BestConfigs - NAS PC


Overlord Emeritus
It's that time again! Time to update the Tom's Hardware BestConfigs! Once again, we are opening the field to user recommendations to get the best consensus for the absolute best of the best in each category. Post the best configuration you can put together for the following build category and our editorial team will pick 5 of the best to be put up to a public vote right here in the Systems forum. The top-ranking build will go on to become one of Tom's Hardware BestConfigs and you'll get the credit for having put together a brilliant build with a special credit in the feature article.

Post your entries to this thread for the category of:
Network-Attached Storage PC

Stay within $1,000 (without shipping) and no need to include OS, monitor, mouse/keyboard. Please be sure to format your list of components as follows:

Joe's Anime/D&D Server
Processor: Component Name and Component Price
Motherboard: Component Name and Component Price
RAM: Component Name and Component Price
Graphics Card: Component Name and Component Price
Hard Drive: Component Name and Component Price
Case: Component Name and Component Price
Power Supply: Component Name and Component Price
Cooling: Component Name and Component Price
DVD Burner: Component Name and Component Price

See below for quick-copy/paste text of the BBcode.

Joe's Anime/D&D Server
Processor: Component Name and Component Price
Motherboard: Component Name and Component Price
RAM: Component Name and Component Price
Graphics Card: Component Name and Component Price
Hard Drive: Component Name and Component Price
Case: Component Name and Component Price
Power Supply: Component Name and Component Price
Cooling: Component Name and Component Price
DVD Burner: Component Name and Component Price

You can also use the Tom's Hardware System Builder to build your recommendation and use the BBCode export option at the bottom of the build. If you do, be sure to include a link in your post to your build on the app for quick viewing.

Good luck, and may the best builds win!

Rusting In Peace

Jul 2, 2009

Yeah I’ve totally gone there; I’m actually including a foreword. I figured it was important to set the context of a NAS build because understandably not everyone might understand what it entails.

The responsibilities of a NAS has become somewhat blurred over the years thanks to commercial offerings from the likes of QNAP, Netgear and Thecus ranging their NAS products from single bay disk enclosures to seven bay behemoths running a host of additional services like DAAP servers, bit torrent clients, UPnP streaming services and even databases.

This build focuses on some of the more traditional aspects of a NAS but using readily available components. The goal is to strike the balance between:

1) Upgradability
2) Performance
3) Power consumption
4) Physical size
5) Acoustics

This system should be able to perform on par, if not better than, the high end commercial NAS solutions. Obviously the cost will be slightly higher, as it often is when building your own systems, but just like other systems, we have full control over the machine.

A $1000 budget for such a system is fraction low in truth. I’ve not included storage drives that would be used in the RAID array - just like the commercial solutions. Sure you could probably match some of the goals for cheaper, you may even consider resurrecting that old Pentium 4 system you’ve got to make a cheap NAS, but I guarantee that you won’t meet all 5 goals I listed doing this.

Rusting’s Leviathan
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100T @ $134.99
Motherboard: ASRock H67M-ITX @ $86.99
RAM: Corsair XMS 4GB DDR3 @ $39.99
Graphics Card: Onboard
Hard Drive: Kingston SSDNow S100 16GB @ $51.99
Case: Lian Li PC-Q08B @ $109.99
Power Supply: Seasonic X series SS-400FL 400W @ $129.99
Cooling: Stock
DVD Burner: None
RAID: Areca ARC-1220 @ $449.99

Total: $1,003.93 (I’ll give you the $4 mkay?)


I figured when constructing this it made little sense to just link to components without explaining why I selected them or what my criteria was. Hopefully below is helpful to someone.


The Areca 1220 card is somewhat pricey but is really the focus of this build. If the budget was slightly higher I'd go for the 1880 instead. This card has a good set of RAID options. You may want to replace the fan with something like a Mini Zaze as the stock fan is almost certainly louder than 20db.

"A RAID card? It costs so much! Why don't you use a ZFS filesystem and ECC RAM? Why don't you just use software RAID?"

Personally I'd pay for the cost of improved performance and ease of configuration. It also means I can choose whatever OS I want to run on this rather than being forced to choose something that supports ZFS.


