November 2018 Upgrade
I saw that Best Buy had some Western Digital 8TB external drives on sale for $179.99, so I bought 2 with the intention of shucking them and putting them into my server.
Since WD only makes HDDs in capacities up to 6TB in their cheaper Blue drives, it's a safe bet that any of their 8TB (or above) external drives will be Red, Purple or Gold drives. I shucked both of my new external drives and they are both white-label Red equivalent drives; they were even the 256MB cache models from Thailand and not the cheaper 128MB cache models from China :)
So I paid $400 for 16TB of additional storage in my server as opposed to paying well over $600 if I had bought legit naked Red drives. Sure I'd have a warranty with legit naked Red drives, but WD drives are actually well built and I've never had 1 fail on me... Seagate is another story :p
The only thing to keep in mind when shucking drives from external enclosures is that often times, a regular SATA power cable coming off of a power supply doesn't work with those drives... I'm not sure why. But an easy fix is to use a molex-to-sata power adapter cable and then the drives work just fine. I had to do just that to get the drives working for me.
You can also do a hack wherein you cover 1 of the power pins with non-conductive tape, but that seemed a little to sketchy for my liking.
October 2018 Upgrade
Since I only have 1 free SATA port and my HDDs are almost full, I needed a way to expand my storage drives. Since I upgraded my server with the Ryzen APU, Motherboard and new RAM, Windows worked fine without a reinstall but the PCIe SATA expansion cards did not. If I booted with them installed, after loading Windows, the graphics card would just stop outputting anything. I decided to get an M.2 NVMe SSD for the OS and the Plex meta-data thus freeing-up 1 more SATA port.
I took the opportunity to reinstall Windows in hopes that it would fix my issues with the expansion cards. Good news is that now after the reinstall, the expansion cards are working fine :) I assume there were some old Intel drivers left on the Windows install that were causing issues handling PCIe devices.
Now my Plex server responds so much faster when loading the meta-data, it was definitely worth the upgrade.
March 2018 Upgrade
With the Ryzen 2000 series chips having come out this year, I'm eager to give my NAS/Plex Server some more power.
I bought a Ryzen 5 2400G and an AX370 motherboard (primarily for the # of SATA ports) and some new DDR4 RAM.
With the new guts, my Plex experience is much smoother and the initial load times are much lower when watching content.
I didn't reinstall Windows 10 but rather just uninstalled all Intel drivers from within Windows and then performed the hardware upgrade. It's running well, but there is 1 issue that will force me to reinstall Windows in the future.
Basically, the PCIe SATA expansion cards that I have, and will need in the future, cause my server to crash on Windows booting-up. I'm pretty sure this is being caused by some latent Intel drivers on my system, but I can't find them. A reinstall under the AMD hardware should make things work better, I hope.
December 2017 Upgrade
Added 2 more 8TB drives so I now have 48TB of storage but since I'm running it fully redundant, I have 24TB or storage capacity.
I had some issues with Windows Storage Spaces, but I'm up-and-running again and was only down for about 3 days.
Basically, my storage space got into a kinda bad state (it was my fault) and I had to re-create it. The problem is that in the Fall of 2017, Microsoft decided to remove the ability to create ReFS partitions in Windows 10 Home/Pro and only enable that in their Enterprise and server editions. So now my storage pool is using the NTSF file system... I'm pissed about that.
In the future, I might switch to FreeNAS, but for now I'm ok with Windows.
Experiences So Far
I've been running my NAS for about 4 months now and it's been awesome. Now that I have all 4 of my 8TB HDDs, I have 16TB of effective storage since I want full redundancy; I have about 8TB free right now.
Plex is Awesome
I gave both my dad and my brother access to my Plex server and they watch almost as much as my wife and I do.
The i3 that I put in my NAS is capable of transcoding 3 consecutive streams without any buffering issues. I've been looking into ways of horizontally scaling the transcoding done by the Plex Media Server, but for now I can only handle 3 at a time... which has been enough for us so far.
I've been planning to build a proper NAS for about a year now, so I finally got around to doing it. My main need was for storing my entire media collection (movies, tv shows and music).
The trick was convincing the wife that we needed a NAS. About 4 months ago she wanted to watch some tv show, I don't remember which one, so I passed her the box of hard drives (8+) and a hard drive dock. After going through 5 drives, she was totally on board.
Initially I picked-up 2 of the 8TB Western Digital hard drives... but I quickly filled those up and now I'm planning to get 2 more in the new year; but those should last me for a while.
I'm running Windows 10 Home and I'm using Windows Storage Spaces to create a 2-way redundant storage drive. For now that gives us 8TB of effective storage but soon when I add 2 more 8TB drives I'll have 16TB of effective storage with full redundancy. I also installed the Plex Media Server on this NAS so that i can watch my entire media collection from anywhere in the house and remotely.
