Possibly going to build my own NAS, big Q

PsycoGeek

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I have a Seagate Black Armor that I got a few years ago and I want to replace it with something a bit more powerful. I'm also an ex-IT guy with a lot of server (Windows) experience. I've been looking at Qnap and Synology, and my own build. I need the following things:

1. Integration with an all Apple environment (OS X and iOS).
2. Redundancy (RAID 5, etc...).
2. Low power, but able to deliver for music and video streaming to iTunes (PLEX as well?)
3. Easy to configure and maintain (IP based control panel).

I like the Synology DS414 Slim for it's low power, but it has very low write/read speeds (mostly because of the processor, partially because of the drives). I have to look at the Qnap models again.

But as I said in the thread title I am considering a build of my own, specifically on a SuperMicro Mini ITX A1SAI-2750F-O, which has an eight-core Intel ATOM processor. I've been looking into Linux distros that will run on it but I'm having trouble with that. Does anyone know of any that will?

Thanks.
 

SomeGuy133

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I have a Seagate Black Armor that I got a few years ago and I want to replace it with something a bit more powerful. I'm also an ex-IT guy with a lot of server (Windows) experience. I've been looking at Qnap and Synology, and my own build. I need the following things:

1. Integration with an all Apple environment (OS X and iOS).
2. Redundancy (RAID 5, etc...).
2. Low power, but able to deliver for music and video streaming to iTunes (PLEX as well?)
3. Easy to configure and maintain (IP based control panel).

I like the Synology DS414 Slim for it's low power, but it has very low write/read speeds (mostly because of the processor, partially because of the drives). I have to look at the Qnap models again.

But as I said in the thread title I am considering a build of my own, specifically on a SuperMicro Mini ITX A1SAI-2750F-O, which has an eight-core Intel ATOM processor. I've been looking into Linux distros that will run on it but I'm having trouble with that. Does anyone know of any that will?

Thanks.
If Plex will be run off the NAS you need a beef system. If Plex is going to be processed on the device you can skimp a bit. At least thats what I have been told, I am still not that far yet.
 

PsycoGeek

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If Plex will be run off the NAS you need a beef system. If Plex is going to be processed on the device you can skimp a bit. At least thats what I have been told, I am still not that far yet.
Well, I'm not really sure how PLEX works either. I don't know if the server portion does the decoding, or if the client does it. I am under the impression that the client does it, so an 8 core ATOM should suffice (if it works that way). iOS has a PLEX client, and there is one for Apple TV (but I didn't see it for the ATV 4 when I was in my local Apple store).

I still have a lot of research to do, but I'm mostly having trouble finding a LINUX distro that will run on the ATOM.
 

SomeGuy133

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Well, I'm not really sure how PLEX works either. I don't know if the server portion does the decoding, or if the client does it. I am under the impression that the client does it, so an 8 core ATOM should suffice (if it works that way). iOS has a PLEX client, and there is one for Apple TV (but I didn't see it for the ATV 4 when I was in my local Apple store).

I still have a lot of research to do, but I'm mostly having trouble finding a LINUX distro that will run on the ATOM.
device or server can do decoding. its nicer for the device if the decoding is done on the server especially for Tablets and cell phones. 1080P can require a good bit of CPU especially on MIDs.
 

ashman

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Remember with plex that its only going to do transcoding if you are going to be streaming outside of the house, otherwise it streams the file on your local network just fine without the need for transcoding.
 

PsycoGeek

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Remember with plex that its only going to do transcoding if you are going to be streaming outside of the house, otherwise it streams the file on your local network just fine without the need for transcoding.
Thank you. Did not know that because my stupid NAS has no plug-ins available, and I've never used PLEX before. Everything will be local.
 

PsycoGeek

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I'm beginning to see some info on OS's... some people are running FreeNAS, FreeBSD, etc... So it will work, but no built in RAID. Now I need to find a cost effective PCI E 2.0 x8 RAID card.

Any recommendations on OS in light of that? Remember, I need tight integration with OS X and iOS.
 
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TType85

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I'm beginning to see some info on OS's... some people are running FreeNAS, FreeBSD, etc... So it will work, but no built in RAID. Now I need to find a cost effective PCI E 2.0 x8 RAID card.

