Is unRAID right for my use cases?

I’m currently getting in new parts for a server build and have seen a ton of raving reviews of unRAID. I’ve done some research and just by looking at a few forum posts and spaceinvader one videos it looks like it would be perfect for me, pending a few concerns.

The server’s primary purpose is Plex and I’ll be transcoding 4K and tone mapping HDR to SDR on a 12600K using the iGPU. My first concern is 12th gen support. I’ve read that the iGPU will be supported in linux kernel 5.16 coming this weekend. Can I update the kernel manually? Or am I at the mercy of unRAID? I think this article is what I’m looking for, but I want to make sure there are no weird downsides or things that will completely break by doing this since this is my first real step into anything linux-based. I saw that the latest 6.10 rc2 only supports kernel 5.14 and released back in September. I would really prefer to not have to wait months to use my iGPU’s hardware acceleration.

Similarly, I heard unRAID and linux in general don’t do well with Alder Lake’s big and little cores. Is this still true? Apparently proper thread scheduling is coming, but I am again concerned about having to wait months after official release to use it. I am fine disabling the E cores for now in BIOS as long as performance will take full advantage of the remaining P cores until full support arrives.

I will need to run a Windows VM that doesn’t need to be high performance, but it will need to run 24/7 and not be a laggy mess. Is it possible for me to have Plex use hardware-accelerated transcoding on the iGPU and have the VM run at the same time? Or would I need a dedicated GPU to pass through to the VM? I think I have a very old NVIDIA GPU with s-video out, but don’t remember the model. I have cloud backup software and I will need to pass a few folders from unRAID to the VM so they appear in Windows as network drives. *Is it possible for these folders (I think they’d be made as “shares” in unRAID?) to be accessed by Plex, arr applications, and Windows VM for read and write at all times?

I also have a few questions about shares and the general drive usage in unRAID. Say my array has two 4TB drives (ignoring parity for now) and one of my shares is my Plex movie “folder”. What happens if I have more than 4TB of movies in there? If I go to browse the directories, how will the movies folder appear across the two different disks? I don’t care how it’s split necessarily. But if I want to manually go through and mux in an extra audio or subtitle track to a movie, I need to be able to know where to find it.

Also, I’m sure this information is out there, but does anyone have a good video or writeup in layman’s terms of all the different ways drives can be handled in unRAID? I think I understand the general array and parity drives. I don’t understand pool/cache devices and their benefits and downsides, nor unassigned devices and where they can and can’t be used. I know that unRAID boots from a USB, but I bought a TB NVME SSD to act as what I thought would be a regular server boot drive that would store things like Plex metadata (thumbnails and posters) so they are quick to load. Can I still use that drive for this purpose, to run the windows VM off of, and install all my containers on so they are snappier?

Sorry for all the questions, I just want to make sure this is actually the right platform for me. I tried to look most of this up, but I don’t think my query terms were great. Thanks in advance to anyone able to answer any part(s) of this.

Unraid runs a specialized kernel it’s not a mainstream Linux kernel to which you refer to. For instance my machine runs 5.10.28-Unraid. There may be ways of installing newer kernels possibly by using the release candidate version but generally any kind of server software is going to be well behind and for good reason.

Yes I believe you can set up a Plex docker and integrate the iGPU for transcoding purposes though I believe it’s at a reduced capacity. You don’t really need a GPU for a Windows VM unless you intend to use for remote gaming.

For shares: There may be multiple ways of achieving this but I believe you would need to install “Unassigned Drives” and then add a “Disk Share” via smb/nfs share. Then make sure your Plex docker has that additional host path directory added. Then Plex would be able to see the share. It being a cloud share gets out of my wheelhouse.

Array questions:

All of Unraid runs off a usb flash drive or I believe sata-dom if your motherboard has it. You cannot use a ssd of any kind as far as I’m aware.

use your nvme as a cache so writes to your array is faster

Basically if you want to get into doing this stuff you are just going to have to read, read, and read. SpaceInvader and IBRACORP have decent youtube content on UnRaid.

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It cannot run off of a SATA-DOM, it needs to be run off of a USB.