unRAID Server Project

This is a simple photo-version of my unRAID server build.

Parts arrive, minus the enclosure and eSATA bracket.
External enclosure arrives…
…along with the eSATA bracket.
Memory and CPU are installed first.
System board is set in the case. eSATA bracket is wired and flash drive is run internally.
Trays are removed from the enclosure for drive installation.
Mounting screws go through the bottom.
Drive is ready for plugging.
Backplane internal connections.
Internal enclosure rear connections.
Internal enclosure backplane connections.
Case is ready. Flash drive is routed internally via empty expansion slot.
Carried to the basement and setup with the other “servers”.
Green means go! (Orange shows populated bays)
Drives detected and mounted
After drives are mounted, they have to be formatted.
After several hours of transferring from my other server, data migration is complete!
Now that the transfer is complete, it’s time to enable the parity drive.
Parity disk installed and ready for the build process.
Parity process has begun. I got about 56MBps.
A few hours later I’m protected and ready to configure my shares (that’s another story).

11 thoughts on “unRAID Server Project

  1. grimm2000

    I am a fan of UnRaid especially since I believe they (Tom) resolved the stuttering issue. What format do you play your Blu-Rays in? Since I am trying to achieve the best audio/video possible I keep it in the original file format. I currently have two servers and I might have to build a third one soon.

    1. Jon Post author

      I encode everything and save as MKV. I retain only AC3 or DTS (if available) audio and encode down to 720p. I’ll watch a movie from disc originally, but then it is ripped, encoded and archived to my unRAID for any further viewing. My TVs are all only capable up to 1080i/720p anyway, so I can rarely tell a noticeable difference between an original 30GB rip or a 3-4GB encoded file.

  2. blontic

    Wish I could find a case like that which I could also fit a m-ATX board into.

  3. Sinjen


    You’ve had this system up and running for a while now. Any further thoughts on it? Does it continue to meet your expectations?


  4. Jon

    UnRAID has only improved for me. Since the pause during playback when other disks spin up was fixed, I can say only that it is perfect for my needs. I’ve easily expanded the storage multiple times and rebuilt failed disks without issue. It just works.

  5. Sinjen

    Hey Jon.

    Can you give me a ball park figure on what this solution cost you, including any hardware that you recycled? I’m trying to get an idea of total cost of ownership when rolling your own UnRaid system vs. buying a pre-built unit from them.



    1. Jon Post author

      Well, the only thing I recycled when doing my server was the case. The case still would have been the cheapest thing though as I had intended on using external drive cages to hold my drives.

      Personally, I think the most important parts of the unRAID server are the motherboard, PSU (if running drives off internal power – I am not) and then, ironically, the case. The board doesn’t have to be spectacular, but I would make certain is a reliable brand and model with a lot of onboard SATA ports. I’d also make certain is a fairly newer model to ensure the SATA controllers are PCIe-based (more bandwidth). Having at least two additional PCIe ports for future card expansion is also important. My board only came with 4 SATA ports, but they are PCIe-based, has onboard video, was expandable to 8GB DDR2 and had a very tried-and-true Intel 965P chipset (ICH9). I think I spent $80 on it, but more ports = more money. I like the Intel boards (not Intel chipset boards – actual Intel boxed) because they are built for workstation use, have compatible hardware-based onboard GigE (not the crappy Realtek/Marvell LAN) and are extremely stable. I’ll use the high-performance and higher priced Asus and whatnot for my primary systems.

      I got a reliable 450W PSU to keep the system going…I did not need anything with anymore watts since I run no internal HDDs. However, if you plan on running internal drives, I’d probably start at around the 750W range and go with something from a company like Corsair (not pushing them, I just know they have quality PSUs). PC Power & Cooling and Seasonic are others to look at, but can be pricey. Expect to pay ~$125 for a good PSU at that wattage, but you will need it as you add drives and introduce more spinup strain…not to mention a crap PSU can take out an entire system easily.

      The case I can’t comment on much other than the unRAID forum is a good place to start if you’re interested in some of the rack mount options many are using that hold 20+ drives. If you don’t plan on anything that large, then just about any mid-range full tower would be your best bet for having room to pack drives and keep things cool. Airflow is an absolute necessity here…hot drives will lead to failed drives. Hopefully noise will not be a factor for you as it was not for me…mine is in my basement, so it can’t be further away from the rest of the house. Thermaltake makes some nice models that work well with the 3-in-5 hotswap cages, if you’re interested in those. I highly recommend them for cable management if nothing else. They run about $100 each though, so they can drive your cost up quickly. Antec makes good cases, but can be a bit costly. I’d also not stay away from Cooler Master, Rosewill and other low to midrange offerings if it looks like they can foot the bill. They may be a little thin and not quite as sturdy as some of the more expensive cases, but this is a server…it’s not going to be moved around and is static for all intensive purposes. Just make sure you don’t use any of the PSUs they may include…they are garbage. I wouldn’t go less than $75 on a full tower case unless it’s just a fabulous deal on something of decent quality.

