Hardware Installation

NAS Hardware Assembly

Building a NAS involves a few decisions followed by some lots of cabling. Choosing a good motherboard/case/power supply combo is an important first step. During the actual assembly you may find the manuals are not always easy to read, and that the cabling doesn’t always match. Below I show which cables go where and even which cables aren’t used at all.

Key Products

  • Motherboard: an ASRock Rack C2550D4I.

    This quad-core Intel Avoton board has plenty of performance for our needs, with a max of 64GB RAM, and 12 SATA connectors! One can think of Avoton as Xeon’s little brother – server-class and designed to go where a Xeon would be overkill. Avoton runs cooler, sips less energy, and costs less.
  • Case: Silverstone DS380B
    A small form factor case that can hold 12 drives? How is this even possible? Somehow they designed space for eight hot-swappable 3.5″ drives and an additional four 2.5″ drives!
  • Power supply: Silverstone ST30SF
    This is a properly-sized SFX unit supplying 300W, plenty for my 6-drive build.
  • Six 3.5″ drives

Assembly

The Silverstone DS380 case is more compact that I had anticipated. I’m very pleased with both its capacity and diminutive small-form-factor proportions.

Case front

Case top and rear

The top fan is aided by two side fans, with a removable, cleanable, cover.

Side fan cover

The front has a power button and not much else. A door swings open to reveal the swappable 3.5″ drives. Also revealed are some audio and USB connectors that won’t be used for this build.

Door open

The drives are simple to pull out – just pinch the side tabs and pull.

Pulling drives

I’m using six drives, in a RAID-Z2 configuration. Photographing them like that is hard, so here they are mirrored:

Drives (mirrored)

To reach where the motherboard will be installed, access the case internals by removing the side panel. Two screws on the rear hold it in place (here they are shown partly unscrewed):

Side access screws

Four smaller black screws (on the side) hold the bay in place, and remember the two screws hidden on the case’s bottom!

Bottom screws

The 2.5″ bay is secured by two black screws on the side, and two silver screws on the rear.

You can see the black screws and the completed jumble of cabling:

Wiring jumble

Once the bays have been removed, you can install the power supply, RAM (onto the motherboard), and the motherboard into the case. There are several cables that won’t get used, e.g. GPU power, and those front USB ports whose cable has no matching connector on the motherboard.

These cables look important but aren’t used:

Unused cables

At 100mm deep, the power supply has enough space even with everything assembled.

Power supply squeeze

The power supply is simple enough to install, with four external screws and plenty of room. Here it’s held with two thumb-screws and two regular screws. The other two thumbscrews I moved to holding the side panel in place, as I’m more likely to want to access that in the future than mess with the power supply.

Power supply rear

Power supply

The tricky part is getting the motherboard connected. The case has a mass of wires. The motherboard has a even huger mass of connectors. Where does everything plug in? First comes the unmistakable power cable. Note that this motherboard can accept a larger style plug. Here you can see which pins are unused using this more compact plug.

Motherboard power

Many SATA options are available with this motherboard. Four plugs are blue, representing slower SATA 2…Blue SATA

… but most are black and are SATA 3 offering 6GB/s transfer rate.

Black SATA

The rear fan connector is on the lower left of the motherboard.

Rear fan connector

The case connectors, for power, reset, and lights, are quite fiddly and easy to mix up. (Photographing them is also a challenge!) Click for a larger image, and check this carefully:

Case connectors

Once the motherboard is hooked up, it’s time to connect the drive bay. Two power connectors, and SATA for each drive. Use the right-most SATA connectors.

Drive bay connections

And the side fan connectors, upper and lower:

Fan connectors

Finally, screw the drive bays into place (remember the bottom screws again!) and push drives into place (once they’ve been mounted into their sleds).

The motherboard offers three ethernet sockets. Ignore the one labelled MGMT (it’s for IPMI); use either of the other two. These USB ports are active and can be used to install your OS, along with the old-school VGA monitor and a USB keyboard.

External connectors

Plug into power, remember to switch the power supply’s button to the on position, and press the big round button on the case’s front. Time to install your OS of choice!

Products Used

All drives are 3TB capacity, for 12GB total in RAID-Z2.