Overwhelmed Noob...patience please

Hey, folks. My name is Eric and I’m hoping you can help me. As I am getting older, my ADD and anxiety are wreaking havoc with my ability to focus and grasp new things, so I’m pretty confused and hope folks have enough patience to put up with me. I think maybe 20 years ago I’d have been able to skim through all this and run with it, but these days I’m having a ton of trouble following things and I keep getting frustrated to the point of giving up. Thanks in advance for anyone who has the courage to jump in here.

I have (or rather, had) Plex running on my gaming PC with an old 8-bay Drobo holding all my drives. The Drobo stopped staying on and when it would stay on, the USB kept losing connection, so I’m guessing it’s hosed for all practical purposes and I need to start from scratch.

Basically, I used to just run everything on this gaming system and put up with the occasional system slow-down when someone was watching a stream that seemed to want to tax my rig. I’m guessing it was something to do with transcoding? Anyway, I am hoping to take this opportunity to get everything off my Fun PC and move it to a media-centric system totally dedicated to Plex. Having said that, I know nothing about Ubuntu, pfSense, unraid, and 90% of anything else mentioned in the topics I’ve read so far. I am seeing, however, that there are builds that can be put together for a lot cheaper than I was expecting which is something that I DO understand, but I’m not sure which I should pursue. I’d initially planned to budget around $1k for this new build and from what I gather, that’s way more than enough (?).

So, here are the things I want to accomplish:

  1. Use as much existing hardware as I can, if it’s actually useful. For example, I have a huge full tower Antec case with lots of drive space, so maybe I won’t need to buy a new one? I also have a spare GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and I might be able to cannibalize some other things from my old rig. However, I know it might be better to just start fresh or maybe the things I have aren’t useable at all or maybe there are things that would be more compatible when used together?

  2. I’d like my 2 local streams to be 4k/UHD, if possible. I also have 2-3 outside users that will be streaming and I’d like their experience to be as reasonably good as possible (1080p?/4k?).

  3. If it matters, I’m on 1gb fiber up and down, my local network cables are all CAT-7. The two local TVs are directly attached to the Netgear Nighthawk X10 R9000 router with said cables.

Questions I have:

  1. From what I’ve read, unless I want to drop 2 or 3k (or more), going with another Drobo-like machine (QNAP, Synology, etc.) shouldn’t be on my radar as I can get better results with one of these other systems for a lot less, right?

  2. What are the pros/cons between a case-based and a rack-mounted system? If I go with one of the rack builds I saw, can I just stick that rack on a shelf or do I also need to buy some kind of server rack thing to mount it in?

  3. Given my wants/needs, which build should I go with? I have no concept of what the quality differences would be between a hardware transcode system, a 2.0 SNAFU, or a NAS Killer 4.0. Which one is going to give the best results with the least amount of stress on my part (see below).

  4. I am getting the impression that Windows isn’t the ideal OS to be running, but I have absolutely no clue what Ubuntu is, much less how to use it. Am I going to have to go through a steep learning curve and a long process just to be able to get my media accessible again?

  5. Are people ready to shoot me yet? Or kick me off of here? I really am sorry and I wish I didn’t have to bother anyone with all this. I feel like I’m turning into my parents, at least when it comes to this particular topic. :frowning:

Thanks in advance if anyone steps into this minefield.

You should be able to reuse the case you have as long as it will hold the size board you buy. Streaming 4k locally is fine as long as your hardware supports it but the recommendation is to put 4k in a separate library that is not shared.

You can use whatever case you want. If you use a rack mount case it can also just be set wherever you want it. Even on its side like a tower.

I would say most people would recommend going with the NAS killer 4.0 or 4.1 for media storage and then doing a seperate HP290 for quicksync for the plex server.

Unraid is really popular around here for the NAS. It does cost money but is really worth it in terms of ease of use.

Follow the guide for the NAS Killer, move your media to it. Setup the quicksync box and point it at your media. Lot’s of help around here or the Discord if you need it.

Thanks a ton.

So, the link to that item errors out on eBay and when I manually search, there are no results. Going to Newegg, I see this. Does that tick all the right boxes as far as the Plex server?

Look through the 290 owners thread and follow this ebay link. Looks like it’s out of stock right now but it comes and goes so watch it. Amazon still has it in stock here. That 590 will work but is 4x the cost.

So that Amazon one is ready to rock, as-is?

That and NVME drive to replace the spinner. Do you have Plex Pass? You’ll need it to use hardware transcoding.

Yes, I have (or will have) Plex Pass.

Thanks. I’m sure I’ll have two dozen more questions…

Which NVMe am I looking for?

There are some recommended ones in the quicksync Hardware transcoding gude.

Ok, grabbed a 512gb NVMe and a heatsink.

Now for the NAS Killer:

I’ll be using my case right? And my 1080 Ti? And…which motherboard/CPU combo? The one from the 4.0 Ultra Quiet Plus build or one of the ones in the 4.1 set of choices? Will any from either one work?

anything from the 4.0 or 4.1 should work. I used the supermicro x9scl and a e3-1270 V2. You may have to check around and see what’s available and still a decent price. Just pay attention to the guides. JDM did a lof of testing for them. You should be able to use your current case as long as it fits the motherboard you choose. Since it’s going to be used for storage only you won’t need a lot of processing power so something lower power should be fine. You really won’t need the 1080 ti unless you end up with a combo that doesn’t have a built in gpu.

