Everything Server Build Review

Hey everyone,

I’m looking at building my first proper server computer through a combination of new parts and some old ones I have lying around. I had a ‘server’ previous to this that I would keep in my living room and use for playing media and games off my TV, but some of the components gave out and the case was really big which my girlfriend didn’t like. We’re moving into a new place with a bit more space so I’ll be able to keep this one in my office. As my media library expands (currently just running an external HDD bay hooked up to an NVIDIA Shield running Plex which I backup manually to a second drive whenever I add new media), being unhappy with the performance of the Shield, and my desire to self-host more things for greater control, I’m pulling the trigger on a new proper server.

As this is my first time actually building a server from the ground up with more than just old parts from previous gaming computer builds and my friends, I’m asking for some more feedback and any tips.

TLDR: Building a new computer from previously owned and newly purchased parts. The server will be running Unraid with the *arrs, Plex, several other self-hosted apps. Server will only be used on a local network to start and maybe opened up down the line so I’ll be able to access everything and friends/family for Plex. Check the questions section for what I really want to know.

The Build

PC Part Picker link for those who prefer

Component Model Amount Price (each) Total Source
CPU Intel Core i3-13100 3.4 GHz Quad-Core Processor 1 $199.99 $199.99 Best Buy
CPU Cooler Noctua NH-D14 64.95 CFM CPU Cooler 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Motherboard ASRock Z690 Pro RS ATX LGA1700 Motherboard 1 $199.99 $199.99 Newegg
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 32 GB (4 x 8 GB) DDR4-3600 CL18 Memory 1 $129.99 $129.99 Amazon
GPU MSI VENTUS XS OC GeForce GTX 1660 6 GB Video Card 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Case Fractal Design Define R5 ATX Mid Tower Case 1 $189.99 $189.99 Newegg
PSU Corsair AX760 760 W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Case Fan Noctua A14 FLX 68 CFM 140 mm Fan 5 $0 $0 Previously Owned
UPS CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD UPS 1 $314.99 $314.99 Canada Computers
Storage Dell HBA330 12GB/s Mini Mono SAS HBA - P2R3R 1 $192.36 $192.36 eBay
Storage Seagate Exos X16 16TB (ST16000NM002G) 2 $258.72 $517.44 eBay
Storage Western Digital Red 4 TB 3.5" 5400 RPM Internal Hard Drive 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Storage Western Digital WD_BLACK 2 TB 3.5" 7200 RPM Internal Hard Drive 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Storage Samsung 870 QVO 2 TB 2.5" Solid State Drive 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Modem Technicolor TC4400-AM 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Router TP Link Archer AX1800 1 $0 $0 Previously Owned
Grand Total $1,744.75


  • All prices are in CAD. For eBay sellers, prices listed are after conversion from USD and include shipping + taxes
  • Will run Unraid as an OS with a RAID1 setup
    • 2x12TB will be in the raid setup. Additional HDDs will be used for torrenting and storing things not necessarily used by the server apps.
  • Running Plex (with Plex Plus for hardware transcoding), Sonarr/Radarr/Lidarr, Requestrr (Discord bot), Navidrome (music server), BookStack (wiki), NextCloud (file hosting), PiHole, and a torrenting client (Deluge) 24/7
    • All will be running in Docker containers (hopefully anyways as it will be my first time using Docker)
  • SSD to be used for Plex database/metadata
    • Anything else worth putting on here specifically? Usually I would put the OS, startup apps, games on the computer but what do I do with a server? Games I plan to play via remote play I suppose?
  • Some parts (such as the video card) I already have and are indicated on the spreadsheet
  • The server will be in an office on the 2nd floor with two clients: an NVIDIA Shield on the first floor in my living room and then my gaming computer in the same office as the server. Ideally everything will be wired but I’ll need to fish a cord through my wall to reach the living room/Shield


  • Is it all compatible? I’m comfortable with compatibility on most of the parts however this is my first time using SAS connectors for the HDD. As I only have SATA ports on the mobo I need to use the HBA to plug into a PCI-E slot and then connect the HBA to the SAS HDDs, is this correct?
    • My understanding is that there’s no performance difference or other considerations to take into when using the HBA vs. onboard SAS connectors
  • Will SATA power cords work with SAS HDDs? I’ve read conflicting older comments online but from pictures I’ve seen it looks like the SATA would be fine
  • Looking to make this as quiet as possible, any tips or suggestions?
  • Not necessarily attached to the case so I’m really open to suggestions here. Ideally I want it to be sleek, easy to work inside of, and quiet
  • Is this overkill? Any parts you’d recommend swapping out in favour of others?

