Modyfing a case for NAS?

Hello everyone,

I’ve been reading the forum for some time but it’s my first post.

Has anyone tried to add extra HDD bays the DIY way and would share some tips?

Here’s my situation. I have a small pile of PC parts that I’d like to reuse, it includes about a dozen disks of 1-3 TB size, both 3.5" and 2.5". I’ve got several low-power x86 mini-PCs which would be great for NAS, except that they come in a tiny case that only holds one 2.5" disk. Finally, I’ve got a few older PCs in tower cases but even those only take 2-3 HDDs. But their PSUs are powerful enough for multiple disks, especially if the motherboard is replaced with the low-power one from the mini-PC (to be fair, I didn’t check the compatibility, only assumed it for now - in the worst case I can keep the old motherboard). And they have plenty of empty space in the useless 5.25" bays and on the bottom of the case. So the only problem is physically mounting the disks.

Now, I don’t have much skills working with metal. So I’m thinking of something like scavenging HDD trays from old cases. Or perhaps buying some, but I have no idea where to look or even how these things would be called. Or maybe some standard angle brackets from any hardware store would do the job? I’m curious what worked for you.

(also, I’m quite aware that the cheapest, fastest and generally sanest option would be to ditch my old drives and buy 2 large ones that would fit into a standard case, but that’s not the purpose of this exercise)

A less cutting and griding approach would be to use one of the PCs that has at least one PCIe slot and get an external HBA to pair with another PC to just use for its slots and psu.

Else, the only USB expansion option I can recall ever seeing recommended on the discord is
but it probably doesn’t reach your cost efficiency goals

there are a number of 5.25 to 3.5 or 2.5 bay converters out there. I use a 2-5.25 to 3-3.5 in my box right now. has a fan - doesn’t have a backplane - and the drives work well there.

You could take apart the mini pc and move the board - get you a HBA and then run the drives in the old PC box. one thing would be to see if the MB tray already has the holes for the standoffs to support that smaller board. you should do a lot of measuriing and test fitting before you begin.

Another thing I might consider would be to take the mb out of the old box - put a HBA with External SAS connectors in the mini PC if it will fit. and then turn the old box into a dumb drive holder with the mini pc running the show and the old box with PSU holding the drives.

Meanwhile with your mix of drives it sounds like no matter what you will do you will need some customization to use those drives.

but it’s doable. My test rig as I was trying to figure out what OS setup I wanted to use - I ran 4- 500gb, 7200RPM sata Laptop drives because I had them and I was playing with ZFS. For that setup I ended up seperating then with luan plywood and a homemade spacer thing - worked ok but not how I wanted to keep running it. I’d have used sheet AL but the ply I had on hand. Luan plywood is thin (5.2mm) smooth backing plywood. not pretty but strong and relatively cheap and smooth.

Thanks for the replies. USB option is something I’d rather avoid. I now have a “provisional NAS” with USB drives, but that means no RAID, low performance and unreliable connections. A two case solutions would work, but I see some problems: harder to move, more points of failure, more power usage.

Plywood: yes, I thought about that too. I could easily make HDD trays or even the whole case from wood, plywood etc. and it might even look good. But wood is a thermal insulator, I think it would make the system run hotter.

Oh well, I never used my angle grinder on the PC, but there’s always the first time.

There are some high end cases made of wood but that’s not quite what I meant. using ply to make an screw adapter plate to move from 5.25 to 3.5 etc is easy enough - of course if I had a 3d printer I’d consider using that.

but leave some space for air gaps.

I do still think with measurement you could take the mini-pc apart and put the components in the larger case then if it has the expansion slot - run an HBA and run your drives. I assume it’s an ITX board or such and that should fit but getting the right stand off holes to mate will be the issue. This is all a guess sight unseen from across the internets.

first off welcome to the chaos.

I alluded to it above but you could take your mini pc and put in a controller card with external SAS ports. I know the LSi ones have versions like that I think the adaptec ones do too.

From there you run a SAS cable from the mini- to your other PC case. Here you’ll gut the pc and keep the PSU and the mount your drives however - keep some fans. The controller card in the other machine runs the drives and the other pc case with PSU and fans - powers and cools the drives held in. To the OS it looks like it’s one box but it’s not.