I’m definitely not an expert at unRAID, in fact I’ve just put together my first server build quite recently. I did, however, do quite a lot of research in preparation, and yet could not find a concise step-by-step guide so I always felt like I was leaving something out, or missing an “optional” step that would still be to my benefit in the future. As a result I decided to make this mini-guide representing what I’ve found through my research and what worked for me so others can hopefully save some time and/or feel confident that they are not missing a critical step in the process.
There is a good possibility there is a better guide than this on lime-tech’s website, wiki, or forums, or perhaps even on this site, and my google search skills just suck. [[EDIT
- As pointed out on page 2 of this thread, HERE
is the best official walkthrough from lime-tech's site. It's longer than mine, but is a good resource if anything I post below is unclear, or you want to do more than a typical basic setup.]] If not though, maybe this will help some people. Enjoy.Step 1 – Deciding you want unRAID
If you want something as a compliment to your HTPC to host your media files, the short answer is, yes, you almost positively want unRAID. The long answer… won’t be talked about here, but can be found many other places in this forum and elsewhere. There are other options, but a personal media server for a HTPC is what unRAID was designed for.Step 2 – Buying the Parts
For more information, see unRAID’s Hardware Compatibility Wiki
which includes a recommended build section. All prices I list are current as of 1/8/11. I’ll keep this section brief as well, since there is no one right answer and more thorough discussion readily available elsewhere.2.a – Required PartsCase
– The main consideration in any case is the number of 3.5” bays, or stacked sets of three 5.25” bays that can be converted to 3.5 bays. It is advised to think about the future expansion of your server with this purchase. My advice: If you can’t see yourself going above 12 hard drives for a long time (~22TB of storage), go with the Cooler Master Centurion 590 ($80
). If you do want to prepare for 13+ hard drives, go ahead and invest in the Norco 4220 ($350
– but has been seen recently for as low as $270 I believe).CPU
– This piece is largely unimportant for a straight storage server, as long as you have around 1.8GHz or higher. A frequently recommended choice is the AMD Sempron 140 ($37
) or Intel Celeron 430 for an Intel build ($42
– Requirements are 6+ SATA ports (the more the better), 1+ PCIe x4/x8/or x16 slot (the more the better), onboard video (doesn’t matter how bad, just that it’s there), and onboard gigabit LAN (look for 10/100/1000 Mbps). Plenty of basic options can be found on Newegg for $50-$60 or so. Also, make SURE the onboard LAN is not using the Atheros chipset – it doesn’t mix nice with unRAID. I didn’t realize this, and had to buy a NIC card after hours of headaches trying to figure out what was wrong. Intel or Realtek based LAN chipsets are recommended.Memory
– Can be done with less, but just because it is so cheap get 1 stick of 2GB value ram, ($25
) in case you want to use add-ons in the future.Power Supply
– 500W Recommended, to give breathing room for most setups, up to a 650W+ if you will be approaching 20 hard drives. ~400W PSU’s should work as well for most smaller/midrange builds, but it saves headaches later to get a 500W for basically the same price.Hard Drives
– As many as required to fill your storage needs. RPM doesn’t matter as much for media, so the big, 5400 RPM green drives are a good choice. HOWEVER, do NOT buy Samsung F4 Drives (will corrupt data in unRAID over time if correct firmware not installed, see below – F3 drives are fine) or WD AAKS drives (possible problems, not worth it).