Down the line

  • Opening up the server to the internet so I can access it remotely and set my family up on Plex
  • Eventually will build a NAS for backing up data on the server and moving NextCloud and maybe media files for Plex
  • Setting up the machine to remote play once I have the server apps figured out and setup
  • Potentially running game servers (Minecraft and Valheim are the only two that I think I would run at this time)

Thanks for reading all that and for any feedback in advance! Let me know if I need to clarify anything too.

Welcome to Server Builds!

So right off the bat the build you have outlined is overkill for the use case you mentioned. (NAS, Media Server and Game Server)

The typical strategy here is to use older used parts with the aim of building a value server that will get you most of the performance of new hardware for a fraction of the cost. The current price performance inflection point for intel seems to be the 8th / 9th Gen platform like the NK 6.0 build.

You should be able to get the same functionality and experience with an i3-8100 or i5-8500 and save a couple hundred dollars. That said I’m not sure what the market for used parts is like in Canada. If used or older generation gear just isn’t available at a lower price then there is not much you can do, but I would scour ebay; there are many US sellers who will ship anywhere in North America and Chinese sellers who will ship worldwide.

There are a few things I would reconsider regardless:

Premium RAM
Look for budget DDR4-3200 at a lower cost. Don’t pay more for faster or lower latency RAM, you will see no benefit for you use case.

Dell HBA
I would recommend against the Dell HBA. That is very expensive; for instance the HBA in the NK6 build is $9. The branded HBAs made for Dell, HP, IBM etc may have proprietary firmware that may cause issues flashing to IT mode or may not play well with Unraid. If you need an HBA I would stick with a standard LSI or Adaptec, but I think you may not need an HBA at all.

SAS vs SATA Drives
I would also recommend against the Seagate Exos SAS drives. The reason that many of the builds on these forums have SAS HBAs is because they are buying used enterprise SAS drives dirt cheap. Used enterprise gear is really cheap but new enterprise gear is really expensive. If you are buying new you can save some money by buying SATA drives and using the onboard SATA on your motherboard. The cheapest SATA drives are the “shuckables” that are sold in USB enclosures however you never know what you are going to get and it won’t have a warranty.

Drive Capacity
The way the main Unraid disk array works is not RAID (hence Un-Raid). You give up 1 drive to parity protect all the other drives in the array no matter how many of them there are. So with only 2 drives it is similar to RAID1 in that you lose half your capacity, but the more drives you can add the smaller the proportion of your total disk space you give up to parity. So 2x 16TB drives will get you 16TB space, but 4x 8TB or 3x 12TB would get you 24TB of space. Depending on pricing you might be able to add more capacity to your array with a larger number of lower capacity drives.

Other Thoughts

I have used the Fractal Define R5 and it is a very nice case. I wouldn’t call it Sleek; it is quite large, but it is well built, easy to work in, and quiet.

In Unraid you can set up your NVME SSD as a cache pool and use it for more than just Plex data. You can use it as a cache pool for all of your docker and VM data (appdata, domains, and system) or potentially all of your shares.

Hope some of that helps.

1 Like

Thanks for the warm welcome, your post was extremely helpful too! I have a few more questions and points based off of your post if that’s alright.

  • I’ll have to take a peek at the used market a bit more thoroughly but I was mostly trying to shoot for new on all of the parts as I’m a bit skeptical with buying used electronics online. A lot of the recommendations for eBay stores I do see online tend to be US focused as well too, but I’ll take a closer peek this week. I’ve also heard Chinese sellers often sell bad/fake hardware?

