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I recently acquired a NASA-surplus server to use as a NAS server for my household. It's the perfect computer for the job; it has two Xeon 2.4Ghz processors, 2Gb of ram, and 7 front-mounted hard drive slots. Unfortunately, it uses an old SCSI hard drive controller, and I want to be able to use new cheap SATA HDDs with it.

I know I'll need to replace the SCSI HDD controller in order to do that, but I want to know whether a new SATA controller will work with my somewhat-old computer.

Is there a standardized HDD controller port on motherboards, or is the port manufacturer-dependent?

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Can you tell us EXACTLY what server it is (make, model, part-number etc.), it'll really help us to help you. Oh and some controllers can support both SCSI and SATA by the way. – Chopper3 Jan 2 '10 at 17:23
How is that possible? The SCSI hard drive port is different from the SATA port. Also, I don't know how to find the model number of my computer. It's manufactured by SuperMicro, but I don't know which model it is or how old it is. – Evan Kroske Jan 2 '10 at 18:54
It's possible based on what server you have, there's LOTS of servers and disk shelves out there that can take either SAS or SATA disks in the same slots. Can you try to find out the model please, it should be written on it somewhere. – Chopper3 Jan 2 '10 at 21:45
is it one of these; ? – Chopper3 Jan 2 '10 at 21:52
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Short answer first: No, Mainboards dont have a standard port for disk controllers. Nor do cases have a standard slot for disks.

Long answer: In case your server actually accepts SATA or SAS disks in the slots, you have to check what kind of slots are on the mainboard (PCI, PCI-X, PCI-E). Then you can choose a extension card for your server. You might go for a simple SATA-card with no raid functions, and do RAID with the OS. Or go for a good RAID card to do the raid for you. Dont buy a cheap raid card: they are driver based anyway, and they only "promise" to work, if you get my drift.

IMHO, the ideal household NAS server is silent. Your heirloom server is not going to be silent. And it will use a lot of electricity. 200W or so is a lot in a household. You would notice that on the bill. Aim for 30W - 50W and do the math on cost for an additional 150W per year.

How about you look into some of the modern, cheap NAS enclosures? (Buffalo Linkstation comes to mind) Or a cheap 1 GHz-like PC, Atom or not, and maybe use FreeNAS or similar for it?

My household server lives in an old midi tower, with a fanless atom board and 2x 500 GB SATA. Quiet, cheap, big enough.

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Depending on your server it will either be integrated, PCI-X, or PCIe.

You can replace it if it is PCI-X or PCIe, or just add one if it is integrated, but the problem is the interface to the backplane where the drives connect. You can't just slap in a new controller and expect it to connect to the backplane. It will probably be cheaper to just get SCSI drives.

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I'm planning to replace the backplane with one from the same manufacturer. I just want to be able to ask the backplane retailer if the backplane uses port X to know if it will plug in properly. I don't think SCSI drives are an option; Newegg lists only six SCSI drives, none more than 300Gb. – Evan Kroske Jan 2 '10 at 16:04

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