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Ask Slashdot: DIY NAS For a Variety of Legacy Drives?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the thinking-about-a-giant-USB-hub dept.

Data Storage 260

An anonymous reader writes "I have at least 10 assorted hard drives ranging from 100 GB to 3 TB, including external drives, IDE desktop drives, laptop drives, etc. What's the best way to setup a home NAS to utilize all this 'excess' space? And could it be set up with redundancy built-in so a single drive failure would cause no data loss? I don't need anything fancy. Visibility to networked Windows PCs is great; ability to streak to Roku / iPad / Toshiba etc would be great but not necessary. What's the best way to accomplish this goal?"

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Not worth it. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882415)

Those older drives are probably failures just waiting to happen. With the cost of the hard drive space continually dropping, just use new drives. It's not worth screwing around with old ones for anything other than salvaging old data off them, even though the urge to do so is strong in the more frugal among us.

Re:Not worth it. (4, Insightful)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882569)

I agree to an extent. Take anything SAS or SATA that's 1TB or greater and re-think the project with just those. Sell or recycle the rest of the drives. Depending on your needs the remainder should be RAID-1, 5 or 6'd (using software RAID if speed isn't an issue) and then put on an OpenFiler or FreeNAS box. Anything non-replaceable should then be backed up to a respectable backup provider in addition to your home-grown solution.

We need more information though -- what are your actual drive sizes and what do you want to put on this NAS?

Re:Not worth it. (5, Informative)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882873)

Yep.. I agree. "Not worth it." sums it up nicely.

Seriously, I completely understand the desire to re-use unused equipment you've got lying around. Seems like the smart thing to do, reclaiming as much of that unused storage space as possible and pooling it together so even the smaller drives add up to something worthwhile. But as a FreeNAS user myself, trust me on this one. It's NOT really a good idea.

As other already pointed out, most RAID configurations are limited by the size of the smallest drive in the array, so that would create major problems for you right there. But even assuming you skip RAID (or set up multiple RAID pools, each consisting only of very similar sized drives -- and then join all of them into a virtual master storage "device"), you're still in a situation where the lower capacity drives probably have slower data xfer rates than the newer, larger ones. That will drag the overall performance of the server down, whenever something gets loaded or saved to the slower/older disks.

Even if all of THAT doesn't discourage you? I have to ask what your time is worth, and to a lesser extent, what your data itself is worth? Old drives as small as 100GB capacity have got to be at least 4 -6 years old by now. Unless you bought them new and just stored them in a box this whole time, chances are, they've seen a lot of hours of operation already. They don't have a resale value more than $20 or so these days, so you're simply not out much money to throw them away or give them to a recycler. Meanwhile, you'll probably get into a much more complex and time consuming NAS configuration, trying to best utilize them in your drive pool. Even if you only make $10/hr. at your job, that means 2 hours of time spent messing around with this is worth the entire value of one of those old drives!

I'm kind of a pack-rat for computer hardware (since I have an on-site repair business besides a day job in I.T. and computers as a spare time interest too). But even I started throwing away IDE or SATA drives under 250GB a while ago. I keep a *couple* small ones around, but only for odd situations (like someone who wants to revive a really OLD PC with a BIOS that can't recognize larger drives properly). Otherwise, everyone who wants to go to the trouble of swapping an old/dead drive out for a replacement may as well spend the relatively small extra amount of money for a current model of much larger capacity, AND a full warranty still on it. Your data is usually worth it!

Re:Not worth it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883187)

not to mention price of electricity, less bigger drives (2TB+) would use less electricity per TB than more smaller drives (100GB for example) over several years of operation it can add up, and NAS is usually something turned on 24/7

Re:Not worth it. (2)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883071)

Depending on your needs the remainder should be RAID-1, 5 or 6'd

Wouldn't btrfs supposedly resolve this? It's supposed to put your redundant data on multiple devices and I would assume if the device had no more space it could use another device on the array as long as it wasn't the same as the redundant data. From everything I'm reading on the FS so far it looks like it's perfectly usable now if you can schedule a regular data scrub (like a midnight cron job) to check integrity, which wouldn't be bad for a personal server (enterprise is another story.)

Re:Not worth it. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883181)

And what do you think RAID 5 is?

Re:Not worth it. (3, Interesting)

bodangly (2526754) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883185)

I've had nothing but bad luck with btrfs, including irrecoverable data. (well, data not as valuable as time it would take to restore) It is my opinion that the push to make btrfs the new standard is happening way too quickly and for the wrong reasons. It has been my experience that it simply isn't as reliable as the more established file systems. I would highly recommend XFS over btrfs.

