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This guide is an extension of the OTiS build guide. Basically, it’s an off-the-shelf NAS using (mostly) brand new parts, with the latest technology like Intel QuickSync and native NVMe support.
It’s centered around the U-NAS NSC-800 8-bay enclosure. It’s normally pretty expensive at $210 + shipping (without PSU!), but there’s quite a few available in brand new condition from an ebay seller for almost half that cost (with PSU!). Using the model off of ebay, I thought I’d throw together a modern NAS build and thoroughly document the process.
Currently, this guide will only cover hardware. I may add my experiences with Unraid and/or FreeNAS at a later time.
To navigate the thread, click on the sections on the right hand side.
I’ve always thought this chassis was super cool, but extremely overpriced. It retails for $200 + shipping, not including the $120 PSU, and $20 worth of cables and screws. Luckily, an ebay seller has a handful of these available with PSU included, for around $160 shipped - less than half the retail cost. That has me interested.
- 8 hotswap SAS/SATA 3.5"/2.5" bays
- Standard Mini-ITX motherboard support
- Quiet 400W 80+ Gold PSU
- Quiet 2x120mm fans
- Outstanding quality, fit, and finish
- Affordable and more powerful compared to other 8-bay off-the-shelf solutions
- A little tricky to work in
- Need to replace cables for SAS support
- No screws included
- Mini-ITX motherboards are expensive and lacking features
- Expensive compared to other 8-bay white-box NAS’s like the NAS Killer 4.0
If you have these handy, great! These are the tools that I used to complete this build.
I highly recommend a magnetic screw tray and flashlight for this build. There are a ton of tiny screws that love to yeet themselves across the room if you look at them the wrong way. Also, your working space inside the chassis is very confined, so having a small flashlight (that isn’t your phone) helps out with that too.
Parts I used for this exact build
If you want to replicate my build exactly, these are the parts I used. If you’d like some substitution options, I’ll cover that in the next section below.
Please note that the U-NAS on ebay does not come with any mounting screws, so at minimum you need 3.5" and/or 2.5" HDD screws, as well as the motherboard and risers screws.
|Case||U-NAS||NSC-800||Cheaper on ebay||$128.99|
|PSU||U-NAS||400W 80+ Gold||incl.||-----|
|CPU Cooler||Arctic||Alpine 12 LP||$9.99|
|RAM||TEAMGROUP||1x 16GB 2666MHz||$45.99|
|SSD||Gigabyte||1TB M.2 NVMe||$109.99|
|SSD Heatsink||Eluteng||2 pack||5% coupon||$8.07|
|SAS HBA||LSI||9207-8i||after OBO||$38.00|
|SAS Cable||CableCreation||2xSFF-8087 breakout||$14.99|
|PCIe Riser||LEIHONG||x8 to x16||10% coupon||$8.98|
|Fans||Arctic||P12 PWM PST||$30.00|
|Screws||UXCELL||#6 countersunk||for 3.5" HDD||$7.99|
|Screws||UXCELL||M3 countersunk||for 2.5" SSD/HDD||$8.49|
|Screws||Honbay||M3 truss||for mobo + riser||$5.99|
Substitutions & Considerations
The PSU is perfect. It’s extremely quiet and very energy efficient. I don’t see a reason to replace it.
Take a look the CPU section for the OTiS build guide, as this one is based on that.
This is the only CPU cooler I’m aware of that will fit, and even it needs some modification. Be careful if you choose a different motherboard, as the socket position could be different than the one I have listed here, causing more interference.
With the i5-8500T and all 8 drives spinning, I’m seeing idle temps of around 37C. I do run the heat in our house, ambient temp is around 22C (71F).
It’s a NAS, so you can pretty much use whatever is cheapest. I linked the cheapest 16GB stick available at the time time of writing. If you want more, just double it up for 32GB.
I received these drives from bitdeals.tech (@BitDeals) specifically for this project, special shoutout to them for that.
Most of you will end up using WD shuckable HDDs, which are totally fine too.
Keep an eye on the vendor direct deals section as well.
Again, what SSD you use is really up to you and your specific needs. The motherboard supports 22110 length M.2 NVMe SSDs which opens up your options quite a bit. I would highly recommend using a heatsink for your NVMe drive (at minimum the controller) as airflow will be limited.
Check out these recent SSD deals and related threads:
- RhinoTech SSD deals - NVMe, SAS, & SATA
- [Official] NVMe FAQ & Info - M.2, U.2, heatsinks, and more!
