Make my own RAID
January 11, 2006 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I recently got a large Mac G3 tower and stripped everything out of it. Does anyone know what I could do to make it a true external hard drive? Possibly with 4+ hard drives in it? I'm considering RAID BTW. It already has a power supply so I guess that is taken care of. Anything else I should be aware of?

Is there anywhere that I could just buy the chipset?
posted by Napierzaza to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
If it is a Blue and White tower, go read this:

...about revision 1 and revision 2. You want revision 2 as there were data corruption problems with version 1. OtherWorld computing has been selling B&W's for around $150 and sells revision 2.
posted by leafwoman at 8:12 AM on January 11, 2006


No, I'm trying to turn an empty G3 case INTO a external hard drive. I don't need a G3, and it doesn't have a motherboard of any kind.
posted by Napierzaza at 8:15 AM on January 11, 2006

Hrm. My knowledge in this area is fairly sketchy, but I'm not at all sure you can just buy "a RAID chipset", glue it in somewhere and hook drives up to it. There needs to be a data bus, and power, and depending on just what's in a RAID chipset, the hard disk controller chipset as well.

And I'm not sure you can obtain the necessary parts outside of items designed to plug into a motherboard expansion slot; e.g. 99.9% of people out there are either going to buy a pre-assembled external HDD enclosure which has been specifically engineered to be one, or are going to convert a machine with a motherboard and assorted goodies into a faux NAS (or if you're using a Mac, then a machine intended to be used via Target Disk Mode over FireWire) with an expansion card.

So unless you're an electrical engineer type with a lot of time on your hands, I don't think you can transform an empty G3 case into "just" a RAID external enclosure. I could be wrong, and there could be kits out there that do what you need, I just tend to doubt it. Looking around the appropriate NewEgg category doesn't turn anything up, either.

If I were in your position (which I sort of am, with two older PowerMac towers sitting around, one a B&W G3) I would put the parts back in and hook them back up, buy the appropriate RAID-enabled HDD controller from the above link, stick in your drives and then decide whether you want to use Target Disk Mode or make it NAS (or possibly some other method, I'm sure you can probably mount such a system on another via USB or something...).
posted by cyrusdogstar at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2006

You still need a motherboard to run a fileserver right? Unless there have been significant changes to way a computer works that i don't know about...
posted by xospecialk at 9:15 AM on January 11, 2006

If you're trying to use it like a pretty plastic box, then you'll need the same bits that you'd need to turn any other plastic box into a fileserver, except the power supply.

If you want hardware RAID, then the computer you're connecting to those disks will need a RAID controller. The gutted G3 will contain disks, cabling, and a power supply, and that's all, and you'll run a SCSI cable from the computer to the disks in the gutted G3. You can buy little passthrough PCI-card-opening-shaped connectors with an external SCSI connector on the outside and an internal SCSI connector on the inside to let you use a shielded cable between the computer and the gutted box.

If you want to make it a USB enclosure or something like that, then you'll need to buy a USB enclosure, take out the guts, and put them in the gutted G3.
posted by mendel at 9:28 AM on January 11, 2006

I've thought about doing this with an old HP NetServer I have lying around.

The cheapest route, certainly, would be to just use Firewire and do the RAIDing in software, if at all. I found some bare Firewire bridge boards here:

They have some bridge boards that do RAID, too: clicky

This was the first site I ran across these boards on. Their prices are so-so, you might want to shop around.
posted by kableh at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2006

You could also consider fitting a Mini ITX motherboard to the case, using Linux' software RAID. Samba could provide file sharing to Windows clients. Linux opens the door to a lot of file sharing protocols/services.

Also, consider sourcing an AT power supply. ATX power supplies (and I believe the G3 uses a variant of ATX) require a signal from the motherboard to turn on and off. AT power supplies use a simple on/off switch, which would be ideal for a case that contains only drives.
posted by kableh at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2006

if all you want to do is slap hard drives in it, then you need to do two basic things:

1) replace the power supply with Something Else (maybe a good 400-500watt ATX one from NewEgg or so) and figure out how to defeat the ATX Power Good line. (I think you just have to short it out. check on google, try a search for "atx power good" or something. I think some of the blue&white g3 to ATX case conversion guides have info, don't have time to search right now though.)

2) get cages. the blue&white can't hold very many disks anyway. and by putting in your own cages you can put the drives closer to the back (where you'll want to put the external connectors) and use the front for fans or something.

those two will get the basic infrastructure going in the case.

the next problem is actually connecting drives. the easiest way would be to use SCSI or try to find a bunch of FireWire to SATA or IDE converter boards. SCSI is easy, go to Cable Club and get the necessary cabling and external connectors and mount 'em in the case. if you want to go cheap, try to find an older Dell PERC 2 or PERC 3 card on eBay or something and use that for RAID. (I'm recommending those only because I've used them and know they're pretty old at this point - feel free to use whatever you're comfortable with.) FireWire can be daisychained, so you've got the same basic setup there - daisy chain all the converter boards together, make sure they're all powered properly, and get the female connectors mounted on the back of the G3 case.

if you do all that you'll have a hard drive case.

(on preview: kableh's sites are way better than cableclub I think, what with the raid boards and all.)
posted by mrg at 9:35 AM on January 11, 2006

If I already had an external hard drive, would the chipset be able to support many hard drives? Or is it more chip specific?
posted by Napierzaza at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2006

That seems like a rather disingenous question...does the external enclosure have extra space in it for more drives? Does it have extra IDE/SATA/SCSI connections for more drives? If so, yes; if not, no :)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2006

I'm saying I don't have a computer, merely a powered case. Meaning I need to buy some sort of controller, and was wondering where, if any I can buy one.
posted by Napierzaza at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2006

I'm saying I don't have a computer, merely a powered case. Meaning I need to buy some sort of controller, and was wondering where, if any I can buy one.

A powered case? Easy.

You could buy a pretty cheap P3/P4 with a motherboard, a least one supported RAID PCI card (my Promise gigaRAID IDE card works well enough), and a copy of linux running Samba could to the trick.

I've been thinking of doing this myself for a while, as I'm can't fit anymore hard drives inside my case, but such are the perils of expanding out to 2 Terabytes of storage space.
posted by SweetJesus at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2006

Any place to get cheap hardrives?
posted by Napierzaza at 6:14 PM on January 11, 2006

If you don't really want to build a whole new computer inside the G3 case, why not just get as many external cases as you have hard drives, and a powered USB hub with as many sockets as you need? Stick them all in the G3 case and you're done. Not really a RAID, but it should just work without any real hassles. No need for a new ATX power supply or anything like that.

But it's also kind of stupid, as you might as well just plug all the drives into your computer, and forget about trying to find a place for the huge G3 case.
posted by The Monkey at 6:56 PM on January 11, 2006

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