Several commercial high end NAS boxes opt for Dual Core or Atom processors. An i3 can idle at a lower wattage than Atom processors and whilst it will use more during operation it's processing power trumps the Atom. Those with dual core processors are using previous generations and do not benefit from the improved performance per watt. A regular i3 would fit the bill here. However I've taken it a step further by picking up a T model which has a TDP of 35W instead of 73W.

Some may argue that an i3 is a bit overpowered here especially when the RAID calculations are being done by the RAID card. My retort would be that given it's idling capabilities and the ambiguous use of NAS devices these days, it's a very flexible CPU for a NAS device.


One of the fundamental problems with building a NAS is the case. In an ideal world NAS boxes are quiet, small and out of the way. It's the size of the case that is the biggest concern.

A small build will cost you more and will see you using specialist components rather than readily available components with competing manufacturers. Additionally a NAS with significant storage needs to actually be able to house all the drives which are rather likely to be 3.5" drives.

There are plenty of NAS cases out there but few support 6 with potential to cram more in there. The Lian Li PC-Q08B does and it has USB3.0 slots and interestingly a 5.25 bay.

Why would you want a 5.25 bay? Well for a start you can throw in an optical drive in there and backup media directly on the NAS.

"But I can do that from a connecting machine?" I hear you spray at your monitor. Very true. How about a multi function panel with a variety of connectors that helps you directly transfer content to external devices? Still a bit boring. Let's up the ante.

How about streaming the contents of a Blu-Ray / HD DVD disc over the LAN to a machine that doesn't have these drives. Possible with clever use of a Blu-Ray/HD DVD combo drive and VLC. How about automatically backing up the contents of an audio disc to MP3 or perhaps even creating a convenient AVI / MKV version of a DVD you've put in the drive without even needing another machine to be on. Understand the benefit of a 5.25 bay in a NAS now?


I'm mad keen on using high end PSUs; they are the foundation of any computer system.

NAS machines should be designed with power consumption in mind as often they are on for long periods of time. A more power efficient PSU will help with this but it's very important to understand that these efficiency measurements are done at particular load percentages.

This system won’t have a particular high load on the PSU. A gold efficiency 400W does fit the bill well though. It’s difficult to find a gold rated ATX sized PSU for lower wattages.


I haven’t included storage hard drives in this configuration. With a variety of possible RAID configurations it’s hard to say what’s best to use. Most 2TB drives have the best capacity per dollar right now. Whatever you’d choose it’s best to diversify your drive selection. The probability of two drives failing at the same time from the same manufacturer from the same batch is far higher than completely different drives with the same capacity.

I’ve elected to use a SSD for the OS drive. Due to budget constraints I was forced to go for a lower capacity SSD. I would have preferred to use something that was 30GB or bigger. Here we are using the SSD for low power consumption and quiet operation; speed benefits are not our primary concern here but a helpful benefit.

If you configure the RAID card to idle the storage hard drives in the array where possible you’ll make significant power savings. This works even better if you ensure all your NAS services/servers are only using the RAID array when they really need to.


I’ve opted to go for a single 4GB stick of DDR3 RAM. This is plenty of RAM for a NAS; even arguably too much as the additional memory chips are being powered even if they aren’t being used by the system.

Others may choose ECC RAM over my selection and that’s entirely reasonable.


Solid little motherboard with USB3.0 support. Does what we need it to do. It would have been better if we had multiple gigabit ethernet connectors but you’d be hard pushed finding a readily available socket 1155 mITX board with this feature.

MB + CPU + GPU: ASUS E35M1-I DELUXE Fusion AMD E-350 ITX - $175

MEMORY: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1066 1.5v CL7 - $65

Case: LIAN LI PC-Q08B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower - $110

OS / BOOT: ADATA 8GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive - $17

Storage Drives: 5 x SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 2TB - $80 / $480

External DVD-RW: SAMSUNG USB 2.0 Slim External DVD - $40

Power Supply: CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 430W - $45

SATA Cables: 5 x 18inch SATA Serial ATA cable - $1.18 / $6

120MM Replacement Case Fan: COOLER MASTER 120mm Blue - 69CFM (max) @ 19dBA - $10

140MM Replacement Case Fan: XIGMATEK Cooling System XLF 140mm Blue - 63.5CFM @ 16dBA - $13

Operating System: FreeNAS 8

-Five 2TB drives configured as RAID 5 for 8TB of usable storage.
-Front and rear USB 3.0
-Rear eSATA
-802.11n WiFi and 10/100/1000Mbps NIC


Rusting In Peace

Jul 2, 2009
[quotemsg=5221810,4,55656][color=ff0004]The following is for discussion only, I'm not entering the competition officially[/color][/quotemsg]

Don't see why you don't want to be considered? Seems like a good build to me given the usage scenario you've given it.

