Jarvis the DIY Home Server

  • Powered by Intel Core i3 Dual-Core processor
  • 16GB DDR3 Memory
  • Gigabyte Mini ITX Motherboard
  • Dual LAN ports
  • Support up to 6 HDDs
  • 8 USB ports (2 x USB 2.0, 6 x USB 3.0)
  • Super silent cooling fans by Noctua
  • Corsair 650 Watt 80 PLUS® Gold Certified PSU

“If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Introduction

It all started when I bricked my first Network Attached Storage (NAS) device; the Western Digital My Cloud (2TB) on July 2014. I bought it from a local retailer on March 2014 at the cost of RM468. Although it worked flawlessly as a file sharing device, it does not fully meet my requirements. I need it to do things such as hosting my XBMC Mysql database and provide network printing support. So I began to tinker with its internal system until I bricked it.

Since whatever I have done has voided the warranty, I decided to get a replacement NAS. I was torn between building my own NAS or buy another ready made NAS. Finally, I decided to build it myself based on these reasons…

  1. I always build my own computer and I love doing it.
  2. Things that are built with love can last longer.
  3. Easier to maintain. I can fix things that I built myself.
  4. Cheaper to repair. Unlike ready made NAS, spare parts are easier and cheaper to get.
  5. You get more powerful hardwares than ready made NAS at the same price range.

While it may seems like a very good reasons to build your own NAS, please be aware that it is not without any challenge especially if you do not have any experience in building your own computer before.  I hope this website will ease the challenges as much as possible.

The Requirements

Minimal Dust

Easy Maintenance

x

Super Silent

Idle Power Consumption Below 50W

V

Mini-ITX board

SATA III x 6

N

USB 3.0 Ports

Built-in Graphic

BIOS Auto Boot

Dual Gigabit LAN

Hardwares

To achieve the optimal balance between performance, power consumption, temperature and noise, I must choose the hardwares carefully. I want the whole system to perform admirably well with minimal operating cost, long lasting and stealthily (without any noise).

To cut down cost, the power consumption must be low and the limit I set for this build is 50W.

In order to have a long lasting machine, the casing must be well ventilated to keep the temperature low, dust intake must be minimal and electric current must be regulated.

Since fan is the main culprit of noises, I must minimize the number of fans without sacrificing the ventilation too much.

Fractal Design Node 304 (White) Case

The first component that I decided on is the casing. Once I secured this, all I need to do next is to find the right components that can fit inside it.

What I like most about Node 304 is its minimalist design. As you can see, it looks like a mini fridge or a microwave. Not a bad thing if you ask me. Other than its tasteful design, I also like it because it has adequate vents with dust filters and fans (yes, it comes with 3 Silent Series R2 hydraulic bearing fans) to provide excellent cooling inside the casing. These dust filters can be easily remove for cleaning making the periodical maintainance a walk in the park.

Don’t be fooled by its small appearance. It can fit 6 hard drives, full size ATX power supply unit, tower CPU cooler/single fan water cooling system and graphic card up to 310mm. Since this is for NAS build, graphic card is not going to be included. Every space in this case is fully occupied by the components making it a very dense and compact build. Pair it with a proper mini-ITX motherboard, it can turn into a gaming beast at par with other mid tower or full tower desktop.

The only problems I have on this case are lack of external hot swappable HDD bays and cable management. Cable management is not easy in this case because of its tight spaces. There is no way you can fully hide the cables and it is a good thing this case does not come with transparent window. External hot swappable HDD bays are missing in this case too. However I can live without it because I don’t plan to replace the hard disks that frequent. If I really need to replace or add a new hard disk, I don’t mind open up the casing to do it.

Fractal Design Node 304 (White) Case

RM349

Product Info Buy

GIGABYTE GA-H97N-WIFI Motherboard

  • Mini-ITX form factor
  • Integrated graphic processor
  • Dual Gigabit LAN
  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • 2 x DDR3 1600/1333 MHz DIMM sockets (max 16 GB)

RM399

 

Product Info Buy

Intel® Core™ i3-4130T Processor

(3M Cache, 2.90 GHz, 2 Cores)

This processor was chosen because it is the cheapest and has the lowest TDP value of 35W only (consume less power). Other than that, it also supports ECC memory, making it possible for future upgrade.