Re:Not worth it. (1)

Stoutlimb (143245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883117)

Agreed with a caveat. My NAS has 500gb and up drives... anything else gets consolidated. I tried using those old drives, but I soon realized it just wasn't worth it. The 500gb drive is going byebye soon too. After a certain point, the empty slot and power draw becomes valuable real estate that could be populated by a larger drive. Slow speed becomes a factor for obsolescence in some cases as well.

What smaller drives, even the 80-120gb types, are good for, is boot drives for crappy refurbished computers for grandma, or the kid down the street who has nothing. They can always upgrade, but it's great for starter and old systems for people who won't be downloading very much.

Re:Not worth it. (3, Informative)

PaladinAlpha (645879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882671)


With such a wide range of storage sizes, you're going to have serious trouble setting up any kind of redundant encoding. To mirror a segment of data (or the moral equivalent with RAID-5 or RAID-6) you need segments of the same size; those segments are going to have to be no larger than the smallest drive. That means larger drives have to store multiple segments, but that the segments have to be arranged in a way such that a drive failure on one of the large drives doesn't take the RAID down. If the drives can't be bisected -- that is, divided into two piles of the same total size -- this is impossible, and the fact that your range is from .1TB to 3TB implies this might be the case.

Think about it -- it's probably going to take most-to-all of those smaller drives to "mirror" the larger drive to make it redundant (and mirroring is the best you can do with just two drives). But having one side of the mirror spread across 9 drives makes failure laughably likely, to the point where you're paying performance penalties for nothing.

Your alternative is to use a JBOD setup and have just contiguous space across all of the disks. This is the same problem, except when a drive goes you lose some random segment of data. That's acceptable for two or three drives in scratch storage, but you don't want to actually store things on that.

Make no mistake -- those drives are going to die.

Trust me on this; don't go down this road. Your actual options are to either pair up the disks as best you can, supplimenting with strategic purchases, and make 2-3 independent raids (and maybe even RAIDing those, but it'll be painful), or just write the whole thing off, put disks in if you have obvious candidates in your hardware, and donate the rest.

Re:Not worth it. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882837)


Just take the sub 1/2 TB drives and mail them to me. ;-) I need some small USB drives for work to hold my music.

Re:Not worth it. (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882899)

"This little drive is not worth the effort. Come, let me get you something..."
"The frugal is strong in this one."

the 2 main choices: (4, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882417)

FreeNAS [] or OpenFiler [] .

I think FreeNAS (the BSD based one) is lighter and easier, as OpenFiler seems to be going in a more "fully featured" direction with less support for older hardware, but they're both good.

Re:the 2 main choices: (0)

jdastrup (1075795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882487)

FreeNAS and OpenFiler let you spread data redundantly across 100 GB and 3 TB drives? I don't think so. Those offer traditional RAID arrays AFAIK, which usually means you only get to use the size of the smallest drive in the array

Re:the 2 main choices: (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882595)

You can stripe the smaller drives to create a larger one that equals the capacity of a large drive. Then RAID-1 the larger drive and the collection of striped drives.

Me, I'd use the smaller ones for target practice and just get a second 3TB drive.

FreeNAS, for sure (3, Informative)

fmachado (89905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882601)

FreeNAS can use ZFS for aggregating multiples drives, independent of size, technology etc, all with varying degrees of protection.

It's by far the best solution to your case.


Re:the 2 main choices: (3, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882611)

yes it does - it uses ZFS that has some fancy replication features, especially z-pools that are like software raid. You can have a 100GB vdev on both the 100GB and 3TB drive as a mirror. Of course if you have just those 2 drives, nothing is ever going to get you full data redundancy (obviously!) but ZFS gives you a lot of flexibility to use what you do have.

Re:the 2 main choices: (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882697)

It wouldn't necessarily be pretty; but I think that, with LVM, you could implement the ugly hack of carving all disks into partitions the same size as the smallest disk, and then creating your volumes on top of those, with redundancy between the chunks.

Having to do reliability calculations when physical disks take out a single logical chunk and others might take out 100 or more, though, would be pretty gross...

Re:the 2 main choices: (4, Informative)

McKing (1017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883037)

ZFS does this much more simply with no ugly hacks. You can have mismatched drives when you build a mirror (the mirror is the size of the smallest drive in the mirror set), and then you stripe across the mirrors. As the older, smaller drives fail, replace them with newer, bigger drives and the pool magically gets bigger. 100GB + 500GB mirrored (100GB usable). 100GB dies, swap in a 750GB drive and now this pool is automatically resized to 500GB. Get 2 more drives? Mirror them and add them to the pool and your pool expands with no one the wiser.

Seriously, if you haven't played with ZFS before, download FreeNAS and give it a whirl. When I was a Solaris admin, ZFS was the most fun thing to work with by far.