Besides, isn't it all a bit of fun anyway? :)

Dougie Fresh

Jan 3, 2010

Dougie Fresh's 4TB mini-home server
Processor: Included with motherboard
Motherboard: Supermicro X7SPA-HF-D525 Mini ITX Intel Atom D525 Server Motherboard $207.67
RAM: Kingston 2GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM Unbuffered DDR3 800 System Specific Memory Model KVR800D3S8S6/2G $25.49
Graphics Card: Included with motherboard
Hard Drive (Boot): Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAKS 320GB $42.99
Hard Drive (Media): SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB x 2 $159.98
Case: LIAN LI PC-Q08B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case $109.99
Power Supply: SeaSonic SS-350ET 350W 80+ Bronze ATX $41.99
Cooling: Passive
Blu-ray Burner: LG WH12LS30 Blu-ray burner $84.99

Total: $673.10

The Lian-Li PC-Q08 case would be perfect for a small home NAS. It can hold 7 x 3.5" HDDs, ATX PSU and 5.25" ODD. The Supermicro mini-ITX server board matches well with it having dual Gigabit Intel LAN and 6 x SATA II ports built into the motherboard. I chose 2 x 2TB media storage to start with and a 320GB boot drive though it's expandable to 10TB without modification. I thought about a SSD for the boot drive but I am still on the fence about using an SSD in a server unless it were for database caching and that's not the use here. I also included a Blu-ray burner for backups. I'd probably run either WHS v2 or Amahi on this machine.
Palladin's Home Server with hot swappable hardware RAID array

I won't be able to use your standard due to me using a Mini-ITX Via board with an external array, so I'll break it into two parts.

Processor: Via Nano 1.6Ghz
Motherboard: Jetway Via Nano JNC74-2007 $119.99
RAM: Crucial 4GB DDR3 10600 $30.99
Graphics Card: Onboard Via Chrome IGP

Hard Drive: WDigital Scorpio Blue WD2500BEVT 250GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache 2.5 inch notebook HDD, $46.99

Case: Morex 2766 Expandable Mini-ITX case $82.50
Power Supply: Included in case.
Cooling: Included in case / mobo
DVD Burner: Not used, if required use USB DVD-Drive for OS installation, also recommended to have a USB Floppy drive or USB Thumb drive for Windows Storage Driver installation.

Total Base Cost: 280.47
Power Consumption of less then 40W.

That concludes the base system, this will host the OS of choice (Windows Server / Linux). I chose to go with a slower 2.5" inch notebook HDD to reduce system power consumption. The point of this system is to have rock bottom power usage with the ability to do full disk encryption at full R/W speed with Via Padlock and Diskcryptor. The actual storage system is below and is modular, I've priced it at 4x1TB disks but the user can chose to go with whatever.

The following is the storage system.

MediaSonic PRORAID 4 Bay eSATA / USB 3.0 enclosure 199.99

WD10EALX 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5 $59.99 x 4

Optional Samsung EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 $79.99 x 4

SATA to eSATA bracket, required for to connect the Media Sonic Enclosure 6.99

Total Cost of Storage Subsystem: $446.85
Power Consumption of under 40W, tonight I'll read the material again.

Cost of System without Disks: $487.45 (Cheaper then Commercial "NAS" solutions")
Cost of System with 4x1TB disks: $727.32
Cost of System with 4x2TB disks: $807.41

You connect the MediaSonic Enclosure to your Base Server through an eSATA Cable. This sections off your storage system so that even if your server crash's you can still access / retrieve your data by connecting the enclosure to your PC. If you've encrypted the disks then ensure you have a backup key stored on a USB thumbdrive. The disks in the enclosure are hot-swappable and it has been tested with up to 3TB SATA disks. The enclosure has its own RAID I/O controller that will do the XOR math for RAID-5, this is not fake raid / software raid but real HW RAID. The enclosure supports RAID 1 /0 / 5 / 1+0, so pick your poison. The server has a 1Gbps network interface, the Jetway board supports add-on daughter cards that you can purchase. The daughter cards include a 3 x 1Gbps network card if you desire additional network ports.

