Mounir ORFI

Yet another network engineer...

Building a Cheapie FreeNAS Box

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Being tired of burning DVDs and copying files to external HD (which always fails when you least expect it !) I decided to build a NAS.

This blogpost details briefly the building process and the issues I faced (mainly related to the hardware I bought…)


A reliable and redundant storage solution without spending too much money on it, that’s all, actually performance isn’t really important for me.


  • Two internal Hard drives: WESTERN DIGITAL Caviar Green WD20EARX 3.5”, 2Tb each.
  • A small microATX desktop: basically a D945GCLF2 motherboard with an Intel(R) Atom(TM) CPU 330 @ 1.60GHz, 998MB RAM.
  • TDK 8GB TRANS-IT USB2.0 Flash Drive

Assembling the box

The biggest issue I faced was that the desktop case is only meant to hold a single 3.5” HD, buying a new case isn’t an option :D, so I decided to remove the small rails (drive bay) and mount the HDs directly on the case side as pictured below:

The HDs are solidely attached to the case but the case won’t close ! mainly due to the audio jack connectors being too high. As I will not need sound after all I decided to remove them the hard way (desoldering isn’t easy because of the lead-free solder used). I accidentaly removed a small SMD cap, fortunately it was directly connected to one of the audio jack pins.

When trying to connect everything I noticed that a power cable was missing… in fact the internal power supply only provide two Molex and one SATA connector. I of course need two SATA connectors so I had to convert one of the Molex to SATA (I removed a SATA connector from another power supply I had):

Finally I wanted to place the USB-stick (which will hold the OS) inside the case too, so instead of moving the frontal USB connectors board inside, I ended up making a small USB cable and using the free USB pins directly from the motherboard, as follow:


I used FreeNAS, it’s free and powerfull, one of the best options out there. The configuration is pretty straight forward, everything could be set up from the GUI.

I went with a UFS in RAID 1 (mirroring). I am planning to add more RAM later on in order to use ZFS.

Have a look at the official FreeNAS documentation if you need to learn more about it.