Re:the 2 main choices: (3, Informative)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883221)

FreeNAS can use ZFS as the filesystem. And this is what you want! Now, the actual configuration depends on the drives you have available.

For drives with the same, or very similar capacity -- ZRAID can be used. With 3 drives, ZRAID1, or with more, use ZRAID2 (the number is the number of drives which can be failed). ZRAID offers the capacity of the smallest drive, which may waste space. If all drives are (eventually) increased in size, more storage is added.

For drives with different capacity, ZFS offers the ability to keep a redundent number of copies of the data (eg. specify two copies, or three). Then, ZFS will duplicate the data onto multiple drives.

As well, ZFS continually monitors the drives and redistributes any failed areas, and ensures that no bit errors accumlate in the file system. ZRAID and multiple copies can be combined.

The main point of ZFS is to keep your data clean and safe from corruption.

As well, "fsck" is not needed -- it happens when you "scrub", which slows down the array, but doesn't leave it unusable.

If you have sufficient memory, ZFS can also "dedup" the blocks in your filesystem, merging identical copies of data (but copying/raiding to maintain data integrity). This feature takes a LOT of RAM (2GB per TB of disk, 32GB for 20TB of disk, and possibly more). Also, some ZFS versions offer encryption (not sure about the one in FreeNAS).

ZFS drives can be physically moved to another system, and used (eg. FreeNAS x86 to SPARC). Endian and format issues are correctly handled. Not a feature most people would ever use, but it is nice. ZFS is available on Solaris, BSD, Linux, Mac (well, used to be).

Also, ZFS support snapshots, which can be browsed.

Finally, ZFS has an eight year history in production.

In all, what's not to love?

Re:the 2 main choices: (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882615)

Can these programs mirror the contents of one USB: drive to the other USB: drive? It's a pain trying to copy-and-paste files in drive 1 to the backup drive 2. THX. :-)

Re:the 2 main choices: (1)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882897)

Can these programs mirror the contents of one USB: drive to the other USB: drive? It's a pain trying to copy-and-paste files in drive 1 to the backup drive 2. THX. :-)

These are BSD/*nix based systems

mkdir /bigdrive_mountpoint/smalldrive_identifier
cp -advf /smalldrive_mountpoint/* /bigdrive_mountpoint/smalldrive_identifier

the "d" is redundant (2)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883151)

Once you specify "a", the "d" is redundant.

Re:the 2 main choices: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882667)

Use the fork "NAS4Free" instead of FreeNAS, which got hijacked by a commercial company and is now buggy trash (version 8+)

Re:the 2 main choices: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882693)

OpenMediaVault [] is a Debian "fork" to FreeNas that might be worth looking at as well.

FreeNAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883103)

I have been running a FreeNAS server for 4-5 years. Bought a full tower 12 bay case ($40-$60) to put it in. Old motherboard, DVD drive, CPU and Some SATA and IDE controllers ($10-$30 each) to augment what comes on the motherboard and away you go. Some IDE or SATA splitters ($2-5 each) Some extra case fans (4x$5 or salvage.) Or use your existing old desktop case and spin 2-6 of them at a time. I added a 5" 3-bay SATA insert that occupies two of the 4 front bays. So 12 bays + 1 from the insert -1 for the DVD drive, I can spin 12 SATA or IDE drives at a time. Interestingly 3.5" drives don't consume that much power so even a 500 watt power supply is overkill. Brackets to mount your 3.5" drives in 5" bays and 2.5" drives in 3.5" bays are readily available.


Re:the 2 main choices: (2)

aarongadberry (1232868) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883201)

I don't see the ability to dynamically expand FreeNAS. (Just add a drive and expand the protected space)

I cautiously recommend unRaid. I have not had an ideal experience with it, but most of it was due to my lack of diligence in ordering compatible hardware and fully reading all 10,000 forum threads before logging in. Mainly the hardware thing.

glusterFS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882419)

maybe put them in machine, make a glusterFS ?

Streak to Roku... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882433)

Hopefully it's not what I think it is...

Stream is the word. (2)

InvisibleClergy (1430277) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882439)

Not streak to iPad. Stream. Streaking to iPad would require cleaning supplies at the point of impact.

Re:Stream is the word. (0)

Kaenneth (82978) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882909)

You know what would be hilarious?

Grabbing someone iPhone, shoving it down your pants and rubbing your junk all over it, then handing it back.

Re:Stream is the word. (1)

hendridm (302246) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883097)

That would be pretty funny. Ima try it.

Re:Stream is the word. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883163)

Yeah that would be funny... if you were 5.

Re:Stream is the word. (1)

dbialac (320955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882959)

Not streak to iPad. Stream. Streaking to iPad would require cleaning supplies at the point of impact.

Or full-frontal nudity.

