I’ve been using newsgroups and some sort of an HTPC for the last 10 years. My first build was a Micro-ATX PC running Windows 7, a MCE remote and XBMC. I then built a smaller version of it in a mini-ITX case with an atom motherboad/CPU. About 5 years ago I discovered Plex and its ability to serve Rokus and have been using a 2011 Mac Mini + 5TB external hard drive since. I’ve been sharing my library with friends and family and when my brother gave me 4 second hand 3TB WD Reds to make use of, I started planning my next build!
The goals for my build were the following:
Compact and able to fit into my existing media center while accommodating 6-8 hard drives.
Ability to do Plex transcoding, take media requests via Ombi, and download/unpack all simultaneously. I wanted the ability for me and my friends to make a request and watch it 5 mins later (with the help of my gigabit internet!)
I looked at the NAS Killer 4.0 and tried to find a case that could fit 6-8 drives and still fit into my media center (max 7" tall and 15" deep) and was not able to find one at a reasonable price. I learned about the HP 290 and its ability to transcode 20+ streams and was immediately intrigued. I started looking at external hot swap bays on Ebay but most were $50-100 and only had 4-5 bays. I started finding some internal server hard drive cages from Supermicro, HP, and Intel and found the price to be right (and they looked awesome!)
I found the Intel AXX6DRV3GEXP 6 bay hot swap cage which is meant for an Intel SC5400 server case, for $35. It has 6 drive bays, an internal SAS1 expander, and a 92mm fan with 4 pin fan connector. The fan moves a TON of air and is very loud. I tried adding a PWM controller inline and even at the lowest volume it was too noisy for my liking and thus why I decided to simply replace the fan. The cage takes 2 x SATA (not SAS) and 2 x 4 pin molex for power. The backplane is SAS1 (this thing was launched in 2006!) therefore my understanding is it’s 3Gb/s per channel or 6Gb/s per cage. Not very fast, but plenty fast for serving Plex streams.
After getting everything up and running I realize the G4900 of the HP 290 wasn’t up to the task of doing everything I asked of it simultaneously and thus why I upgraded the CPU. If i were to do this all over again I might have waited on the HP290 and simply got a SFF Nas Killer 4.0 such as the Dell Optiplex 7010 / 3020 which while not having hardware transcoding for Plex could probably support 4-5 streams plus everything else. However, i expect that once i give my 15+ shared plex users the ability to add their own content, my server will get a lot more usage!
My completed build details are:
|NAS / Plex Server Parts||Price||Source|
|HP 290 SFF (Used)||$105||Ebay|
|Motherboard, 4GB RAM, PSU (Used)||Included|
|Intel I5-8400 CPU (Used)||$130||Ebay|
|8GB DDR4 2666 (New)||$30||Amazon|
|WD Blue 500GB NVME (New)||$60||WD Store|
|NVME screw kit w/ heatsink (New)||$6||Amazon|
|HDMI Dummy Plug (New)||$6||Ebay|
|Intel 6 Drive Expander Cage (Used)||$35||Ebay|
|Antec Earthwatts 380W PSU (Used)||$20||Ebay|
|LSI 9200-8e HBA (Used)||$20||Ebay|
|SF8088 to 4x SATA (New)||$12||Ebay|
|92mm Fan (New)||$8||Amazon|
|Rubber adhesive feet||$3||Hardware Store|
|4 Pin molex to 3 pin fan adapter||$3||Local computer shop|
|Hard drive screws||$3||Local computer shop|
Thank you JDM and this community!
Hard drive cage (before removing the top plate w/tab held in with 4 screws)
Back of cage (fan is super easy to replace as it’s just held in with a plastic clip. The included fan grill can also be easily moved as it’s held in with 4 plastic push pins)
Bottom of cage (you’ll want some decently thick (1/4 - 3/8") feet/pads so that the cage rests of them and not the front lip and/or the two round protrusions)
Top of cage (with top cover removed)
Completed build in my media center