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Need Guidance on DIY NAS with Low Profile Case Using Mini ITX Board

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I have a customized NAS-type product (called a AV Storage Server) from a company, Niveus Media (that manufactures Media Center PCs and associated hardware) that needs repair. Well, the storage server is out of production and the company stated it would difficult (and potentially expensive) to fix since original replacement products like the motherboard are unavailable. Niveus thinks the motherboard is the issue but was not certain. It boots up (with errors) then then after running a bunch of UNIX scripts, it hangs. Note: this product is basically a NAS but require special Niveus software. It uses a mini ITX motherboard (Via Mini ITX EPIA-M) with 4 ATA-100/133 250GB hard-drives with an UNIX OS in a very low-profile case. I have attached a photo with the top removed.

I really like the form-factor of the case and it's custom machined from aluminum so it was probably expensive to manufacture. So I would like to continue to use it but upgrade/convert it into a higher capacity NAS that would work on a Windows network. If possible, I would like it to have good network performance for accessing photos, videos, and other media.

So I was thinking about buying a new mini ITX motherboard and installing 2-4 SATA drives (4 if the MB supports it) and using something like Unbuntu to configure it. I have never built my own computer so I thought this would be a fun learning project. I do not have any experience setting up a NAS or a RAID array. My experience with hard drives with Windows OS has been limited to adding and configuring an extra drive, formatting, partitioning, etc.

So could someone provide some guidance on what components I need and might fit within the Niveus case? I read about the MSI Wind PC (which has a low profile like the Niveus case) and it almost seems like I could remove the motherboard and insert in the Niveus case. Is this practical? The drawback to the Wind PC is that it only supports 2 SATA drives and I really want support for 4.

Thanks in advance for your help.


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I looked at the thread but the links to MSI didn't work (just brings to the top level MSI web page).

I then looked at Newegg.com and looked at what they had for MSI mini ITX motherboards. Well, they have several and I found an open box motherboard for $29. Here is the link:

The big question I have: Is there a CPU that will fit in my low-profile Niveus case? There are ton of CPU's to choose which is overwhelming. Here is the list:
In addition, since the case is small, it has limited room for a fan/cooling system so I assume I need CPU with a low heat output (which I assume is directly proportional to the power consumption).

Any advice?
I realized that the mini-ITX motherboard I saw on Newegg.com is not for ATOM processors (Core 2 Quad / Core 2 Duo / Pentium D / Celeron).

Assuming that ATOM processors the way to go, I started looking back at the thread recommend by Tim Huggins that had Atom-based board suggestions. I googled the MSI IM-945GC and found lots of vendors selling it. MSI doesn't have it listed so I'm assuming its been disconnected. I like it because it is low profile and has 4 SATA connectors. Here is a link form a vendor with good pictures:

So if I buy this (with 2GB of RAM), get 2 SATA drives (to start off), reuse the existing power supply, is there anything else?

What software do I need to configure it to a RAID 5 NAS? Is Unbuntu all I need? What about FreeNAS? Just not sure how to get started once I have all the hardware.
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Thanks Tim!

BTW, I know I'm getting ahead of myself but I have another question:

My plan is to use RAID 5 with 4 drives. If one of the drives fail, how easy is it with Unbuntu/mdadm-based RAID to swap out the drive with a new one?
Sorry, but I haven't had the occasion to try it. Some quick Googling didn't turned up mostly links to problems that people had doing mdadm RAID 5 rebuilds.
I would go ahead and try to install linux on this system before i got a new board. I think there is a good chance the os is corrupt and maybe just install linux on it and get a better nas in the end anyhow.
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