NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. As Windows became easier to use with networked devices and hardware prices dropped, the term began to be used in the consumer market. Today, there is a wide range of out-of-the-box 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? This is not a difficult task, but the approach is different from building a PC.

Step 1: Find a case

build your own NAS

The decision in the case requires thought. You need to decide what type of NAS you want to build. Will it be small and not get caught far away? Will you need to easily access it and remove or add drives? How much memory 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 money by building a NAS box out of, well, just about anything. Any box made of material that can be drilled through is usable. You also need to make sure it’s possible to install spacers on the motherboard that lift the motherboard off the surface it’s on (otherwise it could cause a short circuit).

This may be more trouble than it’s worth. You can find computer cases everywhere. Garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist… they seem to be everywhere. Old PCs sometimes sell so little that you end up buying an entire PC just for the occasion.

Readers who need to spend some money should just head over to Newegg and browse the 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 system with multiple drivers. Of course, you can also use a full ATX tower — it will just take up more space.

Step 2: Buy equipment

create your own NAS server

Powerful hardware is not required for network storage and increased system heat and power generation. This means that you can get rid of old hardware. Now is the time to bring the old dual-core processor back into service. If you’re looking to buy a new one, look at the entry-level Intel Celeron or AMD A4.

The motherboard may be basic. Make sure it fits your case, fits your chosen processor, and has enough SATA ports to handle the hard drives you want to connect. Motherboards built today usually support the most useful features such as USB booting and wake-on-LAN. Double check the manufacturer’s website if you’re feeling paranoid.

RAM is again not critical. Make sure it works with your motherboard. Go two gigabytes (it’s not required, if you are using linux OS, but gosh RAM is cheap! You also can.)

Now take the hard drive. All you need is a basic 5400 RPM mechanical drive with a ton of storage space. Everyone has their own brand preference — I’ve been lucky with Seagate drives — but any major brand should do the trick.

And don’t forget the power supply. Some cases come with one. Most don’t. A NAS doesn’t need a lot of power — most will never exceed 100W output — so go cheap and reliable. I recommend Antec and Seasonic.

Step 3: Build it

Building a NAS is no different from building a regular PC. The hardware is the same as the required steps. Check out our PC Building Guide PDF. or our more recent visual guide to building your own PC. .

Step 4: Install the operating system

build your own NAS

The most popular option for consumer NAS systems is FreeNAS. It is a free and open source project that is quite easy to use and provides features that most users need. While many Linux operating systems can run this kind of software, FreeNAS is the best choice because it’s built specifically for NAS and doesn’t contain any unnecessary features. We have already published FreeNAS installation guide.

Other options include NexentaStor, Openfiler, and Ubuntu with Samba. The last one is about as easy to use as FreeNAS, though I don’t see much reason to use it on a system that isn’t meant to be used as a normal desktop. If you want to compare check out our take on FreeNAS vs OpenMediaVault vs Amahi

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

Be sure to enable Wake-On-LAN after installing the operating system. in BIOS. Without it, you won’t be able to wake your computer from sleep when you need to access its files.

Step 5Enjoy Your NAS

Your NAS should now be up and running. Such systems tend to require minimal maintenance, especially if specialized operating systems such as FreeNAS are running. The system can be thrown into the back of a cabinet or under a table. It will be fine as long as you don’t throw a blanket over him. Enjoy!

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