[How I use it]
This is what I use inside my home, I have Windows 2003 Server Enterprise loaded on the base system with DNS and Active Directory configured. I'm sharing out the RAID-5 array. I have installed Windows Services for Unix and have enabled single sign on for my Solaris / Linux systems using my AD credentials. I stream video's from this system to a WD TV Live and several laptops / netbooks / computers in the house. I use this system to store all my downloads and file, it's become my own personal "cloud" if you will. This is more then a NAS, its a full home server.

-=Question to Editors=-
Is there a standard for HDD's? I see some people posting with, and others without the storage HDD's, the price can swing greatly depending on the chose HDD's and desired HDD setup. Also is there considering going towards software RAID-5 vs hardware RAID-5?


Dec 13, 2010
To those of you considering ZFS, here's a build that will allow you to use it; most, if not all, of the potential pitfalls, have been researched for you. =) It's actually quite similar to Proximon's above, and is optimized for FreeNAS. Reasoning with each part :

Mobo : Asus M4A88T-M. Proven compatibility with FreeNAS and FreeBSD. You can choose the USB3 version, but there is little use in a NAS server, and the add-in USB3 controllers can (very occasionally) cause problems. Mind you, they can be disabled in the BIOS;

Processor : AMD Athlon X2 255. Apparently, AMD processors handle ZFS better. I read the reason why somewhere on the FreeBSD forums, but I forget the exact reason...=);

Memory : 2 X Kingston KVR1333D3E9SK2/4G (2X2GB of *ECC* RAM), for a total of 8GB. ZFS *loves* RAM. =) ECC or not...This is still fairly hotly-debated, but I side with those that say that if you're going to go through the trouble and expense of building a full NAS server, why not pay the slight premium and get the ECC memory? Otherwise, you could, as one poster told me, be reliably storing garbled data. (That same poster had an actual log excerpt from a few days ago at the time of writing his post, of a documented RAM error.) That particular RAM is proven compatible with this motherboard, as per Kingston's web site;

Power supply : Antec Earthwatts 380. Reliable, cheap, quiet;

Cooler : Scythe Shuriken Rev. B - or, Big Shuriken. Cheap, QUIET;

Case : I don't know how the NZXT H2 Classic could have been overlooked; with 8 3.5 bays, and a further 3 5.25 bays that can be converted to more 3.5 bays, it's excellent for home server use. It's also very quiet (positive reviews from - much more so than my Antec 300 - and has a very useful front-panel USB layout. The Fractal Design R2 is even quieter, according to, with pretty much the same specs (8/3 bays); the Fractal XL has 10 (!!) 3.5 bays if you want more space, and as all of Fractal's cases, is known to be quiet;

Storage : That depends. I'll leave that up to you, but ZFS much prefers 512K drives. There is a software workaround, but the simple, "just works" solution is the Hitachi 5K3000 series, which are nativey 512K. ZFS has no issues with 3TB drives. My current config is 7 of the 3TB drives; 6 in a RAIDZ2 config (basically RAID6 : 4 data, 2 parity) + 1 hotspare. For this, with the motherboard listed above, you'll need a PCI-E SATA controller, however;

SATA expansion : ST Lab A-341. Comes with SIL3132 chipset. Works under FreeNAS/FreeBSD;

Some generic thumbdrive. FreeNAS can be run off a USB thumb drive; in fact, it's downright designed for it. FreeBSD prefers a dedicated hard drive, which you can do with the mobo/sata expansion/case combo listed above. (Remember you can also use the mobo's IDE port if you can find an IDE hard drive, for the system.)

That's it! For FreeNAS and FreeBSD, you won't need an optical drive. Just get all the cabling you'll need (mobo comes with two SATA cables), and you're laughing! Speaking of cable, don't forget that, depending on how many data drives you've got, you might need some Molex->SATA power cable as well.

Cost : Totally depends on your storage configuration. Just remember that ZFS expansion (in my opinion, its only real downfall) is not really simple : you can't just add another single drive to a pool. I don't even pretend to fully understand it, but I would advise for going big or going home, right from the start. =) But, then again, that could easily bring you above the stated 1000$ ceiling. Another thing you could do is start with a simple 4-disc RAIDZ1 array (basically RAID5 - 3 data, 1 parity) for now, foregoing the need for the SATA expansion card in the process.