More Drive Bays, Cooling, And Power For A DIY Raid Box

We’ve actually been on the look-out for a Network Attached Storage solution for home use. We want an embedded option just for power saving, but have you seen what a commercially available embedded RAID systems costs? It might be better to find an energy friendly PSU and use it in a PC case RAID conversion like this one that [Samimy] pulled off. He started with an old computer case and modded it to house more hard drives.

The image above shows his mounting scheme. Most of us have defunct optical drives in the junk bin. Many times they end up as a way to play with CNC, but in this case [Samimy] got rid of the guts and used a couple of angle brackets to mount a hard disk inside of the enclosure. Now that he can bolt more drives to the case he needed to power them, as the PSU didn’t have enough SATA power connectors. He clipped off a daisy-chain of connectors from a broken supply and spliced it into this one. Finally he cut a hole in the top of the case to add a bit more cooling to the system.

He’s using Windows 7 to power a RAID0 and RAID1 array using four drives. To help increase performance of the system he also used USB thumb drives as cache. This is something we’re not familiar with and we’re glad he provided a link to ReadyBoost, the software which makes it possible.

37 thoughts on “More Drive Bays, Cooling, And Power For A DIY Raid Box

    1. I think it was a reference to Win7 being able to use multiple flash drives for ReadyBoost, so his RAID HHDs have RAID ReadyBoost as well.

      I didn’t know Win7 did that either, now all I need to do is find 8 identical 32GB flash drives…

      (Win7 does ReadyBoost better than Vista anyway, it does make a difference in booting when using spinning disk drives, dunno about SSDs)

      1. Yknow, that would actually be cheaper than an SSD, grabbing 32 gig usb drives on sale for say, $20 apiece, would come to $160. Of course the USB transfer speed would be a considerable bottleneck.

        1. If you want decent performance, you’d want to get USB 3.0 ones, which aren’t as cheap. Your best bet would be to get a small (32/64gb) SSD for your boot partition if you want it to go faster.

  1. Yeah, definitely Linux or BSD are a far better fit for a fileserver. FreeNAS is a nice, easy, and powerful way to share RAID space.
    By the way I don’t think adding fans is mandatory here, a Google study about server drives indicates that the best temperature for operating HDD is around 40°C which is what I get with 4 drives in my box with the PSU fan as the only source of ventilation.

    Well done nevertheless.

  2. I agree, Linux or BSD are a far better fit for a fileserver. FreeNAS is a nice, easy, and powerful way to share RAID space.

    Also I don’t think adding fans is mandatory here, a Google study about server drives indicates that the best temperature for operating HDD is around 40°C which is what I get with 4 drives in my box with the PSU fan as the only source of ventilation.

    Well done box nevertheless.

  3. I don’t understand why people mess about with NAS – it’s so easy and cheap to do properly. Get an HP Microserver, install FreeNAS and up to 6 drives. Job done, for less than the cost of an external 4-drive SATA enclosure. Quite reasonable on power draw too.

    1. I was trying to convince my friend to buy one of those. A while back there were some *really* good deals on them. Even since then they’re really cheap for such a robust & purpose-built solution.

    2. I don’t know about the HP Microserver but something I always worry about with any kind of raid hardware… what is the hard drive format? If, I mean when the magic box dies can I pull my hard drives out and get my data back? Or is it some proprietary format that I need to find the same or similar model device to ever read them again? Even if it hasn’t been manufactured in years… I’m a lot more comfortable repurposing a computer and using software raid for this reason.

      1. That’s why a HP Microserver is good- it is a PC; a sturdy, well ventilated and reliable one.

        Personally I use a MSI C847MS-E33 (built in fanless Celeron) with PCI-E raid card.

  4. Guy adds storage + fans to a generic case…
    Ad-hoc 5.1/4″ adapters for 3.5″ devices are so common, I can’t see them as a hack any more. Probably everybody here made them at some point.

    Although the drives will probably be fine if the ugly thing isn’t hauled about too much, using only 2 screws in the middle like a balancing act is a bit fugly.
    Proper mounting brackets are trivial to build out of sheet metal, wood or just about anything. Apart from that, brackets themselves cost twopence at any rate.

    I see the guy has a saw, why not make a nice 4 drive sideways bracket system out of plywood? Really adapt the case for RAID use. Integrate the fans on the other side facing the drives more directly, making them less woody and on-toppy and probably increasing the cooling performance for the drives.

    While at it, perhaps move the usb junk inside the case as well. Sticking in some USB plastic sticks, running some software also is a bit unhacky.
    Also windows 7.. Whatever.. I don’t care..

    Personally, I’d look for any excuse to ditch such a remarkably bland and unappealing case at the first instance, but to each his own. A hack isn’t always about aesthetics, but I’m pretty sure there has to be some hacking involved.

    1. We get it that you are too cool for school guy, but why don’t you say something useful? Instead of trashing a neat bit of diy ingenuity, how about you actually improve upon it? You’re the apparent authority on what is and is not hacking, so hack.

        1. I’ve a more succinct way to phrase it then: place your currency in the place you masticate. I want to see a full schematic of your plan on my desk by noon tomorrow, and a working build no later than 5 o’ clock Monday.

      1. Apart from using 3.5″ disk brackets backwards, most of us have the adapter brackets laying around simply from stripping old machines.
        The most convenient DIY is Aluminium U tubing of the right dimensions and, indeed, angle stock material to attach to the underside.

        The more ad hoc solutions I remember are expansion card plates bend to either fill the gap or support the drive.
        Lego’s, of course.
        Plywood with 3 drives stacked side by side.
        And the perforated top of a small chassis.

