All this to replace a 2x2TB Synology DS212j. First I'd like to point out that this is not an ASRock C2750D4I or ASRock C236 WSI. I did this the hard way.

I had bought a LG OLED 4K TV and an Nvidia Shield over the past year (both are amazing) so naturally I started fooling around with Plex. The Shield will run its own Plex server although I found that the service would stop occasionally. I bought a 6TB Toshiba drive on National Backup Day for a good price and a USB enclosure to attach it locally to the Shield. This worked, though file management is a pain through the UI and the enclosure isn't great at knowing when the Shield wants the drive spun up. So I decided to shift Plex storage to my trusty Synology. I'd probably loaded up 1 too many packages on it because the NAS CPU was always pegged at 99%. So soon enough that 2TB was getting pretty full and playback was stuttering because there wasn't enough CPU to serve the data. So I decided to build my own NAS.

Now I should say that I built this over 4 months probably and I was putting off parts because I was studying for my CCNA and knew I'd waste so much time on this. I think that helped save me money because I was able to find some good deals on parts.

In my desk I had an Intel i5 4570T that had been original to my HP AIO desktop that was replaced by an i7 4790T. So I needed an aging mobo socket style LGA1150 to go with it. I wanted this to be as small as possible so I started looking at mini-itx. Max SATA III ports on run of the mill mobos was 6. I settled into looking for those. Around $200 seemed like the going rate for a new one. To eBay I go! I was only gonna buy if the mobo was in great shape, had original manual, box etc. There's maybe 4 models I searched for on ebay and within a month I found a listed as open box, never used Gigabyte H97N Wifi for $79. It had 3 minutes left on the auction when I found it. I bid and won. . .oh crap, I'm in it now.

Box arrives and I don't even open it. Let's look for RAM. I find the max capacity and clock and look for that. Old DDR3 RAM, also not cheap anymore. Back to eBay. Crucial Ballistix 16GB kits aplenty for $75-100 and now I have a barebones PC kit.

Now I need a case. Mini-ITX case that holds a ton of drives narrowed me down pretty quickly to the Fractal Node 304 and the Lian-Li PC-Q25. Looking at specs and the dimensions of the entertainment center this will go in, the Lian-Li is smaller AND HOLDS 2 MORE DRIVES. With that removable tray that can hold 2x 3.5" and 1x 2.5" plus the 5x hot swap above that's 8 DRIVES. I said to myself, "I'm gonna need more drives." And a few more SATA ports. Because remember, the H97N only has 6.

I'd also come upon Toshiba 4TB drives for a low $/TB and I'd ordered those. Now I'm up to 5 drives. 1 6TB and 4x 4TB. That's enough to fill the hotswap rack in the case. Could have called it a day. Pick an OS, RAID 5 those suckers and lose the extra 2TB to my stupidity. But no.

So, there's a PCIe x16 slot for video cards presumably. There are lots of people that make PCIe to SATA cards. They're big, only 1x and seem kind of dumb for this huge card to add 4 ports. Now lots of mini-ITX boards can't pack an internal Wifi so they will ship an external antenna with leads that go to mini coaxial looking jacks at the mobo IO plate. Those jacks have leads that I noticed went to a wifi card. This wifi card wasn't soldered in, it was detachable. Quick look at the port and the mobo manual and I confirm it's a mini-PCIe slot. So I found the 4 Port SATA III Mini PCI-e Controller Card. No RAID included which is good. I wanted software RAID. IO Crest makes all kinds of these little cards.

OK, so now I have 10 SATA ports!!! The case supports 8, I have 4x 4TB drives, 2x 2TB drives in the old Synology, a single 6TB drive and a how the hell am I gonna RAID all this stuff together? I'd been looking at OS's this whole time too. FreeNAS, NAS4Free, UNRaid. I didn't want to buy ECC RAM like ZFS/FreeNAS desire and it can't have different size drives or expand the pool on the fly when these old 2TB drives die. NAS4Free seemed a little barebones and same RAID problem. UNRaid wasn't free, but could utilize all the drives and grow. I'd lose performance because it doesn't stripe data across drives. Why wasn't there something that had Synology's Hybrid RAID that did all the things? Oh, it's called Xpenology and it is free and I know how to use it already so that settled that. I have 7 drives and I know how to use them. Progress! But the case holds 8....and it has to be 2.5". So like, an SSD then? Does Xpenology do SSD caching? YES! Bought the Crucial drive. I have 8 drives and 8 slots for them and now my OCD is pretty pleased.

I need a CPU cooler, looked at water cooling because I'd like this to be quiet, but no space for a radiator. Noctua has a great rep and lots of cool designs. None of which will fit in the space between the top of the CPU and bottom of where the PSU goes. So I found the biggest standard chunk of aluminum they had. Really nice piece of gear still. Will look for them to replace case fans if stock ones start buzzing or something.

