Building a low-cost high-performance home NAS

Posted on Nov 17, 2009 by HappyBison

Parts required

Based on our requirements I came up with the following list of parts (many of those can be easily substituded to similar ones depending on your availability):

  • Chenbro ES34069 case with 4 x 3.5" Hot-swappable Hard drive bays (The Chenbro ES34069 Case Review).

  • Mini-ITX Motherboard: I got a good deal for MSI Fuzzy GME965 on eBay, but I was also looking at another nice board with the same or better capabilities: JetWay JNF93R-LF for $199 on Newegg. The JetWay JNF93R-LF is even better in this aspect because it has 4 SATA vs 2 SATA on Fuzzy, but JetWay does not have CF card slot (more on that later).

  • SATA Controller: due to MSI Fuzzy GME965 having 2 SATA connectors only, I had to add an additional 2xSATA Card (I used PCI-e due to its higher throughput and small size). I found Belkin F5U251 SATA-II 2-port controller from my past project, but you can get one of the following similar ones:

    Syba SY-PEX40015 for $25 @ Newegg or MASSCOOL XWT-PCIE10 for $21 @ Newegg. These comes with Silicon Image Sil3132 chipset. These also comes with SoftRAID, but we are not going to use it anyway.

  • CompactFlash card for OS: any CF card with 64MB or more will do. The lowest I was able to get is 2GB Sandisk CF card for $12.99 @ Newegg.

    My MSI Fuzzy GME965 has CF slot connected to internal ATA/100 so I just inserted CF card in it. JetWay JNF93R-LF does not have such slot so you have to buy an additional CF-to-IDE adapter like this one for $11 @ Newegg.

  • CPU: I was looking at something 64-bit dual core so my choice was to have something like Intel Core2 Duo T5750 (2.0GHz/667FSB) or similar. I was able to find one on eBay for about $40. When searching make sure the CPU you are buying supports "Socket P".

  • Memory: I wanted to experiment with ZFS which can take all benefits of having a lot of memory. So my goal was to have 4GB of memory in my NAS. Memory specifications depend on the motherboard you are using. My MSI Fuzzy GME965 supports a pair of DDR2 240-pin modules so I found a nice pair of OCZ 2x2GB DDR2 Memory Kit.

    You can get the following kit: PQI 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 PC2-5400 for $86 @ Newegg. If your motherboard accepts 200-pin SO-DIMM type of modules only (in case of JetWay JNF93R-LF board), then you can use PQI 4GB (2 x 2GB) 200-Pin DDR2 SO-DIMM PC2-6400 for $86 @ Newegg.