  • For the RAM brands would their be any brands you would avoid or recommend? Typically when looking for brands when building gaming computers G.Skill, Corsair, Kingston, and others are often recommended so those were brands I was looking for. Thanks for the heads up on avoiding fast/low-latency models as well.

  • I’ll look at other models for the HBA then as I just went with the cheapest card I could find based on the specs I was looking for. However I think I do need an HBA unless your comment about not potentially not needing one is based off your suggestion for picking used parts and winding up with a different motherboard? The motherboard in my build only has SATA ports and I need SAS ports which the HBA provides (unless I’m completely missing some other info which is entirely possible).

  • The drives were actually used ones sold on eBay by ServerPartDeals lol.. The price I listed would be in Canadian after conversion/tax/shipping. We just tend to get hosed financially on pretty much everything. Comparatively, this is a decent price per TB for consumer models I was seeing online (at least when buying new). I had ultimately opted for Enterprise models based on their reliance/lifespan overall. I’d be open to different opinions though, I know there was a Backblaze article on consumer/enterprise drive lifespans that found little difference but I felt that was a small sample size compared to the many others I find preaching online about enterprise reliability.

  • On your drive capacity points, thanks this was a huge oversight. I wasn’t fully aware of how Unraid worked. I’ll definitely move to smaller capacity drives then.

  • Great to hear about the R5 :slight_smile:

  • I’ll be doing a bit more reading on the cache pool too, thanks! Glad to have an actual use for the SSD.

Thanks again for your help!

Used Electronics on Ebay
I have bought a lot of used components from eBay and maybe I’ve been lucky but a vast majorly have worked without issues. Typically when I do get a part that is DOA or has some major issue I have been able to work out a return or replacement with the seller. Ebay is buyer beware so pay attention to things like the sellers feedback and of course unlike buying new you won’t get no-questions-asked returns or warranties.

Chinese Sellers
I have bought some stuff from Chinese sellers and have not personally had any issues with broken or fake parts. I do typically try to buy from sellers in North America and will often pay a bit of a premium but that has more to do with shipping time. The main downside of purchasing from China in my opinion is just that it takes a long time to receive your purchase, typically 2 - 4 weeks as apposed to a week or less for domestic sellers.

I wouldn’t sweat the brand of RAM. Premium ram with high speeds and low latency are typically targeted at gaming PCs and even there I’m a little skeptical it really makes a difference in most cases. For your Home server / NAS you won’t see a performance difference and the main decision you need to make is whether or not you want ECC. Pretty much any DDR4 Ram these days will have no issues running 3200Mhz with loose timings so cheap Ram from any name brand manufacture should work just fine.

When I mentioned that you might not need an HBA I was assuming you had not bought drives yet and was suggesting that yo get SATA drives and just use the onboard SATA ports on your motherboard. If you have SAS drives you will need an HBA.

I would recommend getting a used LSI HBA. There are a bunch of them but most any of them should work. Probably an LSI 92XX-8i or 93XX-8i I would expect to pay between $10 and $50 USD depending on what you get. You will need SAS data cables and they will work with your SATA power cables from your power supply. Even if your drives are technically 12G SAS you can still use an older 6G SAS HBA and get the same performance. You won’t hit the 6G limit with spinning rust, 12G only really matters with newer faster more expensive SSD SAS drives.

If the HBA is a Raid card you will want to flash it to IT mode before attaching drives. I would recommend against using Hardware Raid in general.

Hard Drives
The price for those 16TB is much more reasonable in CAD than the USD I had in mind. While I do hold that used electronics are fine, most don’t wear out under normal use; Hard Drives are the exception. They do have moving parts and they do wear out over time. I still typically go for used drives as, at least where I am, they are so much cheaper that I can buy a couple extra drives in case one fails and still come out ahead on cost.

Enterprise vs Consumer
New out of the box enterprise drives should be more reliable and have a longer service life, but the flip side when buying used is that the enterprise drives have been used in an enterprise environment and likely have a lot of miles on them. Enterprise drives are very expensive new but tend to be very cheap used. I suppose my recommendation would be to buy new or lightly used consumer drives with warranties or cheap used enterprise drives.

