8ish-year-old used, decent, brand-name mini-tower PC's with >=4 SATA ports: Recommended "Oldies but Goodies"?

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    • 8ish-year-old used, decent, brand-name mini-tower PC's with >=4 SATA ports: Recommended "Oldies but Goodies"?

      Background: After building a NAS out of a NanoPi Neo 2, and finding the bus throughput very lacklustre (20-40 MB/sec, sustained, at best!), I find myself sort of wishing I had just started with an older PC, instead of an ARM SBC.

      Motivation: ~8-year-old PC's are cheap on the market, like $100US or less (many SBC's come out that expensive when you factor in shipping from China, taking about a month). These PC's can then be upgraded cheaply with a good, inexpensive GbE PCI card, and a USB 3 PCI card (with a NEC chip on it, **not** VIA).

      Question: What are some good "brand name" mini-tower case PCs (still available easily and cheaply on the used PC market), which will internally hold at least three 3.5" SATA drives (2 to be used in a RAID 0 mirror, and the third to be used as an internal backup), and a 2.5" SATA drive (for running the OpenMediaVault OS on)?

      The hardware inside should be adequately linux compatible. The ethernet on the mobo need not work, and it need not have USB 3, because these can be added from dirt-cheap PCI cards nowadays. The mobo needs to have 2 free PCI slots (which should be PCIe).

      After some research, I found that Dell Optiplexes in the Mini-Tower (MT) form factor (FF) from the "series 4" line make good candidates.

      These DELL Optiplexes (in the Mini-Tower "MT" form factor only!) would be the following. Models:

      980
      390
      790
      990
      580
      3010

      Note: all of these listed had a CPU better than an Intel Core 2 Duo!

      Anyone else have any "oldies but goodies" to recommend?

      Photos are appreciated as well.

      The post was edited 2 times, last by esbeeb ().

    • The Dell Optiplexes I listed above only have 2 internel 3.5" drive bays. A third 3.5" could be installed where the CDROM drive is (using a cheap 5.25"-to-3.5" metal bracket kit). Then the 2.5" SATA SSD drive could go in the floppy drive bay. I'm OK with there eventually being no CDROM drive (once OMV is installed and bootable on the 2.5" SATA drive). In other words, I probably want to eventually remove the CDROM drive altogether, to accommodate a 3.5" SATA drive instead. Having said that, a CDROM drive might temporarily be useful, in the unlikely event that a USB stick (to install OMV from, or to rescue the system later if necessary) is not bootable.

      I would like to avoid using any drives connected in a permanent sort of way (where there's an OS, or where OMV serves shares from) using USB, even if USB 3.0

      The post was edited 2 times, last by esbeeb ().

    • A lot of folks are running ssd's attached to USB headers. It just requires an adapter cable you can also find on Amazon... They're reliable, fast, and the prices are dropping. Many folks here have posted pics of builds where they have used Velcro to mount SSD's inside a case because they had no more available bays.

      If you only want 3 storage drives, that's fine.. use a SATA for the os drive. Or use a regular flash drive for the OS (flash memory plugin is a must here) off one of the external USB ports. I was simply pointing out an easy way to have all 4 SATA ports available for your data drives... And still keeping the build pretty cheap. The 3010 I was looking at has 2, 5.25 bays. So you could use an adapter to put two 3.5's there, then the two 3.5 bays the case has... And that's your 4 SATA ports.

      There's really no wrong answer here. Set it up however you like... But an optical drive is borderline useless since PC's have been booting USB drives pretty easily for over 10yrs (I honestly can't recall the last time I had trouble booting one).
      Air Conditioners are a lot like PC's... They work great until you open Windows.

    • "A lot of folks are running ssd's attached to USB headers. It just requires an adapter cable you can also find on Amazon..."
      @KM0201, thanks for the tip.

      It sounds like there are 2 cables/gadgets here (between the mobo and the SATA drive): the USB-3.0-header-to-USB-3.0-port converter, then a USB-3.0-to-SATA converter cable. In that case, I get what you're talking about. If there's just one gadget that goes right from the USB headers into the SATA connector on the SATA drive, that's news to me. If that's the case, can you please post a link to one of these USB-header-to-SATA adapters? I wouldn't know what it looks like.
    • esbeeb wrote:

      "A lot of folks are running ssd's attached to USB headers. It just requires an adapter cable you can also find on Amazon..."
      @KM0201, thanks for the tip.

