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Updated 5/27/2008: Added Madal performance graphs

Robert's NAS in all its glory

As I noted in a blog piece last month, Bill Meade's Build a Cheap and Fast RAID 5 NAS How To has continued to be one of our most popular articles, even though now it's almost two years old. I asked readers to tell me about RAID 5 NASes that they had built and a few people responded in enough detail to put together this article. So here we go.

Robert's NAS

Reader Robert responded with the most detail and provided the following description and pictures of his NAS:

There are a number of reasons for building my own NAS and not buying one off the shelf. First off, I wanted to build a system where I had the ability to customize everything to my needs and desires. Secondly, by building my own NAS I was able to keep myself open for scalability and turning the system into a multipurpose system (expansion).

I wanted a server with redundancy that would work for me and have the ability to store my large video portfolio and pictures on a system that would still be intact in case a drive died. I also wanted a secondary system that I could use to encode video to different formats or pictures in large batch processing.

The video encoding didn't need to be super fast, so I didn't put in a powerful CPU. My main focus was to free up my main computer to play games on or any other task I needed to work on.

One of the reasons that I wanted to do my own NAS was to be able to research each part individually. I purchased parts over a period of two weeks by waiting for parts to go on sale at my local electronics store. While I understand that I could have saved money by buying online, I felt that by getting things on sale with rebates, in the long run, I was able to comparable prices.

Secondly, by purchasing from stores who have ads stating that they will match a sale price with 30 days of purchase from any competitor, I was able to save a little more (and just had to keep a sharp eye out for sales). Here are the parts I ended up with:

Component Cost
Case Cooler Master 690 $40 (sale price)
CPU Athlon X2 BE-2300 $90 (combo deal w/ mobo)
Motherboard ECS GeForce6100SM-M (see above)
RAM 2GB OCZ Reaper 4-4-4-15 $45 (sale price)
Power Supply Thermaltake $40 (sale price)
Ethernet 10/100 (included in motherboard) (included in motherboard)
RAID Controller Promise Tech FastTrakTX4310 $170
Hard Drives Seagate SATA300 500GB (x4) 4 x $90 = $360
OS HD WD 80GB SATA300 $43
OS HD bay Not specified $12
OS WIN XP Pro $0 (transferred license)
Total System Cost Total: ~$800
Robert's NAS

Case: I purchased this case because I liked the cooling and the ability to easily mount hard drives. The mounts have rubber pads that do a good job at dampening vibration. The downside is that there are only 5 bays for drives and they are closer than I would like them to be.

So I stacked drives as 2 drives, space, 2 drives, hoping this will give decent air flow. For the primary OS drive I purchased a mobile drive bay online. It was cheap but it does the job even though I don't actually need to hot-swap it.

Power supply: The PS was on sale and I felt that from an online tutorial for building your own NAS that 500W would be good enough.

CPU & Mobo: I felt that these two products would serve me sufficiently for now. While the processor is not the most powerful, I felt that it did a good job with handing the processing that I needed to get done on the server. Buy buying them in a combo I was saving about $30 which seemed like a nice move.

RAID: I researched RAID cards for a long time. In the end, I wanted a card that was from a decent company and supported at least 4 SATA drives. It would have been fun to buy one of the $600+ cards. But for my needs I felt that the TX4310 would do the job. I'm sure I would have saved a bit if I had purchased it online, though.

RAID Card installed

RAID Card installed

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