- Samsung PM953 960GB M.2 NVMe SSD - $80 OBO free shipping
- Seagate Nytro 5000 Capacity 1.92TB 3D MLC NVMe 22110 [1.05 PBW endurance] - $199 free shipping
- Toshiba XD5 M.2 22110 2TB Enterprise NVMe SSD - $178.97
The LSI 9207-8i is perfect for the job here. It comes with both brackets, it uses PCIe 3.0 for higher bandwidth, and supports both 4Kn and 512n drives. It’s also IT mode only, so it doesn’t need to be reflashed for Unraid, FreeNAS, and the like.
Mildly angry rant with TLDR below.
Alright, this one’s a doozie. While the U-NAS NSC-800 is pre-wired with SFF-8087 breakout cables and has a SAS/SATA backplane, the cables themselves are not capable of carrying a SAS signal - only SATA. I could not get my SAS drives to spin up, no matter what I tried. The 3.3v mod is already taken care of because the backplanes are molex powered, so that wasn’t the issue. I tried SATA drives, and they worked. Odd. I swapped SAS HBAs, same effect. Tried removing the PCIe riser, same problem.
I looked at U-NAS’s site to see if they sold the cable directly, of course they don’t have any info on it. However, looking at the pictures, I spotted the part number printed on a label on the cable upside down. Typing the model “rms36-1908” resulted in this page, which of course had to be translated to english. And if you scroll down, what do you know… “In addition: Amphenol MINI SFF-8087 TO SATA3 x 4 silver-white cable body supports 6G black braided coating, only SATA interface SSD and hard disk can be connected for reference!” Bingo.
Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to make a SFF-8087 breakout cable only capable of SATA drives? Why would U-NAS use this cable when they explicitly state SAS & SATA compatibility, especially when the backplanes themselves have “SAS” printed on them? To make matters worse, U-NAS is charging $20 + shipping for a single one of these half-baked cables, when you can buy a pair of REAL SFF-8087 cables that are SAS AND SATA compatible for less than $15. Unbelievable.
TLDR: Buy new cables and throw the pre-wired ones in the trash. Even if you’re only using SATA drives, you’ll thank yourself later.
Just a bunch of packages! The U-NAS box is huge, definitely oversized.
Somehow the U-NAS was both simultaneously adequately and inadequately packaged.
The foam was tightly conformed to the U-NAS, but there was plenty of room for all of it to move around.
The front is metal, but covered in some sort of “soft touch” coating. It’s very odd. In pictures it looks like plastic, but it’s not. In person it’s feels very premium. I can imagine it would be hard to keep clean if you’re prone to skin cheese.
The ebay listing makes it look blue, but it’s not. It’s just black. Beneath the protective sticker is a black brushed piece of metal. It’ll look nice when it’s removed, but I’m going to wait until later to remove it.
Apparently, there are blue versions in the wild… I’ve yet to seen clear pictures of one.
There are 5 tiny black screws on the top panel that need to be removed in order to access the inside.
Pre-wired for SATA, Mini-ITX plastic sheet to protect the mobo from grounding, PSU included…
ASPOWER U1A-C20400-D 400W 80+ Gold PSU.
Front panel connector with USB 3.0. The front panel header on mine was a little bent on mine, but functioning.
Remove the drive sleds by depressing the small silver tab under the handle.
The drive sleds are vented and well made. I think they look pretty cool too.
The U-NAS has 2 4-bay direct passthrough backplanes which support SATA/SAS drives. Each backplane is molex powered, so no 3.3v mod necessary - it’s already done for you.
Download the manual now!
Single Intel GbE NIC, 2 DDR4 DIMM slots, 4 SATA ports, PCIe x16, M.2 NVMe 2280/22110 length support.
It also has Wireless AC built in, but most of us won’t use that.
The i5-8500T is an affordable low-power 6C CPU that also has Intel QuickSync. It’s pretty versatile and should perform well in a variety of applications.
Installing 12GB of RAM - 8GB and 4GB sticks. The 8GB stick is in slot A1, the 4GB in B1.
I’m using a 1TB 2280 length M.2 NVMe drive from Gigabyte. Not for any particular reason, it’s just what I had around. I would highly recommend installing a heatsink on your NVMe drive, because it won’t be getting much airflow.
Arctic Alpine 12 with Gelid GC Extreme.
Even before attempting to install this into the U-NAS, it was pretty clear it was too tall. So I dug out an Intel stock HSF from a Pentium Gold.
Cleaned off the stock TIM, I’m at least going to Gelid this if I have to use a crappy cooler.
Much shorter… should be enough clearance.
