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hardware for home-office NAS server?


Active Member

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Hi all,

I would like to build a home-office file server with FreeBSD as OS.

These days, many of the hardware options tend to be high-end cases oriented towards the gaming market or proprietary solutions such as the Synology boxes.

Basically I'd like to build something that is quiet and cost-efficient, has low power requirements, and has space for four or so HDs.

Any ideas?



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Fileserver/jail host:#########

1. Motherboard: Supermicro Atom C2758 64GB DDR3 PCIE SATA USB Mini ITX
DDR3 1333 NA Motherboards MBD-A1SRI-2758F-O

2. RAM 4x*GB=32 GB: Micron Consumer Products Group CT102472BF160B 8gb
DDR3-1600 1.35v Dr X8 Unbuffered ECC Sodimm 204p

3. Supermicro Superchassis CSE-721TQ-250B Mini-Tower with 250W Power

4. HDD Transcend 64GB MLC SATA III 6Gb/s 2.5" Solid State Drive 370
(TS64GSSD370S). I always use two of these for the OS itself which is installed on ZFS mirror. Note that you might need to buy 128GB as they might no longer be selling 64GB. This particular case has 4 hot swapable 3.5" HDDs so I typically stack these in place of DVD burner. The motherboard I am recommending you does have 6 SATA ports

5. HDD for data: 4x4TB WD Red NAS Hard Disk Drive - 5400 RPM Class
SATA 6 Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5 Inch - WD40EFRX. I would definitely try to put 8TB Golds if you could effort the price. 8TB seems to be the new sweet price spot in therms of price per GB.

I built several of those all running FreeBSD 11.1 like a champ.

I have also heard very good things about HP ProLiant MicroServers but I have not dealt with them personally.
Last edited:



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Mostly agree with Oko. A home server NAS box doesn't need much CPU power. An Atom is low power (saves quite a few $$$ on electricity), which implies low noise (not so much fan noise), and saves money, and has more than enough oompf to serve files at 50-100 Mbyte/s. I have a 6- or 8-year old 32-bit Atom, and it does fine. With 4Gig of RAM (of which only 3Gig is accessible in 32 bit mode) it has enough memory to run ZFS, and quite a few servers (DNS, DHCP, NFS, CIFS, Apache, ...).

For the case, look for something that is compact and high quality. I ended up with a shoebox-sized Lian-Li case, which has hot-swap disk mounts. Not because I would ever swap them while running (I actually need to unwire it to get it out of the shelf it sits on), but because it makes installing disks easy. The case is also really well built, no sharp edges, sensible hardware to mount the motherboard and extension cards, snap-off covers, good case fan, and such.

For the boot disk, I used some old Intel SSDs that I got a good deal on. I think mine are 32GB in size.

For data disks, definitely go for redundancy. I have two Hitachi 4TB nearline SATA drives (enterprise-grade drives, not the consumer line). The sweet spot in terms of $/GByte is probably around the 8TB drives right now, but few home users actually need that much storage, and smaller drives are actually cheaper in absolute dollars. For file system, ZFS is the best choice, because it gives you built-in RAID, checksums, ease of use (in particular when doing disk replacement); you just have to learn the concepts like "zpool".

In my case, the motherboard choice was forced by needing two Ethernet ports (for firewall), plus a parallel port (I have a 20-year old laser printer that I can't get rid of for emotional reasons). I have no specific recommendation for a motherboard for normal users.

Finally: Get a UPS. It's not very expensive, and small power outages are very annoying if all other computers in the household are laptops, but nobody can get any work done because the server is rebooting.

Bobi B.

Active Member

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Don't forget about ECC memory, if you plan deploying ZFS. I bought a HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 pretty cheap, few years back. FreeBSDs 10.3 to 11.1 worked fine, so far. Not going to recommend it very much, due to some debatable hardware design decisions, tho. There is also a newer model -- Gen10 -- but I have no experience with it.


Staff member

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These days, many of the hardware options tend to be high-end cases oriented towards the gaming market or proprietary solutions such as the Synology boxes.
If you're looking for server-type cases, I'm quite fond of Chenbro rackmount cases. A lot of their 19 inch cases will fit a standard ATX or mini-ITX board and a standard ATX power supply. I have several of them, all custom built "servers" for home. And because they fit fairly standard PC equipment it's easy to get the noise-levels really low.


Active Member

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It really helps if you well if you at least mention country, in general your best bet is to grab prebuilt as its the most cost effective solution.


Active Member

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I'd say go for a used workstation and/or server if you want to be cost effective. Doesn't look like Lenovo etc have outlets with refurbished hardware in .nl as far as I can tell.


These all use ECC memory ootb unless it's really weird configuration. If you're going for a server make sure that you get the trays for it.

These are in Germany but you get the idea, and Fujitsu in general work really well with FreeBSD in general as they pretty much only use Intel hardware for everything.


New Member

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HP Microserver ticks most of the boxes: quiet, low power, 4 drive bays, ECC memory. Only trouble I've had are the BIOS doesn't allow to boot from a specific HDD and the BIOS had (Gen8) a bug that requires a small workaround for large (3Tb+) drives - impacts FreeBSD especially as the bootcode/loader checks partition table copies at both ends of the disk. Generally if you want quiet then look for a large case fan - lower RPM for equivalent airflow. Not a highly strung, high density 1U rackmount designed for a bit barn. And pick the lowest-power CPU offered, but keep it 64-bit for ZFS. I can't see much value in using SSDs here - as ralphbsz suggests, I'd sooner plump for a UPS.


