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[X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 11:40 am
by bgravato
X230 has a 6-port SATA controller, so I was just wondering if it's possible somehow to connect more than one HDD directly to SATA.

I'm trying to build a low-power NAS (running Linux) and I have a working X230 motherboard collecting dust that I'd love to reuse for this purpose.

I'd like to connect two 3.5" HDD drives in (software) RAID-1 (linux mdadm).

I know they need to be powered externally, that's not a problem.

As for data connection... One can be connected to the internal SATA port, but what about the second one?
From what I googled so far, my options seem to be:
- docking station with ultrabay slim
- docking station with eSATA port
- ExpressCard to eSATA adapter
- SATA port multiplier connected to internal SATA port (is it supported?)
- SATA to mSATA adapter connected to internal mSATA port
- USB 3.0

My concerns are how reliable those connection are and how it can hit performance.
The disks I'll be using are 2 WD Red 4TB.

So here is my breakdown of each option:

docking station
I'd guess this is probably the option that is most reliable and that offers best performance... Though might be the most expensive, since I don't own a docking station.
I wonder if there's a simpler way of connecting to SATA through the docking station port, since I don't need all the other ports (VGA, USB, etc), but I couldn't find anything on that matter so far...

ExpressCard
I've never used an eSATA ExpressCard, so not sure what to expect... but I guess the major con will probably be on performance...

SATA to mSATA adapter
No experience with this either, but I'd expect it to be reliable and fast (yes the mSATA port is SATA II only, but that shouldn't be limiting for an HDD).
On the other hand it conflicts with my idea of putting the OS on a mSATA SSD and will force me to run the OS from an USB pen (not ideal).

Port multiplier
Not sure if SATA port multiplier is supported by this board
Even if it is, this article suggests it might not be the safest option:
https://www.zdnet.com/article/are-sata- ... iers-safe/

USB
Not reliable, so I'd prefer to stay away from it.

Any thoughts and suggestions are most welcome!

Thanks in advance.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 1:57 pm
by dr_st
bgravato wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 11:40 am
- docking station with ultrabay slim
- docking station with eSATA port
Yes.
bgravato wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 11:40 am
I'd guess this is probably the option that is most reliable and that offers best performance...
Yes.
bgravato wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 11:40 am
Though might be the most expensive, since I don't own a docking station.
You can find them remarkably cheap sometimes. This one seems like it might be a winner. Or this one, since you are apparently in Portugal.

Search eBay for Ultrabase Series 3 (you will also need the hard drive caddy, bought separately) or for "Mini Dock Plus eSATA" (not all of them are with eSATA, so be specific).

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Sun Jun 14, 2020 6:16 pm
by bgravato
dr_st wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 1:57 pm
You can find them remarkably cheap sometimes. This one seems like it might be a winner. Or this one, since you are apparently in Portugal.

Search eBay for Ultrabase Series 3 (you will also need the hard drive caddy, bought separately) or for "Mini Dock Plus eSATA" (not all of them are with eSATA, so be specific).
Thank you for the quick reply.

The USB 3.0 version seem to be more popular on ebay, but I found a few eSATA version as well, specially on the German ebay.
I think I can get one in the 30-35 EUR price range (including shipping), which is not bad.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:01 am
by Krissharm
Had exactly the same idea. Seems a good use of the board.
How are you powering your 3.5 drives?

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Mon Jun 15, 2020 2:21 pm
by bgravato
Krissharm wrote:
Mon Jun 15, 2020 5:01 am
Had exactly the same idea. Seems a good use of the board.
How are you powering your 3.5 drives?
I haven't decided yet... but I also need a power supply for the x230, so one option is to get a PSU (and some regulators) that can power everything (20V for the board/dock and 12V/5V for the HDDs).

I'll need to put the disks somewhere... so I could get an old PC case with a normal PC power supply (I should have some old ones still working, though their fans tend to be annoyingly noisy).

The alternative would be finding some HDD enclosure/dock with eSATA and its own power supply. I actually just remembered that I have a very old DLink NAS that I no longer use... Maybe I can somehow reuse it for this... though it mighty be too much work for just a simple thing...

What did you have in mind?

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:43 am
by Krissharm
The old PC case is a good idea. I only had the thoughts of power for the laptop, then power for enclosures for the HDD's but that seems a bit messy.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:40 pm
by bgravato
For anyone interested here's my first attempt at a low power home NAS server built from a x230.
This is just a temporary setup, just to verify that it works (and it does!).

Image

Gear:
- (bottom-half of a) x230 laptop
- Dock station (with eSATA connector) + 90W power brick (not in picture)
- WD Red 4TB connected with SATA/eSATA cable to the dock station
- WD Red 4TB connected with male SATA/female SATA cable to internal SATA
- Old HDD IDE-USB enclosure with external power supply (PSU not in picture) used to power both HDDs
- SO (OpenMediaVault) installed on mSATA SSD (internal mSATA connector)
- Gigabit Ethernet

Total power consumption from the socket:
- cpu idle and HDDs sleeping: 13W
- cpu idle and HDDs spinning but idle: 18.5W
- cpu low load and HDDs busy: 21-29W
- cpu heavy load and HDDs busy: 39-44W

It's not a raspberry pi, but I think it's very good power consumption, specially when idle (most of the time).