RM429

 

Product Info Buy

Intel® Core™ i3-4130T Processor

Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler

Noctua is well knowned for its premium low-power and low-noise fans which meets 2 of my requirements. Since fan consumes electricity and produce noise, I aim to reduce the number of fans as many as possible without compromising on system cooling which will reduce the components’ lifespan. Initially, I wanted to go for passive (fanless) cooling solution such as Zalman FX-100. However, it is too big to fit inside the case. Water cooling solution is out of question because other than fan, it also has pump motor that will result in higher power consumption. I also don’t need any fan that has fancy LED lighting that consume unnecessary power.

After few days of survey, I finally choose Noctua NH-L12 as my CPU cooler based on these factors…

  • Dual fan design. I can remove one fan and still enough to cool down the CPU thanks to its large cooling fins area and low TDP processor. On top of that, I can replace the case default fan with the unused fan which is more premium (quieter and consume less power).
  • Low profile. I don’t have to worry it cannot fit into the case.
  • Quality thermal compound is included.

However, I wish Noctua can come up with more color option for its customer to choose. The standard brown fans look out of place inside the casing. Luckilly, it is not visible from outside.

Corsair RM650 – 650 Watt 80 PLUS® Gold Certified Fully Modular PSU

To be honest, I don’t need such a high capacity PSU. After all, the maximum power consumption I aim for is only 50W. However, I was unable to find any premium PSU below 200W limit. Those that I found around that range are crappy PSU that are inefficient and may produce noise and heat that will shorten the lifespan of the whole system.

With the sub 50W power consumption requirement in mind, I searched for PSU that is highly efficient with passive cooling (fanless). The only PSU I found that meets the requirement is Seasonic SS-400FL 400W 80 PLUS Platinum Fanless PSU. Unfortunately, it was out of stock and very expensive. Then I came across Corsair RM650. It has 80 PLUS Gold rating (more than 90% efficient), the fan does not spin under low to medium load and it is RM80 cheaper. I grabbed it immediately. I wanted to go for lower capacity (cheaper) model such as the 450W model, but the shop only has 650W model.

It is a fully modular PSU which is a plus point for small casing such as Node 304. That means the space inside the casing is less cramp without all the unused cables.

RM429

 

Product Info Buy

Corsair RM650 650 Watt 80 PLUS® Gold Certified Fully Modular PSU
Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz (white)

Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB DDR3 1600Mhz (8GB x 2) Memory

I decided go all out on memory and go for the maximum memory the motherboard can support. It comes with heatsink in matching white color. At first, I wanted to go for Low Voltage memory with ECC. LV memory is hard to find and I don’t think it can significantly reduce the power consumption. To support ECC memory, I need to find a compatible motherboard. However, I couldn’t find any mini-ITX motherboard that can support ECC memory and still meet my other requirements. Not to mention ECC memory and its supporting motherboard are more expensive than the conventional ones. After spending countless hour searching for a solution, I decided to take the chances and go for non-ECC memories.

 

RM498

 

Product Info Buy

Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drives (2TB x 3)

I decided to start with 2TB hard drives in RAID 5 configuration and I need at least 3 drives to do that. Since I managed to salvage the hard drive from my bricked WD My Cloud, I just need to buy 2 additional hard drives. I decided to go for the same hard drives for simplicity sake.

 

RM325/drive

Product Info Buy

WD Red 2TB NAS Drive
WD Red 2TB NAS Drive
WD Red 2TB NAS Drive
SanDisk 8GB Cruzer Fit USB Flash Drive

SanDisk 8GB Cruzer Fit USB Flash Drive

The OS for the NAS requires a USB flash drive to act as a boot drive. I choose this because of its extremely low profile. Once plug in, you will never notice it is there.

 

RM19

 

Product Info Buy

APC 650VA Power Saving UPS

Other than provide backup power and regulating voltage, once this UPS is combined with the OS for the NAS, it can perform wonderful things such as auto shutdown on power outage and auto boot on once the power is resumed. The NAS can also inform the UPS to shutdown once it has enter Safe Mode.

