On the last NAS build you saw the massive screw up we made with picking old hardware, where we basically picked the worst combination we could find for a build. That’s right, we make mistakes so you don’t have to. It did allow us to test everything on the cheap, but not long term as power bills in the summer in Taiwan get pretty high. But how about a media editing NAS server* using newer stuff? *Servers typically have IPMI and ECC.
Today we’ll get to some choices and tips for your build. But before I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes, you sure your wallet can take this red pill?
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Best parts for a Media Editing NAS/How to Build 2021
EDIT 5/24/2021: 1) Plan for a cheap keyboard and mouse to live beside your NAS, and if you’re going AMD, you’ll need a graphics card installed for at least the first month as you test, setup and build your parity and iron out issues with your setup. There’s a lot of tweaking for the first while and we installed/removed a low-profile GT730 gpu 10 times before just leaving it inside for the near future.
2)The Define R5’s included dual 140mm fans at the front are insufficient to keep an 8-drive HDD array cool with the door closed, on our first Parity build, temps hit 46°C on the top two drives before we had to open the case door and side and cool it with A/C and a huge 14″ floor fan. The front case door dramatically reduces air intake to keep drives cool, so intake fans directly on the HDDs need to have excellent static pressure in order to provide proper cooling.
The Define R5 has Fractal Dynamic GP-14 fans with a Static pressure of 0.71mm H₂O, so we ordered Noctua NF-P14s redux-1500 PWM which have a static pressure of 1.91mm H₂O. Even with a straight-through mesh front, we’d still recommend high static pressure fans to properly cool an array of hard drives.
The Fractal Define 7 XL is our NEW recommendation
EDIT 6/6/2021: We swapped in 2x Noctua NF-P14s redux-1500 PWM fans for front intake, kept the NF-P14s redux-1200 we showed in the video in the rear location, and removed the top sectional (back and middle) panels and moved the 2x Fractal 14cm fans to the top for exhaust.
Our final build uses an Asus Strix B450 Gaming-F motherboard, so we adjusted the two front intake fan curves in BIOS to run just over 1300rpm, as the static pressure of 1,91 mm H₂O these fans can deliver happens around their 1500rpm max. Now the top array drives are now at a peak 40°C during parity build and 37°C otherwise, with the door closed.
This is still over a 10° delta over room ambient (26~27°C) but this comes down to the size of the holes in the metal of the actual HDD rack, blocking airflow. We’re sure the open air sled-type design in the Fractal Define 7 XL would be the best solution, without the side metal restricting airflow to begin with, there shouldn’t be such a battle to keep drives cool. This will result in lower fan speeds and has a dual benefit- lower noise, and also lower power draw long term. Testing will tell if the side-intake design on the Define 7 XL is as restrictive as the Define R5.
What you need for a Media Editing NAS
What’s gonna contain your build? Finding a case for a media editing NAS can be tough, though Fractal has a new Define 7 XL that holds 16 drives if you grab sleds and with an optional glass side. The cheapest option at around $50 is a Cooler Master N300 or N400, but drive access will be rough, with no rubber mounts. There’s also rackmounts, but rackmounts are usually too noisy for living space. We went with this white Fractal Define R5 which came out awhile back but is still pretty available, coming just under 100 bucks with 8 bays and shockmounts, and, bonus, it looks great also.
For motherboards we suggest one with 3x PCIe x16 slots, most B450 and even new B550 don’t have the 3 slots we’re looking for, however choosing an AMD CPU like a Ryzen 5 3400G may help, the G is for integrated graphics and may take away the need for a slot. We’re putting a SAS to SATA card in one slot already, and a 10 or 40 gigabit networking card in the other, a bit later.
A mid range CPU like a Ryzen 3600 or Intel i5-9400 or newer is plenty for a media editing NAS, and 16 gigs of ram unless you want to run some VMs. A cheap 512 gig Gen3 NVMe m.2 runs $60 bucks providing excellent read/write cache speed, unless you have a smaller spare lying around. NAS hard drives sit around 100 bucks for 4 terabytes, pick fewer big terabyte drives over more smaller capacity drives.
