[Part 1] NAScrate - the budget for the budget NAS

The idea is simple really: Build a NAS out of readily available PC components inside Knagglig crate sold by IKEA. As for "why?" - it's the usual answer - to see if it can be done in a practical way. The other part of that motivation was, that I can now print parts of the construction, so it was a good training for my design and construction skills, that are, honestly, quite lacking.

Other posts in the series:

Requirements

But we need to be a bit more specific here, so here are some requirements and expectations, that I have.

It should be cheap

I have my NAS already, so I don't really need one. But even if I did want one, I could just buy another HP Microserver Gen8 for about €200, so this thing should be cheaper than that while still providing comparable service. From what I've found, most of the 4 drive of-the-shelve NAS devices are priced from about €180 - and that's for the really cheap ones, so even as it is, HP's Microserver is a very good deal, but I believe I can build something cheaper than that accepting some compromise here and there.

It should be small

The idea is, that it will all fit into the small Knagglig crate sold by IKEA. By "all" I mean motherboard (with CPU, RAM and SATA controller obviously), power supply and at least four 3.5" drives. This all needs to fit into a crate that's about the size of a shoe box - 23x31x15cm. (9x12x6 inch) Obviously we could just buy the bigger crate that IKEA sells, but where would be the challenge in that?

The components should be easy to buy

The Knagglig itself can be bought all around the world which makes it a perfect case material. As for the other components - they need to be widely available too. This is part of the reason, why I'm not using some custom boards or power supplies. (the other reason is, that they usually tend to be quite pricey)

It should be fun and easy to build

I'm doing all this for fun mostly and I'm hoping that the device will be reasonably easy to build, so that others can get inspired and build their own - perhaps better - NAScrate.

Components and budget

I'd love to say, that I came up with the list of components after days of research, but the reality is that I've just googled around for 30 minutes at a time until I found everything I need, that fits the bill. Having that said, please take the list for what it really is - a first try at best. I'm open to suggestions here. I've already bought most of the components, so I won't really change how my NAScrate is built, but I'll be happy to post it here to save other people some hassle.

As for our budget, it should be less than €200. Otherwise we can just pick Microserver or some other ready-made NAS. Preferably it should be in the area of €100 to save some noticeable amount of money and to have some breathing space in case we want to pay extra for specific components. So let's aim for €100 and see how close we can get.

Crate

I think the Knagglig is really the ideal candidate here. It costs €6 a piece, it's universally available and it doesn't look bad. We will need two of them - one whole, and bottom of the second for the top cover. So that's €12. (And 12% of our budged. I'm starting to sweat a little.)

Motherboard

I went for Mini-ITX motherboard here for three reasons - the are easy to get, small enough (17x17cm) and still reasonably cheap. Remember, we wanted four drive NAS, so we either need a motherboard with 4 SATA ports or a SATA controller. We obviously need a gigabit port, but all of the recent ones should have that. I've looked into the integrated CPU vs separate CPU options and the integrated options generally seem to be cheaper.

If you want to build your own NAScrate, here's generally where most of the extra money can be spent on to improve performance or other property of the overall system. Note that we're packing 4 drives, GPU, CPU and PSU in pretty tight space, so power consumption is a concern as well.

Eventually I went with ASRock C70M1, it has 4 SATA ports, Gigabit LAN, couple USB ports, integrated CPU, GPU and all that for about €41. Granted, it's not the most powerful CPU - far from it, but it should be good enough to saturate Gigabit link, so good enough.

We're now at €53, so slightly over half of our budget. Add €20 for 2GB DDR3 module and we're at €73.

Power supply

Regular ATX power supply wouldn't fit with four full size HDDs inside, so we need something smaller. Something like picoPSU would be very convenient, but:

  1. They are either quite pricey or not very good. I would like to avoid plugging four drives into a cheap picoPSU and quality ones are way over budget.
  2. Having a power brick hanging outside is a bit of a cheating.

Eventually it seems like SFX power supply is the way to go. This is where I blew over the budget with my SilverStone SST-ST30SF costing about €50 - the reason being, that I had that one already. There are certainly cheaper PSUs on the market - like €33 Eurocase ECO+85 SFX-250W which would set you just about €6 over the desired €100 budget.

I'm certainly open to suggestions here, but from what I've investigated (for most widely used PSU formats) one of the dimensions usually turns out to be a problem.

Let's sum up

Component Price
Knagglig 2x €12
C70M1 APU €41
RAM 2GB €20
PSU €33
Together €106

I'm a person that usually sees the cup half full, so I'd call it a success. Note, that I didn't really go out of my way to get the cheapest possible component everywhere, so it's quite possible we would get under €100 with some careful shopping.

Another thing to note is, that there are going to be some extra expenses like RJ-45 socket or USB extension to get some nice cable management and ports easily accessible from the outside. There's also cost of printed parts which is cents if you have printer, but obviously would be more if you use 3rd party companies for that.

All summed up, I think we're somewhere in the €120-€130 area, which is not bad at all.