Re:Stream is the word. (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883053)

You say Stream is the word? I guess that is only because you haven't heard. You know, I was under the impression that everyone had heard.

FreeNAS or Unraid. (3, Insightful)

detritus. (46421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882451)

Look at FreeNAS or Unraid. Unraid has a 3-drive limit IIRC for the free version, but supports an unlimited amount of drives for the non-free version.

Re:FreeNAS or Unraid. (3, Informative) (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882841)

unRAID [] does not support unlimited drives in any version. It comes in 3 (free), 6, and 21 drive versions.

I've been using it for a year or two and, while it's got some limitations, it's a good choice for this application. Mostly because the guy's using a random collection of old drives and is likely to have bad sectors across multiple drives at some point. There is no striping with unRAID so the worst thing that can happen is he'll have to mount the drives individually and copy the data to a new array.

Re:FreeNAS or Unraid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882887)

I definitely recommend Unraid for this. Each drive contains a ReiserFS file system so recovery of any one drive is a lot easier than a traditional RAID system. You can also configure the folders to be made redundant across multiple drives. So for instance, I don't care that my movies directory is redundant, but I want my pictures directory to be replicated across each drive. All the drives get mounted as one big array too so you can easily export one big samba share, a directory or a drive. It also runs off a USB drive so you don't need to worry about using one of your drives as an OS drive. It is also very easy to add/remove drives at will.

Another vote for unRAID (3, Informative)

sirwired (27582) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883099)

I've been using unRAID for years and it's a great solution for a small home NAS box. If you ever change your mind about using it, you simply turn your parity drive into a regular Linux boot disk, and the remaining drives are just regular Reiserfs2 filesystems. Most RAID systems and/or software would require much gymnastics to de-RAID them, if it could be done at all.

In addition, hardware-based striped RAID makes you dependent on the RAID controller; if it dies and you can't find a replacement compatible with the original's striping mechanism, your data just disappeared.

FreeNAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882465)

I recommend FreeNAS - see or just google FreeNAS

waste of power (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882473)

What you're suggesting is a colossal waste of power. Just buy a new drive and junk your ancient old drives.

Re:waste of power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883135)

I remember paying almost $400 for a 120MB hard drive. Now 100GB is ancient and old. :/

Re:waste of power (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883177)

And tying an onion to your belt used to be the style at the time.

FreeBSD and ZFS (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882479)

FreeBSD has fast ZFS support which is wonderful file system to fight data loss.

Re:FreeBSD and ZFS (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883369)

Agreed. Do this for fun, not for anything practical - I mean, there are USB thumbdrives larger than your 100GB drive!

Pair the drives up to match them as closely as is possible so that you have 5 redundant mirrors. More realistically, you'll only have space or sata hookups for 4 pairs.

Anyway, use FreeBSD and zfs to pair them up and then combine the 4 or 5 pairs into a single pool. As the drives die or as you acquire bigger drives, you can hook up an additional drive and use the "zpool replace" command to swap out the smaller/dead drives.

Two caveats:
1. The size of each mirror is limited to the smallest drive. This might waste space if your drives don't match up well.
2. You can grow the pool by as many mirrors as you want, but you can never shrink the pool! Or, rather, the support for shrinking pools isn't there yet - maybe never is a strong word.

ZFS is fun to play with, and so is FreeBSD as I have discovered.

Bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882489)

Those drives are only free if your time has no value

So after you go to the trouble to set this NAS up and get the data loaded on there and a few of the drives go belly up, how much time did you waste?

How about throwing it all out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882499)

What are you running at home? A particle accelerator? Who needs all this storage? For what?

Re:How about throwing it all out? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882689)

What are you running at home? A particle accelerator? Who needs all this storage? For what?

Well, lots of things.

Media can suck up a lot of drive space...even if it is all legal!! You might want to rip all your CDs to various formats (flac for good stereo in the living room, mp3s for ipod or car).

Ripping your dvds/ watch conveniently. Then with all this, you might like a few backups so you don't lose all that ripping work too easily.

I'm about to buy a new high end DSLR....storing pictures....HD video for production...archiving the raw video parts as well as the finished products. Still processed ones....redundancy copies for these can eat up a lot of space.

There's a ton of stuff you might want that will eat up space in today's digital world....

You can , but probably without RAID (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882557)

If you just use LVM and group all your disks together into one PV, that would make the array appear as "one big drive" to the system.

Redundancy (RAID) would not work so well because your array would be limited by the smallest disk in the array. Sure, raid the 300GB to the 1TB, but you end up with a RAID-1 array of 300G.

Re:You can , but probably without RAID (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882603)

That sounds awesome. Should have a MTBF of about 20 minutes

The mega surplus continues! (5, Interesting)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882561)

Ah ha! Who else amongst you has a huge surplus of huge hard drives going unused, now that netflix streaming has displaced 60% of all the crud you had spinning idle in a closet the 3 years before you signed up?

