Low-cost & low-power DIY NAS build: What would you spec for an efficient 6-drive pool?

Sorry there aren’t any links in this post but the forum won’t let new users post more than 2. dumb rule.

My existing NAS hardware is very old. I would like to migrate my existing pool into an entirely new system and can re-use my case, drives, and power supply:

  • CASE: Fractal Define R5 - fits up to eight 3.5" Drives
  • PSU: Corsair RM750x

What motherboard+CPU combo would you recommend for a light duty file storage NAS? This is only for the LAN, won’t have more than 2 users, and currently only gets used for media + file storage.

an HBA can be factored in as well if the motherboard has fewer than 8 sata ports.

Other thoughts:

  • I’m on the fence if I want this new system to do media serving + transcoding. Kinda like the simplicity of a NAS-only build.
  • I’d like the freedom to someday get a faster network connection on the NAS. Some modern motherboards support 2.5gbe, but I wonder if it’d better to get a 1gig board and throw in an SFP+ NIC down the road.

Budget: I’d expect this would be comfortably under $500 using consumer hardware. Perhaps closer to $300. Any reason to consider something more server-centric?

I’ll go first:

About $430

What improvements or alternatives would you suggest?

I have a define R4 and got a couple of these cheap 5.25 hot swap things to bring the drive capacity up to 10: ORICO 5.25 Tray-less Hot Swap Mobile Rack CD-ROM 3.5 inch Internal SATA Hard Drive SSD Adapter-1106SS - Newegg.com

The CPU you’ve listed will be great at transcoding.

If however you want just a NAS, AMD might be the better choice for ECC memory support.

CPU is just a suggestion, you could pick a cheaper less powerful one also…

Edit: You can shop around for motherboards too, just be aware that not all support ECC memory. This Asus board specifically does have ECC support: PRIME B550-PLUS - Tech Specs|Motherboards|ASUS USA

I’d completely ignored AMD despite my note that I’d do transcoding off the NAS. Thanks for reminding me. That Ryzen CPU looks really good, I’ll look more into this path.

Random question: Would this build complain booting up headless since the 5500 CPU doesn’t have integrated graphics (and I won’t plan on getting a gpu)? This post indicates it would be a problem, though this is for a gigabyte board. I guess I should probably look for a headless workaround.

Not sure honestly. I have a slightly ridiculously overpowered gpu for transcoding lol.

For a file server-only oriented board look no further than X10SDV-2C-7TP4F. I wish I’d bought it instead of the version I have now.

Very low power, 22 SATA ports (of which 2 are SATADOM), etc. You’re really unlikely to outgrow it as a file server.

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For low-power as the priority, I’d recommend the A2SDi-8C/12C boards, if 12 SATA ports are enough (and let’s face it… It’s supposed to be low power, so they’re probably enough…). The SoC is going to be a bit lower power, and it avoids the SAS controller.


A2SDi are low power, but not exactly low cost.
For up to 6 drives, X10SDV boards come into consideration, including all the mini-ITX variants without on-board SAS. But these depend on a suitable opportunity.

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That’s a great board if it has to be Mini ITX. My suggestion is bigger, can handle more drives, features on-board SFP+, more PCIe slots, two SATADOM slots, etc. and costs less.

So are the best options still all 5-9+ years old?

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Yeah. C5000 is unobtainium and newer Xeon-D platforms are notably higher-power. And expensive.


That supermicro board looks too good to be true. Slightly more expensive than what I was originally looking to spend but it seems to include many addons I was planning to get with a consumer board. And probably better quality.

Could you help me make sense of the following?

SATA SoC controller for 4 SATA3 (6 Gbps) ports; RAID 0,1,5,10
SAS Broadcom 2116 SW controller for 16 SATA3 (6Gbps) ports; SAS2 and SATA3

I am only using SATA HDDs, so I assume I’d need some breakout cable to attach to the right ports on the board. Looking on their site it’s PN: CBL-SAST-0616. Ebay has similar things for sale. Would this work for me?

