Building a powerful, cheap and silent Linux NAS and HTPC server

Introduction

I am currently using an old IBM Thinkpad T42 as a server and NAS for my desktop and laptop, sharing files through CIFS/SAMBA and NFS. I was running out of storage space on the server, which only had a single 250GB 2.5” disk and I considered either to buy a cheap NAS box as the ReadyNAS Duo and have two disks in raid 1 (mirroring) or build a new server from scratch with room for several disks in raid 5.

Updates to the article

I have updated this post several times since I posted it and it now contains the following new sections:

  1. Data scrubing
  2. Monitoring the server through munin
  3. A HTPC media server
  4. The server was killed by thunder and has now been rebuild and upgraded, see:
    Rebuilding and updating my Linux NAS and HTPC server

Underpowered off-the-shelf NAS boxes

When I researched the ReadyNAS duo (1000DKK = 175USD) I found the performance to be less than what I wanted:

  • trustedreviews.comaverage read and write speeds of 24.6MB/sec and 17.3MB/sec.
  • smallnetbuilder.com — write speed: around 15mb/s, read speed: 35MB/sec for files up to 128MB and less than 10MB/sec for larger files!.

Since I do image and video processing on large images on my desktop over NFS I need the speed to be better than this. So I started to look into more expensive NAS enclosures, but even though I think I would have been perfectly happy with a QNAP TS-459 Pro+ Turbo NAS enclosure performance wise, it is silly expensive (6000DKK = 1050 USD) without disks. After all this box is nothing but underpowered, single-purposed Linux servers with a webgui, surely I can do this better my self. Building my own server would also give me the power to run a HLDS server, saturate my gigabit network, running the LAMP stack, a squeezebox service and such.
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