Supercheap starter server


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Howdy, fellow unRAIDers!


Not sure if anyone has had experience with Intel servers, but a friend is looking at  the INTEL SC5650HCBRP for $140


Pros: Tower, case, psu, some RAM, hot swap, etc. Option to add 2nd CPU, up to 288GB Ram, CHEAP price.


Cons: Adaptec 5405Z Card barely supported (but shows support elsewhere - requires drive "initialization") (can ultimately swap out if run into trouble)


Biggest Question: AXX6DRV3GEXP backplane - can it break the 2TB limit!?  My biggest hope is this thread that references larger hard drives.


Cause if 2TB isn't an issue, it's a very low entry price point, sans drives. Might pick up a spare! :-)


Any other major concerns anyone can foresee?


Many thanks!






Edited by KermitJr
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  • 2 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I just looked at the server link, and they are now even cheaper!  While not current hardware, cheap is not a bad place to start for a new server, with decent hardware.


  I would not use the Apaptec RAID controller for anything but a cache pool in this server.  The six on-board SATA controllers on the mother board are decent, but I think only two of them are higher speed, I could be wrong there however.


  I would pull the modem card out.  I would also add a LSI SAS 9207-8i HBA and cables and use use it for the front drive bays using them for the unraid array.

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Yeah, $120 is almost stupid cheap at this point!  Just wanted to provide an update!


First things first - it works! Yay!


Had to initialize the drives.  Have not determined yet if it was just a write to the Adaptec card (logging them) or if it actually wrote to the drive, but Unraid is working, sans temperature readings.  My friend is unavailable for a few weeks, but when he gets back, we're going to plug drives direct to sata on mobo to see if Unraid still hums along smoothly or if the initializing did something to the drives, themselves.


Noise isn't too terrible. You know it's on, but it's certainly not data-center ram-jet level.  We might work to swap out for some quieter fans (or just put in a quieter single power supply).


So the verdict is that it seems to be a decent entry-level platform!


I'll come back when I have more!


Edited by KermitJr
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Yeah, the onboard SATA is only 3Gbs. I'd be looking at a new SATA adapter first thing. Also probably an NVME card as an SSD/Cache&VM drive.

It reminds me a lot of my DELL T310 in size and configuration.

Does it have any spare Molex or PCIe power outlet/plugs? If not, you'll be limited in video card selection like I was. Dang x4PCIe are very low wattage (like 25watts) on most servers. Few were built for any nVidia type video passthrough power needed.

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I can just give you this tip, best preformance/price: buy new old hardware and put it in a standard ATX case.


I wasted so much money on a real server case and such things and had so many problems (heat, load) and now i upgraded into a nice normal case, server is 10x as powerfull and you dont even notice its running.... (...)


Pro tip: there are also normal cheap PCs avaible on ebay, which can later easily upgraded.



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Speed isn't issue at the moment. More curious as to whether the "initialize drive" impacts usability at a later time.


I also understand case issue, but the main point was that it is literally everything needed and working, sans drives, for $120. This was as much as experiment in cost effectiveness as anything.


I'll post back with updates.

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Yeah, i thought same way: blabla it takes osme time longer, who cares, but then you find more and more usfull stuff to do with the server and then at some point i upgraded RAM 4-> 8 (now 32) (300€)

Drives (external) (incase too much heat) (around 500€)

Then i needed to upgrade CPU 200€

Then i needed to upgrade MB... i think u get it xD


Just want to save you from the fails i did.


I always wanted to have "a real server", but its not worth it.

Now i have everything layin around and just startet using my old Main PC (in a normal case). (btw if youre interested i can sell you server case 4u, mb, cpu, ram power supply.... :))


I never thought unraid can be that responsive.. :D


Edited by nuhll
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  • 1 month later...

Howdy, folks!  As promised, wanted to check with a follow-up.  I had a chance to tinker a bit at my buddy's house.  First, it's humming along great. And noise is not bad at all under the desk. Looks nice, too.


