I'm so happy, I just had to share my FIRST build experience!

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Mar 20, 2015
My First Build or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Process

Hello all,

I just had to share my experience with my first legitimate FreeNAS build. FreeNAS 11 was finally the version that was 'right' for me.

My FreeNAS history:
I had played with FreeNAS before (Version 8 and maybe earlier) but it was just too complex for my needs. Plus, after working all day, the last thing I wanted to come home to was more IT work or headaches. Synology met my needs and I'm still extremely satisfied with their products. However, the constant accumulation of more and more family vacation pics and videos and the increasing paranoia of losing all those items made me mentally commit to an ECC RAM based solution. Synology's ECC solutions were far too expensive and FreeNAS 9.x was looking better. I continued to patiently wait. I had grown comfortable with pfSense over the past 3 years. My current build is based on an AMD 5350 Kabini and an ASRock AM1H-ITX board with a dual Intel NIC installed. After v10(Corral) was released and it was announced v11 was going to be a major overhaul, I began planning my purchases. I was finally going to migrate over from forum lurker, FreeNAS researcher and playing around with FreeNAS VMs under VMWARE to the real thing. I've literally spent months casually skimming and reading through these forums, stumbling onto random blogs and websites with tutorials and advice, and watching YouTube videos (especially anything by Allan Jude). There were only two goals - to educate myself and enjoy the process. I wanted to fully understand what I was getting into, then make appropriate purchases and decisions based upon that knowledge.

In September I laid out a two part game plan for the forthcoming November/December holiday discount shopping season. This way I could know exactly what I wanted and focus solely on getting those products at discounts. By doing so, I ensured that I could move swiftly, purchase confidently and not make mistakes or miss out on steep price drops due to hesitation.
Part 1 - Make an informal short list of must-have bare-bones items - motherboard, cpu, ram, boot drive, power supply. Set deal alerts and purchase immediately.
Part 2 - Make an informal short list of luxury items that would be nice to get, but not necessarily required - grab a nice case like the Fractal Node 804, extra ram, spend more on a higher end board if price is right, silent case fans, etc.

Below are the results of my shopping experience. I bought everything piece by piece over the course of 3 months as super sales occurred. JEALOUSY ALERT: over the low prices!!!

Mobo: Supermicro X11SSH-F: Normally $210. I paid $180.
Processor: Intel Core i3-7100 Kaby Lake Processor 3.9GHz: Normally $119-$125. I paid $95.
Memory: Kingston 1x16GB ECC KVR24E17D8/16 DDR4-2400: Normally $185-$225. I paid $150. (I totally got lucky with this price!!! AMAZING considering current craziness of RAM prices!)
PSU: Seasonic Focus Plus 80+ GOLD 650W Fully Modular: Normally $80-85. I paid $30 ($50 sale price minus $20 manufacturer's rebate)
Boot Drive: ADATA Premier SP600 64GB 2.5 Inch SATA III SSD: Normally $40. I paid $25.
Storage SSD: 1x 250GB Samsung 850 EVO: Normally $95-$110. I paid $75.
Case Fans Cooler Master MasterFan Pro 120 1x Air Pressure and 1x Air Flow: Normally $18-$25 per item. I paid $7 per/$14 total.

NORMAL PRICES TOTALS: From $765 to $845 *This doesn't take into account extra costs like shipping and taxes.
WHAT I PAID TOTAL: $569 according to all the receipts added up including any and all shipping/taxes. *I also used 6 months interest free shopping options. I paid it off in full as I purchased, but still...nice if you need it, right? lol
MISC COSTS: I didn't calculate these things in but I donated rather nice sums to both the FreeBSDFoundation.org and to FreeNAS.org. They voluntarily sent me some wonderful FreeBSD and FreeNAS stickers without me asking. Awesome! Except some of the stickers are very old and say "FreeNAS 8"?! LOL!!!

*Normal prices reflect what they were at the time I was shopping - October through December.
**The prices I paid reflect the total price including shipping and taxes. I was extremely careful to get free shipping on everything and most online retailers didn't charge tax.
***All items were new retail. Nothing refurbished or bulk.