Any recommendations on OS in light of that? Remember, I need tight integration with OS X and iOS.
With FreeNAS or anything using ZFS you do not want a raid card, you just need a HBA like this flashed to IT mode: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dell-PERC-H310-6-0Gb-s-SAS-SATA-RAID-Controller-UNUSED-/141821144886

You might want to check out napp-it http://www.napp-it.org/index_en.html It is _Gea on this boards project and it works great.

Another alternative is Unraid, it also has AFP and supports time machine for your OSX needs.
 

bbenz33

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FreeNAS is quite nice and it utilizes the ZFS file system which does its own kind of RAID that is very similar to the normal hardware RAID in terms of capabilities and most agree that for larger drives it actually is better. FreeNAS does have the ability to work directly with Apple OS. I don't have any way to test it out but I would bet it can do whatever you want it to. Now as for the whole Plex issue, even though a media device can play a file natively with a different media player that doesn't mean that when running Plex that it will. I have an Amazon Fire TV and when using Kodi the files play perfectly over a samba share, however when using Plex the files don't seem to play unless the server performs the transcoding. I just recently upgraded from a AMD APU E350 to a AMD APU Q5000 and then quickly turned around and upgraded to a Xeon E5640. The dual core AMD couldn't handle the decoding at all and the quad core was passable but not great. With the Xeon I don't even think about it anymore.

Now for the hardware side if you are fully settled on the Atom board (I almost got that one but found some used hardware on here for much cheaper) then you should be just fine with FreeNAS. The commercial side of the FreeNAS project is using that Atom chip on the ASRock MB. I would strongly suggest reading up on ZFS before trying to find a RAID card. If you end up using ZFS then you can either elect to use the onboard ports or if you really must buy a card you can opt for a plain HBA. I would also suggest getting a ~16GB SSD to run the OS from as it makes reboots significantly faster and I think I killed a couple USB thumb drives due to using them as the OS drive.
 

jdd561

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I built a NAS using FreeNAS. I run both Plex and Kodi on multiple devices throughout our house (and cell phones). What I found was that Plex on less powerful stuff and stuff you'd rather keep quiet (living room & bedrooms) does require some beef. My Avoton MB didn't cut it - had to update to a Xeon. I'd wager that you will have at least SOME stuff that Apple TV will need help with - and an ATOM may not be adequate.

My experience also taught me that unless that <20W power envelope is a primary requirement, you can built a Xeon based rig for about the same money as that Avoton you are looking at - and at idle, it won't really use much more power relative to the massive flexibility it gives you. Bottom line for me is unless you are ONLY serving files with no processing needs EVER, I'd build up to a Xeon with ECC RAM if you go FreeNAS.
 

TType85

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I was looking at it, but I can't find anything on comparable hardware... anywhere.
Your best bet would probably be a Supermicro server motherboard, E3-12xx and as much compatible ECC ram that fits your budget. That would give you a nice solid foundation for just about any NAS software and work well with PLEX or whatever else you throw at it..
 
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Might be worth clarifying what transcoding is and when it is going to happen. I'll speak to Plex because that is what I'm most familiar with, but other media serving software usually exhibit similar behavior.

Your client device (iPhone, iPad, smart TV, etc) will have a list of compatible containers (.mkv, .mp4, etc) and compatible video & audio codecs (H.264, AC3, AAC, etc). Google your particular product for specifics. If the media file you are trying to play from your server is compatible with your client device, the software will stream it directly with no transcoding required. If the media file is not fully compatible, you can optionally have the software attempt to transcode it for you. This will pull apart the original media file and transcode the video and audio into a proper codec, remultiplex those into a proper container, and then serve the new transcoded file to your device. This can be fairly CPU intensive. Apple devices tend to like H.264 & AAC inside MP4.

If you wish to access your media files remotely from outside your home network, it is likely that your files will need to be transcoded in that situation as well. This is because your outgoing connection is probably not fast enough to support direct streaming of a 3-10 Mbps video file (typical HD stuff). So again, your server can optionally pull apart the file and lower the quality enough so that the file can be streamed without excessive buffering on the client.

FWIW I've used two older desktop CPUs (one quad core AMD and one 6 core AMD) for my server and both have had no problem transcoding at least two HD streams at once via Plex. However, these are not low power CPUs.

Other things to consider:

Drop iTunes on your server. You can run iTunes on another device (laptop?) and have it access your media files on the server, or just jump on the Plex wagon and use it exclusively, ex. you can sync music to your iPhone directly through Plex.