The only issue is that initialization of drives... wasn't sure if it was writing to drives or just tweaking the RAID card.  We pulled them out after getting the array online and tried plugging directly into SATA on mobo.  No go.  Unraid saw the drives - even correct serial numbers, etc., but array wouldn't start. Friend doesn't want his data tied to a particular card, so for now, just running direct to mobo SATA with no RAID card.  Will get a $30 LSI card at some point and start using that way.


But yes, great easy entry system.



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38 minutes ago, KermitJr said:

We pulled them out after getting the array online and tried plugging directly into SATA on mobo.  No go.  Unraid saw the drives - even correct serial numbers, etc., but array wouldn't start.

Would need the diags to confirm but they are likely being detect with a different size, one of the possible issues when using a RAID controller.

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Johnnie.Black - Yeah, not too worried about it unless someone wants to troubleshoot. My understanding is that the "Initialize drives" portion of the RAID controller writes something to the drive that jacks things up.  I'm more of a purest and my friend is too, so we're running direct until he gets a new card.


That said, if anyone has a spare SAS2 card laying around... PM me.



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  • 1 month later...

I ended up doing this as well and it's worked out quite well.  Here is what I did (and how much it cost)

The base machine was the same Intel SC5650HCBRP Xeon E5620 Quad-Core 2.4GHz 6GB Dual GbLAN ($160 ebay).  I initially got 2 Seagate IronWolf 4TB NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD ($100/ea amazon) and a LSI Logic SAS 9207-8i Storage Controller ($80 amazon) to see if it would work.  The main reason I went with this case was the 6 bay hot swap cage so I really wanted the LSI to work with the cage backplane card.  Unfortunately, the backplane that came with the cage had only two SATA ports and its own "smarts" which didn't work with my drives (direct connect to the LSI worked, but not through the cage backplane... 2TB limit, maybe?).  However, I found that there was another backplane option with 6 SATA ports that I hoped was a passthrough with no smarts.  I found an Intel D22808-203 6 hard drive sata backplane ($44 ebay) so I went with it and it worked!  So, for me, a fully working bare minimum server was


+$160 - Intel Server

+$80 - LSI 9207-8i Controller

+$44 - D22808-203 Backplane


=$284 (with no drives)

+$200 - 2x 4TB HDD


=$484 (fully functional, but minimal 4TB Storage; 1 Parity)


At that point, I got a few more HDDs and a Silicon Power 1TB NVMe PCIe Gen3x4 M.2 2280 ($110 amazon) which needed a QNINE NVME PCIe Adapter, M.2 NVME SSD to PCI Express 3.0 Host Controller Expansion Card ($15 amazon).


That adds some extra cost


=$484 (minimal config)

+$200 - 2x 4TB HDD

+$110 - 1TB NVMe PCIe

+$15 - NVMe PCIe Expansion Card


=$809 (6GB RAM; 12TB Storage; 1 Parity; 1TB Cache)


Then I got silly.  I fired up some dockers and noticed the 6GB RAM was lacking, but I had 9 free RAM slots.  I found some cheap 10x 2GB RAM ($50 ebay) and 

another Intel SLBV4 Xeon E5620 Quad-Core 2.40GHz CPU ($7! ebay) which needed a BXSTS100A Intel Thermal Solution FAN/Heatsink ($42).


=$809 (6GB RAM; 12TB Storage; 1 Parity; 1TB Cache)

+$50 - 10x 2GB RAM (could only use 9 though)

+$7 - Xeon E5620 CPU (technically I bought 2 for $7 in case one didn't work... $3.50 each!)

+42 - Fan/Heatsink for the new CPU


=$908 (24GB RAM; 8 Xeon Cores w/HT; 12TB Storage; 1 Parity; 1TB Cache)


I think it worked out pretty well as the $400 HDD and $110 NVMe would have been the same cost for whatever other solution I would have built. So I ended up paying $398 for an 8 core, 24 GB RAM machine WITH a 6 drive hot swap cage.


Thanks for the idea and I hope this helps anyone else trying this 🙂




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  • 8 months later...