      It sounds like there are 2 cables/gadgets here (between the mobo and the SATA drive): the USB-3.0-header-to-USB-3.0-port converter, then a USB-3.0-to-SATA converter cable. In that case, I get what you're talking about. If there's just one gadget that goes right from the USB headers into the SATA connector on the SATA drive, that's news to me. If that's the case, can you please post a link to one of these USB-header-to-SATA adapters? I wouldn't know what it looks like.

      Another thing you could do... If you don't want to buy two cables and an SSD.. Just buy the USB header cable, and plug a decent 16gig flash drive into it (which should be plenty for the OS).. and install OMV there. As long as you're using the flash memory plugin, it should be just fine. This (to me) gives the advantage of someone not being able to simply walk by and snatch the flash drive out of your system, as they could if it was plugged into an external USB port

      Of course, some of the cheap Chinese SSD's are almost the price of flash drives of similar sizes (I've seen the "King Dion" ones a lot) and seem halfway decent... I've got a friend who bought one as his OS drive for his OMV build. We installed the flash memory plugin even though it supported TRIM, which a lot of folks do on any SSD as they are both similar technologies. It's been 3 months and he's not reported any problems with it thus far. I think he spent around 13 bucks for a 16gig drive.

      The options are dizzying on what you can do... We could probably come up with 10 different scenarios on how to use the available bays, sata ports, etc. on the machine.
      Air Conditioners are a lot like PC's... They work great until you open Windows.

    • esbeeb wrote:

      "The options are dizzying on what you can do.."
      @ryecoaaron Yes, agreed, I like the idea of Velcro to affix SSD's to the inside of the case with no proper bay, they are very light in weight now. I guess my question is a little too open-ended, once you start using these sorts of tricks to squeeze more drives in.
      I probably wouldn't use this trick to attach a bunch of drives inside a case... but I certainly don't see an issue doing so with 1 or 2.. As you said.. SSD's are light, no moving parts so there shouldn't be any significant vibration. In the system you're speaking of.. it would free a bay for a considerably more useful data drive.
      Air Conditioners are a lot like PC's... They work great until you open Windows.

    • denny2k2 wrote:

      What's the power consumption like on the Dell Optiplex ranges? It seems there is a lot of decent 3010's on ebay and going 2nd hand. Looks like it could make a decent set up. I'm running a bit of a frankensteined set up while I try and learn the ropes a bit more. But would like to build a better system in the near future.
      Probably tough to find accurate info on power consumption on a machine that old.

      dell.com/downloads/global/prod…0_technical_guidebook.pdf

      You can check the power info there (but it's probably not gonna tell you exactly what you want).. maybe the numbers will help you with a guesstimate. I didn't check eBay, but there's some decent deals on 3010's on Amazon as well.

      I just did my rebuild so I'm good for now, but those really look like a halfway decent deal if someone wants to buy a "prebuilt" system... Speaking strictly of the MT models... couple drive bay adapters and a usb header adapter.. and you've got a very serviceable 4 bay NAS.

      Edit: Wow, those are some decent deals... $100 bucks but they pull the hard drive... which probably wouldn't get used for a NAS anyway (with today's drive sizes available).
      Air Conditioners are a lot like PC's... They work great until you open Windows.

    • Older commercial grade servers can be had as well. Most come with ECC, enough to run a file server, and provisions for at least 4 drives. (Many can house 6 drives or more.) I have an Intel SC5650HCBRP that, even with various upgrades (faster dual Xeon CPU's, a Dell H200 - 8 port SAS/SATA card, and 32GB Reg ECC), was just a bit over $275 delivered.

      The down side is processing power versus TDP, or power used. The older stuff consumes more power which adds up over time. But I'll take that trade off because of the quality, reliability, extensive OEM doc's, and for the used market options available for older commercial servers.
    • denny2k2 wrote:

      Noticed there were a few Dell T1700's going cheap on ebay

      I took a look at some of the T1700 offerings. The following is based on -> this listing. Here's the spec sheet.
      To check CPU bench marks, look here for Passmark CPU scores.

      The Xeon E3-1225v3 3.20GHz scores 7229

      That's more than enough to run OMV and Plex, even with a transcoded stream to a portable device. You could easily add-on Dockers and, with 16GB of RAM, a VM or two.
      _________________________________________________________

      The design of this box appears to be as a workstation or a SOHO server, similar to a Lenovo TS140.