[[EDIT 1/25 -
As of now Samsung F4 drives have a firmware update that will fix the problem, but the firmware revision number on the update is the same as the number of the faulty firmware, so it is impossible to know for sure the corrected firmware has been installed. Samsung F4 drives can safely be used if you be sure and install the new firmware, or wait until the revision number changes and install that firmware as needed.]]unRAID software
– For 3 drive support, the software is free. For 4-6 drives, a plus license is required ($59
with code KEY10) and for 7-21 drives, a pro license is required ($109 with same code). An upgrade from Plus to Pro can be bought later for $59.Flash Drive
– 1GB+ is needed. Any that you have on hand will work except for Verbatim Store’n’Go, Alien 1GB, or SuperTalent Pico.2.b – Optional PartsExpansion Cards
– Required if using more HDDs than your motherboard has SATA ports. Plugs into your x4/x8/x16 PCIe slot. The SuperMicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 is the recommended one ($116
) and will hold 8 additional hard drives. Also required for use of these is 1 breakout cable per 4 HDDs ($18 each).Drive Bays
– In my opinion, it is not worth the expense to get hot swap bays (~$100 per 5 drives) as by then, the Norco case (with 20 hot swap bays) more than pays for itself. The Centurion case comes with 1 bay to hold 4 drives, so for drives 5-12, 1-2 more of these bays can be bought and installed ($25
each). The Centurion case can hold 3 of these bays, or 12 total HDDs.Uninterruptable Power Supply
– Not necessary, but many swear by them in the event of possible corruption during an unclean shutdown due to power failure. APC Brands are recommended; pick a model with enough Watts to power your system ($80-$120).Internal USB Adapter
– Recommended so you don’t have your OS Flash Drive sticking out of your system. Can pick up a Header-Pin to Type-A adapter for around $10 (example
).2.c – Other Part ConcernsGigabit Router/Switch
– If you don’t already have one, make sure you get one for optimal media streaming/transfers. If you have an older 10/100 router, buy a Gigabit switch versus replacing your router as they are typically cheaper.Cables
– Keep in mind most HDDs don’t come with SATA cables and some motherboards only come with 1-2, so hit up monoprice for the difference. Also make sure you have a spare CAT 5/6 cable for the new build, and a DVI/VGA/etc video cable to go from your onboard video to your display at least for initial setup.Step 3 – Building the System
Mostly, there is nothing special about building the server, just put it all together as you would a normal computer. However, it is highly recommended that before you install your HDDs, you write down the serial number of each HDD and make a spreadsheet as to where you are putting each HDD, by serial number, in the case, so in the future you know where each one is located.
You then need to get your flash drive configured for unRAID. For the Plus and Pro versions you have to have your flash drive’s GUID. I recommend just installing the free version first, and then you can see your flash drive’s GUID once installed on the devices list. So download/extract the unRAID software (make sure to follow all directions, like labeling your drive UNRAID) and also pick up the Pre-clear script HERE
and add it to the flash drive in the same place as the bzroot and bzimage files.
With the server built and the flash drive connected, you should now be ready to turn it on and try a first boot.Step 4 – Initial Installation4.a – Getting unRAID up
Make sure you have a keyboard, network cable, and display connected and fire your new build up. If it doesn’t automatically boot off of the flash drive, go into the BIOS and make sure you enable booting from a USB flash drive. While in the BIOS, also make sure your hard drives are set to ACHI mode, usually found under SATA configuration. Make the changes if needed, save and exit, and restart to boot it up.
Once it boots, you should see it run a bunch of commands and stop at Tower Login. That means it’s up and running and it is time to check the portal via another computer. In your browser on the other computer (Chrome doesn’t work for me so I use FF, but YMMV) type “//tower” and the main GUI should come up. If it doesn’t, replace “//tower” with the server’s IP address. To find the IP address, go back to the server and at the login screen type “root” and press enter, and at the next prompt type “ifconfig eth0” which should bring up the IP information.
In the main GUI, for now leave everything the same and click on the Devices tab, where you can view your flash drive’s GUID. Using this you can now purchase the Plus/Pro version if needed, which is usually delivered in a couple of hours after ordering. You should also see the hard drives you have installed in a drop down menu that you can add to the array. Don’t add them, but write down the connection labels for each HDD (ex: sda, sdb, hda, etc.)4.b – Hard Drive Pre-Clear*** Note:
This step will erase ALL
data on the hard drives you do this for. If you have installed some hard drives with data and some without, you will need to do this for only the empty hard drives, then build the array using the pre-cleared drives, then transfer the data off of the drives remaining to the new array, then repeat the process for the old data drives.