For the PSU, the case said it would accept a standard ATX PSU but people said you had to find a short one and it was tight. I knew I wanted a modular unit to reduce clutter in the tight space and keep air moving. Found out about SFX and SFX-L so I looked at those. I thought I wanted an SFX-L because of the bigger fan to keep air moving, but apparently nobody makes a good one. On the other hand, Corsair makes SFX units that are very well reviewed. Found one where the smaller SF450 which is rated gold actually tested at platinum level efficiency. PCpartpicker said I'd need 250 watts and I'd read that they guess high so the Corsair SF450 was ordered. It doesn't come with an adapter to fit the ATX hole so I also got the SilverStone adapter. It's nice it offsets the PSU allowing even more clearance and flow between it and CPU fan.

Now I start looking at cable runs. There's lots and those bottom mounted drives are in there tight. I came across Cable Creations and these things looked awesome, Split wire so they'd twist and turn easier and came in more connector angle types than anyone else. So I measured once, ordered twice as many as I'd need and hoped I had what I'd need. The included SATA power cable worked great for hooking up the hot swap backplane but needed an extension to reach the PSU, so I got that. The 2nd SATA power cable, the connecters and cabling were too large and not flexible enough to get into the spots I needed on the bottom mounted drives. So the Corsair SATA cable and some splitters were needed to reach every drive.

I hadn't decommed the original Synology yet but went ahead and installed mobo, fan, PSU and mocked up drives. Just looking at them I thought "There's a lot of space above both 3.5" bottom mount drives, and if I could mount that middle 2.5"er on top of one, that would allow the bottom air vent of the case to be more effective" So I started looking for something that would allow me to stack 2 HDDs on top of each other. 2 SSD's to fit into a 3.5" slot, sure, tons of those. But 3.5" on top of 3.5" not so much. I took a shot on the Akust adapter brackets hoping the giant rubber pegs sticking out of them that allow mounting in a 5.25" slot would come off. They DID!! Attached with just a single screw. And did I say those SSD adapter brackets will hold 2 SSDs? Yeah, so now in Xpenology I can have a read/write cache in RAID 1 instead of just read cache on a single disk. Which is kind of dumb for a Plex server unless I'm gonna watch the same movie once, and then again at 4x speed. But for transfers in, a write cache would be nice. And if I stack the other bottom mount HDD that gives me 10 drives. I'm maxed out.

To boot Xpenology, one needs a USB boot stick. I didn't want one hanging off the back of the case. It'd get knocked loose, broken and look dumb. I didn't want to buy a micro one either for 400MB of boostrap data. But the mobo had headers for front panel USB connectors and the Lian-Li case has no such ports so they were unused. The Sinloon 2USB 3.0 worked great and I grabbed the swag Pure Storage USB stick that lights up I had gotten at work for my boot drive. Now I have a Pure Storage based NAS, which I found hilarious since I work in enterprise storage.

Amazon Prime Day rolls around and my old Synology is acting sicker and sicker so I saw a great deal on IronWolf NAS drives and got 3 of them. Which works out even better because now if I do SHR with 2 drive parity, no capacity is wasted. Synology RAID calculator is great for this btw.

Build day comes, software is loaded up and the box comes to life. It even recognized the mini PCIe card attached drives right away. No drivers needed. The linux subsystem beneath Xpenology had the proper AHCI drivers I assume. Now the final builds starts where I am gonna add all the drives. All 10 of them. Original cabling ideas are scrapped, the mini PCIe card falls out a few times because it has no bracket. Left angle brackets are definitely required in spots, but eventually it clicked into place. I screwed everything down and hit the button. All the drives spun up. I can reach a web GUI. I can watch Top Gun again.

Part Reviews


Locking SATA and power cables aren't locking onto this drive.


Really nice case. Easy to work with, very flexible.

Power Supply

8 NAS HDDs, 2 SSD and low power Core i5 4th Gen and the fan is still not spinning. I'm impressed


Couldn't believe this thing worked right out the gate. Comes with windows drivers, Linux needs none. Also has mini LEDS on it for drive status.

Log in to rate comments or to post a comment.


  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

I’m not all that knowledgeable on NAS systems as I’ve never needed or set one up, but regardless that was a great read! Glad everything worked out, sounds like you put a great amount of work into it. +1

  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points

Yesterday I was thinking "It would be cool to get an adapter to convert mini pcie to sata, I'm sure it exists" and now I read the details about your parts and find a Syba card with FOUR sata ports. I'm happy!

[comment deleted by staff]
  • 22 months ago
  • 2 points All kinds, w/ or w/o RAID controllers. M.2 connectors too for the newer stuff.

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Will take a look

[comment deleted by staff]
  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

Nver needed before this week :D

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

been looking at building a small nas at home. this looks pretty cool!

  • 22 months ago
  • 1 point

But can it watch Top Gun? +1

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey mooneye14, really nice build. I sent you a message!!

[comment deleted]