something to run itunes or dnla servers etc on.

Its forte is two things.
  1. when getting to needing more than 4 drives it works out a lot cheaper to populate with drives.
  2. if you lose a 2nd drive on a traditioanl raid system you lose the array. unRAID you just lose the contents of the failed disk

I'd say look at the feature lists of NAS and see if you need those features. Also determine how much disk space you'll need. Going for a 4-bay nas now will give you a total of 9tb in RAID 5 using 3tb disks. If you need more than that then either go unRAID or buy a larger NAS now. You could also buy a second NAS but that would work out more expensive than initially going unRAID. As an example an 8-bay QNAP will cost around £1100 just for the unit with no drives. For that kind of money you could have an unRAID box with 10tb in it with space for upto 26tb.

Once slight flaw with unRAID at the moment is that it currently doesnt support 3tb disks. Its on the list but currently not available.
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