New Low Power NAS Machine - Advice Wanted
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Author:  mgarl10024 [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:46 pm ]
Post subject:  New Low Power NAS Machine - Advice Wanted

Hi all,

First time post - though I've been using the site extensively whilst researching my new machine - great work guys - keep it up!

In short, I have a few PCs in my house with files I wouldn't want to lose on them, and no real strategy to cope with a failure.

At first, I found Buffalo offer a NAS drive with 2x1TB drives which can be mirrored. Looks good. £290 is quite expensive and the reviews say performance isn't great.
Then, I spotted WD 1TB disks for around £80, so £160 for 2. So I thought I could build a cheap system around them, run Linux on it, and achieve the same goals. This system should ideally run 24x7 (and could be used for other tasks) and the lower wattage the better.

My options:
1) I discounted the atom. The chip was nice, but the northbridge was awful - needed active cooling and needed about 6x more power than the atom. Terrible choice.

2) I then looked at Via board based on the C7 and Nano. I did like these, 1Ghz passively cooled, but the Nano boards were difficult to get hold of, and the C7 boards were very expensive at >£150 for the decent ones.

3) Build an underclocked, undervolted, cool system. So, I'm found myself here :D

My current list looks like the below and I'm really open to comments. I'm looking less for performance (as long as it serves files up nicely) and more for efficiency and quietness.

Enermax Modu82+ 425W Modular PSU - 82+% Efficiency certified, 1x PCI-E, ATXv2.3.
I loved the idea of the Nesteq but at £78 it was quite expensive. I also liked the Xilence but whilst I could find lots of happy people and the price was much lower, I couldn't find anything about efficiency - as they aren't screaming about 80+ or 82+, I suspect they don't reach it. This PSU seemed a good mid-ranger - good on price, very efficient, good reviews, and for £5 more I can get the modu version so rid of messy leads I don't need. The fan spins all the time (unlike the Nesteq), but is said to be 20db. I'm also thinking it might give me more options with regards to passive cooling the cpu if there's a constant flow of air... ?

AMD Sempron LE-1250 Socket AM2 L2 512KB 2.2GHz Energy Efficient 45w Retail Boxed Processor
I like AMD, and some forums (even this one) suggested I could get it to 0.8volt and 800mhz. If that can achieve passive cooling I'll be very pleased. The Sempron has less performance, but this doesn't concern me. Some forums suggested that being 45watts to start would mean it would be easier to get it lower, rather than starting high....?
The Tom's hardware article with the AMD 64 2000+ running at 8watts was my inspiration here, but I can't find *that* chip.

Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2H 740G Socket AM2 onboard VGA 8 channel audio mATX Motherboard
Cheapish. Gigabit ethernet. Onboard video.
Less impressed that I've lost a lot of the expansion slots (PCI etc.), but many of the fullsize Gigabyte boards pull me away from Gigabit ethernet or onboard video. I also hear Gigabyte boards are great for underclocking/undervolting?

Western Digital 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM Green Power x2
Apparently very quiet and good for power saving.
Some issues reported with head parking occuring every 8 seconds and linux apps writing every 10seconds leading to unneccessary wear. Fixed by a firmware update if required.

£20. Hopefully keeps disk paging to a minimum.

Case, DVD drive, etc.
The usual.

RAID Strategy
Just wondered what people felt here. From what I can see, I have 3 options. Remember that I'd just doing a simple RAID1 (mirror).
1) Hardware RAID. Perhaps the best performing, but can be expensive and sometimes drivers can be tricky to get for cards.
2) Software (OS) RAID. Linux can do this (all distributions). Uses CPU and bus, so performance can be affected, but on mirroring shouldn't be too bad. Favourite option so far.
3) Motherboard RAID option. Uses chip on motherboard + O/S drivers. Linux support can be a pain. Performance still relies on CPU. Drivers can be buggy (although this one should be ok). Can tie you into a vendor.
Some articles I read said about disabling HDD cache? I think that's a little excessive given this system will be a basic NAS, not a business critical server...

Apologies for the novel - any thoughts on this welcome. 2wks ago I didn't know anything about underclocking or building an efficient system, so now I'm just looking for comfirmation before I hit the "order" button.

Thanks in advance,


Author:  MikeC [ Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:29 pm ]
Post subject: 

It all looks decent, you have more PSU than you need (a 200w model would be plenty -- I know, hard to find). I'm sure others will chime in about raid... but fyi, there is a 2tb version of the green power if you need the space.

Author:  mgarl10024 [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:20 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi Mike,

Thanks very much for your feedback.

I know what you mean about the PSU - it is overspecced. However, I read that getting his efficiencies using low wattage bits is a challenge for the manufacturers - this is why everyone is bringing out >500watt PSUs and <200watt are harder to find. At any rate, if this one gives me >82% at all ranges, and is apparently very quiet, all should be well.

I would also like to have a pair of the 2TB WD green drives - but at over the cost they're a little too expensive for me right now. Perhaps an upgrade in the future. :-)

Thanks once again.

What do others feel?


