Squeeze Another Drive Into A Full-Up NAS

A network-attached storage (NAS) device is a frequent peripheral in home and office networks alike, yet so often these devices come pre-installed with a proprietary OS which does not lend itself to customization. [Codedbearder] had just such a NAS, a Terramaster F2-221, which while it could be persuaded to run a different OS, couldn’t do so without an external USB hard drive. Their solution was elegant, to create a new backplane PCB which took the same space as the original but managed to shoehorn in a small PCI-E solid-state drive.

The backplane rests in a motherboard connector which resembles a PCI-E one but which carries a pair of SATA interfaces. Some investigation reveals it also had a pair of PCI-E lanes though, so after some detective work to identify the pinout there was the chance of using those. A new PCB was designed, cleverly fitting an M.2 SSD exactly in the space between two pieces of chassis, allowing the boot drive to be incorporated without annoying USB drives. The final version of the board looks for all the world as though it was meant to be there from the start, a truly well-done piece of work.

Of course, if off-the-shelf is too easy for you, you can always build your own NAS.

14 thoughts on “Squeeze Another Drive Into A Full-Up NAS

  1. Really cool. I love the very high quality finish.

    One question: does the replacement riser board block airflow across the SATA drives? From the pictures of the original board and fans, it looks like it had holes for cooling. Have you checked if drive temperature is any different?

      1. That article is fundamentally flawed. Max avg temp was under 31c. Basically room temp. A warm summer day is hotter than that.
        Find one article which tests shows avg temp from 10c to 70c.

  2. That’s really quite elegantly done. If you hadn’t told me I would have assumed that it’s either the factory config or a “I added the missing m.2 connector and 3 passives they spitefully left off the base model to distinguish it from the one that costs $100 more” job; not a total improved recreation of that backplane.

  3. First glance skimming the articles.. that picture looked like the back of an old full-height hard drive from the 80s. I just thought it was funny to see something so new resembling something so old. Such a drive would have been a monster if it held 20MB.

  4. Judging by the extra space above below and between the drives it may be possible to source a ‘vertical’ m.2 connector and fit 2 or even 4-6 drives in there. (Of course you would need a PCIe switch chip, but the extra storage may be worth it?)

    1. I’d be worried about the drives sagging without support and getting caught on a HDD when the HDD is removed or inserted.

      Still though there’s another 1x pcie channels your not using. Why not go full bore with a 2x m.2 setup?

      1. Absolutely, I don’t see why they would need to be unsupported, there is a metal frame below the bottom drive. Can also make a holder to insert and remove the drives from the front panel that way. The vertical m.2 ports don’t lever into place, the drive just plugs in.

  5. Terramaster NAS is quite an interesting devices on its own. I have F4 version from 2017 which I upgraded to 4GB RAM and added 5th drive by… just plugging it into the fully functional but hidden bay meant for F5. I suspect it is no longer available in newer revisions though. Also I noticed that that the OS is stored on SanDisk’s USB drive which I find quite nice. NAND wear would be a minor issue if it ever happen. Add SSH and docker support and it is a perfect NAS at a bargain price.

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