Two revisions of Wenting's custom SSD board - earlier revision on the left, later, sleeker and more complete, on the right.

Custom SSD Gives New Life To Handheld Atom PC

People don’t usually go as far as [Wenting Zhang] has – designing a new IDE SSD board for a portable x86 computer made in 2006. That said, it’s been jaw-dropping to witness the astounding amount of reverse-engineering and design effort being handwaved away.

The Benq S6 is a small MID (Miniaturized Internet Device) with an Atom CPU, an x86 machine in all but looks. Its non-standard SSD’s two gigabytes of storage, however, heavily limit the OS choice – Windows XP would hardly fit on there, and while a small Linux distro could manage better, it’s, and we quote, “not as exciting”. A lot of people would stop there and use an external drive, or a stack of adapters necessitating unsightly modifications to the case – [Wenting] went further and broke the “stack of adapters” stereotype into shards with his design journey.

Tracing quite a few complex multi-layer boards into a unified and working schematic is no mean feat, especially with the SSD PCB being a host to two BGA chips, and given the sheer amount of pins in the IDE interface of the laptop’s original drive. Even the requirement for the SSD to be initialized didn’t stop him – a short fight with the manufacturer’s software ensued, but was no match for [Wenting]’s skills. The end result is a drop-in replacement SSD even thinner than the stock one.

This project is well-documented for all of us to learn from! Source code and PCB files are on GitHub, and [Wenting] has covered the journey in three different places at once – on Hackaday.io, in a YouTube video embedded down below, and also on his Twitter in form of regular posts. Now, having seen this happen, we all have one less excuse to take up a project seemingly so complex.

Hackers play with SSD upgrades and repurposing every now and then, sometimes designing proprietary-to-SATA adapters, and sometimes reusing custom SSD modules we’ve managed to get a stack of. If case mods are acceptable to you aesthetics-wise, we’ve seen an SSD upgrade for a Surface Pro 3 made possible that way.

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Compute Module 4 NAS With Custom Carrier Board

At this point, we’ve seen more Raspberry Pi Network Attached Storage (NAS) builds than we can possibly count. The platform was never a particularly ideal choice for this task due to the fact it could only connect to drives over USB, but it was cheap and easy to work with, so folks made the best of it. But that all changed once the Compute Module 4 introduced PCIe support to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem.

If this impressive NAS built by [mebs] represents the shape of things to come, we’re more than a little excited. On the outside, with its 3D printed case and integrated OLED display to show system status, it might look like plenty of builds that came before it. But pop the top of this cyberpunk-styled server, and you realize just how much work went into it.

At the heart of this NAS is a purpose-built carrier board that [mebs] designed based on the KiCad files the Raspberry Pi Foundation released for their official CM4 IO Board. While not much larger than the CM4 itself, the NAS board breaks out the board’s PCIe, Ethernet, HDMI, and USB. There’s also a header for I2C, used primarily for the OLED display but naturally expandable to additional sensors or devices, and nine GPIO pins for good measure.

Of course, that alone doesn’t make a NAS. Into that PCIe port goes a four channel SATA controller card, which in turn is connected to the hard disk drives that are nestled into their respective nodes of the printed case. A central fan blows over the electronics at the core, and thanks to clever design and a few cardboard seals, pulls air over the drives by way of intake vents printed into the sides.

As impressive as this build is, not everyone will need this level of performance. If you don’t mind being limited to USB speeds, you can 3D print a NAS enclosure for the standard Raspberry Pi. Or you could always repurpose an old PC case if you’d like something a bit more substantial.

ARM-Based NAS Is A Low Cost, Low Power Beauty

A NAS is always a handy addition to a home network, but they can be a little pricey. [Blake Burkhart] decided to create his own, prioritising budget and low power considerations, with a secondary objective to produce some router and IoT functionality on the side.

A Banana Pi R2 was a good choice to meet these requirements, being a router-based development board that also sports dual SATA connectors and gigabit Ethernet. [Blake] had some retrospective regrets about the performance of this particular SBC, but it does just fine when functioning purely as a NAS.

The enclosure for the device is a three bay hot-swap HDD module, with one of the bays gutted and used for the Banana Pi. It’s a simple idea, elegantly executed, which looks great. To access the ports of the Banana Pi, a custom acrylic side panel was laser cut, which also allowed LEDs to shine through – obligatory for any DIY server/computer build. When mounting this panel to the existing enclosure, [Blake] was reluctant to take his chances tapping the brittle acrylic, instead opting to melt the threads into the plastic with a pre-torched screw. We find that tapping acrylic is usually okay if you take it slow, but heat-tapping does sound fun.

The 12 V fan that came built into the hot-swap enclosure was too loud and awkwardly came in a non-standard size with a non-standard connector. What’s more, a buzzer alarm was triggered any time the fan was disconnected and 0 RPM was detected. [Blake]’s solution was to rewire the power pin of the connector to a 5 V rail; he found that running the fan at 5 V led to much quieter performance whilst keeping the HDDs sufficiently cool.

