Task : To build a small home server with four 3.5" HDDs, as quiet as possible. It will be used as a NAS, backup server, and torrento machine.
First, it was necessary to choose a motherboard. The standard options are mATX and Mini-ITX, both of which I tried before.
The mATX form factor was rejected at once, small efforts to make it compact will not work. The existing cases for mATX boards are not designed for 4 disks, they usually have bad and noisy power supplies. It is difficult and expensive to make a compact and quiet power supply for such a system since the power consumption will be more than 150 Watts.
Mini-ITX form factor gives more freedom of choice, here we have Atom and Celeron processors, fast Athlon midgets and powerful Core 2 Duo/Quad. The price varies a lot, but for my tasks Atom will be enough. These boards consume little power, take up little space and are usually not much inferior to mATX boards in the number of functions. Some disadvantages of these boards are higher prices, less connectors, small choice.
Unfortunately, on the Russian market the choice of Mini-ITX boards is less than abroad, but this should not be surprising, given their low popularity. You can find a good range of Mini-ITX boards on Yandex Market and some companies specializing in small form-factors. Worth noting here. Antex and Onyx (aka dont.ru ). On foreign sites ( linitx.com , mini-itx.com , idotpc.com ) the choices are much wider.
I didn’t find any low-powered motherboard with 4 SATA slots suitable, and I didn’t want to buy a separate sata controller with two, as the only PCI slot could be used for something more useful, like WiFi adapter.
I also wanted to make the computer into a home router, so I was looking for a board with two ethernet connectors.
There was, though not much choice, but after googling it, I found great board with a dual-core Atom processor, a PCI slot, two ethernet slots, and, oh wonder, four SATA slots. Excellent option: low-powered but not quite weak processor, full set of necessary sockets and only one fan.
Now it was time to choose an enclosure. There was only one case for 4 hard drives, Chenbro ES34069 , looks as great as the board we found, but is quite expensive. After reading the forums it turned out that it is not very quiet.
Okay, let’s move on, you can buy another case and make room in it for 4 disks. How to place the disks I had only a rough idea at that time, but this did not scare me. After a thorough search we found two small enclosures suitable in terms of capacity: AOpen S180 and CFI GROUP CBI-A8989TG Both resembled the hulls of the first bareborn systems. According to calculations they both fit, but I decided to take the one from Aopen, which was a bit higher to have some room to spare. Afterwards this decision turned out to be the only right one, as the second case would not have packed everything so well. But first things first.
The power supply I bought was uncommonly noisy so I decided to look for an alternative. Power supplies for Mini-ITX systems usually consist of two components: a power adapter like a laptop and a converter board. The board converts the voltage produced by the power supply, usually 12 volts, to the required 3.3, 5, 12, -12 volts. The system was calculated to consume up to 100 watts at peak. The range of such fanless power supplies turned out to be very small. In Moscow, it turned out to be impossible to find a board and adapter with an output power of more than 80 watts. Adapters 220 – 12 volt power from 100 watts in Moscow are rare commodity, trips to markets and searches on the network gave almost nothing. Only one company offered to bring the power adapter for 120 watts, but with unknown timing. There was also the only 120W card available, also on special order and within the same time frame. I had to look around on the foreign internet. German and American stores offered such kits, even had a good selection, but for about $200 with shipping. Then I turned my attention to the car converters, essentially the same boards, only designed for floating car 12-24 volt, not stable 12. For these boards it is much easier to find a power supply, because any laptop power 100-120 watts will do. I had a power supply so I found a similarly priced one on eBay. Great, now I had to wait for it to come in the mail.
The Barracuda LP hard drives were chosen as they are cheaper and run less warm than the mature 7002.11 and similar. However, during the tests it turned out that they really get hot under load and forced cooling was recommended. Gaps between the disks should have been made for free air flow.
The case I bought had an iron carriage to hold one 5" and two 3.5" devices. It was not possible to mount 4 disks on it well. But a metal carriage designed for mounting four disks in three 5-inch bays, given to me by a friend, was perfect for this task. It had a place for the fan mount, and when mounting the drives, it left enough slots between them to blow through.
At Leroy Merlin we found suitable iron angles and screws to fix the carriage in the case. The adapter board was attached to specially soldered metal stands. The power supply which was enclosed with the case was removed, and on the case back, in the place where the power supply fan and 220V socket were hung out, there was a big empty space which had to be somehow closed. With metal scissors I carefully cut out a patch of aluminum sheet and attached it to the case. Now I had to make a dodgy MOLEX-4 SATA power cable, since the power supply only had one molex connector. I soldered a 20-pin power cable from an old power supply to the motherboard and the power converter.
The motherboard had PWM fan speed control so I had to buy a quiet fan to blow out the hard drives, so I had to go shopping and buy one PWM fan and one quiet fan with a special resistor to slow it down even more. I removed the original motherboard heatsink fan as I figured that the case fan would be enough. It turned out that one cooler blows on my disks and the second one blows air from the case to cool down the cpu and the chipset. During the tests the processor got too hot so I decided to make something like an air duct out of a sheet of plastic. It took me a few days to finalize the drawing, prototyped it out of paper and eventually, using scissors and glue, it was turned into a plastic casing for the motherboard heatsink.
The easiest task turned out to be buying memory. 🙂 I bought an 8 GB flash drive for the system partition and soldered an adapter to connect it to the motherboard’s internal socket. The OS was installed on a flash drive and the computer was assembled. I ended up with a quiet computer where everything came together quite compactly, there really wasn’t much free space inside.
It’s currently running Ubuntu 9.10, backups are done with snapback2+rsync.
|2 GB RAM||600 rubles .|
|Power supply unit (board)||1000 rubles .|
|Power supply (adapter)||on sale from 1200 r.|
|4 discs Barracuda LP 1.5 TB||14400 p.|
|4 disc carriage||on sale from 700 r.|
|Fans (2 pcs.)||600 rubles .|
|USB flash drive||600 rubles .|
|SATA cables||140 p .|
|Fasteners, plastic, glue, etc.||100 p .|
|Total :||~25500 rubles.|
|With adapter and carriage would come out||~27500 rubles.|
A small test
Here are the results of unixbench and for comparison the results of a desktop computer (Athlon X2, 2 cores, 2.5Ghz, 2GB RAM) and a server with Xeon 5500 (8 cores, 2.5Ghz, 48GB RAM).
I found the cheapest NAS for 4 disks on Yandex-Market for 14000 rubles (without disks). My computer was a thousand rubles cheaper and certainly more powerful and functional. Of the minuses – a lot of time was spent, it was not easy to find the parts in my case, and, add to this the risks of buying goods from abroad by mail.
Thank you for your attention!