 

RM289

 

Product Info

APC 650VA 230V Power Saving UPS

Hardwares Summary

Total cost: RM3,602.87

Jarvis Cost Breakdown
Product Name Model Price Quantity Total Date Purchased
Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive (2TB) WD20EFRX RM 322 3 RM 966 12 Aug 2014
Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz (white) RAM HX316C10FW/8 RM 249 2 RM 498 22 Jul 2014
Corsair RM650 PSU CP-9020054-NA RM 429 1 RM 429 31 Jul 2014
Intel® Core™ i3-4130T Processor BX80646I34130T RM 428.87 1 RM 428.87 22 Jul 2014
GIGABYTE GA-H97N-WIFI Motherboard GA-H97N-WIFI RM 399 1 RM 399 22 Jul 2014
Fractal Design Node 304 (White) Casing FD-CA-NODE-304-WH RM 349 1 RM 349 21 Jul 2014
APC 650VA 230V Power Saving UPS BX650CI-MS RM 289 1 RM 289 22 Jul 2014
Noctua NH-L12 CPU Cooler NH-L12 RM 225 1 RM 225 31 Jul 2014
SanDisk 8GB Cruzer Fit USB Flash Drive SDCZ33-008G RM 19 1 RM 19 28 Jul 2014

The Operating System

Now that you have fully assembled the hardwares, it is time for the Operating System. There are few popular OS you can choose for your NAS such as FreeNAS, LaCie NAS and U-NAS.

However, the OS that I choose for my NAS is Synology’s DSM. That’s right, you can install the same OS use by Synology products and the guide on how to do that is freely available on the Internet. However, it is not that straight forward and most of the guides I found are quite confusing. Lucky for you, I have compiled them into one easy to follow guide that works flawlessly on my machine.

Useful Tips

Power Consumption

Power consumption is very important in this build because I plan to let it run 24/7. It is not practical to have a super computer but have to pay more than RM100 every month on electrical bill. The maximum power consumption I set for this build is no more than 50W. I think 50W is a realistic value because most of the commercial NAS is running at around this value too. To calculate the monthly cost of running this machine 24 hours every day, I assume one month has 30 days and I use the highest rate from TNB (the electric company in Malaysia) which is RM0.571/kWh. So, the maximum cost I am willing to pay every month is…

0.05kW X 24 hours X 30 days X RM0.571/kWh = RM20.56

But how much power is the NAS actually consuming? To find that out, I use Multifunctional Mini Ammeter than can measure the Wattage draw directly from the wall socket. Here are the results from 3 different scenarios.

Power consumption on idle (W)

Power consumption on load (W)

Power consumption on standby (W)


Noise

It’s really quiet. If I have a sound level meter to show you, I would. But until then, all I can tell you is…

 

“This is the most silent computer I have ever built.”


Temperature

Heat is the enemy of computer and other electronics devices. You must remove it as much as possible. Unfortunately, the temperature in Malaysia and other tropical countries are relatively high.

Theoritically, lower power consumption generates lesser heat but lesser fans also remove lesser heat. So, does the system has sufficient fans to remove the heat? To find that out, I will measure the temperature inside the case.

According to this page, the internal air temperature should be around 40 °C.

To measure the temperature, I use a digital thermometer with remote sensor and place the sensor strategically in the middle of the casing, suspended in the air without touching anything. I take the temperature after I let the system runs for few hours.

To my delight, the temperature inside my casing is only 34.1 °C. The external ambient (room) temperature is 31.1 °C. That means, the temperature only increase 3 °C which is very good.

Ambient temperature

Ambient temperature

Internal temperature

Internal temperature

Temperature for other parts can be taken from the DSM software itself.

 

 

HDD temperature: 37 °C

HDD temperature: 37 °C

CPU Temperature: 40 °C

CPU Temperature: 40 °C


Transfer Speed

To test the performance of this NAS, I am using a tool made by Intel known as Intel® NAS Performance Toolkit. I install this on my main PC that has this specification:

  • OS: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-3570 3.40GHz
  • Memory: 16GB DDR3
  • HDD: Intel SSD, 520 Series, 180 GB x 1
  • Network adapters: Build in Gigabit Ethernet (MTU 1500)

Both my PC and the NAS are connected to Asus RT-AC68U Gigabit router using CAT5e cables. The HDDs in my NAS are using Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) configuration. During the test, data are read and write from an unencrypted volume.

