Need Network Storage? Here’s How To Build Your Own NAS Box

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build your own nasNAS stands for Network Attached Storage. As Windows became easier to use with network attached devices, and hardware prices fell, this term started to be used in the consumer market. Today there’s a wide variety of off-the-shelf options that can provide storage for a home or small business network.

The only problem is the price. A decent NAS can cost as much as a PC, which begs the question – why not build your own? It’s not a difficult task but the approach differs from building a PC.

Step 1: Find a case

build your own nas

Deciding on the case requires thought. You need to decide what kind of NAS you want to build. Will it be small and kept out of the way? Will you need to easily access it and remove or add drives? How much storage do you need and how much space do you want for future upgrades? Finally, how much do you want to spend?

If budget is a priority you can save cash by building a NAS box from, well, just about anything. Any box made from a material that can be drilled is usable. You also need to make sure that it’s possible to install motherboard spacers that raise the motherboard above the surface it is mounted to (it might short out if you don’t).

That may be more trouble than it’s worth, however. You can find computer cases everywhere. Garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist…they seem to be everywhere. Older PCs are sometimes sold for so little that you might end up buying an entire computer just for the case.

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Readers with some money to spend should just head to Newegg and browse new Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX cases. I’m a fan of the Lian-Li PC-Q07 for a compact NAS or the Antec NSK3480 for a larger, multi-driver system. You could also use a full ATX tower, of course – it will just take up more space.

Step 2: Buy the hardware

build your own nas server

Powerful hardware is not needed for network storage and increase a system’s heat and power generation. This means you can get away with old hardware. Now is a great time to press an old dual-core back into service. If you must buy new, look at an Intel Celeron or entry-level AMD A4.

The motherboard can be basic. Make sure it fits your case, fits the processor you choose and has enough SATA ports to handle the hard drives you want to connect. Motherboards built today typically support the features that are most useful, like boot-from-USB and wake-on-LAN. Double check the manufacturer’s website before if you’re feeling paranoid.

RAM once again is not critical. Make sure it works with your motherboard. Go for two gigabytes (it’s not required if you use a Linux OS, but heck, RAM is cheap! You may as well.)

Now pick up a hard drive. A basic 5,400 RPM mechanical drive with a ton of storage space is all you need. Everyone has their brand preference – I’ve had good luck with Seagate drives – but any major brand name should do nicely.

And don’t forget a power supply. Some cases ship with one. Most do not. Not much power is needed for a NAS – most will never exceed 100 watts in draw – so go with cheap and reliable. I recommend Antec and Seasonic.

Step 3: Build it

Putting together a NAS is not different from putting together a normal PC. The hardware is the same and so are the steps required. Check out our PC building PDF guide or our more recent visual guide to building your own PC.

Step 4: Install an operating system

build your own nas

The most popular option for user-built NAS systems is FreeNAS. It’s a free, open-source project that is fairly easy to use and provides the features most users need. Though many Linux operating systems can run similar software, FreeNAS has become the top choice because it’s built for NAS specifically and doesn’t include any unneeded features. We’ve already published a FreeNAS installation guide.

Other options include NexentaStorOpenfiler, and Ubuntu with Samba. The last of these is about as easy to use as FreeNAS, though I can’t see much reason to use it on a system that is not intended for use as a normal desktop system.

You can even use Windows. It easily connects to other devices (which, let’s face it, are probably running Windows) on the same network and there are more than one remote connection options for access outside your network. Windows costs money, however, and it’s not great for people who intend to use the NAS for purposes other than media storage.

Once the operating system is installed be sure to enable Wake-On-LAN in BIOS. Without it you won’t be able to wake the computer from sleep when you need to access its files.

Step 5: Enjoy your NAS

Now your NAS should be up and running. Systems like this tend to be low maintenance, particularly if running a purpose-built operating system like FreeNAS. The system can be thrown into the back of a closet or under a desk. It will be fine so long as you don’t throw a blanket over it. Enjoy!

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19 Comments - Write a Comment


Mahesh Kumar

I work for a Cloud Services Company but never imagined that a NAS Box can be built by ourselves. Thank you for the useful Information ..


