Introduction: Build an Inexpensive Ikea NAS/Computer

Picture of Build an Inexpensive Ikea NAS/Computer

NAS: Network Attached Storage
Ikea: Purveyors of neat, inexpensive things.
Ikea NAS: Way-Cool, Low-Power, High-Capacity, Network Storage or general use computer.

Update: A little more can be found at my website post: - hardware is the same, but this contains a bit more about it's use.

Update 2: The NAS has been in regular use for a few of months and has not had any heat issues. It does get occasionally warm on top. In hindsight, I think I would have preferred to put a small vent in the front to improve airflow, but apparently It's not necessary. The air that comes in through the port panel may be enough. Also, I've seen a number of people other places state that this costs too much compared to commercially available options. Please note that my price (about $310) includes a 1.5TB harddrive, because a NAS is worthless without a drive in it. So at under $200, I think it's a pretty good value, especially considering it's flexibility.

A long time back I stumbled across a website where a guy had put together a cheap DIY computer for $200. His costs went up and down a bit, but in the end he had a computer that he could not only experiment with, but also use as a back-up storage device. This was the first time I ever heard of a NAS.

Network Attached Storage is like an external hard drive. Instead of plugging it into your USB or Firewire port, you connect it to your local network. This is useful because it's accessible from each computer on the network. Given the right OS and permissions, you can control who can access it when, and even for what purpose.

Additionally, This little unit is a way to be a little nicer to the environment. All the electronics are RoHS compliant and the unit is Low Power, saving you some cash and the Earth some life.

This instructable will show you how to Build the NAS I built, and point you in the right direction for getting it up and running.

Step 1: Parts and Supplies

Picture of Parts and Supplies

Things you will need:

1x Stainless Steel Box from Ikea (Emu) - This actually comes in a set of two. I wanted something small, so I chose the use the 7x10 box, but the larger box will work just great.

1x Mini-ITX motherboard - The Mini-ITX form factor motherboard is really brilliant. Compact, powerful, low-power, and usually the processor is integrated right into the board, so you don't have to worry about anything. I'm using the Intl D945GCLF2

Hard drives - depending on how much storage you need, this will vary. I went with a 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11. I'll warn you that this drive has a bad reputation for RAID setups, so if you're going to do something like that, make sure you get a drive that has a better track record.

Power Supply - The Pico PSU120. This is quite a bit of power in a little package, 120w to be precise. I love these things. There's no way you'll need more power than this thing can dole out.

A Fan - I had an 80mm fan from another project hanging around, and I realized that I'd probably need it if I didn't cut some vents in the top. My fan is extremely quiet. I'll warn you that the fan onboard the motherboard is not very quiet. DON'T TRY TO RUN WITHOUT IT. The video chipset will not survive with passive cooling.

Ram - 2GB, it's the max this board will take.

An ATX power-switch - This a little power switch to turn on and off.

2x Right angle mounting brackets. You'll use these to mount the Hard-drive.

Assortment of screws and nuts - 6-32 thread screws are the standard hard drive screw, and I found that those screws of different lengths worked great for everything. I did use 8-32 for a couple of things, but there was no difference practically speaking.

Cost for Project:

Kingston Ram 2GB: $22.99
Intel D945GCLF2: $83.99
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB: $129.99
Ikea "Emu" boxes: $6.00
PicoPSU 120 60W kit: $54.95
Various Screws, Mounting Hardware: ~$10.00

Total: ~$308 not including shipping. No doubt you could get a NAS for cheaper than this, but you won't get the expansion or flexibility.

Step 2: Cut Up the Box

Picture of Cut Up the Box

You're going to need to do some cutting and drilling.
Break out the Dremel!

I highly recommend that you do some measurements, make some templates and make sure you've got everything the way you want to lay it out.