Just about everything you need for a home server is available on all major Linux (or Unix-based) distros like Ubuntu or Debian. Just beware that some learning is required for Linux newbies, moreso on some distros than others. Ubuntu is often hailed as an easy first step into Linux. When I first got into Linux I tried a few and ended up settling on Arch, but to each their own.

Ask yourself if you want hardware or software RAID. The answer to that question will affect which software and components you will be looking at. My recommendation for a home media server is software RAID like SnapRAID, as it tends to be more flexible with such things as multiple HDD sizes and growing your data pool over time. Software RAID should also be cheaper as you can run with one of the HBAs mentioned above instead of a RAID card. You may not even need an HBA if you only plan on having a handful of HDDs; your motherboard should be capable of direct access to 4-8 SATA drives.

Edit: Enough rambling...:)
 
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rsq

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I just wanted to chime in and give my experience with the avoton atoms.

The 2750 is a quite capable CPU. It will transcode nearly everything as long as you stick with 1080p res. For 4k it might struggle a bit if you run multiple streams. If your transcoder can leverage multiple cores, you won't have a problem.

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS has great support for the board. Dunno about FreeNAS. You'd have to check with the FreeBSD community.

The board you show takes ECC SODIMM ram, check out prices and availability to make sure there are no surprises.
 

PsycoGeek

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Edit: Enough rambling...:)
Ramble on mate.... I haven't replied because I've been dealing with a fucked-up Comcast connection the last few days. :mad:

Thanks for the info rsq.... I did find some info regarding people running FreeNAS on it (finally!). It's promising. ZFS looks good as well, but not with the SuperMicro board as the majority of the SATA ports are SATA II. There is another board, the ASRock C2750D4I Mini ITX Server Motherboard , which has enough SATA III ports for me.

BTW rsq, which board did you use?
 

Vengance_01

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If you plan to use plex you will want a decent CPU if you plan to run everything on 1 system.
 

ToddW2

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I have a supermicro itx 8C Avoton with FreeNAS on it in a 8 hot-swap setup, works great. I don't transcode or do anything but use it for data (my backup NAS), but it works great and is low power, excluding the WD RE drives that suck power ;) My only complaint is about my case due to heat, but I'm about to install an ultra-thin fan and I think it will drop temps A LOT!!
 

PsycoGeek

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I have another Q for rsq and ToddW2... what hard drives are you using with the SuperMicro boards, how many and it what configuration (RAID, etc...)?
 

Suprfire

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Check out unRAID.
I'm running Plex as a docker on mine. It's not free, it has it's tradeoffs, and for disk/array operations on 10GbE it's likely not as fast as other NAS OS'es such as FreeNAS. They have a free trial version of the software, so I'd say it's worth at least trying once you have your hardware in hand.
 

ashman

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I would definitely check out UnRaid, I am running it as a backup server for my media, 23 disks including parity and cache, 58TB of space, runs great.
 

_CiPHER_

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Why on earth would you want a proprietary and legacy solution like unRAID if you can use ZFS - by far the best storage technology out there. It has limitations on expansion, but that's about it. Only benefits.

All the legacy solutions have major drawbacks. The biggest is that they offer no true protection for your data. If your data corrupts, you may not know about it until it is too late. It can spread to your backups too. It is simply of a previous era. ZFS is the first mature 3rd generation filesystem and as such the only choice if you want real protection for your data.
 

zaniix

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Why on earth would you want a proprietary and legacy solution like unRAID if you can use ZFS - by far the best storage technology out there. It has limitations on expansion, but that's about it. Only benefits.

All the legacy solutions have major drawbacks. The biggest is that they offer no true protection for your data. If your data corrupts, you may not know about it until it is too late. It can spread to your backups too. It is simply of a previous era. ZFS is the first mature 3rd generation filesystem and as such the only choice if you want real protection for your data.
Well, personally I have been using unRaid for many years now and it has done well for me. I can use any size drives as long as they are smaller than my parity drive and that was very attractive at the time I built it. I only have a cache drive plus 3 HDDs its mainly used to run VMs and a few apps like Plex server.


One of the things that kept me away from ZFS was the need for a server grade board with a lot of EEC RAM and not really knowing what I am doing in linux. My important stuff is backed up directly from PC to crashplan so I am not super concerned with bitrot.

I do have a spare system to play around with now so I would like to dive into ZFS and see what I am missing. If I am impressed maybe I would move that way.