        If we round up all the solutions amongst each other, might be an option… Nah!

  5. Storage pools seem like a better idea for NaS solutions. I can’t imagine there’s any performance boost to using striped disks on a home network NAS. You’re limited to gigE and most low cost home switches can’t touch that speed anyway. You can even get a storage pool software that supports a primary write disk which means you can make that an SSD for fast write speeds and have file replication pull the data from that drive and push it to the spinning disks.

    1. That…that does not make sense. Grouping volumes (locally or not) vs. RAID NAS. They have different uses. Storage pools are mostly for automated DPM backups, not general use. When they are used as virtual drives directly, you lose all the benefits of mirroring and striping. Storage pools themselves do neither. Further, not everything is about speed. RAID and NAS are more for isolation of hardware with diversification of access. It is an insurance plan against problems without having access restricted.

  6. Nice workshop and recording setup. Good tool selection and nice case mod on that front intake. It looks pretty clean. Why use the wood to secure the top two blowhole fans? It looks like its in the inside and outside too?

  7. I think the drives would have been more secure if he had used the bottom mounting holes to attach the drives directly to the DVD shells (without the brackets he incorrectly calls “hinges” in the video).
    The cooling would probably have been just as good if not better, as the sheet metal would act as a heat-sink and there would be a lot of metal-to-metal contact between the drive frame and the DVD shell.
    Since most of the heat is generated in the spindle motor, the best cooling would come from using an aluminum shim to thermally connect the base of the motor to the DVD shell, using lapping/polishing and/or heat-sink compound as needed.

      1. No doubt it is possible to damage a drive or make it run less efficiently by cooling it too far below ambient, but with passive cooling, this is impossible, so it should be okay.

  8. I cant help but think, hes not being efficient on this build at all. For one windows raid is buggy as hell. You will have dropped volumes left and right rebuilding all the time reducing performance.

    Secondly in the name of cooling he is wasting so much space on that case. a single 120mm fan on a 4 drive cage will cool those drives just fine. If he picked up low rpm drive they basically run at room temp anyway.

    Thirdly wayyyy too much cpu on a build like that, with a filesystem that’s suboptimal ontop of it.

    My way would be a nice little atom miniitx board with 6+ sata ports. They do make those.
    4-16gb of ram as solaris uses ram as an accelerator for disk performance (same as he trying to achieve with ready boost but much much faster and lower latency), no need for thumb drives that will die in short order when you do a bunch of read writes. And either solaris/nexenta as the OS. It will peg a 1gb connection that way while using allot less power. Probably idle down to 20w or so. Add a 4 port nic for aggregated interfaces and a gigabit smart switch and you have a home nas that works properly while being able to flood most gigabit connections, enable jumbo packets.

    Also the rule of thumb for raid is this.

    even drives you do mirrors or groups of mirrors.

    odd drives you do raid 5 with up to 5 drives, then over that you do groups of raid 5 or raid 6 with up to 10 disks.

    so the system would look like this.
    1 – os disk and
    3 – drives raid 5
    5 – drives raid 5

    10 – drives raid 6

    Even drives.
    2 drives mirror
    4 drives mirror
    6 drives mirrors etc

  9. I did something like that, mounting a hard drive inside an old CD-ROM shell. for me it was a (nearly) silent hard drive cooler.

    I started off with a cheap front plate that had a couple of small fans and a dust filter. It fit in front of a hard drive with a normal 5 1/4″ adapter. it was similar to this: As small fans almost always are, they were noisy and prone to wearing out.

    I broke the fans off of that adapter and just used it for it’s dust filter. I attached that to the front of the CD-ROM drive shell. I attached the hard drive to the bottom of the shell using screws and motherboard standoffs. Someone mentioned bolting it right on might improve the heat sinking effect of the metal but I was concerned about shorting out the electronics of the drive.

    I cut a big hole in the top of the CD-ROM shell and bolted on the bigest case fan I could find. The big fans seem to be much quieter and also last longer. You could put a resistance in series with the fan to slow it a little making it even quieter but honestly I could barely hear the thing in a quiet room!

    This probably wasn’t necessary but I also took a piece of old bike innertube and riveted it to the back to make a flap so that less air would get around where the cables come in.

    The fan was pointed to suck air out of the CD-ROM case. The idea was that it would suck air in from the front of the computer through the dust filter. All my other case fans were set up to blow air out of the case. Almost all of the air entering my computer case came through the filter. Every couple of weeks or so I cleaned it.

    The result was that even though the computer sat on the floor of my dirty college apartment it took a very long time to build up any noticeable dust inside the case. When it did it was this really fine stuff that couldn’t clump together and make dust bunnies.

    This computer was my web and email server so it ran 24×7 and requests could come in causing the hard drive to spin at any time. I was in a crowded apartment so it sat in my room only a couple feet from my head when I was sleeping. And yet… it was never loud, it never woke me (or my guests) up. Most of the time I had to actually look at the power light to see that it was on. The CD-ROM shell did a good job of muffling the hard drive noise and the giant fan was quiet.

    1. Those things were terrible indeed. I finally solved the noisy disk/fan in bedroom server problem with going insane with rubber gaskets and mounting options.
      I think I saw a guy suspending a hard-disk and cooler from a series of mattress springs once, probably more for shock absorption, but it should do a fair bit of noise reduction.

  10. He’ll definitely need the RAID 1 with those Hitachi drives, there’s a reason they’re known as Hit Crotchy at my company. As a build out of crap you have laying around it works I guess.

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