We find that when it comes to DIY network gear and routers, there are two approaches. Either create your own bespoke solution that perfectly fits your needs, like this perfect home router, or work around your current gear and build some tech to automatically reboot it for you.

 

Home Server Has AMD CPU And IKEA Case

Readers who took part in the glory days of custom PC building will no doubt remember the stress of having to pick a case for their carefully-curated build. You may have wanted to lower the total cost a bit by getting a cheap case, but then you’d be stuck looking at some econo-box day in and day out. Plus, how do you post pictures online to boast about your latest build if there are no transparent windows and a lighting kit?

While some may have spent more time choosing their lighted case fans than their optical drive, [Miroslav Prašil] was surely not one of them. When he decided to build a new NAS for his home network, [Miroslav] decided he wanted to put all his money into the device’s internals, and house his build in a wooden storage crate from IKEA. While the low cost was certainly a major factor in the decision, it turns out the crate actually offers a decent amount of room for hardware components. As an added bonus, it doesn’t look completely terrible sitting out in the living room.

In a detailed series of posts on his blog, [Miroslav] walks us through the entire process of building what he has come to call the “NAScrate”. Wanting gigabit Ethernet and a real SATA controller, [Miroslav] went for the ASRock C70M1, a Mini-ITX board with integrated dual-core AMD processor. While not exactly a powerhouse, it will certainly wipe the floor with the fruit-inspired single board computers that so often dominate these types of builds.

To get his clearances worked out, [Miroslav] rendered the entire build in OnShape, which gave him enough confidence in his design to move on to actual construction. The build involves several 3D printed parts, most notably some clever hard drive mounting brackets which allow the drives to be stacked into a space-saving arrangement while still leaving room for airflow between them.

[Miroslav] deftly avoids any religious debates by leaving off his particular choice for software and operating system on his newly constructed NAS, but he does mention that something like FreeNAS would be a logical choice.

While this may be the first wooden one we’ve covered so far, home servers in general are a favorite project for hackers, from budget-friendly scratch builds all the way up to re-purposed enterprise hardware.

10-drive Microserver Is The Clown Car Of The Computer Case World

ten-drive-itx-clown-car

[Coke Effekt] wanted to push his server’s storage limits to a higher level by combining ten 3 TB drives. But he’s not interested in transitioning to a larger case in order to facilitate the extra hardware. It only took a bit of hacking to fit all the storage in a mini-ITX case.

His first step was to make a digital model of his custom drive mount. This uses two 3D printed cages which will each hold five drives mounted vertically. To keep things cool the two cages are bolted to a 140mm fan. The connections to the motherboard also present some issues. He uses a two-port SATA card which plays nicely with port multipliers. Those multiplier boards can be seen on the bottom of the image above. The boards are mounted using another 3D printed bracket. Each breaks out one of the SATA ports into five connections for the drives.

[Thanks Pat]

Speedier Hard Disk Option For Your Mac Mini

[Andrew] was left wanting by the slow hard drive in his 2011 Mac Mini. He set out to add a 10,000 RPM drive and we think he did a great job of pulling it off. Luckily he also took the time to document the process so you can try it yourself.

As with a lot of Apple products, a big part of this hack is just getting the darn thing apart without breaking something. Once that’s done, you’re got to do a little bit of interface hacking. To save space Apple uses a non-standard SATA breakout cable so [Andrew] starts by ordering a second hard drive cable from the company. He then soldered a thin wire connecting 12V from the motherboard to the 12V pin on a SATA connector. From there it’s just a matter of altering the original hard drive sled to make room for the 500 GB WD Velociraptor drive. It fits below the original and serves as additional space instead of as a replacement.

Hacking Old Server Hardware For New Home Use

[Arnuschky] was looking for a network storage solution that included redundancy. He could have gone with a new NAS box, but didn’t want to shell out full price. Instead, he picked up a Dell PowerEdge 2800 and hacked it for SATA drives and quiet operation.

It’s not surprising that this hardware can be had second-hand at a low price. The backplane for it requires SCSI drives, and it’s cheaper to upgrade to new server hardware than it is to keep replacing those drives. This didn’t help out [Arnuschky’s] any, so he started out by removing the SCSI connectors. While he was at it, he soldered wires to the HDD activity light pads on the PCB. These will be connected to the RAID controller for status indication. The image above shows the server with eight SATA drives installed (but no backplane); note that all of the power connectors in each column are chained together for a total of two drive power connectors. He then applied glue to each of these connectors, then screwed the backplane in place until the glue dried. Now the device has swappable SATA drives!

His server conversion spans several posts. The link at the top is a round-up so make sure you click through to see how he did the fan speed hack in addition to the SATA conversion.

If your tolerances don’t allow you to glue the connectors like this, check out this other hack that uses shims for spacing.