Upgrading the Case Fans
Sorry U-NAS, I know better than you do. Gelid makes OK fans, but I’m going to use Arctic P12 PWM PST.
There are 8 screws to remove, 4 for each fan.
Turns out, even though the fans are completely unscrewed, you can’t remove the fans from the case. There just isn’t enough room.
There are 13 of these silver screws holding the black metal backplate onto the case. Remove these so we can get to the fans. Note that the 2 screws attached to the power supply are larger.
Don’t forget two on the sides…
And 3 on the bottom.
Back plate removed. It would have been easier for me to install the IO shield at this point.
Finally, I can remove these.
While we’re here, we have a good look at the HDD backplane. You can see there’s one physical SATA port for each drive, and 4 molex power connectors, 2 for each backplane. It was nice that it’s already pre-wired.
Arctic P12 PWM PST fans installed.
The wire is on the bottom, hopefully it makes cable management a little easier…
Connect the Front Panel
It won’t be possible to plug in your front panel with the motherboard installed, so now is a good time to do it.
More Heatsink Woes
This crossbar is in the way of a portion of the backplane. There are 4, removing one shouldn’t be an issue.
Looks like it fits…
Had to trim up a little more.
It still doesn’t quite fit. The motherboard will not mount up properly, as the backplane/cage is still making contact with the fan.
Arctic Alpine 12 LP
Finally, to the rescue - a properly sized CPU cooler.
It’s much shorter than even the Intel HSF.
I still had to do the same mod, clipping the fan brace. Again, 3/4 is plenty for this cooler. Just make sure you don’t clip the one with the fan power cable.
Motherboard + CPU Power Cables
Now is a good time to connect your 24-pin ATX power connector.
With the 24 pin installed, it’s now time to modify the 8-pin EPS cable.
As you can see, the motherboard standoff gets in the way of the EPS cable.
Remove the plastic retaining latches and reinstall the cable.
There’s plenty of room now!
Reinstall the Back Panel
Note where the fan wiring is being run.
Don’t forget, the PSU uses the 2 larger screws.
Plug the fan in behind the USB 3.0 connector. It’s a tight fit, a screwdriver and some finagling should help.
Install the PCIe Riser & SAS HBA
Lay out the riser, and plug it in.
My LSI 9207-8i came with both brackets, we’ll need to swap to the high profile bracket.
Screw down your riser with two screws, then install your LSI HBA.
I folded the extra riser length over the top.
Don’t forget to plug in the Molex connections for the backplane.
Make sure any and all wires are clear of the rear fans and the CPU HSF.
(a flashlight may help)
4TB HGST 7200 RPM SAS drives.
4 Supermicro-style drive sled screws are used on each drive. They have a bevel and sit flat when properly installed.
You can also use the bottom screw holes if you prefer.
There are native mounts for 2.5" SSD/HDD as well.
The right side (or bottom) has a plastic light pipe that shows power status and usage leds from the backplane.
Slide the drive in, label on the right.
Just reverse the process, and close the latch.
Here’s what a drive looks like installed into the backplane.
28+ lb with 8 drives installed.
All powered up!
Bonus 1: DAS Build
Want a dead simple 8-bay DAS? All you need is the U-NAS case, and a few parts.
|Case||U-NAS||NSC-800||Cheaper on ebay||$128.99|
|PSU||U-NAS||400W 80+ Gold||incl.||-----|
|PSU Jumper||Coolwin||24 pin||$6.85|
|SAS Expander||HP||24 drive 3Gbps||$17.90|
|PCIe Power||UBit||Minig Riser||$9.98|
Basically, you need the PSU to turn on when it receives power. The ATX jumper allows that to happen. The mining riser uses 4-pin molex to power the HP SAS expander. An external LSI SAS HBA in your main server will connect via SFF-8088 to your DAS’s external port on the HP SAS expander. The backplane inside the U-NAS is connected via SFF-8087 to the HP SAS expander.
Bonus 2: W-NAS
W-NAS = Double U-NAS
So, we’re going to combine the main NAS and DAS builds for a 16 bay build. Obviously, you’ll need 2 U-NAS NSC-800, and the parts for both builds.
The difference here is that you need a LSi 9207-4i4e card, instead of the usual LSI 9207-8i. We’ll be running 4 of the main NAS’s bays on the motherboard’s onboard SATA controller, and 4 from the “4i” (internal) portion of the SAS HBA. The “4e” (external) portion of the card will connect to the HP SAS expander of the DAS, for its 8 bays. The only downside to this is that 4 of the 16 bays will be SATA only, while the other 12 will be SATA or SAS.