      Other components are typical and you don’t need much. Stick with no less than 2GB of RAM…more is always better, but not necessary. I run 4 x 1GB modules of very standard memory that probably cost me around $50-60 at the time (prices are higher now). Stability is key here, so go with good brands, but you don’t need the high performance low timing stuff. Standard Kingston, Patriot, etc. will do fine. unRAID is very light on the CPU, so I would go with the lowest power option compatible for your board. I started out with an Intel Celeron E1200 (1.6GHz dual core) and actually moved ‘down’ to a Celeron D 430 (1.8GHz single core). There’s really not much difference in the Celeron Conroe-L I use and newer E3XXX-series, so it’s up to you. The single core price point was better to me and it fits the bill…I’m not lacking in CPU power at all because it’s just not used, plus I wanted to use the E1200 to replace a power-sucking PentiumD in one of my HTPCs. Any AMD equivalents are fine but I can’t recommend as I jumped off the AMD boat several years ago. You can get by on $100 with CPU and memory if you shop a little.

      Drives are sort of up to you. I prefer the Seagate drives due to their insane 5-year warranty, but I have a couple of Samsung 1.5TB drives also that are working quite well. I sort of pick my spots and get new drives when needed, but stick to phased out models since they’re dirt cheap (buy 1TB or 1.TB when 2TB just start to drop). Top-of-the-line is just not needed here. In fact, I’d probably go with the so-called ‘Green’ drives. The 5400RPM isn’t going to hurt you and it will save on power consumption in the long run. Read performance is what is most important and they are plenty fast enough as they utilize high-density platters to offset the lower rotational speeds. Writing to unRAID is going to be slower than what you’re used to regardless, so don’t worry about that. It has gotten light years better as of late though (I went from 11MB/s to 30MB/s late in the 4.4 beta releases, so that’s quite acceptable). Drives will hit you at around $75-$125 a pop, depending on what size you go for.

      That’s about it minus thumb drive and the unRAID OS itself. I’m on a 256MB thumbdrive and I have plenty of room, so no need to go overboard there. Get the Pro version of unRAID whether you think you need it or not. I got plus and then upgraded, so I spent more than I needed to.

      The currently sold-out $699 deal from Lime-Tech is an excellent deal. I haven’t tried to piece a similar system out to compare with myself, but even if it’s $100 more, it may be worth it to have it delivered in working order. Tom uses quality parts and I probably wouldn’t change anything in the RB-1200 (possibly the board, but it is still a good board). I suppose it really depends on how much you already have to start with…the RB-1200 doesn’t come with drives, so you have to add that to your cost.

      Hope this helps a little.

  6. Dave Green

    Question: When you have 2 NAS units, and an APS UPS connected via USB to the first server, how do you connect to the second NAS unit so it gets shutdown cordinated with the first NAS? I think i saw this was possible..

    Also- a decent 450 supply is suitable for up to 14 internal drives based on my math. Though more is better. Single Rail 12V is a MUST HAVE – do not get a supply without single rail 12 V !!! (The corsairs are this way)

    Also any notes on setting up shares and security? Im using AFP (Mac) as my main protocol but would like to have it set up for private acccess via samba as well, maybe one acct r/o and another full – Any hints? Gotchas?


    1. Jon Post author

      I don’t know much about ‘sharing’ a UPS, although I’m fairly certain it could be done – depending on your NAS units. If your NAS units are unRAID servers, then the way I would see it working is one would be connected to the UPS using the APC daemon. When the event gets fired indicating power outage, it would send an event to the second NAS to execute a shutdown script (these are included with unMenu). So, power outage triggers NAS1 to go down and NAS1 sends the trigger for NAS2 to go down. For Windows-based NAS, there are local policies that can be configured to run a script at logoff/shutdown, so you could set it up the same way and just send the ‘shutdown’ command to the second Windows-based NAS. Never played around with this any, so there is probably much better (and easier) ways of handling this.

      As far as shares and security go, you have to balance it with convenience. All of my user shares are read only and I write to my disk shares (which are hidden). I don’t use user security, so I can’t really comment much on it, but using a read account and another for read/write would be the simplest to manage.


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