Why I purchased the above items.
MOBO: It's a Supermicro(DUH! lol), it's Micro-ATX, has 3 NICs(2 Intel), plenty of SATA ports and it's Intel 7th Gen. The Gravy? M.2 NVME and HTML5 IPMI!
PROC: It's powerful enough for me and it's low TDP.
RAM: The Kingston module was known to work with this motherboard and the price couldn't be beat.
PSU: It's a Seasonic and it was fully modular. The Gravy? The sale/rebate price and the Hybrid Silent Fan Control functions in three operational stages: Fanless Mode, Silent Mode, and Cooling Mode.
BOOT SSD: The ADATA Premier SP600 series has an excellent reputation for reliability and it was an excellent balance between price vs. value without going over the top. The Gravy? It's actually a VERY fast drive.
STORAGE SSD: I wanted an SSD to improve VM performance. I wasn't looking for a Samsung EVO but the price made it a sensible purchase. Another low cost ADATA SP600 would have been fine.
CASE FANS: I knew the CM MasterFans were quiet and I knew I was going to need better cooling for the CM case I was recycling. The Gravy? I got them for a steal and I can always put them into another PC when I swap cases in the spring.

What needs to be addressed in the future.

Within the next 6 months -
Honestly, I tried really hard to get 2x8GB Samsung sticks but couldn't make it happen. I would have preferred 2x8GB in the event one stick goes bad I could RMA it and still keep my box running. Que sera. It just didn't work out that way this time. If prices drop from their insane levels, I'll buy another module.

The Fractal Design Node 804 case was, and still is, selling for insane prices($120-$150!!!) due to high demand. I have alerts set and suspect it will get back down to it's normal retail price of $85 by the spring. In the meantime, I have a few spare cases in the attic and decided to build inside an old Cooler Master CM 330 Elite. It's got plenty of room, a small size, it does the job and those MasterFan Pro case fans really keep it silent. It's sitting 4 feet from me in my office and I can't hear it; even under load.

I decided to wait to purchase more WD RED HDs as well. The prices are coming down. I was going to grab 5x4TB for a RaidZ2 setup. However, I'm going to spend the next few months testing, improving, ruining, destroying, screwing up and recovering my new(not ready for prime-time) FreeNAS build so I didn't see any point in paying premium prices for 4TB drives now, when 6-8TB drive prices are dropping. In addition, I'm currently consuming 5TBs of space and I'll need some growth room. My previous plan required 5 drives, but I'd rather keep it simple and just do 4x6TB in RaidZ2. It keeps more affordable and certainly gives me plenty of the growth room I'll need for the next 2 or 3 years! Finally, I'm just testing and learning. I'm not migrating over yet. Why should I waste 3 or 4 months of precious hard drive warranty time?! For now, I have about 7 or 8 older 1TB drives I can play around with and learn on. Once I'm ready, I'll purchase the WD REDs and migrate over.

Once I'm comfortable I'll copy all data over from my DS415+ and FreeNAS will be my main NAS storage server. I'll demote the Synology into a local backup destination for FreeNAS and it can also serve as the family punching bag for media streaming, etc.

My box is close to my desk, so I'd like to add some budget Mellanox NICs and do 10Gigs via direct attached SFP+.

I have an older Synology DS211J in a relative's house and using that instead of cloud storage. It'll save me money and my backups will be readily available in minutes in the event of catastrophe. I'd like to setup my FreeNAS box to backup to this when I'm ready. I'll eventually replace this Synology with a FreeNAS box for this task too.

Within the next 18 months -
1 Dig more deeply into advanced features and CLI.
2 I'd like to learn from this new build, figure out if this meets my needs or if I need something more powerful, etc, etc, etc. IF FreeNAS is going to be right for me for the long-term (can't imagine why it wouldn't be), I'll take that knowledge and use it to build a new primary system, then convert this build into a dedicated FreeNAS backup appliance with the bonus benefits of ZFS & ECC.

I've shared my experience because this was a lot of fun. I'm extremely excited about Freenas 11.1. It's beautiful and feature-rich! Also, I've read a hundred times in these forums about people wanting to go cheap on their build but they're in a rush and 'Want it now!', only to end up wasting away in Regret-a-Rita-Ville. Hopefully, my experience and the above info/advice will sink in for some and teach others to slow down and plan it out. To have fun and focus more on enjoying the process.
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Jan 2, 2018

Im very similar to you, my synology ds215j doesnt work well for me anymore. Being in the UK prices are higher here than some other countries so I have been watching an auction site for some bargains for equiptment.