This step is not technically mandatory, but you really need to do it to make sure your drives are good to go for data storage. This will prep the drive for unRAID by writing zeroes to your entire HDD, and then run a S.M.A.R.T. test to check disk integrity. Assuming you downloaded the pre-clear script onto your flash drive, go back over to your server, login using “root”, and then enter the following commands:
where ### = the connection label for the hard drive you want to pre-clear (that you had written down above). This will pull up the information of the HDD you are about to pre-clear (so you can double check it is the correct one) and ask you to confirm by typing “Yes”. Confirm the command, and the pre-clear will start.
Be prepared, this process takes a long time, around 30 hours for a 2TB drive. Fortunately, you can do up to 6 drives at one time, as unRAID has 6 virtual consoles that you can use. To toggle between them, use Alt-F1 through Alt-F6, and repeat the commands above for each hard drive.
After a HDD is done, the S.M.A.R.T. results will display any problems it found during testing (Tip: if the results do not all fit on the screen, you can use Shift + PageUp/Down to scroll up/down screen). Most if not all hard drives will show some errors, most of which are harmless, but some may be indicators that a drive will soon fail. For interpretation, check the S.M.A.R.T. wiki
and the interpretation thread on the unRAID forums HERE
. If the drive has critical errors, it may be best to RMA the drive at this point (however, even though the S.M.A.R.T. wiki says Read Error Rate may be an indicator of failure, many normal drives display this error. Check the unRAID thread for more explanation and examples).4.c – Creating the Hard Drive Array
Note: This is a good point, if needed, of shutting down the server (either through the “poweroff” command in console or through the GUI) and installing the Plus/Pro version of unRAID if you haven’t already.
Once all of your drives are pre-cleared, go back to the GUI in your browser and hit the Devices tab. You can now add them as data/parity disks (remember, the parity disk must be the biggest size disk in your array). Tip: If you will be copying lots of data onto the array initially, wait on assigning the parity drive until after you have copied the data, as it will otherwise bottleneck transfer speeds. You will not have protection until after the parity drive is assigned, but you can assign it before deleting the files from their original location.
Click over to the Main tab, and you can see the drives added listed as “Unformatted” in the disk status tab, and a Format button should be in the command area and will activate once you check the box that says you know what you are doing. Hit the format button, and in 5-20 minutes the drives should be formatted and ready to go.
Once you assign the parity, (preferably after you have put data on the drives) you can also begin the parity check with an enabled button on the main screen. This will run periodically by itself, but it’s best to check it once all your data is on manually to make sure there are no errors detected.4.d – Creating User Shares and Managing the Network
It’s now time to add a folder structure that will be shared across the array, which is done by user shares. Click on the Shares tab, and add a user share by entering a share name (ex: “Movies”), choosing an allocation method, and putting a split level.
For allocation method, I recommend leaving “High-water” enabled (which fills disk1 until 50%, then the next disk until 50%, etc, then back to disk1 until 75%, and so on) if you are unsure, but any method you select is fine.
For split level, it’s a pretty complicated concept that’s hard to explain without pictures, but basically refers to the level of folder in the share that you want to split among disks versus keeping them all on one disk. For example, my user share will be a folder named “Movies” and within that folder I will have individual folders for each movie, holding the .mkv and .nfo files, thumbs, etc.. I want the “Movie” folder (which is level 1) to be split among all the disks, but I do not want the contents of the individual movie folders (level 2) to be split, I want them all together. Thus, for my Movie user share, I want to set it to split level 1. Better, more thorough examples can be found HERE
Once that is done, click over to the Settings tab, and check the Workgroup entry to make sure it is the same name as the other devices on your network. To check your current workgroup name, right click on your My Computer shortcut and click Properties, and you should see it there. If the server workgroup is defaulted to a different name, change it in your GUI, hit apply, and the change should happen in a minute or two.
At that point, the server should show up in your network, and you should be able to access the user share folders you created and begin using your server just like any other shared folders on another computer. Dragging and dropping into the user share folder should work fine, and unRAID should automatically split the files according to your split level and allocation settings.Step 5 – Server Maintenance
Adding cache drives, monitoring and replacing drives, using add-ons, setting security, and other very important things are all important topics that can be learned at a slower pace and seem pretty adequately addressed in unRAID’s FAQ HERE
so I’ll leave that off this guide.
That’s pretty much it! If I left something off let me know, otherwise I hope this helps.