Instead of labeling 20 external hard drives and keeping them in a secure location, it may be a better option to build your own Network Attached Storage (NAS). Where to start, though? Here’s everything you need to know and buy to set up your own home server.
This compact case from Thermaltake allows you to store a few drives inside, while also letting you cram it full of all the components required to build your own NAS. It’s also affordable.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3400G is a quad-core processor with a boost speed of up to 4.2GHz. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great starter package with killer integrated graphics for a custom NAS and the option to upgrade at a later date.
The PSU is one of the most important parts of any PC build due to it being solely responsible for supplying clean power to the rest of the components. This EVGA unit is a reliable, affordable option.
This isn’t the most thrilling motherboard around, but Mini-ITX boards are generally more expensive than ATX counterparts since manufacturers have to cram a lot of components onto a smaller PCB. This is a solid option for a NAS, however.
You shouldn’t require more than 8GB of RAM on a NAS. In fact, you shouldn’t need more than 4GB, but this module from Corsair is reliable and affordable.
Samsung’s EVO Plus M.2 solid-state drives (SSD) are blazing fast and use a special slot on the motherboard, freeing up SATA ports and drive bays inside the Thermaltake case for our large NAS drives.
Seagate IronWolf NAS drives are specifically designed for use inside an always-on server. They range from 1TB to 16TB in size so it’s possible to configure enough capacity for your needs.
Building your own NAS
Network Attached Storage (NAS) is simply a storage device that is attached to your home or office network, either through cables or wireless. It allows for all connected devices with correct permissions set to access files on internal drives. It’s possible to purchase a prebuilt NAS, but the prices can get out of hand depending on requirements and features. It’s cheaper to go it alone.
We took a look at some of the best options available on the market for building a Plex media server, but if you’d rather have a fun project to be tasked with or wish to configure your own system (more ideal for streaming and various demanding tasks) then it’s possible to create your own NAS.
Here are some of the advantages when it comes to building your own NAS setup:
- Better value.
- Room to upgrade in the future.
- Configurable to exact requirements.
- More powerful and feature-rich than prebuilt systems.
With a NAS system, the aim is to keep the footprint small but have ample room to throw in a number of storage drives and capable components. Thermaltake’s CORE V21 case is great for this, sporting the option to fit up to three drives. There’s also the bonus addition of a side panel window to show off the insides. With this case, you’ll not only be able to build a compact system but also show it off with LED lighting and other case mods.
For cooling, Thermaltake preinstalled a massive 200mm fan in the front. It’s also possible to add other cooling solutions inside, including an all-in-one water cooler for the CPU.
Should you go Intel or AMD? Intel has a wide range of processors that will do the job, depending on what tasks you want the NAS to perform. An Atom or Pentium processor will be more than enough for file and media storage, while a Core i3 chip will be better for streaming, Plex use, and multi-user optimization. We’re going with AMD, however, to take full advantage of integrated Vega graphics.
Our choice will be an AMD Ryzen 5 3400G, which sports four cores that can boost up to 4.2GHz. This is more than enough for file storage and can even handle some video transcoding without breaking the budget. It even comes with a snazzy cooler!
EVGA’s 500W power supply is an excellent unit for any PC with an 80 PLUS Bronze certification and backed by a plethora of positive reviews. For our NAS build, we’ll be relying on not only the reliability that comes with the certification and branding but also the modular cabling that will help avoid clutter inside the small case. You also won’t require anything more than 500W, so this PSU should be good for future upgrades and builds with a dedicated GPU.
Combined with our AMD Ryzen 5 3400G processor, the ASUS ROG Strix B450-I Gaming is perfect for a NAS setup. This is an excellent Mini-ITX board with ample room for expansion, thanks to the PCI-Express slot, four SATA ports, a single M.2 port, gigabit LAN, and built-in wireless. Not only can we use an M.2 drive to install our OS and save space within the case for additional drives, but also take advantage of wireless connectivity if you’re unable to hook up the unit to a LAN using cables.
When it comes to RAM in a NAS, you only really need to pay attention to speed and capacity. We selected an 8GB kit that should be more than enough for most NAS-related tasks, including some streaming. Just make sure you’re using RAM supported by the motherboard and you’re good to go. Our motherboard in this collection has two slots, allowing us to upgrade the capacity to 16GB at a later date.
Storage options depend on how much space you wish to use. We’d recommend starting with 1TB or 2TB mechanical drives, with a 250GB M.2 SSD if your budget can stretch for a more efficient system drive. Brands like Western Digital and Seagate offer dedicated NAS solutions.
For our reasonably-priced build, we selected Seagate IronWolf. It’s always recommended to pair up hard drives in a RAID configuration, just in case something goes wrong, causing your drive to fail — you don’t want to lose everything stored on the NAS. Factoring this into account, two 2TB drives in a RAID configuration would offer 2TB of capacity.
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