A DIY NAS Summer 2013 Edition

PART 1: Software & Hardware


My current DIY NAS is almost two years old, based on FreeNAS 7 and is running on Intel Core2due platform. Recently I can feel the performance decrees and due to old SATA II hard disk controller the data transfer speed was pretty slow for today’s standard.

I think it’s a perfect time to build a new DIY NAS as commercial NAS are still overpriced and lacks the expandability & flexibility of DIY NAS.

KEY Requirements.

  • Expandability: I want to update the system as I go, at the beginning I will go with minimum hard disks and later upgrade to more disks.

  • Reliability: System & data reliability is very vital and easy data recovery is also an issue to look for.

  • Cost: Low cost is always an important point to consider, while try to keep the cost low it should also be future proof.

Keep above in mind, I start looking for the components to match against my requirements.

A core of DIY NAS: The OS

In 2011 FreeNAS was acquired by the iXsystems and their FreeNAS 8 implementation was quite different than the FreeNAS 7.

FreeNAS 7 went into end of life in later 2011 but in 2012 NAS4Free continued the FreeNAS development while updating the underlying FreeBSD to version 9 and released NAS4Free 9.0.

Meanwhile another NAS OS OpenMediaVault is getting popular as well and I want to give it a try. OMV is based on Debian Linux and support ext2/ext3/ext4, FAT 32 and NTFS.

OS Comparison





Based on FreeBSD 9.0

Based on Debian Linux

File System

UFS, ZFS (Read only FAT32, NTFS)

ext2/ext3/ext4, FAT 32 and NTFS


USB memory stick/Flash

Separate Disk


2-4 GB (for ZFS at least 32 GB)

2-4 GB

RAID Init. time

Few seconds to few minutes

Hours to Days


Initially I went with OMV as it fulfil all my requirements but after the test install the Software RAID initialization was taking too long time, after searching on internet I came to know that it is a normal behaviors of OMV due to the underlying RAID implementation. This was a deal breaker for me and I went with NAS4Free 9.1.



The motherboard selection is the most crucial part of the project, particularly number of available SATA Ports.

My goal is to add as many hard disks as possible with highest Bus speed. After doing my research the AMD A85X chipset was the only option, it provide 8 SATA 6Gbits/s speed. On the other hand I want a PC express slot for Quad G bits/s LAN Card for high network bandwidth, a separate SATA add-on card for OS hard disk.

Gigabyte F2a85x-D3H came close to my wish list as it equipped with all 8 SATA ports available for Hard disk, without losing any socket for eSATA and adequate number of PCI Express slots for various add on cards.


CPU Socket TypeFM2

CPU Socket TypeFM2

Memory Supported


PCI Express 2.0 x16

2 (x16,x4)

PCI Express x1


PCI Slots


SATA 6Gb/s

8 x SATA 6Gb/s

Form Factor



The drawback of motherboard is the Form Factor (ATX), it required an ATX size casing, but for my requirements I am willing to sacrifice on it.


To keep the cost down I went with AMD A4 5300 3.4 GHz dual Core processor with FM2 socket. A4 5300 is a decent processor and It will fulfill all the workload put by the NAS.

Keep in mind if you want to incorporate Disk Encryption or Media Transcoding on the fly, then A4 5300 might not be the best choice.


Memory is pretty cheap now a day, 4 GB is pretty normal for any kind of System build. For this NAS build I had Corsair Vengeance 8GB laying around. Perhaps 8GB over kill if you are not using ZFS (In case of ZFS, put as much memory as your mother board can support).


For power supply I went with XFX ProSeries Core Edition 550 W, XFX PSU comes with 9 SATA 15-pin power connectors which eliminate any need of Molex to SATA connectors for hard disks, so less clutter of cables in the casing. The 550 Watt of power is also quite adequate for whole system and all the hard disks.


NAS is considered to be in 24/7 Operation, and if you are sensitive to noise, then you better invest in a low noise Casing, for that reason I went with Fractal Design Define R4 Black Case. It has room for up to 8 HDD’s and two 5.25″ drives.

System Hard Disk:

Initially my plan was to move towards OMV (OpenMediaVault), but due to its very slow Software RAID initialization speed I stayed with NAS4Free (formally FreeNAS). OMV prefer to install it on separate hard disk, and for that reason I bought the SATA III INTEL 330 Series 60 GB SSD.

NAS4FREE can easily be install on USB flash memory, further cost can be saved by slashing SSD.

Storage Disks:

In the end of 2011 I upgrade my current DIY NAS with 3×2 TB Seagate Barracuda Green hard disks, these disk a not a perfect match for NAS operation but due to cost issue at that time were the reasonable choice for upgrade.

For the moment I will continue to use these disk in the new NAS as well and for new drives I went with SATA III Western Digital WD RED NAS Hard Drives. RED series is particular design for NAS is mind, they are almost comparable with Enterprise drives but with much lower cost. Initially I bought two RED 3 TB disks.



Overall I am pleased with the final component selection, Intel SSD was an extra cost due to initial OMV as an OS but on the other hand SSD will increase the boot and performance of NAS4FREE. To keep the cost down I delayed my decision to purchase Quad GBits/s network Card and SATA add-on card for OS and failover OS.



Price SEK*

Price $





AMD A4 5300 3.4 GHz




Corsair Vengeance 8GB




XFX ProSeries Core Edition 550




Fractal Design Define R4 Black




INTEL 330 Series 60 GB












*SEK 25% VAT included



4918 Kr

~ 757 $


Even with including the price of 4GB Ram the total cost will be under 800 US $. Installing Nas4Free on to USB flash memory can also reduce the cost of the system as well.

Putting the system together is a simple task and I will not go into step by step detail, rather in Part 2 I will install, configure and customize the Nas4Free to suite my requirements.

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