I have just bought today some very similar items as you have described, ive got Supermicro X11SSL-F for $134 (253331156070)

and a i3-7100 (273006814313) which was cheapeer than the 6100 i was looking at for only $96

I have a spare 60gb which i may use for the boot drive

I also keeping an eye on a seasonic s12-ii 520w psu which should be about $40

but ddr4 2133 udimms are probably going to cost me the most and may have to wait

My learning will start when built, glad to see we have similiar equiptmen, but im interesting in running plex and one vm


Mar 20, 2015
Hi Sky,

I love Synology and all my devices are still going strong. I definitely have been hankering for the ZFS/ECC one-two punch though. My 415+ is beefy and performs nicely. The 211J is just a spare box that was sitting on the shelf. Obviously, it doesn't compare to rolling your own F11 rig. The DSM software is really nice though. I can't say enough good things about it. I've always been impressed at how feature-rich it is and how responsive and helpful Synology's customer service has been. Example - The early models from 2009 had bad SATA cables. Years after being out of warranty they were sending replacements for free if you asked. The price is hard to justify though. Synology software features aside, for the money you spend on something beefy, you could have an even more powerful FreeNAS box with ZFS and ECC. They're also limited by the device, whereas your FreeNAS rig is only limited by the component choices you made. It's a bit like comparing apples and oranges to some extent. They each have their purpose and a customer base they can serve.

The X11SSL-F is a really nice board. I was considering it myself. It's certainly affordable. In all likelihood, I probably should have behaved myself and purchased it. ;) I decided to splurge a bit on my first build and was also concerned about future-proofing it a bit.

I'm starting another business, the girlfriend is getting into photography (long-term plan for retirement business and income) and will be dumping large RAW format photos. She'll likely experiment with video too. Knowing that, it nudged me more towards the H-F. I've always had the mentality of spending a bit extra on quality and was always willing to paying for it. However, that doesn't always translate as well or as clearly in the tech world. I was over-paying for years - latest, greatest, bells, whistles...etc. However, I wasn't taking advantage of those features and by the time I needed them, it was time to upgrade anyway! LOL

I think I hit the happy medium this time around. I was tempted by your board, except I was certain only 6 SATA (C232 chipset) ports was too limited for me. A boot drive, plus 4 HDs for data and an SSD for VMs and Bam! No ports lefts. The X11SSH-F gave me 8(C236 chipset) plus the M.2 option (9 ports total) and from there I can go to an expansion card. I'll be upgrading our three PCs next year and I'll be grabbing motherboards with M.2 NVME slots and drives for them so I just know I'll be naughty and grab one for the Freenas box too. LOL It seemed to make more sense for me. Time will tell. Regardless, it's Supermicro and I would have been thrilled with anything they offer.

I considered the the i3-6100 but as you mentioned, it cost more. I was trying to see if I could save money via buying last generation items but those prices weren't worth it. If the prices weren't going to justify it, then I wanted current generation parts and would stick with future-proofing.

I have a brand new Seasonic S12II I grabbed last month for $25 after rebates. I needed a backup power supply for emergencies and decided to test it out to see if maybe I could use it for my Freenas build. It is not quiet. If your box is going to be in the same room with you, you'll hear it. It's not modular either. I was already planning to buy the Seasonic Focus Plus for the Hybrid Silent Fan Control option. If noise levels are an issue for you, get the Focus Plus. It's whisper quiet. I had my box under load for a few days burning it in and stress testing it and I couldn't hear it. In fact, the old Cooler Master case fan was making all the noise and as soon as I swapped that out, it went silent. The next most likely noise candidate is the stock CPU cooler. Right now I don't feel the need to change that but you never know. If noise isn't an issue, then grab one. I like the S12 line but the Focus Plus can be found on sale with rebate for close to what the S12 will cost. Food for thought.

Don't get me started on RAM prices! That's why I'm waiting until next year to upgrade my other machines. 16GB(2x8GB) of RAM should cost me about $40-60 here in the USA but now it's $160-$200. If I were to upgrade now, I'd spend an additional $350-$400. Is money an issue? No. But I don't like wasting it either or being taken advantage of. I've read in the news that several countries have begun investigating price fixing among the manufacturers. Apparently, this is not just about supply/demand.

I was resigned to the fact that I would just have to spend about $200. Oh well, so be it. I got totally lucky getting my RAM for such a great price. I literally had to read the web page 4 or 5 times. I just couldn't believe it. I kept thinking this must not accurate, it's a goof, I clicked the wrong link and not really the same ECC RAM I was searching for.

I'm going to be running a VM or two for business reasons and out of curiosity to see how it performs under F11. I want to explore things like Plex further down the road too but I've got enough on my plate with FreeNAS alone. I'll wait until I'm a strong swimmer in those waters. Today I'm going to convert my custom built pfSense rig from UFS to ZFS, not that it's supported! Livin' da FreeBSD life! lol
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