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Rajahal

Help me design an unRAID miniBox recommended build!

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Rajahal, you can do a simple smoke test with some incense to get a general idea of the air flow.

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Rajahal, you can do a simple smoke test with some incense to get a general idea of the air flow.

 

I was thinking about that.  No risk to the electrical components?  I was also thinking about modifying one of the various smoke bombs I have to release a thin line of colored smoke for this purpose.  If I can pull that off, I'll post a video or something.

 

Hmm, servers and explosives...I need some new hobbies.  ;D

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If you post a pic of the back, I might have a backplate that will fit.. (I have a whole bunch of various ones lying around..)

 

Thanks Msan!  Newegg probably has better pictures than I could muster, so here they are:

 

The back of the mobo:

 

zsX3x.png

 

The panel itself:

 

7fccc.png

 

All I really need for unRAID are for the video ports, some of the USB ports, and the network ports to be exposed.  It wouldn't bother me if the audio, PS2 mouse/keyboard ports, and some of the USB ports are blocked.

 

I'm sorry.. I have quite a few, but they are all different :(

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All of queeg and weebo's recent work on the TinyTen server has gotten me thinking about this miniBox design again.  I think the original design that I laid out here works well and is more or less complete.  The only change I would make is to use a better quality 5-in-3, such as those offered by SuperMicro, Norco, or IcyDock.

 

So now I want to work on something slightly different.  I have a pair of 3-in-2's that are currently unused.  I have a few motherboards to choose from - a MiniITX option, and a MicroATX option (the fabled Biostar A760G M2+ from the Budget Box design).  Both have Sempron 140 CPUs and a gig or two of RAM.  So now all I need is a small form factor case that has four contiguous 5.25" bays.

 

Today's shell shocker caught my eye, but I think it is a bit too big.  So I started looking for some smaller ones that wouldn't break the bank.  Here's the two smallest I found:

 

GIGABYTE gz-ph1a3 Black SGCC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Dimensions: 13.78" x 7.09" x 16.54"

 

GIGABYTE gz-ph2a3 Black SGCC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

Dimensions: 13.78" x 7.09" x 16.54"

 

I believe these are basically identical cases except for the front panel design.  I haven't been able to find any miniITX cases with more than one 5.25" bay.

 

Does anybody know of any other good SFF cases with four 5.25" bays?  I'm open to minimal modding, but I would like to keep it minimal since this is supposed to be a recommended build.

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That is perfect, BubbaQ, thanks!  Cheap it isn't, but it is exactly what I was looking for.  This is a bit worrisome, though:

 

4 x 5.25" Visible bays(but the bottom one is NOT good for HDD or CDROM since MB is taking 50% of the space in it)

 

I wonder if two 3-in-2's would even fit in there?

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I'm a little surprised the miniBOX doesn't use mini-ITX to truely be mini.

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I'm a little surprised the miniBOX doesn't use mini-ITX to truely be mini.

 

That was my original goal, but as poofyhairguy said, the selection of miniITX cases is quite limited.  I swore off internally-mounted drives just a few months after building my first unRAID server, and I have not looked back.  That said, I needed a case that had at least three consecutive 5.25" bays so that I could fit a 5-in-3 cage in there.  I also discounted 3-in-2 cages as being not enough bang for your buck (plus a 3 drive server is pretty limited).

 

The Rosewill case uses a single 120mm fan for cooling, which helps keep it quiet.  It is actually quite small, even compared with miniITX cases.  The dimensions are

 

15.00" x 7.50" x 13.80" (Bezel Not Included)

 

Compare that with, say, the LIAN LI PC-Q08B, which is a popular and good quality miniITX case.  The dimensions on this case are

 

13.58" x 8.94" x 10.71"

 

So the biggest dimensional difference is only about 3 inches.  The latter takes 6 hard drives, but would require extensive modding to make those drives externally mounted.  Extensive modding is not what the miniBox or any of the recommended builds are about.  The Lian Li also costs about $100 more than the Rosewill.

