Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Building a NAS

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a really useful tools these days. They don't just host files for share in local network, but can also act as servers for a number of functions. I recently needed to build a NAS.

A NAS is an always on device, so the power consumption is more a concern than the performance horse power. I happened to have an Atom based Intel motherboard that is underpowered for desktop use, but is perfect for this application. The board is Intel D525MW that has only two SATA ports. That's not enough. Fortunately the board has a PCI slot. So I got a PCI SATA board for the other disks need to be connected. The board I have is a SYBA 4-port SATA II (SY-PCI40010), and it supports hardware RAID. And here comes the problems.

Intel D525MW RAID Problem

The first problem is that I found that the computer does not boot up any more. After some time spent on elimination, I finally narrowed it down to the board - it would not boot when the board is plugged in. I search around and finally find that RAID was a problem for the Intel D525MW board I have. After an update of the BIOS of the board, everything works perfectly.

Flash the RAID Board

The PCI RAID board is using Silicon Image SiI3124 chip. This is an older chip that only supports RAID up to about 3T. That's not good enough. I know that before buying it. The chip on the board can be flashed to make it non-RAID, since I am going to use the software RAID anyway. Silicon Image website was pretty bad, and there is nothing on the support page (and it plain did not work). Searching up and down the web, the flashing tool (updflash.exe) and the firmware can be found for the SiI3124 chips (that is for another board, but it is the same chip). In the firmware packages, the bxxxx.bin is the non-RAID firmware, and rxxxx.bin is the RAID firmware.

Make a DOS boot USB and run the following command will flash the card with non-RAID firmware.

updflash.exe b6600.bin

Disable the Head Park on WD Green

I am using a few Western Digital Green drives. It is reported that these drives park their head after only 8 seconds of non-use to conserve energy. That drastically reduce the life of the drives. This timeout can be disabled by a WD utility called wdidle3. The use of that utility on the WD Green drive is not documented, but it works. This modification is recommended by people online. So I downloaded the utility and applied. It turns out that the utility only discover and apply to drives that are connected to SATA ports on my motherboard, but not those connected to my SATA card. So I need to repeat the process by connecting my drives to motherboard SATA ports in turns.

At the end, my NAS is finally up running.

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