I chose to put my motherboard towards the back, point out one of the longer sides. The corners of the box are rounded, and because the 6.75" is a tight squeeze in this 7" wide box, you'll need to do something similar. I considered cutting just a small opening for power and the network card and then mounting it internally with the ports pointed towards the shorter ends. I decided though that I wanted the option of this being a regular computer.

I'll warn you now that this is stainless steel, not aluminum as it may look. It's not easy to cut through and requires a lot of patience. Take it slow, and buff and sand everything.

Step 3: Mount the Motherboard

Picture of Mount the Motherboard

Did you clear out the metal shavings and left-overs out of your case? Really? I cannot stress the importance here. One little shaving could short out your MotherBoard. Short-out/$85 down the drain.

Take some time and clean out the case after you've completed all of your cutting and drilling. Method I recommend:
1) Get a strong magnet
2) Wrap it in a tissue
3) Go around the edge of the box.
4) The filings (which have magnetized upon cutting) will stick to the tissue.
5) Empty into a garbage can by taking the tissue off of the magnet.

Repeat that several times. also take a brush and go around the crevices and the edges of the box. Clean out the box, and make sure it's in good shape. You'll save yourself some potential trouble.

Okay. Now that the case is clean, The motherboard. I cut my case to have room for the metal insert. I recommend it if you can.

The screws I put in here are 6-32 thread 2" long. I have two nuts. one which secures the screw to the case, and another which supports the motherboard. Initially I planned on putting another nut, but my holes weren't drilled perfectly, so the slightly off pressure of the screws is enough to hold it in place.

Step 4: Add Harddrive Hardware and

Picture of Add Harddrive Hardware and

Next, we need to put in a method of mounting the hard drive in the case. Initially I was going to mount two beams across the length of the box, and screw the drives in so they would hang upside down over the motherboard. This plan was foiled by my needing room for a fan. Additionally, hard drives are heavy, and the screw points didn't allow for a well-balanced situation.

To resolve, this, I decided to mount the drives vertically. This will assist with heat ventilation as well. The method is to have two right angle brackets attached to the case which will mount on the top of the drive, and then holes on the bottom of the case to mount on the bottom of the drive.

If you choose to follow my design exactly, make sure you get yourself a right angle SATA connection. The straight connectors won't fit in that tight space.

Step 5: Fan, PSU and You're Ready!

Picture of Fan, PSU and You're Ready!

Now we just have to put in the little stuff and we'll be set to set up the NAS.

Really you just need to tuck the Power Supply in and make sure it doesn't get in the way of any of the air circulation. With the PSU120, you'll probably need an ATX extension cable. The Pico has a pair of capacitors on one end that just don't with everything so tight. If you're going with the Pico PSU90, those capacitors aren't there and you can plug it right into the board.

The fan I've attached at the far end of the case just on the other side of the motherboard. It turns out that because of that rounded edge, you have just enough room to put the fan in.

One thing not pictured here: Power switch. I picked one up for a few bucks. I decided to save myself the trouble and not drill a hole. I don't think I'll be turning this off and on everyday, so I decided to just keep it in the case and open the lid when I need to access it.

Step 6: You're Done! + Post Steps

Picture of You're Done! + Post Steps

You did it. Hook it up, boot it up, and you should be on your way to using your NAS.

Personally, I wanted to be able to use AFP with my system because I'm using All macs in my household. Because of that, I chose to go with FreeNAS. The current version is mostly there, but doesn't quite work with the Network hardware. I ended up using the version based on FreeBSD 7. You will need to test it to see if it meets your needs. Alternatively, you can add a PCI card and not worry about it. I intend to leave that slot open for potential drive expansion.

You may also want to try OpenFiler, or NASLite.
I can't vouch for either of those, but they have a dedicated following each, so will probably serve you well.

This project ended up taking me longer than I wanted, but I love the way it's turned out. It even looks nice, and doesn't need to be hidden away like so much of the equipment we have.