We were going to recommend Noctua anyways before they surprised us by sponsoring, their Redux case fans are a terrific choice for silent long lasting cooling. You’ll also need to have a USB stick to donate for Unraid, get any SAS to SATA data cables, and SATA power splitters for the drives. You’ll need an Unraid license if you pick that, a UPS for surge protection, and external backup too. Choosing components with low wattage requirements will cost less in the long run.
What you’ll need:
PC Case: +8 HDD bays
Motherboard: 2-3 PCIe x16
CPU, coolerSAS to SATA card (IT mode)
16GB+ DDR4 RAM
500GB NVMe m.2
SSD10TB+ NAS HDDs
10Gbe/40Gbe PCIe card…?
500~600 watt PSU
1GB USB 2.0 stick or better
SAS to SATA breakout cables
SATA power splitters
Internet to download Unraid
Internet to NAS
Additional Short-term needs:
Unraid license $60-120
UPS protection $80-200
External HDD backup
Choosing a Case, Motherboard slot Bifurcation
So what the heck is a NAS anyways? A NAS is a Network Attached Storage server connected to your network. We’re building a media editing NAS, as we’re often editing in Premiere, and Photoshop at the same time on an episode, so having fast access to data with multiple PCs is crucial.
Determine your case needs first, this the hardest part of the build. Few cases have more than 4 hard drive bays, and in-line bays make installation and maintenance a pain.
Our Fractal Define R5 is ideal, having modular hard drive bays with direct fans for cooling, great cable management and with sub-100 dollar pricing, the sound dampened interior panels muffle any noise, though 10 bucks more gets you a TG side panel if you wanna show it off. This 8-bay Define R5 should be enough for any small to mid size office, but if you need massive storage, the new Fractal Define 7 XL holds up to 16 drives, 4 by default, so the case is 200 and 6x 2-pack sleds is an extra 84 bucks, and tack on 10 more for a TG side panel.
Okay, for motherboards, AsRock Rack is a favorite among server builders, but you can use a cheap B450 AMD board and Ryzen 5 3600, or Intel z490/590 boards. The ASUS ROG Strix B450-F Gaming that Linus Tech Tips found runs three x16 slots at PCIe 3.0 x8/x8/ and PCIe 2.0 x4, also supporting headless mode. However, 3 slots seems to be an elusive Bigfoot for B450 and B550, a bit more common for X470 and the newer X570.
A lot of mainstream Intel CPUs have integrated graphics, eliminating the need for a graphics card. Some AMD CPUs have onboard graphics, designated with a G like a 3200G, but mainstream offerings usually don’t, so even if the motherboard itself has HDMI or DisplayPort out, it won’t work with a 3600, 3700x, or 5900x for example. The upside though is AMD unofficially supports ECC or Error Correcting ram, and you’ll need that if you run ZFS file systems on your NAS.
For Intel there’s the new Gigabyte Z590 Vision D would be a good media editing NAS option, three x16 slots at PCIe 4.0 x8/x8 and 3.0 x4, and we’d pair that with a Core i5-10600K. The Vision G has three x16 slots at PCIe 4.0 x16 and 3.0 x4/x4. With three slots you can use SAS to SATA cards, supporting 8 to 16 hard drives each card, and a slot for 10 or 40 gig networking expansion. If you find a good motherboard let us know and we’ll add it here.
Media Editing NAS– Memory & SAS PCIe cards
MSI sponsored us a B550 Tomahawk here today, thanks guys, and along with Lightning Gen4 m.2, it’s got good VRMs, 2.5 gig and 1 gig LAN ports, USB Type-C 10 gig, with PCIe 4.0 x16 and 3.0 x4. We’ve got an AMD 3700X here cooled by a random Thermaltake for filming, but for long term we’ll use a Cooler Master Hyper 212 we have on hand. TeamGroup is providing the ram for the build, two sticks of Vulcan Z 3200 CL16 16GB for 32 gigs total, it’s a bit overkill, 16 will be plenty unless you’re doing VMs.
