From Test-bed to Data-dump

In preparation for testing Windows 10 Betas last year I built a tester rig that was equipped enough to morph into a primary rig for someone or server of some type.

  • Intel Pentium G3258 (Unlocked Anniversary Edition)
  • ASRock Z97M-ITX/AC
  • 8GB DDR3 @ 1600MHz (2x4GB sticks)
  • ADATA SP600 128GB SSD
  • SeaSonic SSR450RM PSU
  • Thermaltake Core V1 Mini-ITX case

Sure I could have just used visualization to test Windows 10, but I really wanted to see how it behaved when properly installed on dedicated hardware. And I wanted an excuse to buy more hardware. I did have some ideas for it’s implementation as a guest gaming rig or NAS or even selling it to a particular family member who never seems to want to pull the trigger on re-joining the PC Masterrace.

Time to move on

Well It has been a year and Windows 10 has officially rolled out. So the need for a test rig has passed. I could keep in on Fast-Ring builds and toy with them, but I really wanted the hardware put to better use.

My need for real, dedicated local storage recently saw a sharp increase due to a few factors:

  • I am now re-ripping my music library to FLAC and would like have some redundancy in their storage.
  • I have subscribed to and am able to download their lessons. I need more room for those if I plan to keep them for posterity.
  • I had my storage drive in my main rig fail. Which woke me up to pitiful state of my back-up strategy for a person as knowledgeable as I am.


I have shopped around for NAS’s on and off for a long time now, but never could bring myself to pull the trigger. Each of the major machines in my house have large storage drives and the most important, not easily replaceable data is duplicated either by hand (for static data like ISOs) or through SyncToy (for dynamic data like game server back-ups). My personal data us handled by Jungledisk as a previous post details. But my need for a large amount of storage and fear of these drives failing escalated recently so I started looking really hard at my options. With the TestCore being freed up, I started leaning really hard toward turning into a storage box.

And the best option I knew of for such a task was FreeNAS. I have actually played with FreeNAS in the past on a netbook. Just to see what it was all about. I had seen it mentioned quite a lot around the web, but it came to my attention for real when a large update to it making more n00b friendly had it being featured in many blogs and podcasts I frequent some time last year.

So in light of recent events, I turned to it again. Got it installed and tested things out with the SSD I had in the box already. Everything worked marvelously. I just had one issue…The Thermaltake Core V1 is not a NAS enclosure. It has 2 3.5″ HDD mounts. A little Google-fu and I was lucky enough to discover the crew at HDCP unlocked some hidden flexibility of the Core V1 by mounting drives to the vent holes on the side panels. I was able to cram 4 3.5″ HDD’s and the SSD into that little case while still keeping my Cooler Master TX3 tower cooler. Due to large 200mm intake fan and relatively beefy CPU cooler it runs really quiet. Am running the case fan at a normal curve and the CPU on a silent curve as it won’t be all that busy and is currently not overclocked.

Crowded yet cool interior.
Crowded yet cool interior.
A test fit of the hack with 2 random drives.
A test fit of the hack with 2 random drives.

I am technically not where FreeNAS likes you to be with my hardware. With my 12TB of storage they would prefer 12GB of RAM and ECC at that. I have regular non-error checking RAM and only 8GB of it. I am running the drives at ZFS level 2 so I can lose two drives. All that said I am not seeing any detriment to performance and with this box serving more as cold-to-warm storage I don’t think it will be too unhappy in the long run. I also have email alerts set up so I will actually know when things are wrong. Also got it set up on my pfSense box after setting up an account via this domain for them to use. And I do have it on a UPS (ZFS golden rule).

After a delightful mix of need, inspiration, knowledge and ingenuity I have gotten a rather decent little NAS put together. It has been in 24/7 service a a little over a week at this point. And was in a couple weeks of testing prior to that. I have also been playing with jails and cementing my FreeBSD skills. I am familiar enough with it from my previous Linux experience and from playing around with the it in virtual machines a time or two. I also have some real experience with it in the form of my pfSense box which also runs on FreeBSD.

And after all this I have some advice. Use FreeNAS wizards! They are there for a reason. I followed a myriad of tutorials on properly setting up CIFS(Windows) shares and they all had a mix of what was and wasn’t required and none of them allowed me to reliable access the share. I finally blew thing away and used the wizard and access has been seamless. Similar to certain tasks on the Sonicwalls at my job. Yeah, you can go change the 6 things there are to change to open a port and slam your head on the desk when it doesn’t work…or you can use the wizard have it actually work.



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One response to “From Test-bed to Data-dump”

  1. […] After much searching, I ended up at a machine line that I had drooled over before. The Thinkpad X200 series. It just so happened that Lenovo was releasing the Skylake based X260 soon after I began searching early this year. Initially, they were only offering a 768p screen, I bided my time and eventually they opened up customization and offered 1080p IPS screens. So now it met all my criteria! I saved a little coin by not splurging on the SSDs that Lenovo offered and decided to install a spare ADATA SP600 I had from my TestCore turned FreeNAS. […]

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