My storage requirements went from about 3 terabytes to about 30 gigabytes over the past 2 years. I believe I am the archetype and that I am doing the same thing as the average geek. I suspect there are piles of huge disks sitting offline because of this streaming displacement.

It cost me about 18 dollars a month to leave my x86 file server online, idle (killawatt meter, nh rates); netflix is cheaper than that.

Come on, who else has a comment related to this.

Re:The mega surplus continues! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882723)

The OP is looking to build a giant porn vault. All of the other words in his post are just cover.

Notice how he talks about "visibility" and "streaking". He's got the porn on his mind.

Netflix is very light on the porn, so it is N/A here

Come on guys, we need a modern porn vault solution here, iPorn, Porndroid, Porno on Rails, something big

Re:The mega surplus continues! (0)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882957)

Porno on Rails

Is that the one where Dick Mighty does massive rails of coke off Lotta Pleasure's ass while Peaches McFre ... never mind.

Re:The mega surplus continues! (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882731)

Not me. Before Netflix streaming, I got most of my movies via...Netflix! In fact, I kind of curse Netflx streaming, because I find I'm wasting a lot more time watching movies and shows than I used to, and less time reading and working on my hobbies.

Re:The mega surplus continues! (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882745)

>>>Who else amongst you has a huge surplus of huge hard drives going unused


>>>My storage requirements went to about 30 gigabytes

WOW. I still download a ton of stuff via Utorrent, and I need the space since I acquire movies/shows faster then I watch them. I also need to space to "seed" back the stuff I've taken. My 1 TB drive is quite full.

I don't subscribe to Comcast or Netflix or anything else. It's just entertainment... not really worth paying for it, when I can acquire it for free (hulu, AntennaTV, etc) or dirt cheap ($1/month for F&SF magazine).

Re:The mega surplus continues! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882763)

All of us in the rest of the world. We still have these, since there's no other solution (well, I could spend $100 a month and cover my wall with CDs and DVDs and BluRays, but I do not really feel like it).

Re:The mega surplus continues! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882853)

There's no netflix for classic video games. Until I can hop on the cloud and download an ISO of whatever PC Engine game I happen to want to play today, I'm going to have to keep the TOSEC on my hard disk.

Single point of failure. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882947)

Geek? No. You must just be naive.



Re:The mega surplus continues! (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883007)

Not me. My terabytes of data were being used for PVR recordings, and Netflix doesn't have enough current content to replace that function. Hulu was getting close, but not quite because of the random restrictions on what can be watch on a TV set vs in the browser, and the numerous shows which would expire from the queue before you could watch them. With Hulu's proposed cable subscription requirement, it looks like my PVR will be getting even more use in the future, not less.

Re:The mega surplus continues! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883035)

Doesn't netflix require an account, and therefore tracks everything you do/watch?

No thanks.

(Posting AC for obvious reasons)

Re:The mega surplus continues! (1)

rgbrenner (317308) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883377)

Interesting.. I have the exact opposite experience. Lots of extra drives from constant upgrades. I have around 7-8TB (including 3TB of backups).

The file server gets maxed out.. so I upgrade the drives with new HDs.. take the old ones and put them in the backup server (so it has enough space for the new data).. and then remove the oldest drives from the backup.

The "old" drives get placed in any new computer that gets built.

Recently, I've had 2x250GB drives fail... both with about the same amount of time in service (one with bad sectors.. the other constant clicking). both about 6.5 years old.

So I would say anything 250gb or less (and probably even 500gb or less) is probably too old to be used for anything.

Debian or any linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882597)

Why not a debian installation, with the services you need to share your drives on the network ?

You can also add some apps to make good use of your intelligent NAS, webserver, ssh/SOCKS gateway, some kind of seedbox ...

Windows Server 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882605)

It would be a good chance to play with the new storage spaces feature of Server 2012. You present it with the drives and let it manage them. if you want redundancy, you can tell it to do so. The release candidate should be out next month.

It gives you thin provisioning and network access. If you have 2 computers, you can create a cluster for added redundancy.

If you feel tempted to work with Server 2012, this is your opportunity. If you have no desire, then keep looking. There may be other solutions, but this is what storage spaces was geared for.

Re:Windows Server 2012 (1)

McKing (1017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883075)

2006 called, and it's pissed that MS stole all those features from ZFS....

Do you care about your electricity bill? (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882609)

Do you care about your electricity bill at all? If you do, it'll probably be cheaper over the course of 6-12 months to buy a simple NAS box or a cheap atom board and plug in a couple of 2TB hard drives.

