Cloud-based services are much more accessible in 2017, but what if you want to store your files locally at home or in the office? Instead of labeling 20 external hard drives and keeping them in a secure location, why not build your own Network Attached Storage (NAS)?

A NAS is simply a machine that is attached to your home or office network, either through cables or wireless. It allows for all connected devices with correct permissions set to access files on internal drives.

Why you should buy a NAS

It's possible to purchase your own NAS device, and the prices aren't too steep. We took a look at some of the best options available on the market right now, whether you're looking for affordability or expansion capabilities. If you'd rather have a fun project to be tasked with or wish to configure your own system (more ideal for streaming and various demanding tasks) then it's possible to create your own NAS. Here are some of the advantages when it comes to building your own NAS setup:

  • Can be more affordable with better specifications.
  • Room to upgrade in the future.
  • Can be configured to your exact requirements.
  • More powerful and feature-rich than prebuilt systems.

We're going to focus on a low-cost build in this guide.

Plex

The case

With a NAS system, the aim is to keep the footprint small but have ample room to throw in a number of storage drives and capable components. Thermaltake's CORE V21 case is great for this, sporting the option to fit up to three drives. There's also the bonus addition of a side panel window to show off the insides. With this case, you'll not only be able to build a compact system but also show it off with LED lighting and other case mods.

For cooling, Thermaltake preinstalled a massive 200mm fan in the front. It's also possible to add other cooling solutions inside, including an all-in-one water cooler for the CPU.

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The processor

Should you go Intel or AMD? While it's possible to build a capable system with AMD's desktop CPU and APU solutions, we recommend Intel so you can take advantage of more power-efficient processors. Intel has a wide range of processors that will do the job, depending on what tasks you want the NAS to perform. An Atom or Pentium processor will be more than enough for file and media storage, while a Core i3 chip will be better for streaming, Plex use and multi-user optimization.

Our choice for the affordable build will be an Intel Celeron G3930 (seventh-gen socket LGA 1151), which sports two cores at 2.9GHz. This is more than enough for file storage without breaking the budget.

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The power supply

An 80 PLUS Bronze certification and backed by a plethora of positive reviews, EVGA's 500W power supply is an excellent unit for any PC. For our NAS build, we'll be relying on not only the reliability that comes with the certification and branding but also the modular cabling that will help avoid clutter inside the small case. You also won't require anything more than 500W, so this PSU should be good for future upgrades and builds with a dedicated GPU.

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The motherboard

Combined with our Intel Celeron, the ASRock Mini H110M ITX is perfect for a NAS setup. This is an excellent board with ample room for expansion, thanks to the PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot, 3 SATA ports, a single M.2 port and built-in wireless. However, if you'd rather go for absolute baseline, it's possible to save money on both a CPU and the motherboard by going with an integrated bundle. (See our notable mentions for some examples.)

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RAM

Any RAM will do, so there's no need to splash out cash for the best in DDR3 or DDR4. We selected Crucial's basic 4GB stick of memory, and it will be more than enough for a NAS solution.

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Storage

Storage options depend on how much you wish to use. We'd recommend starting with 1TB or 2TB mechanical drives, with a 120GB SSD if your budget can stretch for a more efficient system drive. For our reasonably-priced build, we selected a WD Blue 2TB HDD.

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Total cost: $340.50

You could bring the cost down to around $250 by going for a 1TB drive and an Intel Atom integrated motherboard solution. That's a solid price for a good NAS setup that will perform well under load. After you put together everything, the task comes to then choosing an OS for the NAS. Options such as FreeNAS, OpenMediaVault, and Linux distributions can all be deployed.