At first run, the software gave me this error:

2014-09-22_190634

It seems the software does not play well with system that has more than 2GB of memory. Because I was too lazy to find a 2GB memory to replace the memory that is already installed, I proceed anyway. Let us see how will this affect the result.

After preparing the software, I ran the test and this is the result that I got.

2014-09-22_221919

Apparently due to the above memory caching issue, the results for “HD Video Record” and “File copy to NAS” are way off the chart. Let us ignore both for now.

To put the result into perspective, I am taking Synology DS1513+ as comparison. The reason why I choose DS1513+ is because it is in the same price range with my build and both are using the same OS (even though different version).

Here are the comparison between my NAS and the test result of DS1513+ done by eTeknix.

I also do another test using LAN Speed Test (Lite) and here is the result for upload and download of a 5GB file to the NAS.

 

2014-09-22_222711

Here is the comparison to Synology’s own performance result for DS1513+.

 

LAN Speed Test Result

Final Summary

Overall, I had quite a bit of fun building my own NAS. Since this is my first DIY NAS built, I learnt a lot too about NAS. I have spent countless hours doing research on hardwares and OS and then sourcing for the parts. I  have spent even more hours preparing this guide.

I am quite satisfied with the end results. Even though the idle power consumption is a bit higher than Synology DS1513+ (see below table), it is still well below my 50W limit. I believe Synology and other commercial NAS are able to shave off overhead in power consumption in their products because of custom made PCB that has everything integrated without the bells and whistles of a consumer motherboard.

The perfomance is at par with its commercial counterpart. However, the test results are debatable due to different test environment. The only way to have a real comparison is to test the products by myself using the same environment. I will be happy if someone can loan me the products for testing.

So is it worth it to build your own NAS than buying a ready-made NAS from companies such as Synology?

Well, if you are someone who find kicks from building your own computer, then go for it by all means. Otherwise, save yourself the trouble and buy one from the companies and keep your finger cross that it won’t breakdown.

Here is a comparison table for you to have a better decision.

Synology DS1513+ Jarvis
CPU
CPU Model Intel Atom Intel Core i3-4130T
CPU Frequency Dual Core 2.13 GHz  Dual-Core 2.9 GHz
Memory
System Memory 2 GB DDR3 16 GB DDR3
Memory Module Pre-installed 2 GB X 1 8 GB X 2
Total Memory Slots 2 2
Memory Expandable up to 4 GB (2 GB X 2) 16 GB (8 GB X 2)
Storage
Drive Bay(s) 5 6
Compatible Drive Type 3.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD
2.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD
2.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) SSD
3.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD
2.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) HDD
2.5″ SATA(III) / SATA(II) SSD
Hot Swappable Drive Yes No
External Ports
USB 2.0 Port 4 2
USB 3.0 Port 2 6
eSATA Port 2 0
Appearance
Size (Height X Width X Depth) 157 mm X 248 mm X 233 mm 210 mm x 250 mm x 374 mm
Weight 4.25 kg ?
Others
LAN Number (RJ45) Gigabit X 4 Gigabit X 2
Link Aggregation Yes Yes
Wake on LAN/WAN Yes Yes
System Fan 80 mm X 80 mm X 2 pcs 92 mm X 92 mm X 3 pcs,
120 mm X 120 mm X 1 pcs
Easy Replacement System Fan Yes Yes
Wireless Support (dongle) Yes Yes
Noise Level 22.1 dB(A) ?
Power Recovery Yes Yes
Scheduled Power On/Off Yes Yes
Power Supply Unit / Adapter 200W 650W
AC Input Power Voltage 100V to 240V AC 100V to 240V AC
Power Frequency 50/60 HZ, Single Phase 50/60 HZ, Single Phase
Power Consumption 51W (3TB HDD x 3, Access)
25.75W (3TB HDD x 3, idle)
55.9W (2TB HDD x 3, Access)
39.1W (2TB HDD x 3, idle)
4.3W (standby)
OS DSM DSM
Price RM 2,480 RM 2,348

Data for Synology DS1513+ taken from https://www.synology.com/en-global/products/DS1513+#spec

There you have it. The complete guide for building your own NAS. If there is any mistake, please let me know. You can also discuss about it and share your opinion with everyone.