 

The Rosewill also has four 3.5" internal drive mounts, so you could actually take the miniBox up to 9 drives if you don't mind some internal drives (you would need an add-on card as well).

 

I'll admit, I'm not crazy about the Rosewill case.  I think it is good enough, but I would prefer something that looks a bit snazzier.  If you know of any cases that are around the same size or smaller, can handle a miniITX or MicroATX motherboard, and can take a 5-in-3 drive cage, please let me know.  I would love to give some of the less budget-conscious server builders some different options.

 

Soon I'll be coming out with another design, a 6 drive miniBox.  It will be comprised of this case and two 3-in-2 drive cages.  The internals will probably be the same as this one.

 

Edit: OK, maybe queeg has found a good alternative:

 

Shuttle QBox 4

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I finally got around to photographing my 6 drive miniTower prototype (I'm calling this one 'miniTower' to differentiate it from the 5 drive 'miniBox').  Using current 2 TB drives, this server would support up to 10 TB of parity protected storage.

 

Here's the parts list, followed by the pictures:

 

Mobo: ZOTAC GF6100-E-E Mini ITX AMD Motherboard

CPU: AMD Sempron 140

RAM: Random 1 GB stick I had laying around

Expansion card: 2 port PCIex1 Silicon Image SIL3132 (p.s. I love this card)

PSU: Antec Earthwatts 380w (the older model, dual 12+V rails)

Case: GIGABYTE gz-ph1a3 (dimensions are 13.78" x 7.09" x 16.54")

Drive Cages: Kingwin 3 in 2 x 2

Misc: I installed an 80mm Antec in the back of the case, as the case didn't come with one, and I removed the case's CPU air duct. I also used a mixture of my own SATA cables (which were longer), and the ones that came with the drive cages.  The orange cable connects to the top drive bay (intended to be used for the parity drive), and the red cables are all for data drives.

 

I estimate that I paid around $250 for this server (not including drives), however, I used several used parts (namely the RAM and drive cages).  If you were to build this with all new parts, the total would be closer to $300-350.

 

Front (power off)

bXyIG.png

 

Front (power on)

FFuiS.jpg

 

Back

xh3MF.jpg

 

Glamor shot

pxege.jpg

 

Inside

CkD2b.png

 

Inside detail

QxKk8.jpg

 

Motherboard/Drive cage spacing

DIh1S.png

 

I chose the case because it was the smallest case I could find that had four contiguous 5.25" bays.  It was also $20 shipped on sale.  It definitely isn't the prettiest case and the massive blue power LED is a bit much (and it can always be disabled), but it gets the job done.  The quality is good for the price.

 

The motherboard is a great value for $30-40 (I paid $50 for the mobo and CPU).  At first I wasn't sure if it was compatible with unRAID due to the nForce 430 chipset, but after extensive testing and about a month of continuous use with unRAID, I trust it.  My testing is documented here.  The board also passes Level 1.

 

You can see that the cabling is very cramped, that was about the cleanest I could get it.  A modular PSU may offer a big improvement in this case, however, the proximity of all the SATA data and power plugs on the back of the drive cages and the motherboard's large power cable force the cabling to be fairly messy.  As you can see in the last picture, the spacing between the motherboard and the drive cages is fairly small; so even though this is a ATX mid-tower case, a miniITX motherboard is necessary to allow it all to fit.

 

My main concern with this build is heat.  I'm currently using three older 7200 rpm drives as testers (two WD blacks and one seagate barracuda).  Generally the drives stay in the 40-45 C range during a parity check, however, on a hot day I have seen the Seagate get up to 47 C.  This is definitely too hot for prolonged use.  When all drives but one are spun down (such as for streaming a movie), that drive stays under 35 C, which is perfectly acceptable.  The drive cage's four 40mm fans do help cool the drives, and they are surprisingly quiet for their size, so I haven't disabled them.  I believe that running all low heat green drives instead of 7200 rpm drives would also address this problem adequately.  I haven't tested green drives in this server yet because I don't want to break my normal 20 drive array.  I should also note that the server's ambient environment is a bit hotter than most at around 27 C (80 F).

