Considering buying a Main board to use as a NAS / server

Just throwing an idea around at the moment but I am wondering if I could buy a main board, put it in a 3D printed case and then use it as a NAS. The appeal being that it would be exceptionally low power (essentially paying for itself), and very small.

I guess I would just need a SATA / HBA type expansion module.


Take a look at these approaches:

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Those are some awesome projects.

Do you have any idea what the power draw of the mainboard (when setup in a server config) would be when idling? I suspect it must be quite low due to its laptop heritage!

How would you go about attaching drives? I would probably want 6 or 8 drives and usb hubs arent going to be a good experience. Could an M.2 to SATA adaptor work?

Yes - 5-port version, 2-port version.

Seems ideal, but apparently the PCB is quite thin and bends, so much so that the cable strain may bend the PCB. Also this:

“This card is only design for storage use only, can not boot any OS/ system drives.”

Something like FreeNAS/TrueNAS can boot from a USB drive - you’d have to do that.

These use JMicron JMB585 (5 port) or JMB582 (2 port) PCIe 3.0 x2 to SATA bridge chips, I see there are also ones based on the Asmedia ASM1166/ASM1164/ASM1064/ASM1062/ASM1061 bridge chips available on eBay or AliExpress, those might perform better though it’s still doubtful that you could boot from it since it needs to be supported in the BIOS.

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I think thats fine since I would probably look to use Unraid - so I would boot from a USB, then access the array on the Sata drives.

Maybe not ideal as I wouldn’t have access to any high speed storage.

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There are 20 Gbps USB M.2 enclosures, but they’re expensive and would not be as reliable as M.2 or SATA internal drives for always-on server use. I’d hate to have them in an array and one drop out during a drive operation, ZFS would mark the drive unusable and degrade the array.

I have thought about this use case for a while since my TrueNAS is on Haswell-era hardware and is aging. The Framework mainboard would be both more powerful and more efficient. But it’s the lack of disk I/O, ECC and IPMI that’s holding me back.

What would be really nice would be a more cost effective Thunderbolt to PCIE adapter so you could use a bunch of SAS cards/expanders. Alas, for that you’re either buying one-off’s from China or dismembering eGPUs. Or using that super durable looking ADT-Link contraption.

I wonder if the mainboard can be stuffed inside a Sonnet DuoModo single egpu enclosure, along with a video card - would make a rather small desktop PC that way. (the video is just to show the size - Echo series are non-gpu enclosures).

EDIT: Actually - now looking at what Echo I supports - it does include several pro video cards, which probably means that bigger ones with low power usage might work too. Not sure though.

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I’m working on something similar myself, one problem I’m running into is figuring out how to power the HDD array, I’d prefer to not use an external power supply because that would be one more cable separate from the USB-c for the mainboard. Did you find any way to do this by chance?


@Raxtus3106 ive been looking into this and i dont think you’d really be able to have the power throughput on the mainboard for many drives especially if theyre hdd.

So what i was thinking was use a power supply. 12v 5A ¿should? be enough (at least for my i5-1135g7 with a 28w TDP, i think 12th and 13th gen are higher) if i find the right adapter, from a psu to usb-c, but ive never built a computer and dont necessarily know what I’m looking for

This Elevated Systems video has an option for tackling this with a pcie to thunderbolt board that takes power from a psu to deliver to both the tb slot and pcie, so this might be an option

I just picked up a powered USB-C to SATA III controller. Cheapest I found was by Wavlink, just starting to test it with a new pair of drives set up as ZFS mirrors. Wish me luck.


in my personal nas project i ended up using a 300w itx power supply with one molex hooked up to a 100w 12v-usbcpd buck converter (in the form of a car charger XD) the above link has my froum on my project, i will be releasing my github with the case STL files soon but i expect to have 24TB in all running truenas off a 256gb expansion card. ill also be uploading pictures of the finished product as soon as my final case revision is off the printer.