Welcome! Happy to have you!

  1. Getting away from those proprietary prebuilts (Qnap/Synology/Drobo) is one of the main purposes of this community. Most builds here are designed to be affordable, parts relatively easy to procure, and be reliable enough to replace any prebuilt solution. Used Enterprise - IT gear is known to be extremely reliable since it was originally used by big and small businesses all around for 24/7 use.

  2. This comes down to preference, space availability, and the general constraints of your home setup. Some of us (like myself) opted for a rack setup from the get go since I had plans of expanding over time with more servers, networking equipment (running cat6, running cameras). I personally run a 36u (36 rack unit) old HP rack since I wanted some compromise between the large common 42u racks and smaller 25u racks. You can find the used racks on craigslist and other marketplaces. You can get a new startech 25u rack on amazon if you don’t have much luck with used ones. (sometimes people practically give them away) The typical case we used to recommend here: the rosewill 4u, takes up 4 rack units. There are other cases you can use, such as any general computer case that fits your motherboard and the amount of drives you plan to house. Please see the guides and verify your parts will fit. Some folks just stick their server + gear where they can (on a table, in the basement, closet), and don’t often expand after the first server. There is a table sold at ikea that people have been known to build racks from as well: Lack rack https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/lack-side-table-black-20011408/

  3. What the other poster mentioned above is a fairly good start - with a naskiller 4.0 system and hp290 you are looking at one of the cheapest combos to get you started out the door. One system using software like unraid to handle your files and one system to handle your plex quick-sync transcoding through a linux distribution called Ubuntu. SNAFU Build isn’t a bad idea as well but can be overkill for most since it utilizes 2 processors and costs more. If you plan to run VMs and do more with your box, then the SNAFU could utilize the additional cores/ram. Now depending what is available some builds can be more viable than others in both cost and ability to purchase on ebay/other vendors. At the time some of the guides were written, some parts and legacy boards have since gone out of stock. Before the HP290 many of us opted for an All-in-one box like the SNAFU to get things done. Once testing was done on the usability of quicksync in the hp290, JDM saw it was easier to seperate tasks and have different boxes doing different things to redistribute compute power. Like mentioned above, you will probably not need to use your 1080ti for anything in this build unless its to get a video output in a jiffy. It would be a total waste of that card, stick it back in your gaming pc and have fun! :wink:

  4. Correct, Windows is probably something you don’t want to use for running your servers - since it has a bit of overhead in ram and compute power just to use it vs. some more lightweight operating systems like anything built in Linux or FreeBSD. The reasoning behind running linux on these servers to ensure that most of the computer power goes behind running your actual tasks and not a fancy user interface/background processes. Linux typically comes without much of the bloatware and extra programs windows will come with, because the goal is to just get something running.
    As far as your choice in what to run on your server, I would look for something that is easy to use and you can get help with. There are different hypervisors that people use (Freenas/Proxmox/Unraid) depending on their expertise and preference. Again this comes down to your own research to make a decision, but most folks around here run Unraid since it is easy to get up and running, as well as offers the most future expand-ability with its unique way you are able to add more drives as you go. The community here can help with any of those questions, as support is to be designed around the guides and what other folks use here.
    You will run your Hp 290 with Ubuntu 19.04 as it is what the guide was designed around and we can all verify it works if you follow the steps. Until newer versions are tested, there is nothing wrong with using that version. In your network setup these two servers will talk to each other and allow you to use your media in your house and remotely. Learning curve with unraid is not as steep as it is with freenas and proxmox, so you should be up and running fairly soon after you watch a couple of videos/read some guides.

  5. Of course not! We are all here to help.Most people here come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Everyone is open to questions and helping each other out. Post on the forums and discord as needed after following the guides and doing some light reading. Sorry for any run on sentences or punctuation. Hope this helped!

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So, thanks to Covid, all my parts were taking AGES to show up, but I think I have everything now.

However, in the time it took things to arrive, I was thinking I might want to use a different case other than my old case that I have here and go with something that allows for MUCH easier access to the drives in case I need to add or remove some down the road. I was going to go with a rack style build, but the last time I looked, the option that was suggested on the builds page was discontinued.

Is there a rack out there that will work with the motherboard I bought for the NAS Killer build list (Supermicro X9SCM-F Server Motherboard)?

Also, I know the general consensus is to avoid using Windows at all costs, but since they’ll be in the same room, I think this computer might also be used for general 3D printing work (running Cura, Fusion 360, TinkerCAD, etc.) and I think setting it up with Windows will just make things so much easier for me. Roughly how much of a hit will that put on the build in terms of Plex-ing and is there a way to maybe mitigate that with more RAM or something (basically, can I fix it by throwing more hardware at it)?

Thanks in advance!

Are you looking for a rack or a rackmount chassis?