Aspiring Daemon

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Messages: 866

I didn't spend much time on it yet. It comes with an unknown Linux 4.4.15+ and has unusual fs layout:
ls -l /
drwxr-xr-x   22 root root 4096 Apr 23 19:38 .
drwxr-xr-x   22 root root 4096 Apr 23 19:38 ..
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root root    7 Apr  1 03:45 bin -> usr/bin
drwxr-xr-x    7 root root    0 Apr  1 03:46 config
drwxr-xr-x   10 root root 7260 Apr  1 03:46 dev
drwxr-xr-x   44 root root 4096 Apr 15 03:40 etc
drwxr-xr-x   41 root root 4096 Apr 15 03:40 etc.defaults
drwxr-xr-x    2 root root 4096 Mar 26 03:01 initrd
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root root    7 Apr  1 03:45 lib -> usr/lib
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root root    9 Apr  1 03:45 lib32 -> usr/lib32
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root root    7 Apr  1 03:45 lib64 -> usr/lib
drwx------    2 root root 4096 Mar 26 03:01 lost+found
drwxr-xr-x    2 root root 4096 Mar 26 03:01 mnt
drwxr-xr-x    3 root root 4096 Apr  1 03:45 .old_patch_info
dr-xr-xr-x  247 root root    0 Dec 31  1969 proc
-rw-------    1 root root 1024 Nov  3  2017 .rnd
drwx------    3 root root 4096 Apr 15 03:40 root
drwxr-xr-x   22 root root 1340 May  9 03:36 run
lrwxrwxrwx    1 root root    8 Apr  1 03:45 sbin -> usr/sbin
drwxr-xr-x    4 root root 4096 Apr  1 03:47 .syno
dr-xr-xr-x   12 root root    0 Apr  1 03:45 sys
drwxr-xr-x    2 root root 4096 Nov  3  2017 .system_info
drwxrwxrwt   13 root root 1660 May 11 15:20 tmp
drwxr-xr-x   10 root root 4096 Mar 26 02:16 usr
drwxr-xr-x   16 root root 4096 Apr  1 03:47 var
drwxr-xr-x   14 root root 4096 Apr  1 03:45 var.defaults
drwxrwxrwx    2 root root 4096 Mar 26 03:01 volume1
drwxr-xr-x   14 root root 4096 Apr 15 03:40 volume2
There are no .dtb(o)/dts files in the system, maybe one is embedded in the kernel.



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I would definitely image that eMMC before poking it too much. So that might be the sticking point.
Booting FreeBSD Arm64 uboot off usb stick(is that even possible) or do you wipe eMMC and install Beastie?
That a tough pill to swallow on a working box. Even if you could flash the original image back.
What if they have some custom higher level harware logic where the disk copy(eMMC to RAID) bit goes on.
(Forensics on the disk image might help to see whats going on there)
Your probably better off building your own NAS if going that far. Enjoy the plug and play storage.

I wonder if Clonzilla has any Arm LiveCD tools for grabbing the eMMC image.
The newer BananaPi uses the same CPU.


Aspiring Daemon

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Messages: 856

If its just a file server you are building, and you wanted to try something low cost then consider trying to find one of these old gems. I still have mine running FreeBSD and it a great little server. You can use an external drive and a cron job to copy/backup your important files.

HP MediaSmart Server



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Messages: 92


Some random thoughts about my ZFS server...

I got ECC memory and don't regret it. Read the arguments, and decide how many bit flips you can stand...

I have a ufs root mirror (2 x WD Velociraptors). ufs keeps the root simple. They are too slow (much slower than the RAIDZ) to use as a ZIL.

I have 5 x WD Red 3 TB disks in RAIDZ. Backblaze says that they are the least reliable disks that they have.
Wish I had been able to get better stats on the disk reliability before I bought them... But only one failure in 6 years...

  • replace the Velociraptors with small enterprise class SSDs (with data protection). Reserve some for ZIL. Velcro them on, and release two 3.5 inch trays.
  • add another disk, for RAIDZ2, but I have to completely reformat ZFS for that.
  • will buy 8 TB disks to replace the 3 TB ones as they die, and try to work out a transition plan.



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Messages: 98

I'm in the Netherlands. I'm open to either building my own or getting a prebuilt.

For the latter, I suppose this might be an option: HP ProLiant 873830-421 3.4GHz 200W Micro Tower server
I second the pre-built route. I have a "tower" HP barebones that I found for a shockingly low price a few years ago. I paid about $220 and that included the chassis, 4GB ECC RAM, 2 onboard bge gigabit ports, a Core i3 processor, and shipping. I added an additional 8GB RAM and my own drives. It's a well-built chassis with a very sane layout, all cooled by one very large low-RPM fan. It is very quiet once booted (fan runs full speed for a few minutes during boot). It's no longer sold, but for reference, this is the listing: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0189HKXFM/

It has remote KVM built-in, so if you stash your server somewhere, you need not move from your PC to do any work on it if you break networking (or for the initial install - you can mount a DVD/CD image remotely). The KVM was a trial license, but I "found" a key to unlock it permanently. I know I would have barely been able to buy a "server" board w/ECC for what I paid for the entire server...



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I started my journey with an HP ML310 or something, very noisy and power hungry, after spending much on upgrades, it ended up in the tips and replaced by HP Microserver NL40. Really good system for the price and had all the necessary upgrades I needed for running my server. Only issue was I had a LTP tape drive which required higher power supply rating. Sold the NL40 on ebay and bought a Dell T110. I still have the Dell, but for full time running I am using a HP T620 thin client.

It runs OpenKM as document management, Nextcloud for all my calendar contacts and also other stuffs (software and movie storage). Piwigo for photo and video album and all the hous emonitoring system (gas, electricity, water, inside and outside temp, CPU temp). Also my sprinkler management system.

So after spending much time and money on several systems this works for me, because it is very efficient, low energy with only a UBD hdd connected to it and upgraded memeory and M.2.