Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions



  • Dear All,

    thanks for joining this thread.

    I am looking to build a home file server with an Adaptec 51645 Raid controller. Only for media files, mostly backuped up BD discs (most of them proper movies with on avg. ~10GB per file; with some backed up TV series with smaller files of say around ~1GB).* There are no small files on the storage space itself, except a few text or nfo-files.

    I have a total of 6x3TB WD Red and HGST NAS (all SATA) in the system, plus a small 2.5" for the OS. So far I was running them as JBOD's with Win10 and remote access from within the home network. The server doesn't run anything aside from remote desktop. It's only used for Kodi, and that is installed on the clients.
    While the data can be replaced, it is quite a bit of work. I cannot afford to have a proper backup that requires x2 storage space, hence I opted for Raid6 as at least an additional level of security over JBODs. My only experience with RAID, however, led to near catastrophic failure (in this case it was fake Intel Raid10; so yes, my own fault) so I want to be certain to make the right choices before starting the setup. I eventually plan to extend the drive count, the controller would support up to 20 (16 internal, 4 external).

    Drives are connected via SFF8087> 4 x SATA adapters; New Data is written onto the system less than once a week; data is accessed about once a day.

    1. Is the setup ok as above with Win10 as its OS? I am most familiar with Win (historian by trade, rather than IT), but I would change if it is more secury. If any other OS has more capabilities, I probably won't be needing them, however. Anything else I could have missed (wrong cables, etc...)? I have a 120mm fan next to the card as it got very hot even before setting up a Raid.
    2. Given the usage scenario, is it better to have it running 24/7 or start it up once a day? So far I did that via WOL, but if 24/7 is better under RAID, I will of course go for that.
      2a) If "shutdown" is an option; should I just shutdown Windows or activate energy savings on the Raid controller? There are 3 options on the controller; Normal, Standby and Power-Off.
    3. OS: I have a few 2.5" drives I don't really need. Should I install Win10 on a seperate disk or as part of the array?
      3a) If it is seperate, should that drive still be plugged into the RAID card or rather into a normal mb-SATA port? I currently have it setup as the latter, but I'm open to any chances.
      3b) Assuming seperate (and either plugged into SATA ports on MB or the Raid card), would a RAID1 make sense for the OS, would a backup be better, or does neither make sense? There's no additonal software on the OS and settings are only adjusted to whatever makes sense regarding energy-savings, so overall, having to re-install wouldnt be an issue if this disk breakes, as long as it does not affect the array on the card.
      3c) If it is seperate, is this the correct boot order: 1) OS 2.5", 2) Adaptec Raid Card?
      4)Any advantage of using the Raid Bios (CTRL+A) to set up the array over the Adaptec graphical interface under Windows?
    4. Write Cache: Without battery module or UPS is write-through correct?
      5b) Should I get a UPS? They are fairly cheap, a lot cheaper than the battery module actually.
    5. Stripe size. A lot of options. Given that the data is primarly very large (there are some small text files though, but other than that only large mkv's; overall number of files is still only a few thousand). Does it matter?
    6. Creating Array: Build / Verify, Clear or Quick init?
    7. After having initialized the array, is it correct to simply format it via Windows ? File system as NTFS, with cluster size matching the stripe size?
    8. Any other settings in Win10 that I need to be aware of that could jeopardize the array or are generally unhealthy, i.e. shut-down timers, energy saving features, disk shutdowns etc...or is all taken care off by the raid card anyway?
    9. Anything I missed regarding array creation?
    10. Should I try to test the stability/rebuild time by pulling a drive or is this unecessary stress?
    11. Will the card automatically monitor the health of the disks and report it - assuming I manage to set it up correctly - or should I rely on another piece of additonal software?
    12. Futureproof: If my understanding is correct, expanding the array means it has to be rebuilt entirely. Would it thus be better to do a large rebuild only once; i.e. the next step would be to add 6-8 more disks, or 3-4 at a time (thus causing 2 rebuilds?) I think its the former, but better to be sure.
      13a) In order to really utilize the savings from Raid6 over a backup, I want to get to at least 10 drives. After that, I would be open to build a new array. Would that be more advisable and can this be done on the same card (since I have a total of 20 ports including the external) ?
    13. Does the controller scrub automatically or do I have to set it up? If so, how often given that I only write about once a week? I could further reduce that to once a month.

    Questions 4 (A: use Raid Bios rather than Windows), 5 (A:Yes, write-through), 5b (A: Both if possible, UPS doesn't protect against failed PSU) have already been answered over at spiceworks, but if you disagree I would of course like to hear your opinion too.