I hope you enjoyed, and I hope you'll give it a shot. I grant that it's not perfect, but for a small network, the price is pretty unbeatable, and there's nothing like putting together your own hardware.


Pcmaker2002 (author)2016-02-03

You are paying to much

aarone (author)Pcmaker20022016-02-03

Well, this was back in 2009, so I imagine things have changed. At the time, this was a surprisingly inexpensive solution!

rogriff made it! (author)2015-03-07

sleek media center and expandable nas - works great, super fast on over-clocked raspberry pi b+

xUNMERITEDx (author)rogriff2015-08-09

Isn't the max output of an pi like.. 10mbs?

diy_bloke (author)2011-11-13

very nifty. Have been looking for a case for my NAS.
Making th eproper holes for yr connectors seems hell though.
Need to look more into yr PSY solution. Currntly I use a psu board that plugs directly into the connectors on the mother board and only has one lead coming out, but it is meant for a double isolated device so I always sense some voltage on the metal parts (not a good feeling)

Used FreeNas in the past. quite easy to set up, but a bit limited and as I recall, it has a proprietory file system :-)

I use Ubuntu Server. The bad thing of that is that the latest versions do not run on older boards anymore. Darn. that was always the good thing of Linux

aarone (author)diy_bloke2011-11-14

The PicoPSU adapters are great for small spaces and mini-computers. They deliver enough power if you aren't looking to build a larger system. My current setup has moved out of this box as I needed more space and wanted some redundancy.

Currently, I'm running FreeNAS 8, with a ZFS ZRAID array. I don't believe that ZFS is proprietary, but its license is (unfortunately) incompatible in terms of including it with linux.

Ideally, I'd like to go with a linux system as there's so much more broad support, but afaik, Linux doesn't have a comparable FS to ZFS (I've looked only briefly at btrfs and trying to get zfs to run on linux and haven't had much luck.)

This solution worked for me for a while, but eventually I needed more space and ended up just buying a case with a lot of room in it.

tgood (author)2011-05-30

Thanks for the idea. I was able to squeeze a full size dvd drive and 1tb harddrive into the bigger box. I salvaged the dvd mount out of an old biege computer case. The harddrive is mounted under the dvd drive with one side floating.

ElvenChild (author)2011-02-10

Is it ddr2 or ddr3 type ram

v3l0 (author)2010-04-06

This is a low power board, the GPU hardly gets up when used as a NAS, the connectors bracket will leak some air too, he has another small hole in the case made by mistake so we can say that there is some small air circulation.
If the hard drives were 7500 10 000 rpm and more than one, than the space limitations and extra heat would have a chance to render the system unstable.

v3l0 (author)2010-04-06

Yes, indeed, they still include ancient ports, especially on theese small boards becau enthusiasts are not exactly the target buyers.
The usual clients for theese boards are industrial clients that use small computers to control technological proceses, automations etc.
Let's hope Intel will launch it's universal optical fiber connection and port diversity will be history.

aarone (author)2009-12-28

A NAS  (Network Attached Storage) is a hard disk that connects to your computer through Ethernet instead of USB (or Firewire, etc.)  Though it does not need to be connected to the internet, it can be, which offers some additional features that make it nice to have. A NAS is a type of server (although these days, Server more refers to software than it does hardware.)

daniel! (author)aarone2009-12-29

So if I made an HTPC, and then I made one of these, would I then be able to have the NAS sitting somewhere with all my movies, pictures, etc. on it, and then access all the files with the HTPC using something like FileZilla? (I'm completely new to all this stuff, so I'm trying to figure out how I would set all this up). Thanks for the help!

aarone (author)daniel!2009-12-29

It depends on what your HTPC was running. You wouldn't use FileZilla. Most HTPCs will mount the drive from the NAS when they start up. So you wouldn't actually have to do anything special, just make sure that the HTPC knows that it's supposed to look for stuff on the network when it boots. Beyond that, you'd just go to the media like you would normally on your HTPC.