 

Power usage is fairly average.  According to my UPS, the server currently is pulling 71 W during a parity check, and it idles (all disks spun down) under 40 W.

 

If someone wants a really ambitious modding project, the bottom 1/3 of this case could be completely removed and there would still be plenty of room for all the hardware and to store extra cables.  The power and reset buttons would have to be moved, though (probably into the empty 3.5" bay).  I may try this myself some day, but it hardly seems worth it just to make the case a few inches shorter.

 

I'll be adding this build to the 'Recommended Builds' section of the wiki soon.  I'll probably make a few changes to the recommended build, such as using the newer version of the Antec Earthwatts PSU, and possibly finding different 3-in-2s with a single larger fan instead of the two tiny ones.  I do feel that the Antec Earthwatts 380w PSU is the best choice for this build since the location of the fan on the rear of the unit will help cool the drives directly.  Most PSUs place the fan on the bottom of the unit, which helps cool the CPU.  Also, the Earthwatt's dual +12V rails (18A and 15A) aren't a big deal when the server maxes out at 6 drives (12A for green drives, 18A for 7200 rpm drives).  I've also considered looking for another miniITX board that has 6 onboard SATA ports, but I doubt I'll find one for less than $45 (which is the price of this mobo plus the expansion card).

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That's an interesting build, in which you made the most out of the available space...and a reasonable investment, too (try getting a decent NAS for that amount, let alone with six drives ;D). I'm having the same issue with the cables and space in my first build, but it works fine, so it's ok. Lovin' the glamour shot! :-*

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Just found RackMax RM-124 S/S - a 4 in 1 2.5" closure.

 

 

Now we just need to get some 2.5" 2 TB disks :)

 

 

Could have 48 2.5" in my Antec 1200.......

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Could have 48 2.5" in my Antec 1200.......

 

Nice, at which software/OS you were looking, was it unRAID ;-)

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Just found RackMax RM-124 S/S - a 4 in 1 2.5" closure.

 

 

Now we just need to get some 2.5" 2 TB disks :)

 

 

Could have 48 2.5" in my Antec 1200.......

 

Part way there. Seagate just launched there 1.5TB 2.5" drives. ;)

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Nice, at which software/OS you were looking, was it unRAID ;-)

 

None - just dreaming and hoping unRaid will support that many drives one day ;)

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Is it possible to install 1 or 2 more drives inside the case?  I was hoping to have a caching drive and parity drive internal and have 5 data drives. 

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Just found RackMax RM-124 S/S - a 4 in 1 2.5" closure.

 

I like that.  How hot do the drives get in this enclosure?

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And looking at those small fans, they are surely very low noise to start with  8)

With 48x 2.5" drives you are going to have 24 of them  :o

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Is it possible to install 1 or 2 more drives inside the case?  I was hoping to have a caching drive and parity drive internal and have 5 data drives. 

 

Yes, it is possible.  The case used for the 6 Drive miniTower can take another 5 drives internally (in addition to the 6 hot swap).  The case used for the 5 Drive miniBox can take another 4 drives interally (in addition to the 5 hot swap).  Both of these would require different hardware, though, since the motherboards in my builds are either maxed out or close to it.  If you are interested in a server like that, I would recommend using something like the Budget Box's motherboard and a SuperMicro AOC-SASLP-MV8.  That would give you support up to 14 drives, so would definitely have enough headroom to max out either of these cases.  It would also give you the ability to upgrade to the Budget Box if you outgrew these smaller cases.

 

One warning: the budget box mobo may not fit in the 6 Drive miniTower's case.  As you can see in the pics above, there isn't a ton of room between the hot swap cages and the miniITX motherboard.  Now imagine a microATX motherboard in there - the mobo and the hot swap cages may conflict.  So you may want to take some virtual measurements before buying anything.  It should fit in the 5 Drive miniBox's case, though - as you can see in these pics, that case is a bit longer and has enough room to accommodate a microATX mobo and the hot swap cage.

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