    Thanks a great deal in advance for hopefully replying to the many, many questions.

    "*" Just in case you wonder, I'm fortunate enough to live in a country where private backups are still legal.



  • Wow - nice huge post - welcome to ML.



  • How are you accessing these files? Just using Windows SMB file sharing? You specifically mention there is no other software installed in the OS, so I was assuming it must just be SMB file sharing.

    With that in mind, Why pay the Windows tax? Why not install Linux? It's free, requires less system resources, etc.

    1. I'd personally go with XenServer and then a Linux distro in a VM assuming you can make partitions large enough to handle your file needs
      2)The RAID controller is a typical server component, they are designed to run 24/7. Cooling will be your biggest issue here, noise being the second, and power draw the third. Other than saving money on power and your hearing, I see no reason to shut it down.
      3)There is no reason to split the OS away from the array - you're wasting drive slots/storage/performance by doing so. As mentioned in #1, I'd install XS on a SD card or USB flash drive, then built a VM for the OS. The VM should have it's own partition for the OS, then a separate partition for the data drive.
      4)I agree - you should have both.
    2. because your files are larger, a larger stripe size is fine. 4K seems typical today.
    3. Quick Init is fine.
    4. yep, just use the default of the OS you're using - performance isn't critical it seems, so no point in trying to do anything fancy.
      8)Well, by default Windows 10 goes into power save mode - though I don't know after what period. I also don't believe it will wake from normal traffic requests, so a WOL would be required or a manual wake up (press power button, etc)
    5. Anything you missed? So you're starting with a 4 drive RAID 6 setup, but you plan to add 6-8 more disks down the road. hmmm.. [email protected] ?
    6. No I wouldn't try testing the rebuild, undue, worthless stress on the system.
    7. RTM (read the manual) - sorry I have no idea.
    8. I would only grow it once, but frankly, not a fan of growing it at all - and a question, can you add 6-8 disks to a pre existing RAID 6 array all at once? ages ago I could add disks to a RAID 5, but only one at a time. So if I was adding 6 disks, that was 6 different rebuild processes - that's a no go in my book. backup your data and rebuild the array and start over.
      12a) what is Utilize the savings of RAID6 over a backup Please Please Please understand that RAID 6 is NOT a backup, not even close! If the RAID array had a URE (Unrecoverable Read Error), the whole array is toast and your data with it. RAID 6 does allow you to loose two drives and yet still have a viable system, but again this is not a backup. If you don't want to have to rerip all the movies, etc, you need to have an actual backup solution for this array.


  • With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).





  • I questioned choice of Windows on spiceworks, and his reply was that he was more familiar with it. However, using client OS for server role is just silly - I doubt $800 windows server license is in play here.



  • In my opinion your considerations should really be these (in order of importance):

    1. What is the absolute best software or product for my situation?
    2. What is the cost? Can I pay it? Etc.

    Your knowledge shouldn't enter the equation as you would benefit from learning new technologies. Linux specifically is extremely cost effective in a myriad of ways often times with a performance increase. I myself am a newer Linux user and have learned quite a lot from tinkering with some of the guides here. My home server and all PC's with the exception of my gaming PC are all on Linux now.



  • Certainly at least one familiar face, thanks indeed for linking to my original thread;) I am here due to recommendation from SAM (since I couldn't post without moderation over at spiceworks).
    I got a free Win10 via an upgrade from 7, hence no Windows tax (well, you know, having paid for it at some point of course but not now).
    Your guess regarding SMB is correct, that is indeed how I have been accessing the files via Kodi so far.

    I do not insinst on Windows if there is a good reason for not using it, at all. I know it's not the best OS by far, although for my normal usage it kind of is (Office Suite, few decoding tools, some Games); but that's not on the server, of course. I wouldn't have bought a licence though.



  • @Dashrender said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    I would only grow it once, but frankly, not a fan of growing it at all - and a question, can you add 6-8 disks to a pre existing RAID 6 array all at once? ages ago I could add disks to a RAID 5, but only one at a time. So if I was adding 6 disks, that was 6 different rebuild processes - that's a no go in my book. backup your data and rebuild the array and start over.

    As far as growth goes it really depends on the technology used. ZFS uses pooling which handles throughput on a pool level. This was my considering when building my media server/test environment. I invested in 32 TB of space right off the top for that reason.



  • @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).