daniel! (author)aarone2009-12-29

Wouldn't I have to install some software on the HTPC to make it look for the NAS? Sorry about all my questions, like I said, this is all new to me.

aarone (author)daniel!2009-12-29

Probably not. Most HTPCs are going to have software built-in to access the NAS. It depends on what OS you're running, but I'd be surprised if you had to install any software. Don't apologize. Questions are great!

daniel! (author)aarone2009-12-29

Yeah, I was thinking about turning an Acer Aspire Revo into an HTPC running XMBC live like the article on Lifehacker:
and then building one of these to store all the media and stream it to the HTPC. So would i just have to install FreeNas on the NAS right? But then how would I access the files on the HTPC? I was reading around and it looked like you can use Internet Explorer to access the files, but since the HTPC would be using XMBC Live as it's OS, would i be able to use Internet Explorer?

aarone (author)daniel!2009-12-29

It looks like FreeNAS is already supported with XMBC using SAMBA (a file protocol), so you don't need to do anything but setup FreeNAS' built in Samba server and XMBC would see it without any special setup. You just use XMBC's built-in media browser. Of course, you would need a way of getting media on to your NAS, but that's just browsing files through sharing and drag and drop.

Alternatively, if you don't want the NAS for anything else, you could just build this system and install XMBC on this. It'd cost less than putting together both boxes, and you could probably still access an XMBC box's drive.

daniel! (author)aarone2009-12-30

Yeah, the reason I wanted to make the two seperate boxes was so I could set up the XMBC box next to my tv, and then put the NAS somewhere else where it would be out of the way and so I could use it with my other computer too.

But so basically if i set up XMBC live on one box, and then set up SAMBA in FreeNAS' setting or wherever you have to set it up, the XMBC box should be able to find it? And would, for example, my regular laptop running Windows be able to find the NAS and get files from it too?

aarone (author)daniel!2009-12-30

Yes to all of the above.

daniel! (author)aarone2009-12-30

Thanks for all the help!

Tubehacker01 (author)2009-12-18

You could mount the ATX swich so that if you press on the lid, the computer starts :D

godofal (author)2009-12-18

this is a nice project, if the price was lower i would make one :D
i must say that i like PS2 keyboards better than the USB versions becouse with USB versions i have the experience that multiple keys pressed at the same time it doesnt take all of them (for gaming)

and those printer ports are great for programming attiny/atmega chips :)

aarone (author)godofal2009-12-18

Yeah, the price can be a bit of a bear, but the project is more about doing it than saving money. Do keep in mind that the price drops to around $200 without a new drive in there. If you have a spare hdd sitting around, then you're in good shape to start.

I found out last month that these boards don't respond to the new aluminum Apple Keyboards at boot, so I had to borrow an old PS/2 keyboard.

You're right, the serial ports are good for hardware programming/ low-level communication between devices. I didn't really ever expect to have anything connected that would need the port, but If I were using this as a regular boot machine, I definitely see the advantage to having it around.

ChiefSleepyBear (author)2009-12-11

I thought about doing this, but a nice little case is actually not very expensive.  After searching around for just the right parts, I decided it was easier to just get something already put together.

I got a little computer from MitxPC for about $300.  It includes 4 gigabit ethernet ports.  So, I can have NAS, network traffic control, wireless access, and host all the usual servers (subversion, http, wiki, samba, etc).

My goal was a low power (24x7) unit that could provide all the services (NAS and networking) that i needed for my house.  This little ITX running Ubuntu worked out perfectly.

I am using OpenWRT in an Asus router.  But, the router resources are too limited to host server software.  So, I added this ITX to my network.

aarone (author)ChiefSleepyBear2009-12-13

Sounds like a cool setup. On a few occasions I've thought about updating the hardware in this, but I haven't gotten there get. The MitxPC you got is right around the same price range, and a bit more bang for your buck. My project here doesn't always come out to be cost-effective, but it's fun!