Marius Gheorghiu

Looks pretty interesting as I’ve been looking for a way to share my library across the network. I’d be interested in an article that could show how you could arrange this setup to be accessible across the internet i.e. through a VPN or similar?



Actually NAS4Free applies much better to the article instead of FreeNAS(has minimum requirement of 4 GB RAM due to ZFS)….


Dany Bouffard

I have been using a FreeNAS at home after learning about them at work and I enjoy it very much. There are a lot of possibilities in FreeNAS, you can place disks in a Raid-Z or Raid-Z2 for more security and if somehow you lose 1 disk in Raid-Z you can replace it without losing any data and you can lose up to 2 disks in Raid-Z2 of course you need more disk to set up these raids 3 Minimum for Raid-Z and 4 minimum for Raid-Z2. You can even make a second FreeNAS and have them sync together. There are a lot of possibilities in FreeNAS.


Dany Bouffard

Also I forgot to mention, its recommended to have 1 Gig of computer Ram for every terabyte of storage to have better speed to access the files.So if you have 4 Terabyte of disk stockage its recommended to have at least 4 Gig of Ram in the computer.


Richard Steven Hack

The nice thing about using a simple PC to be your NAS is that you get many benefits over a specific NAS box:

1) The PC probably has better air flow, meaning the drives stay cooler which means they may last longer. Although drive failure is not necessarily predicated on heat, cooler drives are better.

2) A regular motherboard is likely more reliable than the customized electronics in many NAS boxes as are the disk controllers.

3) The software made by FreeNAS and openFiler is rock solid. I’ve run an openFiler installation for a client for a couple years and have NEVER rebooted it except when the power failed or the power supply failed on the box. openFiler can be complex to set up but it works fabulously once set up. FreeNAS is easier.

4) If your main computer fails, there’s a good chance you can use the NAS box as a backup to access the Internet, if it’s set up to have that capability. A dedicated NAS device is probably not as capable.

The main caveat is that if you’re using a Linux-based NAS box, you’ll probably need to know at least a LITTLE command line to get it started, before the GUI kicks in to configure it. But it’s not that hard. openFiler’s documentation is not great, but can be navigated with some work. I’m not sure about FreeNAS – I suspect it’s easier..


Keith Swartz

Being a, I greatly appreciate this article. I knew it could be done… BUT I JUST COULDN’T GET MIND MIND AROUND IT! Now I have a firm grasp around it! Thanks.



I’ve made many a NAS box. You couldn’t get me near OpenFiler or FreeNAS. Straight Debian or Ubuntu is the only way to go if you want real control.

Saiful Zaree Johar

Well, a lazy noob like me might like the easier approach. But I do agree to a certain extent that some Linux distributions have better control…


Andy Afef

I’m not interested at all, but i like this statement “RAM is cheap! You may as well.”



yeah its do able with things like freeNAS but you may want to check out Synology’s offerings. I heard some people have made the OS work on other boxes.. but they’re Diskstations and software packages are really nice.


Adrian Rea

If you had an old pc, preferably with a quiet fan, would it not be best just to use that than buy newer gear. Just instal FREENAS instead of the old OS?


joe pianta

ah i have the perfect OLD pc for this.

on another note the side bar share thingy is being a pain in the arse, FB is either missing OR not staying open long enough to even click send without adding a comment.


Paul Girardin

Thanks for sharing … now to make a list and start working on it.


Wong Wee

While a DIY NAS box is cheap, what about it’s power usage?
Is it comparable to a dedicated NAS box?



Does freenas support drives that are hfs+ too? Ive got several mac formatted drives that id like to install together with some ntfs drives. Is this possible with this setup or another alternative?



Say you have multiple hard drives installed in the NAS. If one hard drive failed, how would you know which is it? Are there any motherboards that support hot swappable disk which can be used for a DIY NAS?


Pooky Joralyn

Can I use my old laptop for this purpose?



Can I use a PC case with a power supply to create an external HD enclosure that holds multiple hard drives? I don’t want to go through the hassle of creating a NAS box or RAID. I just want to have a box with HDs. Would I use an USB cable as an interface between the box and my PC?

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