I typically go for used enterprise drives and some of them do have some pretty high numbers racked up in the SMART info, but I figure that my usage is very light compared to enterprise use cases so hopefully the drive will continue to work for a while yet (knocking on wood). Your mileage may vary. What you choose is going to be a bit of a calculus based on your budget, your capacity needs, how much you trust the used drive, and how much you value a warranty.

A good resource for used enterprise drives, HBAs, and other used enterprise gear is Rhino Technology Group on Ebay. He is an active member on the Serverbuilds forums ( easyrhino) and will post deals here and will often extend buy it now offers to other forum members. He is a legit seller and lots of folks on here have bought from him. The international shipping prices on Ebay may be pretty high by default but if you reach out to him directly on Ebay he may be able to reduce the shipping costs some for you.

I’m not necessarily saying to get lower capacity drives, just pointing out that 2 drives is a worst case scenario as far as how much capacity goes to parity and that you might technically get more capacity per dollar using a larger number of smaller drives.

That said one of the biggest advantages of Unraid / JBOD over a Raid based system like TrueNAS / ZFS is that it is very easy to add additional and presumably over time you will add more drives to your array. Once you start to fill up your NAS with drives the higher the density the better as that will determine your max capacity when full. The right size drive is something you will have to determine for yourself based on your budget, current capacity needs, and your future expansion plans. If you have less than say 10TB of data now, but think you might add 1 or 2 drives over the next few years then 16TB or even larger might be best.

Unraid and Cache Pools
A good resource for learning about Unraid is the youtube creator Space Invader One. He has a bunch of detailed guides on the different aspects of Unraid and I think he does a good job of explaining both how to set things up and also why. Here are a couple of video he did on working with cache pools:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij8AOEF1pTU (This one is a little out of date with the current version of Unraid but the concepts still apply)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXF8au5o9Tw (This is a more advanced use of ZFS and cache drives)

Good luck with your build.

1 Like

Used Electronics
After poking around I think I’m comfortable with it. I haven’t purchased anything yet and while I want to get it up sooner than later, April is my target date for having everything online (due to life stuff). If it comes to me having to return anything, I can wait some time. If I can get it up sooner though, even better.

Chinese Sellers
Typically I’ve always avoided them but your points are good to know nonetheless, especially since I’ll be building/setting this up over the course of a few months.

Thanks, your points on RAM will save me a nice chunk of change. Guess I’ll be grabbing the cheapest on the shelf that meets the necessary criteria!

Yeah, nothing has been purchased as of yet. I just wanted to clarify in case there wasn’t something I was aware of. I’ll keep an eye out for the 92/93 8i series LSI cards as I search on eBay if I decide on going the SAS drive route. What you’ve said about 12G/6G I have been reading around on and you’ve confirmed.

Hard Drives
Yeah I was a bit surprised overall, when comparing it against Canadian prices it doesn’t work out to be too bad. With the inclusion of an HBA I’m probably looking closer to $23/TB but that would go down if I decide to add more drives.

Enterprise vs Consumer
Based on your comments and what I’ve been reading, I think I’ll end up going whatever is going to cost less

Yeah, I had seen him mentioned on here and I know he’s an affiliate as well. The site (and you as well) have been a great resource to me so if I could buy from an affiliate so the site also gets a kickback that’s a win-win. However, I did notice his prices on shipping were considerably higher. When comparing against Server Part Deals on eBay who is also shipping from the US, the prices come to $741 USD from RTG vs $660 USD from RTG. Despite the product being cheaper on RTG, the total is bumped up considerably by his shipping charges. Thanks for his info, I’ll reach out directly to see if he’ll be do anything about the shipping charges.

I think I’ve finally come to a decision of 3x16TB or 3x18TB as I want to set this up and be set for a while (hopefully anyways). Ultimately coming down to the difference in price.

Unraid and Cache Pools
Appreciate the links, it’s given me something to watch and learn about when things are slow at work :slight_smile:

Thanks again for all your help Ian, I really do appreciate you taking the time to write such thorough and well written posts. I’ll probably try and do a post of me building it and document my success/failures here for others.