Mordor 1.0: My Dedicated unRAID Server

During October 2011 I built my first home server. It was purposed to be a dedicated NAS server, based on unRAID OS.

In this post I intend to try and recall considerations and decisions, and document the setup, to serve as reference for myself, and as background for the following posts dealing with the transition to Mordor 2.0. Since this is mostly a recall from memory, it is most likely inaccurate and incomplete, but it’s what I got…

Shopping List

To start with, I already had a 2TB hard drive installed in a desktop PC, for backup purposes. The rest of the components I needed to buy…

Item Quantity Total Price (pre-VAT) Warranty
CPU: Intel Pentium G850 2.9Ghz 3MB L3 Cache s1155 (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 340.52 3 years
MoBo: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO (LGA1155, Intel Z68, DDR3 1600, 3xPCI-E) (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 853.45 3 years
RAM: Patriot Signature 2x4GB DDR3 1333Mhz (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 284.48 Lifetime
HD: Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB 64MB SATA III WD20EARX (Amazon, eBay) 2 ₪ 703.44 3 years
SSD: Patriot Torqx 2 2.5″ 64GB SATA II (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 422.41 3 years
External DVD: Samsung Slim External DVD±RW x8 USB 2.0 (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 146.55 1 year
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE2 (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 202.59 N/A
Case Fan: Antec TrueQuiet 140mm (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 64.66 1 month
Case: Fractal Design Define XL Full-Toewr ATX Black Pearl (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 620.69 N/A
PSU: Corsair TX 650W V2 Series Active PFC 14cm Fan (Amazon, eBay) 1 ₪ 456.9 5 years
UPS: Advice PRV850 UPS USB 1 ₪ 340.52 2 years

Total Price, inc. 16% VAT: ₪ 5,211.00 (or about $1,400)

Notes regarding the shopping list:

  • CPU: I went for cheap low-power CPU, as I figured a NAS server doesn’t need serious number-crunching powers, and is going to be on 24×7.
  • Mother Board: I looked for one with maximum SATA ports (this one has 8 on-board). Secondary requirements included on-board graphics and LAN. This was before I became aware of RAID-Cards for adding SATA ports, and I think today I would have made different choices.
  • SSD: I thought I will need SSD as an OS drive. This was before deciding to go with unRAID running from USB flash drive. I wound up finding other uses for the SSD…
  • External DVD drive: Sometimes I need CD/DVD drive on the server, but I don’t want an internal one to take up precious bay- and port-real-estate. So an external drive is a good solution.

NAS Software

At first I did some research into the ZFS filesystem, and considered deploying the Solaris OS to manage the NAS in order to use ZFS as the NAS filesystem.

But once I learned of unRAID (a recommendation from a friend), I instantly dropped the previous plan in favor of deploying unRAID as the NAS managing OS. In my opinion, the unRAID solution has advantages which make it much more suitable for the Home NAS / DIY environment.

unRAID disadvantages:

  • The free version supports up to 3 drives (2 data + 1 parity), and no cache drive.
  • The paid version (Plus/Pro) is locked down to a specific flash drive, such that if the flash drive dies, a new purchase might be required (and it’s not very cheap, starting at $69).
  • For those who plan to run more stuff by installing extra applications (manually) on unRAID – it’s quite complex, and may hurt stability (although the plugins-ecosystem is growing).

unRAID advantages:

  • It runs from a USB flash drive – doesn’t take up precious bays and SATA ports! (just requires a mother board that supports boot-from-USB, which is pretty common these days).
  • It is pretty simple to install and configure.
  • It is VERY flexible and scalable. Very easy to add / remove / replace hard drives on an existing array, without needing to rebuild the entire array / filesystem (see ZFS…). There is no requirement that all hard drives have identical capacity – you can use whatever you have (as long as the parity drive is the largest).
  • The data is stored using (almost) regular Linux filesystem, which means it can be accessed on another Linux machine directly – there’s no complex striping filsystem mambo-jambo.
    • More specifically, this means that even in case of extreme failure, when many HDDs fail (more than the parity can account for), the data on the surviving HDDs can still be restored! This is far from the case with true RAID / ZFS systems.

My Setup

So I got a 2GB SanDisk Cruzer Edge flash drive (Amazon, eBay), and grabbed the latest free unRAID edition available from the download site, which was 5.0-beta12a at the time.

I followed the very simple installation instructions available in the Release Notes wiki page:

  1. Plug the USB flash drive in a Windows PC (Windows 7 x64 in my case).
  2. Format the flash drive (right-click -> Format), setting the label to UNRAID (all caps).
  3. Unzip the unRAID server download into the root of the flash drive.
  4. Execute the make_bootable.bat batch file (Run as administrator) from the root of the flash drive.
  5. Eject the flash drive – you’re done.

Following the simple installation procedure, I started going through the very detailed configuration tutorial wiki page:

  1. Download (from the forum post) and save it to the root of the flash drive.
  2. Download unmenu_install (from Google Code) and save it under a unmenu directory created in the root of the flash drive.
  3. Boot the server from USB.
  4. Configure the home router to assign static IP address (permanent lease on DHCP) to the server MAC address.
  5. Verify SATA HDs are detected, by running: dmesg | grep SATA | grep link
  6. Install UnMENU.
  7. Install Screen.
  8. Preclear the data hard drives (this takes about 2 whole days…), using Screen.
  9. Change the server name (from Tower to Mordor) and set a strong password for the root user.
  10. Assign drives to the array and start the array:
  11. Create “User Shares”
    1. “Storage” share for general purpose storage, backups, photo albums, etc.:
    2. “Media” share for Movies and TV Shows libraries:
    3. “Applications” share for installs library:
  12. Enable SMB.

  13. Create standard users (e.g. “ost”, “xbmc”) and passwords.


That’s, give or take, my unRAID setup on my Mordor 1.0 home server.

From here you can go back to the Mordor project page, or proceed to installing VMware ESXi.

  • Anonymous
    September 19, 2014

    Very cool! You should take a look at unRAID 6!

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