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I need a NAS device for my home network to get these high value files off my laptop (family photos, music, coding projects, etc.). My goal is cheap and reliable.

I have a spare old PC laying around that I plan to install FreeNAS and plug in some SATA drives. It's a Gateway P3-500, 512MB RAM with 2 available internal drive bays

What I need is data redundancy, so I don't lose everything if a single drive fails. I am considering buying a PCI SATA controller and 2 SATA drives, then configure as software RAID 1.

I want to access files using Windows shares, because it's simplest. FreeNAS provides other Unix-y protocols for my Ubuntu desktop, which is a plus.

Should I go with FreeNAS or are there better hardware/software solutions?


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There's no redundancy with RAID 0 - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Jon Smock Apr 30 '09 at 12:35

12 Answers 12

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Freenas is great. I would look at the rsync options in freenas to get the redundancy you want/need if you don't want to spend the money for the sata card

But I can't have storage without SATA. The IDE disk in it now is too small to do anything with. –  spoulson Apr 30 '09 at 15:02
I have been running FreeNAS on that P3 box for a little while now and it's getting the job done. –  spoulson Nov 4 '09 at 13:41

If you go for the hardware RAID controller make sure you get a decent one. Cheap ones can be far far more trouble than they're worth in my experience.

This is exactly why I'm ok with software RAID. –  spoulson Apr 30 '09 at 12:23

Personally I have a Thecus N2100 which I've been very pleased with. Recently one of the drives died, and when I'd worked out which one it was, I simply ordered a replacement, followed the instructions to rebuild the RAID array, and all was fine again. In the meantime, I still had read/write access.

It may not be quite as cheap as reusing an existing box, but it's likely to be quieter (I replaced the fan on mine - easy and cheap), smaller, and take a lot less effort.


Raid 0 is 0 redundancy. For 2 drives you need Raid 1.

FreeNAS is fine, but you can also look at openfiler.

I just used Ubuntu LTS on my cheap server, though- it let me do all the usual samba mounts, and acts as a whole-house jukebox with subsonic. You may well be able to get a recent distro to install on that box.

D'oh! I meant RAID 1. Question has been edited. –  spoulson Apr 30 '09 at 13:04
That'll come back to haunt you again and again ;-) –  RobertTheGrey Apr 30 '09 at 19:34

I also use a "homegrown" Linux based file storage server based on Gentoo- I also used a laptop CPU to reduce the amount of electricity it requires. Software RAID 5 saved me early on when a flaky SATA cable helped to trash the data on one of the disks.

You should also consider using something like rsnapshot, which makes periodic backups of your data. That will help prevent damage caused by wayward rm commands, and the like.


I second the Thecus recommendation, although I hear Drobos are good too.

One thing to remember, though, is that RAID is about availability - not data protection. You still need a separate back-up - especially for the media you're talking about - which you can never get back (speaks from bitter experience!).

If anything, RAID is even less "safe" than a standard drive. If your RAID goes wrong you may well lose everything.

The mirrored forms might mitigate these concerns, but even if you consider a mirrored drive as "back-up" it still suffers from the problem of co-location. Get your back-ups in separate rooms, better still separate floors - or best of all off-site!


I've been pretty happy with my D-Link DNS-321 NAS. It can be had for $90-100 after rebate, supports mirroring, SMB sharing, media server, gigabit ethernet and lots of other features. You pop two drives in, tell it to format them, and it's ready to go. It's also hackable with the fun_plug script.


FreeNAS or OpenFiler or even just straight Debian or Ubuntu distro (for ease of package install/deinstall) would be my choices.

For backups, though, I'd also consider getting things offsite via something like Mozy or AllMyData.com.


I am personally working on setting up an at home NAS using OpenSolaris and ZFS. ZFS will support redundancy, pairing multiple drives of different sizes into a single virtual volume (or pool).

In addition, ZFS supports a great feature called "snapshots" which allows you to take instant, lightweight shots of the system for later recall. Integrity checking is performed constantly so that your data is always kept safe (or at least you know when it's not).

Of course, ZFS is still very much in testing.

ZFS on Solaris/OpenSolaris is most defintely stable and enterprise-ready. –  Harley May 2 '09 at 5:13

For what it's worth, I've been using an HP MediaVault with good success. Two drives mirrored.

I backup my most sensitive and critical files (financial, personal records) to matched set of thumb drives that stay in a fireproof safe. Other stuff (pictures, home videos) go to DVDs. These can easily be stored off-site.


You could use Windows Home Server -- either by buying a HP MediaSmart etc or by getting a copy of the OS. I believe that it is include in the TechNet subscriptions and available retail. The P3 you mentioned above would easily run it.

WHS has a drive mirroring technology -- not really RAID but similar. This mirroring technology allow you to decide which data needs to be stored redundantly.

It has a connector that is installed on Windows client machines to automatically backup the machines.

Have at look at the wikipedia entry for more features.

I love the flexibility of Windows Home Server. Many of my coworkers and friends have bought a license for it to put on older computers or made WHS virtual machines. Being able to choose which data you want as redundant and which you don't care as much about being redundant is very useful for making sure your photos and pc backups are resilient without having your podcasts eat up more disk space than necessary. –  sparks May 13 '09 at 16:35

I just moved all my files to a Drobo (http://www.drobo.com). Drobo offers no-hassle redundancy for all your files. While I actually plug my Drobo into the Firewire 800 port of my Mac, there is also a hardware add-on called DroboShare that offers the NAS capabilities you are looking for.

If you read about Jeff's experiences with traditional RAID arrays/controllers I think Drobo offers a good alternative. Joel apparently also had some issues with the RAID controllers in his company's developer PCs.

On the negative side I guess, the cost are obviously relatively high and it is a completely propietary solution that is not compatible with a non-Drobo RAID array.

Having used my Drobo for a number of weeks now, I'm very pleased with it and would recommend, but I haven't had any disks die on me yet which I guess would be the only real test.

Forgot to add that Drobo doesn't require same sized disks which was one of the selling points for me personally. –  Patrick A. May 13 '09 at 17:21

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