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TeamGroup also supplied the MP33 Pro m.2 PCIe 512GB SSD with a read/write of 2100 and 1700 megabytes a second. An PCIe m.2 drive is great in a media editing NAS for super fast cache for Unraid, though if you have a lower capacity spare, that’s fine, just don’t buy new less than 512, that way you have future options, and if your motherboard comes with an m.2 heatsink, use it. Keep in mind installing a second or third m.2 drive will often disable SATA motherboard ports.
With just one m.2 and 6 hard drives the motherboard SATA ports will connect everything, but for more drives you could go with a PCIe to SATA 2 or 4 port card, but for just a bit more, grab an SAS 8 or 16 port breakout card instead. This LSI SAS HBA Fujitsu D2607-A21 is pre-flashed into IT mode, just 65 bucks. Each mini-SAS port supports 4 SATA hard drives for a total of 8, and there are 4 port cards for 16 drives, still not expensive. If you grab a pre-flashed LSI card, you don’t have to mess around in Linux for hours.
With this card we grabbed Mini SAS to 4 SATA breakout cables, about 10 a pop. Even if you don’t grab an SAS card, you’ll need some SATA male to 5-port SATA female power cables to juice your drives. Those drives have to be NAS drives, which are rated for 24/7 operation, a regular hard drive will die much faster with all drives resonating, and hard drives must have fans cooling them.
Cooling, Powering the Media Editing NAS
The Define R5 comes with dual 14cm fans, we’ve moved the rear one into the front so we can install dual Noctua NF-P12 Redux up top, and a larger NF-P14 Redux at the back. The P is for high static pressure, ideal for radiators or getting air through cramped spaces, like lots of hard drives. There’s lower speed models if you need a super quiet case, and they have airflow optimized versions also. Noctua’s 12cm fans are going around 14 bucks, and the 14cm we saw on sale down from 22 dollars.
If you’re blinging up your case with RGB and a TG glass side, Cooler Master has both 120 mil SickleFlow and Halo ARGB fans for $50 and $65 dollars in 3 packs. We grabbed a Halo for the TD500 Mesh review, and it looks good and does the job, link here for that review.
For a PSU, you should get one with at least a 80+ Bronze rating, and 450 to 500 watts is fine because there’s no GPU- it just needs to handle the initial boot power load, then everything will idle pretty quick. We had a choice between the EVGA BD 450 or the FSP Hexa 85plus 450, even though the EVGA has a decent efficiency curve and black cables, we ultimately chose FSP because of the slightly better efficiency curve which will save money long term.
To figure load, calculate each hard drive at 9 watts max and 2 amps per hard drive and split that over your PSU Molex and SATA leads. Check how much your system takes at boot, all combined that should be under the PSU’s rating.
HDDs & Networking the Media Editing NAS
Even though there’s 10, 40 and 100 gig switches in data centers, they all use fiber optic or copper SFP+ connectors, not your typical RJ45. If you’re interested in how to set this up, throw us a like and a comment about what kind of application you’re building, and please subscribe too. Any SFP+ setup with a NAS and a few computers is likely to run several hundred dollars, though eBay has SFP+ 10 gigabit PCIe cards around 40 bucks, and SFP+ 40 gigabit for around 100, good savings on building your media editing NAS.
So, good old RJ45 gigabit networking, at least for now, where an 8 port switch is super cheap at just 20 bucks. You could also grab a 2.5G PCIe card for 40 bucks, but a 10 gigabit cards from Asus will run 95 each, and you’ll need Cat6 or higher. Keep in mind a switch for either will be about the same price, the 450 dollar mark.