You meant steak, not streak (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882613)

However even if you replace the word "streak" with "steak," the sentence still makes no sense.

Expensive power consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882633)

The power consumption and heat would run your electric bill up higher. It may be cheaper in the long run to just replace those drives with a single disk solution.

As for the RAID size limits you could have multiple RAID arrays, ie.. Two 300gb, Three 500gb, etc. and use LVM to merge those into 1 large volume (if you need one large volume).

Re:Expensive power consumption (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882915)

Maybe the power consumption problem could somehow be worked out by starting and stopping disks based on idle timeouts? I don't know how well that kind of setup would play with a RAID configuration, but perhaps there's some other method too.

I still kinda like the concept of keeping old hardware running for ecological reasons (making new stuff takes a lot of power and resources). And it would be interesting to find some kind of solution for this case even though it's gonna be somewhat hacky. My two cents is to consider putting all the IDE disks behind IDE->SATA converters to make the whole setup SATA-only, to streamline it a bit.

WHS V1 (3, Interesting)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882659)

Windows Home Server (V1) - mix and match to your hearts content and all the addins you can eat for adding features.

Re:WHS V1 (1)

dodgerfan (994874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882857)

I second this idea. Very simple to setup. WHS v1 will adopt every drive that you can attach.

Don't do it. (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882669)

If you have pairs of drives with reasonably similar size and performance specs, you could deploy them in RAID 1, or RAID 5 if you have three or more similar drives, and have some redundancy. FreeNAS, OpenFiler, or Nexenta will all work, but you're still rolling the dice in a rigged game, man. Old hard drives are for target practice.

Storage Spaces (1)

Sensi (64510) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882683)

ZFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882691)

FreeBSD + ZFS zpools are exactly what you're after from a software RAID perspective.

Ditch your small drives (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882711)

Ditch your small drives. A 3TB is equal to 30 100GB drives, so there is absolutely no point in keeping them.

Group your drives into similar sizes and assign into a few different raid arrays. The array will only use the capacity of the smallest drive connected.

I would use RAID 1 if you only have 2 drives in the array. Raid 5 for 4 drives or more.

Hard drives are very reasonable priced these days. It will be much more cost effective to purchase new sata drives then attempt to use any IDEs at all.


Greyhole! (5, Interesting)

gregthebunny (1502041) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882759)

Why am I the only one saying this? Setup Greyhole [] , throw a bunch of disks at it, and enjoy! And to all those saying "those drives are going to die soon", you can actually tell Greyhole that you consider a drive "broken" and it will still use most of its storage (albeit redundantly) until it does die and have to be removed.

Re:Greyhole! (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882871)

with raid 5 you lose a percentage of the disks you use (like ~25% if you use 4 disks). Maybe I am missing something, but Greyhole looks like you lose significantly more than that making multiple copies of files on different disks?

Re:Greyhole! (1)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882963)

The two key points I see with Greyhole is that it works with differing drive sizes and you can, for each folder or file (didn't quite care to get the exact configuration setting) set what redundancy you want.

So yes, you'll lose more space than if you use RAID 5 or 6 but it looks really easy to set up. But it looks slightly more likely to catastrophically fail than RAID 1 in the event that a drive fails before Greyhole duplicates the new files on it.

Re:Greyhole! (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882923)

That's what I was going to suggest, if I could have remembered the name. Greyhole. heh

Re:Greyhole! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883029)

I also came here to say about Greyhole. Looks like it's exactly the solution the OP needs.

Also check Amahi,, which is a Home Server appliance which uses Greyhole to do HDD pooling. I haven't used it yet, but looks very nice.

Unraid is a good option (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882801)

Take a look at Unraid

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882827)

Disk space is cheap. Running many spindles is energy inefficient.

If you have a 3Tb drive at your disposal, why are you even considering ways to combine it with your 100Gb drive? (100% of the energy consumption, but only 3% of the storage space.) Old lower capacity drives are only "free" if you don't consider any costs other than the cost to acquire the disk.

You're likely better in the not-too-distant timeframe buying a second large capacity disk over running 9 small capacity disks with the same total volume.

I suppose there's some fun to be had as a pure technical challenge to finding ways to network wildly heterogenous disks into a working single logical volume, but if you're doing this for anything other than your personal geek cred you're doing the wrong project.

Do Not Do That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882859)

Just DBAN the drives, put them in a cardboard box in front of your house and write SWAP BOX on it. See if someone else leaves you some marginally interesting hardware they no longer need.

You are running the risk of catastrophic failure or RAID that is limited to the smallest drive. Honestly, why bother?

Re:Do Not Do That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882903)

Not to mention the speed differences in the drives.