Are you running your ITX 24/7? What kind of power consumption are you seeing?

tonyboy007 (author)2009-05-26

That shiz is gonna over heat trust me

aarone (author)tonyboy0072009-05-26

I know it seems that way, but it's been running 24 hours a day for more than 2 weeks as of right now and it's never gotten even warm. The fan in the back pulls enough air through the case to keep everything cool. At the very least if the processor started to overheat the machine would sit down. So far it's been humming away nicely, and cooly.

lucius108 (author)aarone2009-08-08

and if it gets hot u can just take the lid off

vitozilla (author)2009-05-28

I'm going to do this soon. I'm going to try to mount the fan on the lid though. I'll take pics when I'm done.

awdark (author)2009-05-25

Would you possibly have a kill-a-watt meter or something similar to measure the power consumption? I have a buffalo linkstation and although I was very tempted by this route I was convinced the 20watts of a linkstation would be less than that of a dedicated NAS. Of course you can install normal windows on it or freenas and have all the sharing abilities and normal software and of the x86 architecture rather than the arm cpu.

aarone (author)awdark2009-05-26

That's a good idea. I don't have any kind of power monitoring device at the moment... I'll look into getting one as I'd like to see what the power usage on this is as well! From rough (very rough) estimations (info online of components) I'd say It consumes somewhere around 50 watts running full-tilt. The Linkstation definitely has the advantage there. As you mentioned, this machine has greater capability. As a single function device, the math for this machine doesn't work out very well. As a NAS, it can be beat by something off the shelf. As a computer, it can be beat by netbooks or similar machines. But for a combination device, I think it works very well. Most of all, I had fun building it, which is the best part.

tally3tally (author)2009-05-19

hi firstly nice work...BTW 1) If you add multiple drives to your project(provided that the casing has room for it)..can a RAID be setup with the setup you are using or is a seperate raid controller and a more powerful processor needed, 2) what else (apart from greater speeds ) are advantages of a NAS setup like the one you have if there are a only a couple of computers attached in a home network.

aarone (author)tally3tally2009-05-19
Thank you!

To answer your questions:
You can definitely do a RAID in the case, and FreeNAS has built-in software RAID support. I have not tried it, but I've been somewhat tempted. In my build, there's definitely room for at least one more drive, more if you get creative with space. If software RAID's not what you want, there's a PCI slot on the MB that you can use for a RAID controller.

On my home network (with only the two computers) we use it for backup and non-essential storage. We previously had an external drive we were using for this sort of stuff, and it would have been fine to continue to use that way. This does offer a couple of fun things:
  • Built in web-server and Bit-torrent server, both are accessible from the internet.
  • Broad file-access and control. FreeNAS supports a dozen or so different file protocols. I don't need to worry about disk formats, just user access and protocols. It's kind of nice.
Irin1178 (author)2009-03-21

Where can you find Right angle mounting brackets for sale?

aarone (author)Irin11782009-03-23

I got mine from Home Depot.

Irin1178 (author)aarone2009-03-23

Ah... thank you

andyt31 (author)2009-03-20

FreeNAS is great. I built mine about 6 months ago, and never regretted it! it serves files for my PC's, Mac's and other legacy type equipment like my RiscPC.

My FreeNas is also in a custom box. Look here

DallasDeckard (author)2009-03-12

Nice little box. I have a house full of Macs as well, but a PC or two as well. How is it configured? Do you do it from one of the machines networked to it? Or do you hook up a keyboard, mouse and monitor for a minute and configure it that way? I suppose I could Google all this, but if you have a link I'd appreciate it. My wife would love something like this, so I might give it a whirl. Thanks for the instructable!