Newer hard drives deliver around 170 megs a second, an SSD maxes out around 500, and we’ll need to test Unraid to see if it reliably pulls whole projects into the ultra-fast cache area to be worth a 10gig upgrade, and don’t forget the copy-to drive on your PC needs to be a super fast m.2 drive also!
Media Editing NAS Data sync, UPS and Backup
Copying data folder by folder is fine at first, but what about syncing data to your media editing NAS after that? We use Allway Sync, it’s ultra reliable sync by folder program we use for all our files, flawless so far. The one caveat is if you do changes on both target folders you’ll need to sort through which version you want to keep, but you can setup auto handling rules, and sync frequently so this won’t happen. Allway Sync is 26 dollar lifetime license, and 16 dollar second license, well worth it.
All this fancy equipment, all unprotected from power surges. We did an episode with CyberPower, link up here, about what to look for in a UPS, and you should get one right after setup and testing. If your drives survive a zap, parity rebuilds can still take 12 to 14 hours per 4 terabytes, so can you afford the downtime?
If you’re serious about a NAS, you need to be serious about backing it up too. On the Unraid forums, we found a rsync setup guide which we’ll link here, but i suck at Linux and so i’ll be using Allway Sync again to push the data. If you find a better or different easy Unraid step-by-step backup guide, tell us and we’ll add it here.
Array Setup, Boot time on the Media Editing NAS
We’re reusing the Amazon refurbished HGST NAS drives from the last build, one 4 terabyte as parity, with two more 4 TB and five 3 TB for a 23 terabyte array. You should be careful about power draw from older drives anyways- new huge capacity drives are best; Unraid will assign the largest as the parity drive. Buying new, Toshiba 10TB NAS drives are a good deal at around 300 bucks, and we’ll be upgrading our media editing NAS next year.
Here’s a tip: If you’re installing drives backwards, putting the last four of the serial number on the end of the drive saves a lot of time. It helps for troubleshooting drives with SMART errors, overheating, and wiring issues, as the SAS to SATA breakout cables may disconnect the drive rarely as you fit in the wires, putting the side panel on. We just used a small tip Sharpie on white electrical tape, 10 minutes, and it’ll save time over the long run.
We talked about Unraid setup a little in our last video, but it’s pretty straightforward, it was up and running pretty quickly. Last video, our decade old EVGA classified SR-2 boot to array up time was 2 minutes, 5 seconds, and this new MSI B550 Tomahawk does it in 1 minute 32 seconds, nice improvement here. Note the Unraid one-time license fee is 60 bucks for 6 storage devices, 90 for 12, and 130 for unlimited, and the parity drive and m.2 cache count towards this.
Media Editing NAS Power Draw Results
So power draw is a factor for many. With the base system no hard drives, we see 124 watts at power on, 85 watts booting up and 63 watts after a minute with the array running. With the drives connected, we see at 263 watts at power on, during boot was 190 watts and we got 107 watts at 1 minute into the array. This is okay, but it’s why choosing new higher capacity drives is important, you can get more space using less power, like Seagate IronWolf 12TB NAS drives which power on at 8 watts, and idle at 0.8 watts, an 88% energy saving over these drives.
If you decide to pick parts on Amazon, clicking through our MSI or Noctua links and searching for what you need will help us a bit here with no extra cost to you. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at techspinreview. We lots of tech reviews coming, so be sure to check those out too.
This episode took over 100 hours from research to writing and revisions, sourcing components, and testing and assembly with the normal filming, editing, upload and SEO, and social media and website posts. We sincerely thank MSI and Noctua as well as a little assist from TeamGroup who jumped in to help. Also, a special shout out to forums.servethehome.com, their community was really helpful and instrumental in shaping this and the last episode.
It’s getting harder to find motherboards with 3 PCIe slots or more- why are newer chipsets offering less slots? Anyways if you found a great motherboard for a media editing NAS or have an awesome build, share it with us below or on Facebook. Leave your best episode opening lines and we might just pick yours next time. We’ve got this MSI B550 motherboard review coming, and more hardware soon.
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