      Of the Dell T1700's I looked at, none specified ECC RAM. ECC is not an absolute requirement, but it's a good thing to have.

      While the T1700 has 4 SATA ports on the Mobo, it can only accommodate (physically) 2 each 3.5" drives. (Here's one with an interior view.) Note that, in the consumer market, high capacity 2.5" drives are still a bit more expensive than 3.5" drives of the same size. Still, if you boot from a USB stick, 4 ports (with 2 each 3.5" and 2 each 2.5") might be enough for what you may want to do.
      _________________________________________________________

      As always, on Ebay and anywhere else in the used market, "Buyer Beware" always applies.
      What you may lack in knowledge, of the various used platforms, can be made up for with lots of research. (The above is a brief example.)

      Generally speaking:
      Xeon's are good - they support ECC
      ECC is good - it keeps memory processes and files cached in RAM clean.
      Space for 4 or more physical drives. Four should be enough for most NAS use cases.

      Watch out for older RAID cards, if supplied. Some won't do JBOD and some won't pass SMART stat's transparently.
      (The upside here is, 8 port used replacements can be had at bargain basement prices.)
      Really old Xeon's may lose kernel support down the road, but I'm not worried about it.
      BTW, the E3 series (starting in 2014) is a generation or two newer than what I have, with X5660's (which were offered starting in 2011) . -> Xeon's

      The post was edited 1 time, last by crashtest: edit ().

    • flmaxey wrote:

      I took a look at some of the T1700 offerings. The following is based on -> this listing. Here's the spec sheet.
      To check CPU bench marks, look here for Passmark CPU scores.

      The Xeon E3-1225v3 3.20GHz scores 7229

      That's more than enough to run OMV and Plex, even with a transcoded stream to a portable device. You could easily add-on Dockers and, with 16GB of RAM, a VM or two.
      _________________________________________________________

      The design of this box appears to be as a workstation or a SOHO server, similar to a Lenovo TS140.

      Of the Dell T1700's I looked at, none specified ECC RAM. ECC is not an absolute requirement, but it's a good thing to have.

      While the T1700 has 4 SATA ports on the Mobo, it can only accommodate (physically) 2 each 3.5" drives. (Here's one with an interior view.) Note that, in the consumer market, high capacity 2.5" drives are still a bit more expensive than 3.5" drives of the same size. Still, if you boot from a USB stick, 4 ports (with 2 each 3.5" and 2 each 2.5") might be enough for what you may want to do.
      _________________________________________________________

      As always, on Ebay and anywhere else in the used market, "Buyer Beware" always applies.
      What you may lack in knowledge, of the various used platforms, can be made up for with lots of research. (The above is a brief example.)

      Generally speaking:
      Xeon's are good - they support ECC
      ECC is good - it keeps memory processes and files cached in RAM clean.
      Space for 4 or more physical drives. Four should be enough for most NAS use cases.

      Watch out for older RAID cards, if supplied. Some won't do JBOD and some won't pass SMART stat's transparently.
      (The upside here is, 8 port used replacements can be had at bargain basement prices.)
      Really old Xeon's may lose kernel support down the road, but I'm not worried about it.
      BTW, the E3 series (starting in 2014) is a generation or two newer than what I have, with X5660's (which were offered starting in 2011) . -> Xeon's
      Such an informative post! Thank you very much. Yes I was hoping to go for a E3 1226 V3 or similar (something that has Quick Sync). It may very well be that this is overkill, but I read that it idles very low for power consumption and albeit without ECC RAM it would be more than adequate for my set up.

      Well considering I am currently running an old Macbook as my server just now I think anything would be an improvement! haha
    • One last general item I forgot to mention:

      Some of the older server platforms can be LOUD. The old Intel box I have, when it's first turned on, sounds like a jet idling on a tarmac, in the distance. The sound level drops quickly, when the speed of case and cpu fans drop, but it's still louder than a typical workstation during normal op's. The noise factor on some of the older servers is not to be taken lightly, especially if you plan to store yours in open living spaces. (I put the Intel and other network hardware in a closet, where they belong.)

      Since the T1700 "seems" to fit the workstation/SOHO server category, noise may not be a huge factor. (As an example, since it's roughly the same category, I know that the Lenovo TS140 is whisper quiet, almost silent.) Still, it's worth looking into.