Today I’ll show you how to build your own budget 6TB RAID-5 Network-Attached Storage (NAS) System for your home or small business for under USD$600. We’ll be using a second-hand desktop PC and a dedicated hardware RAID controller card, but purchasing new hard drives. We’ll also be installing OpenMediaVault as the NAS operating system.
Nowadays, used computers are cheap-as-chips on websites like eBay and Amazon if you know how to search. I am very good at getting bargains so I will include eBay.com links that will direct you towards getting what you need for this project in each section.
Motherboard, CPU & RAM
If you have an older PC you’re not using and it’s at or newer than 2011, you can use it for this project. If not, then eBay will have hundreds of options including Motherboard & CPU Combos (that usually come with RAM too) or complete PC’s you can purchase cheaply. Let’s go through each option.
Any motherboard that meets the following specs will do fine for our NAS system, if you’re not sure about any of these specifications, stick with made after 2011 and you should be fine.
- Motherboard made after 2011
- Supports DDR2 RAM (preferably DDR3)
- Supports at least 4GB RAM (preferably 8GB)
- Has at least 1x SATA port (for the NAS operating system)
- Has 1x PCI-Express x16 slot for the RAID card (yes graphics card slots can be used)
- Has on-board video (graphics slot will be used for the RAID card)
- Budget $50-$60
- Predefined eBay search for Motherboard
Obviously the most important thing is to buy is a CPU that matches the socket and capabilities of your motherboard, to do this just search for the motherboard brand and model (ie. “ASUS P5G41T-MLX“) and usually the first result will be the manufacturers dedicated page for it. Go to the specifications section which will tell you what CPU socket, speed and type of CPU your motherboard supports. Manufacturers also have lists of supported processors for each motherboard so you might want to check those as well. Processors you want to stay away from are Intel’s Celeron and AMD’s Sempron because these are budget CPU’s and generally run too slow for our NAS.
- Matches the socket and capabilities of your motherboard
- Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad, Core i3, i5, i7 or XEON (stay away from Celeron or Sempron)
- Dual-core or more
- 1.6GHz per-core or higher
- Comes with CPU heat-sink and fan
- Budget $50-$60
For this build I chose an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 (SLB6B) that runs at 2.7GHz with 4 cores, a 6MB cache and 1333MHz front-side bus. This is more than enough for running our NAS and will give me lag-free performance.
Again, the most important aspect of buying RAM is that it matches the capabilities of your motherboard. Just as with the CPU, search the brand and model of your mobo to find the official page for it, there you will find the RAM specifications and a QVL list of RAM. Motherboards nowadays are quite forgiving in terms of RAM speed and timings and will fall back to a lower speed if necessary. This means if your mobo supports DDR3-1600 but your RAM is DDR3-1866 it will simply fall back to 1600MHz and vice-versa.
- Matches the RAM type and capabilities of your motherboard
- Highest speed your motherboard will accept non-overclocked (ie. DDR3-1600 1600MHz)
- At least 4GB Gigabyte (preferably 8GB)
- Quality brand (Samsung, Hynix, Micron, G.Skill, Corsair, Kingston etc)
- Budget $40-$50
- Predefined eBay search for DDR2/3 RAM memory
I had some spare DDR3 1333MHz 4GB G.Skill module and one Generic DDR3 1333MHz 2GB module giving me a total of 6GB as a start, but I will be purchasing an 8GB matched kit soon off eBay to fully max out the mobo capabilities.
Case & PSU
Now comes the PC case which is just as important as any other part in this build because we need to cram 4 full size 3.5″ hard drives into it along with a 2.5″ SSD for the operating system and a RAID card. I don’t need a internal DVDRW drive because I have an external USB DVDRW drive I will be using to install the NAS operating system. If you don’t have one of these you can buy one for less than $20 bucks, otherwise you can just use a 5.25″ DVDRW drive connected to a SATA port and power of the PC to install the OS, then remove it afterwards.
You also need to choose a case that fits the motherboard you have, so a Micro-ATX mobo will fit into a mini-tower or midi-tower case, but be sure it has the slots for the hard drives (4 x 3.5” 1x 2.5” as a minimum) or you can also buy 5.25″ to 3.5″ slot converters on eBay. Larger full size ATX cases will fit tons of hard drives and will also fit a Micro-ATX mobo too, larger cases will fit smaller mobo’s but not vice-versa.
- Matches the size of your motherboard
- Has minimum 4x 3.5″ slots, 1x 2.5″ slot (or equivalent 5.25″ converted)
- Tower case, not a flat desktop case
- 1x Chassis fan
- Budget $30-$40
- Predefined eBay search for PC Cases
I repair computers for a living and end up with a lot of used PC’s from customers who have upgraded, so I had a nice mini-tower case set aside for this project, but it didn’t have quite enough 3.5″ slots. I finished up taking out a hard drive cage from another case and riveted it into the bottom of this case.
You can also purchase 5.25″ hard drive cages that slot into the top of your case where the DVDRW drive normally lives and converts the space into 5x 3.5″ slots for your drives, check them out on eBay.
A good power supply is essential in a NAS system of any type. You need quality and reliable power to your motherboard, hard drives and RAID card. This means sticking to well known brands with good specs. As a minimum you will need around 400 to 500 Watts of power to run efficiently and 5x SATA power connectors (or Molex to SATA converter cables) for the drives. Sometimes you can pickup 2 or 3 year old PSU’s that are cheap but still fine to use in this situation so long as it’s a quality model.
- Minimum 400-500 Watts
- Minimum 5x SATA power connectors (or Molex to SATA converters)
- 24 Pin or 20+4 pin motherboard connector
- +12v 4 pin for CPU (optional, see your motherboard requirements)
- Quality brand (Thermaltake, Antec, Be Quiet!, Corsair, Cooler Master, XFX, OCZ, SilverStone, EVGA)
- Budget $30-$40
- Predefined eBay search for ATX Power Supply Quality Brands
I had an older Thermaltake 430NP-A2 430 Watt PSU from a scrapped client PC that’s very well made and performs flawlessly. The only issue was it didn’t have enough SATA connectors so I used 4x Molex to SATA converters to do the job.