Drive extender, NTFS drives and a bunch of other stuff.

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Jun 29, 2011
Hey guys

My current storage solution (copious external USB drives) is somewhat unsatisfactory, and FreeNAS hopefully can offer me what I want at a decent price. However, there are a few questions I wanted to ask before I break out the screwdriver.

I currently am using 5 external HDDs (2x 2TB, 2x 1TB, 1x 1.5TB) to store my data, and when I migrate to FreeNAS I want to be able to use as many of them as possible, and that's at the center of all my questions.

1. Can FreeNAS do something like Drive Extender and show all my connected drives as one chunk without the need to RAID ? This isn't a deal breaker since the meat of the storage is probably only going to use just the old 2TB disks, buying 3 more and running RAID 5. However since I'm broke, I'd like to be able to get the box running and sharing and add the extra drives once I can afford them. Alternatively, can FreeNAS do the drobo thing where it will raid different drive sizes happily ?

2. In terms of moving to ZFS, am I able to do it drive at a time (ie empty one drive among the others, format it to zfs, re-add the data, rise repeat) and still RAID the drives ? Or do they need to be empty to RAID ? Obviously one 2TB will need to be empty to RAID5, but other than that ? Failing that can I build the array with 3 clean disks, migrate files, then add my other drives to the raid ?

3. Can I set FreeNAS so that it'll actively alert me (e-mail I guess would be ideal) in the event of a disk failure while the box is sitting silently by with no monitor ?

4. Can FreeNAS work with extra SATA controller cards ? Even if I only use 2Tb drives, using 5 out of 6 SATA ports doesn't give me a great deal of expansion headroom. It seems logical that you can slot in a SATA controller set to JBOD and then just add extra drives to the array, but I want to be sure. Any recommendations on good sata cards would be helpful too.

5. How much juice do you need to run 6 to 8 HDDs anyway ?

6. How much CPU power do you really need ?

7. How do you keep dust out ? Obviously filters and stuff, good cooler etc, but yeah. It seems that heat may eventually become a problem for an unattended machine, so any thoughts ?

Sorry for going on and on, but this is all stuff that's running through my mind and I want to be sure of what I'm doing before I start doing it.

Any help would be seriously appreciated.

Thanks :)


Jul 25, 2011
Same question

I have the same questions (at least Qs1, 2 & 4)

All I want is a network storage device that I can add to and remove HDDs but shows up as 1 large drive without setting up a RAID. Can FreeNAS do this? (Like WHS drive extender)


Jul 1, 2011
Ok, I'll take a shot. A lot of this has been answered already if you spend some time to read these forums.

How are your external disks connected? USB? and how are they formatted? Just curious....

1) NO, FreeNAS doesn't work like drive extender or Drobo. You could format each drive as UFS and share them individually. Once you create a ZFS pool/volume, you can't just add disks like you're thinking and increase the capacity. That's the short answer, read the forums for the details.

2) Guess I answered this already

3) YES, but it's not really working perfectly yet. Hopefully by the final release of 8.01 it will. We're at 8.01 beta 4 right now, then there'll be a couple or so 8.01 RC's, so probably in a couple months maybe less, maybe more.

4) The short answer is yes, but you'll have to do some more searching in these forums, the info is there.

5) Well modern hard drive use between .75 to 1 amp, so say 12 watts per drive under load, times 6 or 8.... 72-96 watts

6) Depends on what you want to do, a lot of us are using dual core ATOM processors @ 1.6Ghz with 4+ GB of RAM, 8 would be better, especially with ZFS and more disks. If you're gonna do heavy streaming, probably something a little faster would be better.

7) All the stuff you said, don't put it on the floor under a desk, make sure your drives/case doesn't stack the drives horizontally above one another. Heat just accumulates on the upper drives. This can be a tricky suggestion, most cases are built that way.

Do some reading here in these forums, if you're serious, it will pay off with all the info you find here.
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