Unraid is one of the operating systems used by some of the biggest names in the YouTube tech industry such as MKBHD and LinusTechTips. But what makes it so special?

In this article, we’ll talk about Unraid’s unique way of storing data and why it’s so effective. We’ll also look at some of the other main features that make it the best home NAS and media server.

1. Unraid keeps your data safe

RAID-5

Unraid differs from traditional RAID in several ways. In most RAID cases, when you write a file to a RAID array, multiple disks are rotated and the data is spread across multiple disks. Thus, even one file can exist on several disks.

Because RAID uses more than one drive to read and write data, this results in a performance benefit. RAID also offers a degree of security. RAID5 can handle the loss of one drive, while RAID6 can handle the loss of two drives.

RAID is still prone to catastrophic failures. If you lose two drives in a RAID5 array, you won’t be able to get your data back. This is because data completeness depends on other drives. If you take one drive out of a RAID5 array and plug it into your computer, you won’t be able to see anything meaningful because the data is striped.

Another consideration with RAID is that the smallest drive limits the size of the array. This can limit how you can update the size of a RAID array. Also, it may not be possible to add one disk and increase the size of the array.

Unraid storage method

A network share in Unraid can span multiple disks, but it manages data in a completely different way compared to traditional RAID. Unraid can be configured to use up to two parity disks. Similar to traditional RAID, this will prevent data loss if up to two drives die, keeping your data safe.

unraid storage

When you write a file to a share in Unraid, only one disk is spinning along with the parity disks to write the data. Thus, one file will always exist on only one disk. Since data is not spread across multiple drives, you can take one drive that was in the Unraid array, plug it into your computer and see what was on that drive.

There is a trade-off when saving data in this method in that data read and write performance is limited to the speed of a single drive. However, Unraid mitigates this issue by allowing you to use an SSD as cache.

In Don’t Be Afraid, if one of your drives was about to die, you can plug in another drive and it will restore the data that was on that drive. However, if you lose more than one drive, you can still plug the remaining drives into your computer to find what’s there.

This gives Unraid the advantage of keeping your data safe.

2. Fearless is effective

unraid usage

Unraid may not be as performant as traditional RAID, but it is much more efficient. Power consumption is greatly reduced because all disks are not spinning to read and write data.

Unraid is also efficient in how you can expand the size of an array. You can add a disk of any size and it will increase the size of the array by that size, even if it doesn’t match the size of other disks. As long as you make sure your parity drive is equal to or greater than the largest drive in your array, your data will be safe.

The base Unraid configuration only requires 2 GB of RAM and a 1 GHz processor. At idle, almost no RAM or CPU is used. The image above shows resource usage on a server with an Intel i7-4770 processor and 16 GB of RAM.

In regular use, such as playing a video and recording a file at the same time, Unraid still barely goes into the eye. This shows how effectively Unraid manages its resources.

3. Support for virtual machines

You may have found yourself in a situation where you need a PC and a NAS but have the budget for one of them. Well, Unraid lets you have your cake and eat it!

Luckily, Unraid has built-in support for virtualization, so any remaining resources on your computer can be used to run a virtual machine. Unraid also has native support for IOMMU groups.

This allows you to give the virtual machine direct access to a device connected to Unraid, such as a GPU. This means you could create a virtual machine used for hardcore gaming and have almost pure performance as if it were running directly on your hardware. Unraid allows you to run a home lab or start playing on a single machine.

4. Unraid has great app support

unraid applications

Unraid was built from a Docker enabled group. In a nutshell, Docker is a container platform that allows applications to run in their own secure environment. It is currently the most widely used container platform among millions of developers around the world and gives Unraid access to thousands of applications.

Fortunately, many vendors provide versions of Docker for their applications. This is important because it means you won’t have to rely on an independent developer to provide updates for future versions of the software, since the companies themselves will support them.

Docker support also means you are not tied to any proprietary applications. Many popular applications are already available, such as:

  • Plex
  • Emby
  • openvpn
  • OwnCloud

You can turn your NAS into a powerful media server. private cloud storage or file sharing downloader with just a few clicks. Docker on Unraid runs smoothly and provides an unprecedented level of versatility.

5. Your equipment, your budget

unraid-VMS

One of the most significant advantages of Unraid is that it runs on a regular PC. This means there is no limit to how powerful you want your build to be if you have the budget to match. If you need a NAS without virtualization or resource intensive applications, you might even be able to repurpose an old PC you own.

Standard NAS systems such as QNAP and Synology can be difficult to upgrade or replace with replacement parts. This is another benefit of using regular PC components as they are more affordable.

You can even build a custom machine out of used parts to squeeze a more powerful NAS out of your budget. Be sure to check Unraid’s hardware requirements and compatibility before purchasing.

Not for sale on Unraid? Check FreeNAS

There is one aspect that repels people with fear; there is a cost attached to it. But it’s great value for money, and there’s a 30-day trial that you can use to try it out for yourself. Unraid has a great community forum that you can use for both support and advice on your build.

If you still haven’t sold Unraid but still need NAS capabilities, you can create a RAID array natively in Linux to set up the array If you’re looking for a more business-oriented NAS solution, you should also check out FreeNAS And finally, you can host a Plex server on a NAS

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