Building a NAS for home use – Part 2: Components

Part 2: Components

Building a NAS or home server based on the Hewlett-Packard ProLiant MicroServer N36L is quite easy. Only a small amount of additional hardware is required to assemble a system with very impressive features and performance. In this small blog post I do explain which components I decided to use in my system and which benefits I hope to gain by using them.


Instead of simply writing one big blog entry I decided to split up my report into multiple parts:


Minimum Hardware required

Basically by buying the MicroServer you are ready to go. The system comes with all hardware you need to run a small server. But I think this would not be worth this device! Therefore decide on your own which additional hardware you want to purchase at least a pair of good and big hard disk should be added to the device!

Hard Disks

I got three 2 TB Western Digital hard disks to put into my MicroServer. I decided to go for the Green Caviar with 64MB Cache and 5400rpm. I do not need server class disks because I do plan to power down the system when it is absolutely not needed. In case I am not at home and I do need some data from the device I plan to power on by using the remote management function offered by iLO.
Back to the WD disks. They do offer a low noise profile and an acceptable performance because of the density of the disks.


I am not planning to upgrade from 1 GB RAM which was included in the package to a higher value. I checked the system requirements of FreeNAS and I think for my purpose 1 GB is pretty enough especially when comparing to some other NAS boxes with much slower processors. But in case of doing heavy raid stuff and running a lot of servers on the box you should insert more RAM.

Integrated Lights-Out – iLO

In my opinion the coolest feature you can get for this server. iLO is the remote management card by HP. By using this card you will get access to the server even when it is set to power off. Via this card you can power-on/ -off, hard reset the server, have a look on the VGA-Out (even BIOS) and install a new OS via a remote virtual DVD drive.


Because I want to get the system running without having to start a long installation and configuration procedure I decided to give FreeNAS a try. FreeNAS is a free and open source operating system based on FreeBSD which is optimized for providing NAS services. A special features comes to the support of ZFS, the Zeta File System, which is fully suported including Raid-Z etc. To find out more check the FreeNAS Website and the Wikipedia article about ZFS.


The USB-Stick is used to store the FreeNAS Installation on it. By using a USB-Stick there is not need to install FreeNAS on any of the hard disks and you can even benefit a little bit of the fast read access of flash storage.
For my configuration I decided to use a 8 GB stick from transcend.


The next chapters is about the required software installation. To continue reading click: Part 3: Software Installation

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3 thoughts on “Building a NAS for home use – Part 2: Components

  1. Hiho NFec,

    Last Week, I set up my n36l with freenas 8 nightly build 8r7061 (I couldn’t, somehow, use FN8.0.1BETA4. Because all the services coulnd’t be started via the web frontend). I have bought additional 4 GB ECC RAM and 3 hitachi 5k3000 2T harddriver.
    I set the 3 disk arry in raidZ (2 data + 1 parity) which gives me 3.6TB space effectivly.
    Ram is very important for ZFS, because ZFS caches data in kernel addressable memory. With 5GB RAM, 4 GB are always used during network or local data transfer process.

  2. Hi Seph,
    after several days of running the small system I can only agree with you. 1GB RAM is absolutely not enough for running ZFS.
    So far the performance was not really bad, but the system behaves a little bit strange and I do get some interruptions in regards to availability via NFS.
    At they do recommend to run at least 1GB RAM per 1TB Storage. Therefore I think I will go in within the next days to my local computer dealer and buy 4-6GB of RAM.

  3. Hiho, nice blog. cant wait to see the configuration and installation part (which is also the most important part :-)). just a small comment on the ram upgrad part. If you are going to use ZFS, maybe more ram brings you a better read/write performance.


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