What should I do with my old hard drives?
October 10, 2006 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I've got a bunch of extra hard drives, and I want to setup a backup NAS type solution so I can backup my data and store movies, tv shows, media, etc. Ideas?

I've got 2x 250GB drives, 2x 120gb drives, and 2x 40GB drives and an extra pc. I'm trying to turn all those hard drives into a big file server that can be accessed over the network. I was thinking about getting some sort of eSata solution to hold my drives, and then hooking them up to my existing computer. I don't really want to use the old pc because it's so loud, and uses so much power (480W). Anyone have any better ideas?

All the pc's in the house are windows based, and I'm a bit leery of going the unix route for fear of network configuration woes. I have some linux / unix / solaris experience, so it is an option.
posted by creeront to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The rating on the power supply does not tell you how much power it uses. Just because it's rated at 480W does not mean it draws anywhere near that amount of current, so if your motivation is power consumption then your logic is flawed. The amount of power that is drawn depends totally on the load connected to it, and not on any property of the power supply.

It's also flawed logic in that the power drain and noise of using a ton of these tiny drives will be large compared to junking them all and getting a couple more new 320s or 250s. You can pick up 250GB drives new these days for around $65 so if noise is of any concern you're really just shooting yourself in the foot trying to use a million of these tiny old drives.

Regarding setting it up, linux and Samba work just fine with Windows. Samba speaks SMB just as well as Windows, and especially if this is a home network with no Active Directory to worry about, then it's trivial.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:02 PM on October 10, 2006

Linux (maybe Knoppix if you're not feeling adventurous), Samba, and Logical Volume Manager. That last bit is what you really need to tie all the drives together into one big storage space. I'd sooner do that than have one big partition/share per drive or something. Or, since you have three pair of identically-sized disks, RAID 1 them if you want redundancy.
posted by autojack at 10:10 PM on October 10, 2006

I currently run an NSLU2 that's been unslung, and it's dead reliable and was very easy to set up. I'd get a bunch of external enclosures and a couple of USB hubs and go to town with Linux' built-in RAID5 support. It may require completely transmogrifying the thing with OpenSlug, but if you've got the time and can follow directions, it's the lowest-power solution I can recommend.

There may be some bandwidth issues regarding USB2, but unless you're doing some pretty heavy-duty stuff, I suspect it'll probably still read and write fast enough to saturate a 100Mb ethernet connection.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:11 PM on October 10, 2006

I'd suggest ubuntu (server edition), samba and whatever is the oldest PC you have which will recognise the drives. I'd like the PC idea better than cheap external drive boxes, as they don't seem to spin the drives down at any point, which I'd presume must eat into whatever power saving you may otherwise be getting, not to mention reducing the lives of the drives. To use all of the drives would generally require an extra controller card, so I'd be tempted to just junk the 40Gb drives and use the others.

(NB - I know very little about LVM... though this seems like an ideal time to use it!)
posted by pompomtom at 11:13 PM on October 10, 2006

Yeah, I don't get your reasoning either. You say you're concerned about noise, but then you say you want to add six hard drives to your computer?

Also, to pompomtom: Spinning a drive up and down based on usage (even once a day) would reduce the life of a drive radically more than just leaving it spinning all the time. And the power draw isn't even worth talking about if you're not drawing from a battery.
posted by dmd at 6:11 AM on October 11, 2006

consumer hard drives are not designed to spin 24hours a day. The bearings are usually what fails first. Spinning up and down isn't that hard on it, and is much much better for drive life. The motor is very reliable.
posted by defcom1 at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2006

Huh. Didn't know that. I guess I'm just lucky - I have some (consumer) drives that have been spinning 24/7 for more than ten years now.
posted by dmd at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2006

(And now that I write that and realize it's been that long, I think it's long past time to retire that particular system. Jesus. It's one of those "it just works" things you forget about.)
posted by dmd at 8:45 AM on October 11, 2006

one last post on this subject:
this article
has some details. I've burned out 15 or so hdd drive bearings (cheap consumer drives in a raid5 array, running 24/7). They start sounding like an old fridge running, and then one day... they just don't go anymore. (Yay for hotswap).
posted by defcom1 at 9:30 AM on October 11, 2006

And to reply to the original question:

Find out why the old pc is so loud. Is is the powersupply fan? Usually the bearings go, they're quite easy to replace, or just buy a new (cheapish) powersupply with a big, quiet fan. Same treatment to the cpu fan. Is is loud? Replace it.

As was mentioned way above, the 480W is a (theoretical) max output of the powersupply. The system will draw only what is required, as long as the powersupply is big enough to cover it.

Samba in linux will happily talk to your windows shares. Shows up just like any other share.
posted by defcom1 at 9:48 AM on October 11, 2006

I'd get a NAS (network attached storage) from these guys: http://www.infrant.com/

In fact, I plan to do so once the next version of OSX comes out, so that I can use the "timeline" backup feature. I'll want a huge drive array for that.

You can find them on eBay at good prices. Basically, they'll act as a big networked drive on your network, they use SATA drives and the really neat feature is that you can yank and replace drives (one at a time) without restarting the system or losing data. They have a great reputation as well.
posted by Invoke at 10:28 AM on October 11, 2006

email paulsc. He's got some crazy configuration he's always talking about, and he'd set you on the right track.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:02 AM on October 11, 2006

I've been working on a "roll your own NAS" article for my website/blog, but, havn't had the time to dedicate to it. It is Linux based using the built-in mdadm raid tools to manage the drives in a software raid, then using lvm to compile drives into logical partiions and the like. Using ReiserFS (keep the jokes to yourself), you can shrink and grow the partitions on the fly.

I'd use the build in RAID tools to pair each of the identical-sized drives into a mirror pool, and then create a volume group for each drive size. (The thought of spanning a logical partition across multiple old drives gives me the heeby-geebies. Mirroring should minimize the damage when one of them fails, but, if both were to fail... bye bye).

I'm using two 320GB drives mirrored together. It works really well. I'd be happy to elaborate if you want. E-mail is in my profile. If you're not into dorking out for a weekend with it as a project, the other suggestions above will work too. I looked at the Infrant solution, and it didn't satifsy my nerd.
posted by jeversol at 2:22 PM on October 13, 2006

« Older Charlotte For a Day   |   Getting from SFO to San Fran Downtown on Friday... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.