Seeking guidance in building my first NAS

Hello everyone,
I am a new member here at serverbuild. IT background and have worked with Myth and Plex for years now - so while not a linux guru, but def can build/work around instructions. The NAS would probably be more for serving 4K movies thru Plex but I am sure it will help with my NextCloud as well.

I am looking to build my first NAS server, but I do have multiple home servers (mainly CentOS), Portainer and docker containers, Plex, Nextcloud, etc

I got interested buying a Mac mini which in turn got me looking in building a 10G NAS server that would work with the Mac Mini :slight_smile:

I have an existing ATX case which is currently running a H61iCafe mobo Celeron G530 processor, 4 Gb RAM

Now I am sure I can up the RAM and maybe run a NAS, but since I always go overboard and procrastinate later (lol) - I would thinking the following and would love recommendations about:

  • Buying a motherboard that has 10Gbe capability
  • Is it worth it? Can I instead make do with 2.5Gbe mobo? (4K streaming via Plex server)
  • This makes me think - can I continue using 1G HP ProCurve switches and still push more than 1G? I read somewhere that with a Cat7 or Cat6a cables, people have gotten more than 1Gb
  • I have few 2Tb and couple 8Tb drives currently - used them for over 5 yrs now. I understand that Unraid is popular since it allows addition of single drives with different capacities, but frankly once I build a NAS with say 2x 2Tb, 2x 8Tb and another 2x drives (12/14/16 Tb) - I don’t see myself adding more drives for another 5 odd yrs - so then it’s pretty much a comparison without that particular argument between the two.
  • Recommendation of drives would be very much helpful - heard a lot a people buy re-certified ones but I am very skeptical.
  • I read that we don’t need the “latest/greatest” processor - in fact a relatively older Xeon may be better suited since it can multi-thread and give more bang for the buck. I would love some recommendation pls.

Sorry - I know it’s a long rant of sorts but figured I would put everything out there so you all can make informed recommendations.

Welcome to Serverbuilds, I think you have landed in the right community.

10Gbe networking:
I don’t know what all your use cases are, but nothing you descried in your post would really benefit much from 10Gbe. You should be able to serve multiple 4k streams at just 1Gbe without issue. Given your drive mix you will probably be using a JBOD set up and will be limited to disk speed for transfers. 2.5Gbe would serve you well with plenty of bandwidth to spare.

Motherboard with 10Gbe:
I wouldn’t go out of your way or pay more for a motherboard with 10Gbe. If the right board comes up that has 10Gbe and the price is good then go for it, but there is a good chance that you will need to pay more than the cost of an add in PCIe nic for onboard 10Gbe and your board choices will be much more limited.

Features I look for in a motherboard are IPMI, support for ECC memory, lots of SATA ports, and, for a home server: power management.

Speeds > 1Gb on 1Gb Switch:
You will not be able to get more than 1Gb through your 1Gb switch no matter what cables you use. To get a 10Gb connection every component involved will need to be 10Gb capable.

If you are serious about going 10Gb I would recommend using a DAC cable if the distance is 5 meters or less, and fiber if it is further than that. 10Gbe coper transceivers and cables are more expensive than fiber and require a lot more power and generate a lot more heat. I typically use copper up to 2.5Gb and after that I jump to 10Gb fiber.

Since your drives are mixed sizes you are probably gong to want to go with a JBOD setup instead of RAID. IMHO the best OS for that is UNRAID. It is a great OS for managing your array (either 1 or 2 drives for parity), Docker containers, and VMs. It has a large and welcoming community behind it, and it is designed from the ground up to be a great NAS / media server.

Used Enterprise Drives:
Used enterprise drives are often of a higher quality and more reliable than brand new consumer grade drives, and most importantly they are much, much cheaper. So much cheaper that you can just buy an extra drive, go up one zraid / parity level, and get higher reliability at a fraction of the price.

For the purposes of running a NAS just about any CPU will do. A more powerful processor will give you more options as far a running docker containers and VMs. Xeon E3-12XX V3 CPUs on socket LGA1150 are a pretty good value these days with 4 physical cores and Hyperthreading giving you 8 threads, and fairly good power efficiency for their price.

The CPU requirements for Plex are low, although you may want a somewhat modern GPU for transcoding, I believe the recommendation is Intel 7th gen iGPU or better. The common practice around here is to use a separate, cheap, low power thin client with an iGPU as a stand-alone quick-sync box to handle transcoding.

Hope that helps, good luck with your build!

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Thank you @Ian - Appreciate the breakdown explanation.

As far as Unraid/TrueNAS - I do read lots of benefits of ZFS vs Btrfs. From what I read, snapshot with ZFS is much more advanced/stead state and being that I may be setting up either of these once every 5 or 6 yrs, and I pretty much have double of each kind of drives I would be adding, is Unraid still better?

I am def leaning (almost decided) on the Xeon proc, and 2.5Gbe mobo. Are there advantages/disadvantages of going with AMD (financially or otherwise)?

Thank you again!

The choice between Unraid / TrueNAS isn’t really about ZFS vs Btrfs.

The choice between Unraid vs TrueNAS is about JBOD vs RAID.

You can use ZFS in Unraid no problem, you just probably aren’t going to be implementing a RAID. You technically can put all your disks into a zpool and assign it as a cache drive and it will work, but its not really how Unraid is intended to be used, and in that case you would be better off with TrueNAS.

ZFS is an amazingly advanced enterprise grade file system. No other file system is even in the same league as far as features or performance. However, similar to 10Gbe networking, a ZFS RAID is really powerful, but you probably won’t see much benefit for a home media server and it also comes with it’s own downsides.

The main reason I figured you would be going with Unraid though is because you don’t have matched size disks. If you include the 2TB disks in a RAIDz1 I think you would only get 10GB storage space, If you drop the 2TB that would take you up to 24TB with 2x8 + 2x16. The same disks in a JBOD setup would get you 36TB of available space with the same degree of redundancy, basically you get everything minus the largest disk for parity.


  • You need to use matched disks
  • It is more difficult to resize or add disks
  • All the disks in the array need to be spun up to access data
  • In the event of a failure (or administrator error) all data on the array is irrevocably lost


  • You can use any mix of disks
  • It’s easy to add new disks,
  • When accessing data only the particular disk hosting the data needs to be spun up
  • You can pull a disk from the array, mount it in another machine, and access the data
  • In the event of a disk failure you only lose the data that was on the disk. The rest of the array is still accessible
  • There is still at least a chance that data could be recovered from a failed disk.

If you have a use case that requires high throughput access to your data, or you want to use one of the many awesome features of ZFS, or if you just want to familiarize yourself with ZFS administration then go for it. If you just want to run a home media server with simple administration and easy expansion I would recommend Unraid.