    Why when there is a hardware raid controller would you effectively downgrade to software raid? Unless there are limitations on the card (like a number of supported drives or something)



  • @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    Certainly at least one familiar face, thanks indeed for linking to my original thread;) I am here due to recommendation from SAM (since I couldn't post without moderation over at spiceworks).
    I got a free Win10 via an upgrade from 7, hence no Windows tax (well, you know, having paid for it at some point of course but not now).
    Your guess regarding SMB is correct, that is indeed how I have been accessing the files via Kodi so far.

    I do not insinst on Windows if there is a good reason for not using it, at all. I know it's not the best OS by far, although for my normal usage it kind of is (Office Suite, few decoding tools, some Games); but that's not on the server, of course. I wouldn't have bought a licence though.

    Would you be willing to switch to Plex server instead of Kodi? I haven't used Kodi personally, I have Kodi client box at home with Plex plugin, to access Plex server. Plex opens up a lot more possibilities, both client side and server side. The only possible downside is server side transcoding, stronger CPU is required to handle that smoothly.



  • The growth question is not that important at the moment though. I will start with 6x3TB, but if I could build another array later on the same controller (with, say, 6-8 x 4-6TB drives) that would also be fine.
    That it is not a backup, I am aware of. My plan is to, should one drive fail, buy more drives, backup the data and then attempt a rebuild. I haven't seen a drive failure yet (my oldest HDD that I still use is probably around 7 years and 13yrs for an external), but I am only a home user, so I am sure it will happen eventually.



  • @marcinozga

    I was thinking to eventually add Plex somewhere down the line. Right now both my media pc and work pc are much more powerful than the server.
    The server is based on the AM1 platform, I just switched out the terrible 2650 (2x1.45) for a slighlty better 5150 (4x1.60). Should be ok for x264, yet I don't know about x265 and whatever may come.
    Building my Kodi library has taken a while do, I'd assume the same process would wait for me with Plex (with foreign language movies not being scrubbed correctly from databases, etc...)


  • Service Provider

    Welcome to the community!



  • @DustinB3403 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).

    Why when there is a hardware raid controller would you effectively downgrade to software raid? Unless there are limitations on the card (like a number of supported drives or some

    I think Raid Controllers are a waste of money unless you absolutely have to use windows in which case you have no other good choice. They don't make the raid controller listed anymore so if that thing breaks hes going to lose all of his data. You have to install the exact same raid controller with the exact same firmware for that to work too. With software raid you don't have to deal with that headache and the overhead on the processor is almost non-existent in the modern day.



  • Thanks a lot for the warm welcome.
    And also for the incredibly fast respones. I'm quite amazed, really. I wish I could give something back.


  • Service Provider

    @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    I do not insinst on Windows if there is a good reason for not using it, at all. I know it's not the best OS by far, although for my normal usage it kind of is (Office Suite, few decoding tools, some Games); but that's not on the server, of course. I wouldn't have bought a licence though.

    So the thing with Windows is, beyond it being really expensive, is that its software RAID is kinda craptastic. Software RAID on its own is great, as a concept. And there are great implementations of it like MD RAID (from Linux) and ZFS (from Solaris and FreeBSD.) For home use, whatever, Windows is just fine. But it's also not free. Using Linux with MD or FreeBSD with ZFS would give you a really good software RAID option that Windows does not.

    Linux or FreeBSD are also generally considered much better for use as a media server.


  • Service Provider

    @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    Thanks a lot for the warm welcome.
    And also for the incredibly fast respones. I'm quite amazed, really. I wish I could give something back.

    I would have been much faster myself, but have been on the phone with my dad. Haven't talked to him for the last seven countries that i've been in so had to catch him up.



  • @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    Thanks a lot for the warm welcome.
    And also for the incredibly fast respones. I'm quite amazed, really. I wish I could give something back.

    Welcome sir!



  • @wirestyle22

    I just bought the RAID controller, new not used. I'll have to keep an eye on its availability though, but right now it's still being sold by a couple of shops.


  • Service Provider

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @DustinB3403 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).

    Why when there is a hardware raid controller would you effectively downgrade to software raid? Unless there are limitations on the card (like a number of supported drives or some

    I think Raid Controllers are a waste of money unless you absolutely have to use windows in which case you have no other good choice. They don't make the raid controller listed anymore so if that thing breaks hes going to lose all of his data. You have to install the exact same raid controller with the exact same firmware for that to work too. With software raid you don't have to deal with that headache and the overhead on the processor is almost non-existent in the modern day.

    The key benefit (other than fixing a Windows deficiency of course) is that good hardware RAID offers blind swap. That's not a trivial feature.



  • @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22

    I just bought the RAID controller, new not used. I'll have to keep an eye on its availability though, but right now it's still being sold by a couple of shops.

