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.
[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.
[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.
[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.
Around this time last year, [Sprite_TM] took a 1980’s-era Macintosh SE and rebuilt it as a home file server. He used a Seagate Dockstar as the new motherboard, but over the past year he’s been annoyed with the fact that the Dockstar doesn’t have real SATA ports. Using USB to SATA converters on a server is a slow way of doing things, so [Sprite_TM] rebuilt his SE using an HP thin client. To do this, he had to break out the onboard SATA and PCIE; not an easy task, but that’s why [Sprite_TM] is around.
The first order of business was installing a pair of SATA ports. The stock thin client had two NAND-flash chips serving as the drive, both connected to a SATA controller. All [Sprite_tm] had to do was desolder the flash chips and wire up the new SATA connections. Easy enough.
Because the HP thin client only had 100Mbps Ethernet, [Sprite_tm] wasn’t looking forward to the order of magnitude difference between his expected rsync speeds and what he would get with a 1Gbps connection. The only problem is the thin client didn’t have a spare PCIE connection for an Ethernet card. That’s really no problem for [Sprite_tm], though: just desolder the GPU and run a few wires.
Just like last year’s work on his SE, [Sprite_tm] ended up with a functional and very cool home server. The old-school System 7 is still there, and of course he can still play Beyond Dark Castle. Awesome work, in our humble opinion.
The problem of persistent and reliable storage plagues us all. There are a myriad of solutions, some more expensive than others, but a dedicated and redundant network attached storage solution is hands down the best choice for all problems except natural disaster (ie: fire, flood, locusts) and physical theft. That being said, the issue of price-tag rears its ugly head if you try to traverse this route.
[Phil’s] had his mind stuck on a very large NAS solution for the last ten years and finally found an economical option. He picked up a powerful motherboard being sold as surplus and a server enclosure that would play nicely with it. It came with a backplane for multiple hard drives that utilized SCSI connections. The cost and availability of these drives can’t compare to the SATA drives that are on the market. Realizing this, [Phil] completely reworked the backplane to make SATA connections possible. It’s an intense amount of work, but there’s also an intense amount of documentation of the process (thank you!). If doing this again his number one tip would be to buy a rework station to make it easier to depopulate the connectors and extraneous parts from the PCB. Since he needs to keep using the board, the old blow-torch trick is out of the question.
[Marc] is pretty unsatisfied with hard drive docking stations as a whole. He says they are typically slow and unreliable, causing him all sorts of grief while he is troubleshooting a questionable hard drive. He decided to take some of the mystery out of the troubleshooting equation and built a standalone SATA power module.
Aware that SATA drives require 5v and 12v for operation, he disassembled one of his docking stations to see how it provided both voltages. He discovered that it used a simple PWM buck converter and decided to replicate it in the smallest space possible. His plan was to use a standard 12v wall wart to power the circuit, passing that 12v straight to the drive. A simple voltage step-down circuit would be built to provide the required 5v.
[Marc] reports that the power adapter is performing nicely, and he is quite happy with the size as well. He says that one major benefit of this sort of adapter is that it can be used to power any SATA drive, not just hard drives. He does mention that if he built another one, he might consider regulating the 12v output as well, so that he can power the adapter with a laptop power supply instead of a separate dedicated wall wart.