Don't Build.... Buy a Drobo (3, Insightful)

InitZero (14837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39882889)

1. Throw away everything that isn't a standard-sized SATA drive.
2. Buy a Drobo (
3. Put the five (or eight) largest drives in the Drobo.
4. Throw away the rest of the drives.
5. When you get a drive that is larger than the smallest drive in your Drobo, pull the smaller drive out and insert the larger drive.
6. Find peace in the universe.

When I was young and foolish, I tried to keep every drive spinning, even long after its time had passed. I had *nix boxes stuffed with drives and SCSI-attached arrays. I learned a lot about drive management and system administration but, mostly, I learned that there is a value to my time and my time isn't best utilized playing disk administrator.

Drobo doesn't pay me a dime and I am still more excited about Drobo than any technology product since TiVo.


Re:Don't Build.... Buy a Drobo (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883119)

I'm a systems and network admin, and I just built up one of those HP N40L's that were $130 from a couple of weeks ago.

4 x 1TB drives, for a RAID 0 stripe. Booting from a 10,000 RPM raptor drive.

I am running OpenMediaVault, an offshoot of FreeNAS. Love it. Works as CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and plays nicely with VMware ESXi, Winders, OS X and Android clients. Quiet, low power use, fast. And 1/3 the cost of the closest network-attached Drobo.

Re:Don't Build.... Buy a Drobo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883139)

Drobo sucks under Linux.

The whole point of Drobo is so you can treat it like one big disk. Unfortunately under Linux, you're limited to 2TB LUN size unless you want to do something unsupported (last I checked, >2TB LUN worked, but you couldn't reclaim space).

So if you buy the 5 drive one and stuff it full of 3TB drives, you end up having to spread stuff out on 2TB volumes. Worthless.

Oh, yeah, LVM isn't supported either. Or XFS. Something about reclaiming space after you delete files.

I've had bad experiences with Drobo under Windows also, it seems the system doesn't like having more than a few plugged into it at once. Not sure if this is a Drobo problem or a Windows problem, but the whole system just starts randomly wigging out (read: I have to reboot it) mid-way through file transfers most of the time. Worthless.

Re:Don't Build.... Buy a Synology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883261)

I couldn't agree with you more, but have you seen Synology.

It's a Drobo +++

My favourite feature is the torrent client--just copy/past a link from TPB and it does the rest!

Standard disclaimer also applies: I'm just a happy customer.

Hello Slashdot. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882927)

Hello Slashdot,

I have no clue what I'm even doing here so I thought I'd ask how I can combine my 20MB RLL drive with my 50TB holo drive so I can have redundancy, please?

Also, mommy said she won't wipe my ass anymore. I'm only 38! How can I do that, too?

Kisses :-*

Not Worth It, At All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39882993)

You are wasting your time, energy, and money.

Use WHS v1 (2003) (1)

Snuusnuu (2631385) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883027)

Windows Home Server v1 (2003). Drive extender will lump all sizes of hard drives into a JBOD. Turn on folder duplication for redundancy. Full integration with Windows 7. Use Plex media streaming to stream to an iPad. That's my setup and works great.

My solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883041)

As already mentioned.
1 Freenas if you have the time.
2 old drives are a disaster waiting to happen.

So if you are not going to put anything of value or importance and reliability or your time mean nothing go for it.

But if your data and content are important to you then start with new drives.

I don't have the time or energy to build from scratch anymore.

For the record I am not affiliated with QNAP in any way other than as a satisfied customer. I should but have yet to get a sales commission. Several of my friends have gotten them after seeing mine in action.

Pricy to say the least but I use and recommend QNAP TS-?59-PRO-II. It is available in 4, 5, and 6 drive models.
The pro-II series has a nice mix of features for that both a home user and a small enterprise user would want.
I have set up an ISCSI volume for my DVR ripped all my DVDs and put all my content on it. I am scanning and archived all my important documents. It supports dynamic DNS and with the QNAP "mycloudnas" service you can set up your own personal cloud storage. Many features can host a web site email and a verity or other apps.
They have a link to a to a demo of the management interface on the site.
I have setup my parents with one. Over the years my father has acquired an enormous DVD collection and a very large audio CD collection. now when he travels he can just take the NAS out to his motor home plug it in and all his media travels with him and plays threw his WD live HD+ media player. NO more lost or damaged disks and a substantial space saving over the huge stack of disks he used to lug around the country with him. He also has PDF scans of all his important papers with him and secured and accessible when he needs them.
Set it up in a closet or basement and forget it can access the content from any ware on your network just put a micro HTPC next to the TV add a Silicondust net work attached TV/Cable Card tuner and go from there.

