Help Me Move Into a NAS
January 24, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

My computer died last night after a power outage/surge, despite the "surge protector". Rather than rebuild a computer that just sits in the basement, I'm going to go with a NAS. Hope me make the transition to a NAS, I have some questions!

First, I'm most likely looking at getting a Synology DS212J. I'm considering the 4-bay Synology DS411J, but cost is an issue right now.

My old computer had two 1TB drives inside of it, which I'd like to use in the NAS.

1) Can I just plug the two hard drives into the NAS, and use the data on them (plus wipe remnants of the system?)
2) Can I transition the two into RAID while keeping my data, or will I have to format them?
3) If I do have to format them, I'd still like to keep a lot of the data! Can I buy a cheapo USB enclosure, and plug that drive full of data directly into the NAS to pull data off of it? Or will I have to run it through my MacBook (which I can only imagine will take FOREVER)?

Thanks so much!
posted by smitt to Technology (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just trying to clear up some confusion here. You had a spare PC in your basement that you used like a NAS, but that computer died and now you've decided to just go with a real NAS?

The computer that died isn't the one you'd be using to connect to the NAS to access your files/media?
posted by royalsong at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2012

1) Possibly, but it would depend on what filesystem the drives were formatted with and whether the OS on the NAS can read and write to that filesystem type (NTFS, HFS, FAT32, etc).
2) Nope.
3) Again, it depends on the model of NAS you get, but most modern ones do have USB ports so you can do exactly that. If you have media files spread across both disks, though, you'd need to use your MadBook to consolidate all the data you want to save onto one disk, then use the other disk in the one of the NAS bays, format the drive in the NAS, plug the drive with all the data on it into the USB enclosure, plug the enclosure into the NAS, copy the files from the drive in the enclosure to the drive in the bay, THEN wipe put the disk from the enclosure into one of the bays and set up RAID with that, assuming you'd be cloning the drives. I'm probably making it sound more complicated than it is. It's not likely to take particularly long or be all that difficult, but yes, your MacBook might be involved at some point.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:46 AM on January 24, 2012

Best answer: 1) No. The onboard Synology DSM firmware (basically, Linux with an overlay) does a full format and deep sector scan of the drives you install when you set up volumes, and I don't think there's an override. You also have to create space to install the firmware.
2) No. See 1). But you can add the drives one at a time, then expand a "basic" volume into a RAID-1 when you add the second.
3) Yeah.

When I set up my DS211j, I borrowed a couple of drives from a friend and used those as "holding storage" so that I could pull my own drives, install them in the NAS, and transfer the data back in leapfrog fashion.
posted by holgate at 11:51 AM on January 24, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, to be clear.

Computer in basement, used to be used as a gaming machine and other stuff, but now I use my MacBook Pro almost exclusively and never game.

It had two hard drives connected to it, which I've been using to store movies/music and other media, being dished up to my Boxee.

So it's mainly to be used for file streaming to the Boxee.
posted by smitt at 11:52 AM on January 24, 2012

Response by poster: holgate: In that scenario, did you do it via a USB connection to the DS211?
posted by smitt at 11:54 AM on January 24, 2012

I did just what you're asking for a few weeks ago. Not because my computer died but because I wanted a lower power consuming one. I ended up getting a QNAP TS-219PII and couldn't be happier though I kinda wished I got the 4-bay one.

You can plug in a USB driver in the back and access it but in order to use any drive in it it will have to initialize and reformat them.
posted by eatcake at 12:10 PM on January 24, 2012

In that scenario, did you do it via a USB connection to the DS211?

No, by ethernet from the desktop box that had been the file server, via the router. It wasn't fast, but I just let it do its thing. I've hung USB drives off the NAS since.
posted by holgate at 12:16 PM on January 24, 2012

(on preview: redacted my answers to #1 and #2 because @holgate said basically the same thing, but with actual knowledge of a Synology NAS appliance)

3) The DS212J supports external USB drives, so this is possible. It may be *super slow*, however, if the NAS doesn't support transferring data from one drive to another without a computer being involved. If a computer must be involved, you'll end up having to round trip the files through your MBP. At this point, you might as well just plug the source drive into your laptop and copy them to the NAS from there. Instead of a USB enclosure, I would suggest something like this, which is much handier for situations like this (no fiddling with drive enclosures).
posted by strangecargo at 12:21 PM on January 24, 2012

It may be *super slow*, however, if the NAS doesn't support transferring data from one drive to another without a computer being involved.

If the disk is formatted in a recognised filesystem, it should automount and be accessible. There's an 'external device manager' component to the Synology DSM that supports USB printers, drives and whatnot, which are then browsable; there's also a one-click USBCopy feature which is advertised as a way to suck the contents of a flash drive into a shared folder, but which I assume works with an external drive in an enclosure/dock/cable setup.

USB copying is apparently subject to power and processor constraints, as well as filesystem bottlenecks, though it's meant to be less of an issue with the newest models.
posted by holgate at 3:33 PM on January 24, 2012

FYI, HP MicroServers are periodically on sale for ~$200-250 ($300 at the moment). They'll hold 4 drives and smoke any similarly-priced NAS boxes. They come with a 250GB HDD, and I believe if you throw FreeNAS on it it'll be able to read/share your pair of drives without reformatting.
posted by unmake at 11:57 PM on January 24, 2012

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