For final setup I will likely power the HDDs from another source (and probably save 2-3W extra from a more efficient PSU).
Put everything fixed with screws inside of a case (probably an old ATX PC case).
I might replace the x230 90W PSU with a 65W version of it

.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Fri Aug 14, 2020 4:52 am
by Krissharm
This looks like a decent setup.
How did you figure out the power consumption?
I have a different doc with no esata... that is a helpful addition! And creative on the power brick for the HDD that is the sticking point, they need 12v so a bit more complex.
the 65watt for the x230 should be more than ample as you are powering the hdd externally, but I would guess that wont change the power consumption as they only draw what they need.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2020 6:43 pm
by bgravato
I measure the power consumption with a power meter on the AC plug, like this one:
Image

Meanwhile I've put everything inside an old full-tower ATX case and I had to replace the power supply for the HDDs, because the one on the previous photo was having some issues. I'm temporarily using a (very old) ATX PSU, which bumped the power consumption up by 10W or so.
Image

Ideally I'd like to power the HDDs from the Lenovo's power brick, but that will require some more hacking (to convert 20V to 12V/5V). Alternatively I may use the power brick from my previous (now retired) NAS (a D-Link DNS 323), which already has 12V and 5V outputs, I just need to make an adapter to a molex connector.

I ended up using the 90W power brick and kept the 65W one for using with my full-working x230, since it's lighter and smaller.
And you are correct, there's no significant difference in power consumption.

I also want to add 1 or 2 fans to the case (before I close it) to keep it cool inside. I will probably power the fan(s) from one of the many USB ports on the dock and let it run continuously.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:10 am
by schen
This is very nice work. I've seen my brother so something similar using a Mini-ITX board with notebook spec parts and notebook drives for a low powered system. A few years ago I ran a system out of an A31 in a dock giving me 3 drivebays. I used CentOS as the operating system. It worked just fine but using PATA drives were a limitation!

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:38 am
by TRS-80
bgravato wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:40 pm
Total power consumption from the socket:
- cpu idle and HDDs sleeping: 13W
- cpu idle and HDDs spinning but idle: 18.5W
- cpu low load and HDDs busy: 21-29W
- cpu heavy load and HDDs busy: 39-44W
You know, personally I have moved to Single Board Computers (SBC) for this sort of thing, mostly because of extremely low power use (well also Intel IME shenanigans, or their AMD equivalents) but this is actually not crazy far away from what you will get with an SBC, once you add the HDDs (which actually use a fair bit of power in their own right). Plus you are re-using stuff. So, well done! :thumbs-UP:
bgravato wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:40 pm
It's not a raspberry pi
RPi are one of the most over-rated devices out there. There are a lot of problems with them, but if you try and discuss any of those things on their forums, you will be banned. :lol: Leading to total blind fanboy-ism. Not saying you are doing that, as they are very popular and commonly mentioned.

In fact, many people are not even aware that there are so many more interesting choices for Single Board Computers nowadays.

Full disclosure: I am involved (on and off) with the Armbian project. But that's because I think it is (very!) important to have a nice diversity of well supported (and much more open) devices, as opposed to one company dominating the market (with completely locked down devices, to boot).

Cheers,
TRS-80

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:40 pm
by Omineca
TRS-80 wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:38 am
RPi are one of the most over-rated devices out there. There are a lot of problems with them, but if you try and discuss any of those things on their forums, you will be banned.
Agreed. I use a Raspberry Pi Zero W for a gopher / gemini / caldav / cardav server, but you have to have some kind of regular backup solution, because a single power outage -- or any incomplete shutdown -- is likely to corrupt your SD card.

I don't want to bash the Pi, because it does a nice job at about 1W. But I feel safer with my old X120e as a low-power server.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2021 6:13 pm
by atagunov
bgravato wrote:
Sun Jun 14, 2020 11:40 am
X230 has a 6-port SATA controller
So even internal SATA + docking station eSATA + mSATA makes only 3
Does it mean 3 more are accessible to somebody willing to use a soldering gun? %)

I should get a spare X220 board/bottom to play later this year..

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Thu Feb 04, 2021 9:37 am
by TRS-80
Omineca wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:40 pm
gopher / gemini
Cool!

I finally settled on Sourcehut not too long ago, as a git forge to host my little hobby projects. There is this (IMO) really cool resurgence of "small web" and other interesting projects going on over there (e.g., Plan9, etc.).

It's only a matter of time until I set up my own Gemini site, I suppose.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:12 am
by Omineca
TRS-80 wrote:
Thu Feb 04, 2021 9:37 am
Omineca wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:40 pm
gopher / gemini
It's only a matter of time until I set up my own Gemini site, I suppose.
OT, but I'm visiblink over at gopher://zaibatsu.circumlunar.space and there are links to my own server there. I quite enjoy reading other peoples phlogs and gemlogs. It's a lot like the pre-web2.0 days, when many people had personal web pages.

I really like the server setup here! Great idea. I did a similar thing by shoving a bunch of small components into an old hard drive enclosure. The re-use of old cases is a great way to reduce visual clutter, and of course, you can make use of the case LEDs, ports, etc.

Re: [X230] best way to connect two 3.5" HDD to build a NAS?

Posted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 8:58 pm
by axur-delmeria
atagunov wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 6:13 pm
So even internal SATA + docking station eSATA + mSATA makes only 3
Does it mean 3 more are accessible to somebody willing to use a soldering gun? %)

I should get a spare X220 board/bottom to play later this year..
Just because the chipset on the X230 has 6 SATA ports doesn't mean they're accessible. I remember a similar discussion regarding the X61, until it turned out that the signal pins for the unused ports were routed to ground. This meant that in order to liberate the SATA ports, one had to desolder the ICH8M southbridge chip and somehow solder thin wires onto the SATA pins and isolate them from the ground solder pad on the system board.

The theoretical solution was to use a double-sided PCB between the southbridge and the system board, breaking out the extra SATA ports while acting as a passthrough for the rest. It was deemed unfeasible back then, and IMO even more so on the X230.