Why? (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883107)

Why are you combining 100GB and 3TB drives? First of all, the 3TB drive is litterally 30 times the size (giving you a space increase of 3%). Second of all, the 100GB is probably fairly old, so shouldn't even be trusted as stable. You are going to spend more on the ATA adapter for that drive than the value of the space it provides. Currently a 3TB drive costs about $100, that's $0.03/GB which means that 100GB drive is worth ... wait for it ... $3. Sata to IDE adapters run about $9 a piece.

I've been in the same situation, it was only a year ago that I was running on multiple 10GB drives and an old 120GB laptop drive because I only had IDE in my server. So I went to newegg and got a low powered an E350-onboard-cpu motherboard [] (doesn't even need a fan) for $130, 8GB of ram (I use ZFS) for $50 and a 2TB drive for $70 (drives have gone up since then, but not terribly high) and threw the thing into an old case with a cheap power supply. That's basically an entire system with about 15 times the storage space as my old one for $250 shipped to my front door and the system can take 5 more drives without so much as an expansion card.

Use The Old Drives as Backup to the NAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883213)

I use my drives that are less than 1 TB to store critical information from my NAS. The drives sit in my fire proof safe and they are easy to take out when needed. The yellow sticky lists what is on it so I can restore what I truly need or wipe it out.

ZFS (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39883227)

Don't use FreeNAS. Normally I would recommend it because it's very straightforward and does a good job of what it does, but it's not ideal for your exact situation. It has a fairly old version of the ZFS file system. You'll want a new enough version to use a RAIDZ configuration. This way you can put all the drives in one pool, and it will automatically juggle redundancy and parity to allow a single drive to fail without losing data. That has the end result of presenting some fraction of your total storage as one single mount point.

This will maximize the amount of usable storage you get while keeping things redundant and failure-resistant.

FreeNAS only supports simple striping or mirroring. With striping you'll lose the whole pool if one of your old drives fails, so it's right out. Mirroring works best with matched pairs of drives with the same capacity, and you'll be wasting space to drive pairs of mismatched sizes. Also, even in the best case scenario mirroring leaves you with only half the usable space relative to the total capacity of all your drives.

Some things to keep in mind:
- RAIDZ doesn't allow shrinking pools (I think). So every time one of your old drives dies you need to immediately replace it with *something.* That could get expensive if they're old and you have a lot of them.
- You could probably replace the capacity of all these old drives with $300 of new drives. Is it worth it? Especially knowing that you'll have to replace them with modern drives as they fail anyway, and will likely soon enough end up with a crazy glut of drive space, and an empty bank account from buying all the replacement drives.
- There's a PPA for ZFS on FUSE available for Ubuntu Server, that would probably make setting something like this up pretty trivial.

Synology (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883229)

Seriously, buy a Synology NAS, dump all your data on it and call it a day. The cheapest 2 bay model they make is straight up badass for its price point.

StableBit DrivePool + WHS 2011 (4, Interesting)

alexpi (2631389) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883269)

Full disclosure: I am the developer

Check out: []

It's a software disk pooling solution that combines any number of disks of any size into one big virtual pool. You can designate certain folders to be duplicated on the pool. Any files placed in duplicated folders will be stored on 2 disks at the same time.

The implementation is a hard core NT kernel driver with a virtual disk. There is a full NT kernel storage stack, no user mode hacks here.

Unlike RAID and similar solutions, all your pooled files are stored as standard NTFS files on each individual disk in the pool. This means that you can simply plug in any pooled disk to any system that can read NTFS to get at your files in case disaster strikes.

It's commercial software, $20 USD per server.

JBOD (1)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883299)

Put all of the small drives in a JBOD array and use the 3TB as an internal backup because RAID is not a backup solution.

Use FreeNAS or OpenFiler.

Drobo performance sucks (with more than one concurrent user).

Low-end core i3 processor and lots of RAM because RAM is cheap these days.

take look at (4, Interesting)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883311)

look at, it is a turn-key Home Server based on fedora and greyhole as it's replication engine.
Dump anything less than a TB except one drive and you are set.
You set the replication level by share and it keeps a full copy on each drive until the replication count is reached for that file on that share.

you have 4 1TB drives and 1 500Gb drive.
You have the share photo configured to replicate on each drive.
You have replication off on the video share.
You have a replication level of two on the mp3 share.

When you store a photo greyhole write it to your 5 drives.
When you store a video it goes on a random drive.
When you store a mp3 it goes to 2 random drives.

So if you lose a drive you should loose about 25% of your videos, 6.25% of your mp3 and 0% of your pictures.

I like NASLite (1)

mikeiver1 (1630021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39883351)

Though it's not free it is cheap and works well. It supports allot of hardware and is efficient with resources. I have gotten it to run SCSI, ATA, USB, FC-AL, SATA, and SAS drives all at once. A build usually only takes about 5 minutes including a basic configuration. I have been running it for over 7 years now with no real issues to speak of. Mike
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