One remaining issue: the board geometry. I’ve never heard of Flex ATX. My case is compatible with ATX, Micro-ATX & Mini-ITX. Shy of reaching out to the case manufacturer (which I will do), should I expect compatibility?

I’m not familiar with SATADOM but it looks like a convenient way to get a mirrored TrueNAS SCALE install without using and drives.

Would that work? Part of this feels like a holdover from an older era… but I suppose so is this hardware.

I use a breakout cable to go from the Mini-SAS ports to SATA. I use cables similar to this “MiniSAS HD SFF-8643 to 4X SATA” to split the Mini-SAS to four SATA ports (the Lian Li Backplanes are not as advanced as the ones from supermicro, so every SATA drive has to be addressed individually).

Flex-ATX is smaller than ATX, so it should fit (see image I stole from Wikipedia below)


SATADOM is a special SATA port that can also power a small SATA disk that usually is very-high-endurance flash memory. See here for one example. They sell at a premium relative to “normal” drives but are supposed to last longer and take up little to no room.

I’d go for at least a 32GB module so you have the freedom to store several editions of TrueNAS. I use 64GB SATADOMs in a mirrored boot pool which admittedly is not as good as the HA approach that some more advanced users here use. (The issue with mirrored pools is that the boot sequence stays the same even if the primary drive in the boot sequence is the broken one - the HA approach fixes that issue).

There are other boards like the x11spm-tpf that are even more flexible. Same general board size but the removable processor allows you to use a inexpensive low core scalable Xeon now and upgrade later if the need arises. Lots of PCIe slots in case you ever want to go NVME, etc.

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They are pretty cool… and you can probably get it in 2 Core, 4 Core, 8 Core etc. Just depends on how many $$ you want to spend.

Note: My Node 304/ X10SDV build is using a similar board, but not the flexATX one.

in retrospect the flexATX board is the better one to get, if you’re not hooked on trying to build an ITX system.

flexATX will fit in a case which supports MicroATX.

The motherboard sizes are basically how many PCIe slots have been cut off versus ATX :wink:


mini-ITX = 1 slot
mini-DTX = 2 slots
flexATX = 3 slots
microATX = 4 slots


Plus: C5000 does not come with as many SATA ports as C3000 (to put it mildly…).
Xeon D-2100 (X11SDV) has quite high idle power. Xeon D-1700/2700 is not as bad, and comes with 25 GbE onboard BUT most X12SDV boards come with a new heatsink design which is closed at the top :scream: and thus strictly designed for cooling in 1U servers with screaming 40 mm fans blowing front to back : No easy conversion to cooling models for the higher and/or larger chassis one would use for storage servers.


Yeah, the easy 12 ports on full-loaded A2SDi boards are a killer feature for NAS usage. Look no further than the TrueNAS Mini 4…

After looking around for the 2C-7TP4F, I stumbled into a used 7TP4F (the the Xeon D-1537 non “2C” version) for $500.

This seems like a killer deal, but I want to pull myself back a bit and ask: do I need this? I know apples-to-apples comparison is $400 vs $500, but what more things could I do with this more capable hardware? I wasn’t planning on running too much on this box, but perhaps I can think about more things.

It feels like a no-brainer but I want some outside opinions or suggestions.

Finally: Cooling. I don’t think the power bump will matter, though it does seem like these boards run hot, especially the SAS controller. The fix seems to be pointing a fan direct at board, but I wonder if anyone here has first-hand experience.

Constantin, do you a board from this line in an ATX case? If so, how have you dealt with the heat?

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8 core, 16 threads.

You can run more than a couple of VMs. And plenty of services.

I have 16 threads on my 304 build (see signature for links)

I use two of them for a pfsense VM using the two gigabit lan ports.

Then the rest are used by TrueNAS and my docker jail. The biggest user there is my jellyfin server, where I have enough cpu to use cpu transcoding for a number of simultaneous users.

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The build report looks awesome! Thanks for taking the time to write things up.

I would like to learn more about running other services. And not needing a standalone n100 media pc is nice.

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