aarone (author)DallasDeckard2009-03-13

Initially, you need to connect a keyboard and monitor to it to set it up. This is to choose an ethernet adapter (port) and to setup the IP address (or DHCP if you prefer). After that, you log into the machine via web browser and set it up from there. If you have a sense for what you're doing, it's a breeze and you're setup in less than 10 minutes. It took me a little longer to figure it out because I didn't know everything going in (AFP was troublesome, the docs on it are sparse)

ghostman!! (author)aarone2009-03-18

How did you go about installing freenas on one hard drive ? did you have to partition it ?, and how did you manage to install it with out a cd drive? Thanks

aarone (author)ghostman!!2009-03-18

FreeNAS is actually running off of a USB key. It's easy enough to install it by booting off of the LiveCD and installing from there to the key on a separate computer. That said, I did hook up a CD Drive and install it from there using this computer.

ghostman!! (author)aarone2009-03-19

Ahk thanks

N1CK4ND0 (author)2009-03-14

The first time I walked into IKEA... I thought they were going to rule the world.

osgeld (author)2009-03-13

"I sometimes wonder why they even include these anymore." but they come in handy if you have a tiny work area and want to program a micro controller using a cigar box, and a cute lcd heh!

sukkeggs (author)2009-03-13

Does the fan suck air from the box or blow into it? I should think you'd need another vent at the opposite end for airflow.

RichardBronosky (author)2009-03-12

What kills me about these tiny motherboards is:
1. There is no excuse for VGA!
2. Most low power CPUs should be coupled with low power video with no fans.
3. There is no reason to include PS2 ports because you can't even buy PS2 periphials anymore.
4. There is no reason to include serial or parallel ports because almost everything is USB. For what isn't there are USB to Serial/Parallel kits.

stoobers (author)RichardBronosky2009-03-12

Mini-Itx was designed for embedded applications. Its is FAR easier to program for a parallel port than anything else. You can even use the parallel port as a group of serial-like ports, if you needed to. USB and serial ports require the hardware to have a chip JUST to translate the serial commands back to parallel to be used, like a 232cpe or the like. An extra level of complexity for no additional gain! Except the usb is a much nicer shaped plug. And people always coo and swoon over usb. Also, if you are honest, you have to pay to build circuits for USB (an annual fee). But for limited run projects, why do that? Just use parallel. And you want a ps2 port bec. not all usb devices are modern enough to be recognized at boot. This is a huge problem with a usb keyboard - no way to get into the system bios without plugging in a second, ps2 keyboard. Again, not normally a problem, but a big problem in the embedded world, where you have to design everything, and everything designed is a hack job. I still want the motherboard manufactures to bring back the game port and the BeBox geek port. But that's just my two cents.

RichardBronosky (author)stoobers2009-03-12

I am an Arduino developer, so I agree with you 100% about the ports. You have to agree though that you and I (and all the embedded system engineers) are not the average consumer of mini-itx boards today, even if we were the original target. Even if the board didn't have any of the ports I mention on the back, I can't imagine an x86 platform without and RS232 header on it. Can you? And that would be enough for embedded applications. One point I'd make is that the FTDI chip is super simple... but I understand your objections.

aarone (author)RichardBronosky2009-03-12

If you're interested in a slightly more advanced board, you can try the Intel DG45FC, it doesn't have a chip onboard, but it ditches all the legacy stuff and crams a whole bunch of other things in there, including HDMI.
It is a bit spendier though.

In retrospect (and against my earlier comments in the Instructable itself), there is some value in the legacy ports. Mostly from a hacker perspective. It's nice to have ports you can just send data through without much worry.

For this project though, these things serve nearly no purpose at all. The board is advanced enough that it boots off of and talks to USB with no problems. There are two wires that go into this thing in it's normal operation: Ethernet and Power.

And I agree with you, VGA has no excuse.

jwesty (author)2009-03-12

aarone....yes there's many ways to do it and different mobo's...many ways to skin a cat.... Still good instructable though.....

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Aaron. I've written for Television I"ve written, directed, and performed in a musical I'm a programmer I'm a Roboticist ... More »
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