    Aww - there are ton on ebay for $60'ish ... for a home setup, I don't think I would have gone with new... but that's me.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @DustinB3403 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).

    Why when there is a hardware raid controller would you effectively downgrade to software raid? Unless there are limitations on the card (like a number of supported drives or some

    I think Raid Controllers are a waste of money unless you absolutely have to use windows in which case you have no other good choice. They don't make the raid controller listed anymore so if that thing breaks hes going to lose all of his data. You have to install the exact same raid controller with the exact same firmware for that to work too. With software raid you don't have to deal with that headache and the overhead on the processor is almost non-existent in the modern day.

    The key benefit (other than fixing a Windows deficiency of course) is that good hardware RAID offers blind swap. That's not a trivial feature.

    And Scott beat me to it - exactly, blind and hot swap is awesome, assuming your RAID controller supports it.


  • Service Provider

    My general rule of thumb (very general, lots of exceptions) is that if you have a real hardware RAID controller* that you use it, when you don't, you use software RAID.

    *Real meaning not FakeRAID, has a real cache (128MB or larger, 1GB or larger is best), has a real offload processor and supports blind swapping.



  • It was an amazon glitch I think. It was only 250€ instead of the 700€ average price in other shops. Went up straight after I bought it. I could actually still return it and go all the other way to upgrade the rest of the hardware for software raid. But I kind of settled for this route already.


  • Service Provider

    @marcinozga said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    I questioned choice of Windows on spiceworks, and his reply was that he was more familiar with it. However, using client OS for server role is just silly - I doubt $800 windows server license is in play here.

    That should be a factor, too. Using Windows desktop here is silly and limiting. Using Windows Server is expensive and impractical (unless you are ultra rich or just looking for excuses to get Windows experience.) Using Linux or a BSD or a Solaris variant would all be "server class" options with zero actual cost and all give lots of good career growth and education opportunities.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @scottalanmiller said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @DustinB3403 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @wirestyle22 said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    With that size I would seriously consider using software raid. Something like CentOS w/ ZFS using Striped Mirrored Vdev’s (essentially Raid 10).

    Why when there is a hardware raid controller would you effectively downgrade to software raid? Unless there are limitations on the card (like a number of supported drives or some

    I think Raid Controllers are a waste of money unless you absolutely have to use windows in which case you have no other good choice. They don't make the raid controller listed anymore so if that thing breaks hes going to lose all of his data. You have to install the exact same raid controller with the exact same firmware for that to work too. With software raid you don't have to deal with that headache and the overhead on the processor is almost non-existent in the modern day.

    The key benefit (other than fixing a Windows deficiency of course) is that good hardware RAID offers blind swap. That's not a trivial feature.

    And Scott beat me to it - exactly, blind and hot swap is awesome, assuming your RAID controller supports it.

    Software RAID does hot swap... if your hardware supports it. Hardware RAID needs supporting hardware, too. So that would be equal.


  • Service Provider

    @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    It was an amazon glitch I think. It was only 250€ instead of the 700€ average price in other shops. Went up straight after I bought it. I could actually still return it and go all the other way to upgrade the rest of the hardware for software raid. But I kind of settled for this route already.

    Not saying that you should return it, but why would hardware need to be upgraded for software RAID? Unless you are running an overburden Atom processor or are trying to run in only 1GB or less of RAM, I don't see software RAID being hardware hampered.



  • @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @marcinozga

    I was thinking to eventually add Plex somewhere down the line. Right now both my media pc and work pc are much more powerful than the server.
    The server is based on the AM1 platform, I just switched out the terrible 2650 (2x1.45) for a slighlty better 5150 (4x1.60). Should be ok for x264, yet I don't know about x265 and whatever may come.
    Building my Kodi library has taken a while do, I'd assume the same process would wait for me with Plex (with foreign language movies not being scrubbed correctly from databases, etc...)

    Plex should be able to read the media in your Kodi library if it is stored as standard MP4 / AVI files, etc. You shouldn't have to re-rip your entire library just to switch from one to the other.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    @geertcourmacher said in Raid 6 Amateur File Server Setup Questions:

    It was an amazon glitch I think. It was only 250€ instead of the 700€ average price in other shops. Went up straight after I bought it. I could actually still return it and go all the other way to upgrade the rest of the hardware for software raid. But I kind of settled for this route already.

    Not saying that you should return it, but why would hardware need to be upgraded for software RAID? Unless you are running an overburden Atom processor or are trying to run in only 1GB or less of RAM, I don't see software RAID being hardware hampered.

    Blind swap is definitely a thing but does the benefit outweigh the cost for a home server? I don't think so but I'd love to hear your opinions.