Author:  FartingBob [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:18 am ]
Post subject: 

Not to disimilar to my file server. I used the LE-1640 CPU as it was only £2 more than the one your looking at.
I also used a corsair vx400w PSU. £45 and not bad. I was thinking of going PicoPSU but i didnt like the idea of having 5 HDD's all daisy chained to a molex connector.

Author:  mgarl10024 [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your reply. Good to know that it's not far from your setup.
Did you use RAID? What method worked best for you?



Author:  loimlo [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:15 am ]
Post subject: 

I recommend Seasonic S12-2 330W, which is also 80plus rated, for your reference. As for choice of raid, a simple software raid 1 is best under your circumstance.

Author:  NeoteriX [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 12:34 pm ]
Post subject: 

If you underclock your Sempron (provided it is G2 stepping) to 1 Ghz and undervolt it down to .900 VID, then I believe you will essentially be replicating the 2000+ processor specced in the Tom's Hardware article.

Author:  amdavies [ Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:10 pm ]
Post subject: 

If you don't mind the odd form factor:-


my GA-MA74GM-S2 (no HDMI) goes down to 0.800V, at which it'll quite happily run my 5400+ X2 @ 1Ghz.

Author:  mgarl10024 [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:04 am ]
Post subject: 


Thank you all for your kind responses. I especially pleased to hear that software RAID should work for me, and that many people have these motherboards running at 0.8v and at the speeds I want.
I did look at the Seasonic drives and they did sound pretty impressive. Sadly, they were more expensive and unavailable from my current supplier.

Really appreciate those responses. I've since been brave and ordered:

1 x Enermax Modu82+ 425W Modular PSU - 82+% Efficiency certified, 1x PCI-E, ATXv2.3
1 x Casecom KB-7720BK Black ATX Midi Tower Case - No PSU
1 x Gigabyte GA-MA74GM-S2H 740G Socket AM2 onboard VGA 8 channel audio mATX Motherboard
2 x Western Digital 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM Green Power
1 x Kingston 2gb 800mhz/pc2-6400 Memory Non-ecc Cl6
1 x AMD Sempron LE-1300 SKT AM2 L2 512 KB 2.3 GHz Energy Efficient 45W Retail Boxed Processor
1 x Belkin Serial ATA 2.0 7-pin Cable (Red) 0.6m / 24"
1 x LiteOn LH-20A1S 20X SATA DVD±RW DL & Ram Black Bare Drive - OEM
1 x Plexus Cat6 Snagless UTP Patch Cable (Black) 5m

Went for the 2.3Ghz as they had ran out of 2.2's.

Thanks once again - your advice is appreciated to an underclocking newbie like myself! :wink:


Author:  xafier [ Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:32 am ]
Post subject: 

Looks similar to what I built for a fileserver / torrent box... except I went for a PicoPSU to power it :)

It's uber low power usage, the power supply you've got is definitely overkill for it really!

Author:  mgarl10024 [ Sat Mar 28, 2009 12:18 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi all,

Just thought I would give a quick update as you were all so kind to chip in with advice.

The machine has been built - so far has clocked up over 120hrs of use.

Ubuntu has some clever power management (I think it works with AMD's powernow technology). At idle, the CPU runs at 1Ghz, and scales through 1.8, 2.2 and 2.3 if the load demands it.

I've also been very impressed with the PSU. I know some of you guys thought it was overspec'd, but I really didn't know enough about pico-psu's etc, and buying a smaller one was a challenge. It's sooo quiet though. Once slight niggle was that I had 3 SATA drives, and it had 3 SATA power connectors, but they were all on the same cable. So, it just wouldn't reach down the bottom for a harddisk, then to the top for the dvd writer. Meant I had to connect in the molex cable, then get a convertor. Kinda reduced the 'modu' idea of not having loads of cables plugged in when you didn't need them!

The cool 'n' quiet is also very impressive. I'm not sure what it runs on though - I think it is cpu load, not temp, as the fanspeed varies depending on this. I.e. I load the cpu, fan speeds up. After 20mins, cpu is warm. Then, I drop the load, and the fan slows down almost immediately even when the cpu temp is still warm. I guess that makes sense - cool it down gradually as long as the load stays low. Clever.
Does run very nice and quiet, although I would say that the stock cpu fan is the noisiest bit in the whole system, but at <1500rpm it's barely audible.

With all things default in the BIOS...
idle: 39 watts. load: 70 watts.

I then found that the cpu voltage varies with load, e.g. 1.1volt for 1ghz and 1.3 volts for 2.3ghz. Reading around, many people on here had the slightly slower chip (the le-1250 - 2.2ghz) running at 1volt, so I tried it.
Now the system runs at 1volt, stably under load, for all cpu speeds. Very impressive.
It cut power usage too...
idle: 35watts. load: 55watts (that's quite a difference).
Less heat. Fans also run slower, so quieter. I don't know why AMD don't ship it like this at default.

I do have a slight concern over the WD drives... http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=459272, but I'm hoping it's nothing. Responses welcome!

I have also found the Linux RAIDing very impressive, although the email side of the monitoring more challenging.... http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=457377

Overall though, I've been very impressed, and would once again like to thank you for all your advice along the way.


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