Building a FreeNAS file server
May 19, 2017
3 minute read

My aging Synology 411+ NAS has been reliably meeting my file serving needs over the last few years. The Synology DSM interface is simple and easy to use. The features and packages it offers “just work”. However that level of simplicity comes at a cost. Restricted access and limited control over the system itself.

You can of course make changes under the hood, however these types of changes are discouraged and can have an affect on the support provided by Synology. Even simple customizations like shell environment profiles or file system symlinks are wiped out when applying the next system update. I eventually found myself writing scripts to automatically restore the system to the way I had previously configured it. Running them became a post system update ritual.

For someone like me, being limited to configuration options exposed via the DSM web interface was far too restrictive. So when it came time to address building a new file server, I set my eyes on FreeNAS. With the system selected, the help of some friends and the internet I picked out some hardware to match.

  • Rosewill RSV-R4000 - 4U Rackmount Server Case
  • SuperMicro X10SDV-4C-TLN2F Intel Xeon D-1521 Motherboard
  • 2x Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR4 ECC Registered DIMM
  • 2x Rosewill RSV-SATA-Cage-34 4 x 3.5” Hot-Swap Cages
  • 4x HGST DeskStar NAS 3.5” 4TB SATA 6.0Gb/s Hard Drive
  • EVGA SuperNOVA 650 G2 Power Supply
  • Dell Perc H310 SATA / SAS HBA Controller

Parts pile

Hot swap drive cages mounted. Rackmount case of course, once you go rack you never go back.

Drive cages mounted in case

SuperMicro X10SDV-4C-TLN2F Intel Xeon D-1521 Motherboard.

SuperMicro motherboard in box

The SuperMicro X10SDV-4C-TLN2F motherboard is tiny being ITX form factor. Despite its size it has everything I need:

  • Embedded Intel Xeon CPU
  • Supports up to 128GB of ECC
  • Dual 10GB/s Intel based NICs
  • IPMI interface

SuperMicro ITX

Power supply mounted.

EVGA 650 G2 Power Supply

Next the motherboard was mounted. Then the case, fans and drive cages were wired.

Case internals

Up next it was time to install the four ECC DIMMs, I probably should have done this before mounting the motherboard.


All 32GB of memory installed.

Memory installed

Coming together with the case front closed. At this point I was still waiting for my raid card to come in, so I couldn’t quite close the case yet.

Case front closed

Once the Perc H310 raid card arrived it was wired to each drive cage.

Raid card wiring

I purchased 4 4TB hard drives with the intention of using 3 of the drives in a raidz1 configuration and having the 4th as an available spare if/when a drive fails. This will give me a volume with about ~7TB of usable space.

The hard drives installed easily into the drive sleds.

Mounting drive to sled

As my first ever hot swappable system, I took the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Each drive was installed with the system powered on.

Inserting hard drive

I watched the system logs as each one was detected and became available.

Hard drives installed

Having read a great article titled Copper cooling for the Supermicro X10SDV Xeon D motherboards which covers active cooling options for these motherboards. I removed the stock passive heatsink in favor of active cooling using an I2 Cooling Fan/Heatsink. With active cooling my cpu typically runs around 44 degrees.

I2 Cooling Fan/Heatsink

With everything finalized the system was finally rack mounted.

Rack mounted