My NAS is currently in the back room but since our router is in the living room, I go the Asus AC68 PCI-E network card. This network card gets amazing throughput... I haven't tested my internal network speeds, but it can completely saturate my internet connection (190 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up). Granted I have the Asus AC3200 router which is a beast.
At first I was going to go with an Intel Celeron processor, but in the end I decided to get a top of the line Intel i3 and I'm very happy that i did since I decided to install a Plex Media Server on my NAS which, along with the i3, it can transcode the videos just fine. My motherboard can support i5 and i7 processors so if I need to I can always upgrade to a better CPU. Since I'm not gaming on this machine, the on board GPU is powerful enough to play HD content.
At first I had a Gigabyte GA-B85M-DS3H-A Micro motherboard but it had some serious issues with the on board SATA controller so I returned it and got the ASRock H97M Anniversary Micro motherboard. The Gigabyte motherboard wasn't able to detect more than 1 of my 8TB hard drives while plugged into the motherboard directly. I had to install a PCI-E connected SATA controller to get the 2nd hard drive to work. I don't have this issue with the ASRock motherboard.
With both the Gigabyte and the ASRock motherboard, if I connect my monitor using HDMI, the BIOS just doesn't render... the Gigabyte would just restart and the ASRock just shows a pixelated mess. But they both work when connected using VGA.
My only regret was not going with a 6 series CPU and motherboard; I ended up going with a Haswell 4 series CPU and motherboard. I didn't really put a lot of thought into it at the time, but the 4 series CPU and motherboard are more powerful than I expected.
WIRED NETWORK CONNECTION
I moved my new NAS into my living-room entertainment cabinet and now its wired directly into my router. The Asus wireless NIC was very powerful, but nothing beats an actual CAT7 LAN cable :)
I've also gone through my media collection and found all of the movies which have a filesize greater-than 10GB and I'm re-encoding them down to having a bitrate of 4096 kbps. Some of my Blu-ray rips were ripped having a bitrate of 17 mbps (~ 17,000 kbps). I've re-encoded approx 50 movies so far, and I've reclaimed around 1TB of storage space.
When I compare the source 30GB video to the re-encoded 4.3GB file, both at 1080p, the difference was negligible... I had to go right up to the screen to see the difference. Also, I own the original discs for all of my Blu-ray rips, so if I really want to watch it at its best, I'll use the disc.
I got my additional 2 x 8TB Western Digital RED hard drives... Now I have my full 32GB of raw storage but since I'm mirroring my data, I now have 16TB of effective redundant storage.
I found that I wasn't too happy with the temperatures when using the stock Intel CPU cooler. I was seeing 38C at idle and as high as 78C under full-load.
I decided to get a cheap water-cooler since I don't want my CPU cooler adding too much noise. I ended up getting the Corsair H60 which is a 120mm radiator with a 120mm fan cooling it.
With this new water cooler my temps are much more reasonable; 28C at idle and 47C under full-load.
I was excited when the new Ryzen 2000 series chips came onto the market. This little guy is serving my NAS/Plex Server very well and is a nice improvement over the 4th gen Intel i3 that I previously had.
I chose this MOBO due to its 8 SATA ports. I needed these for all of my storage drives.
This board has been working well since I got it in March of 2018.
My only complaint was that I had to go through a lot of nonsense in getting the BIOS updated to work with the, at the time, new Ryzen 2000 series APUs. I had to wait for AMD to mail me a cheap APU so that I could update the BIOS of the MOBO but then I had to pay for the shipping to return the loaner APU. I was expecting to be able to either return it to one of their locations near me or get my MOBO updated from the retailer from whom I bought the MOBO and APU.
It all worked out in the end, but it was a little bit of a pain-in-the-***.
This RAM is fast and works as expected. It's running at the correct 3200 speed.
These drives are massive and fast, for a 5400 RPM drive. I'm currently running 4 of these in my NAS and using Windows Storage Spaces to create a 2-way redundant disk.
It's a power supply... it does what it's supposed to do and so far it works well.
I've been using Windows 10 on all my personal computers for about 1 year now. I love the boot times, but the ads are kinda of annoying (try Office 360).
The new start bar was really annoying initially, but I've gotten used to it and I kind of like it now.
I'm using Windows 10 for my new NAS mainly to use Windows Storage Spaces to create virtual drives... it also allows you to setup a software RAID array.
These fans are pretty quiet and they keep my NAS temps pretty decent.
I've been using this to make sure that my NAS has as close as possible to 100% up time.
I love this case. It's spacious and made of steel.
The one downside is that the fans that came with it are very loud, but that's to be expected from a server-case.