I have been trying to update my cheap 4HDD 12TB ZfsGuru NAS by implementing a new used 6 sas-sata drive cage, the D22808-203 but the back plane is giving me errors all the time, iIt manages to boot and come up and all, then when I enter the webgui page, in the "POOLS" section, I see my drives showing errors...

Right now I have removed the back plane and connected the cabling onto the drives directly and all is well.

Does anyone has ever experienced similar behavior?

is there something I have to do or could it be that the backplane which I bought used in ebay, is defected?

Any ideas please!!!


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  • 6 months later...

Hello again, I bought another backplane this one has two sata ports instead of the six connecting ports, that the one before had, I connect the ports to my LSI 9210 IT mode controller but there is now way to make the drives, on the backplane, go above 300.000Mb/s

when I connect the drives onto the LSI controller, directly, I get speeds of 600.000Mb/s.

Any ideas as of what to do? I can not find any documentation on the backplane...

dos anyone know if the backplanes have speed limitations?

Thank you for your time.

Angelo E


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Thank you for making things clearer...

so I have to source a sata3 backplane, I do not even know ithere is one... that would fit the cage...

any ideas?

would you suppose that the expander is responsible for the speed?, there is a similar backplane but without expander, would you say that it most likely is a passthrough backplane, meaning it would go as fast as the controller that connects to?

Edited by dearangelo
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Here is a link to the spare parts manual (pdf) for the server I think you have.  It looks like there are four backplane options (2x 4 drive and 2x 6 drive).  The two options are 1 for an expander and the other for no expander.  So, if you want SATA3, you'll want the opposite of the one you have now (sounds like the one you used to have that was broken).  Good luck.  I ended up scrapping my build because my problem was the LSI 9207-8i Controller (the only new thing besides the drives).  I kept assuming the old hardware from ebay was the problem but it turned out to be the new stuff 😞 

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well, what you say, makes a lot of sense... but here, in ebay, this guy, describes the one with the six prts, meaning the one w/out the expander, is capable of 3Gb/s speeds... of course all this could be hot air... as it very often happens in ebay ads..

I will read the manual you suggest... and as a worst case scenario, I revert back to the simple gage that te server had, with six sata cablew connecting directly onto the drives, no fansy drawers etc...

Thank you for sharing!!!

Angelo E from Athens


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My reading of the ebay ad you showed is that it should have worked.  It should have had 6 SATA ports on it which you would have hooked to a card or motherboard (i.e. "Requires six free SAS or SATA ports").  You received the one you sent a picture of yesterday?  It only has two SAS/SATA ports on it.

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OK, What I have, is a two port expander, it is the one, I bought some time agoas a replacement, right after I found out that the six port one, the original that came with the cage, was broken and was giving me errors.  After I found out about the problem and without knowing the difference between expander or not, I found a used, rather cheap-o two port on ebay, and bought it...

Much later, like a week ago, I finaly got my hands on a set of five WD REDS 4TB NAS EFRX drives and started mounting up my second server.. while in the proccess of transfering data from my original server, I noticed that I was getting sata 2 speeds, 300K Gb/s... and I posted the question you responded to, yesterday...

Now I am out, looking for a solution.

The ad I posted now, is irrelevant to my purchase, it is a current ad tha is talking about a non expander backplane and speeds of 300K, but!!! this could mean @ least 300K right? buttom speed is 300k...

I will try to outsource one of the six port namely the D22808-204 and hope I will solve the low speed problem...

Thanks for your patience!!!

b regards

Angelo E

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Yeah, those drives (pdf) only use 147MB/s, the interface on the drive is a SATA3 (6Gb/s or 600MB/s) and it's hooked to something that is telling the system it can only handle SATA2 (300MB/s).  But that's just saying "oh yeah, you can talk at 300 MB/s, roger" which doesn't mean that much can ever come out.  it's kind of like saying that you have a 6cm pipe connecting your house to the water but as soon as the pipe comes into the house it turns into 2cm pipe; making the 6cm pipe 12cm isn't going to make the water in the house run faster.


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