Any suggestions for getting started?
 

_CiPHER_

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Well, personally I have been using unRaid for many years now and it has done well for me.
I can respect that. Still, it somewhat reads to me like: "I have been smoking for 30 years now and it is working well for me". Sure that can be true. But ugh! Smoking is bad. Just like old filesystems are BAD! Everyone should know that. It is simply of a different era. And the problem of uBER is becoming bigger and bigger. And you only have a problem when it is too late. That during a disk rebuild your other disks get bad sectors, then oops! You are in trouble. Then people switch to ZFS only when it is too late and they lost data.

I can use any size drives as long as they are smaller than my parity drive and that was very attractive at the time I built it.
I agree this is a cool feature and one key advantage over ZFS. But this is perhaps the only disadvantage of ZFS that is has restrictions on expansion. Still, you can expand quite well if you add multiple disks at a time. Just requires some planning and looking ahead. Pretty well to cope with. Nonetheless a disadvantage. But there is no perfect storage solution -- yet.

One of the things that kept me away from ZFS was the need for a server grade board
Why? I have been running ZFS for many years on low-grade hardware. I recommend J1900 boards for less than 100 euro for many years. Many people i know run ZFS servers where the system without disks and without casing costs less than 200 dollars. It is friggin' cheap! Half the price of a Synology.

If you want to build an overkill storage system, sure! But then i recommend Xeon-D with dual 10G ethernet or something like that. That is awesome stuff. But overkill for home usage. Still, some of us like overkill and if you got the money, why not. :cool:

with a lot of EEC RAM
This is so wrong!! You have been indoctrinated by hellhounds like on FreeNAS forum!

The truth is that ZFS requires ECC RAM less than any other storage solution. This is because it uses LESS RAM than other solutions, and that unlike other solutions has a 100% ability to DETECT corruption (afterwards) caused by bad RAM and a decent ability to CORRECT corruption caused by RAM.

In fact, you may require ECC on your desktops much more than you require ECC on your ZFS server. Your desktops may be delivering corrupt data to begin with, no server will ever be able to protect against that. So to me desktops with ECC and ZFS server without ECC makes more sense to me than the other way around.

And yes, people come with that research paper - can't find the URL right now. But that paper is limited in that it discusses temporary corruption - or the breach of End-to-End Data Security. It does not discuss at all the ability to CORRECT the corruption afterwards. It also does not mention that ZFS can DETECT all corruption afterwards. This may not be enough for enterprise users - which always should use ECC - but it probably is enough for consumers.

I do have a spare system to play around with now so I would like to dive into ZFS and see what I am missing. If I am impressed maybe I would move that way.

Any suggestions for getting started?
I recommend you try a ZFS *platform* and not a raw operating system like Linux or FreeBSD. Most ZFS platforms are BSD oriented. But ZFS platforms add a shell allowing you to ignore the underlying operating system. Just remember: Mac OSX is also built atop of FreeBSD (DarwinOS) but its users will not notice this at all -- because of the shell! Likewise ZFS platforms hide the underlying BSD operating system for you, but still offer you the highest quality ZFS solution - based on BSD. It has the most features, is very stable and mature and is widely used and tested. Solaris is also good, Linux is less good and mature though some would argue otherwise.

I work on one of the ZFS platforms called ZFSguru. It is by far the easiest ZFS platform. So good to get the know ZFS and have an easy learning curve. It is not as mature as FreeNAS though. If you need serious work done with special features, FreeNAS is still the platform to go for. But FreeNAS is not that suited for home users who want something like Synology but with ZFS technology. ZFSguru comes closer to that goal, though it still has a long road to go.

Other solutions to try are NAS4Free which basically is the continued development of the older FreeNAS before it got acquired by iX Systems. And also there is napp-it based on Solaris/SmartOS platform which is maintained by Gea which is popular on this forum and others. He is a very nice and knowledgeable guy. His solution may not be as easy as ZFSguru or even FreeNAS, but i believe each ZFS platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. Just try them all! You can use Virtualbox to setup a virtual NAS with each product and determine which one you like the most.

And remember, because ZFS is multi-platform, you can switch platforms for any reason later. You can install a different product and then import your existing pool there. This is a pretty unique feature of ZFS since its competitors BtrFS and ReFS will always be tied to one platform only: Linux and Microsoft. ZFS runs on all operating systems (Solaris, BSD, Linux, Apple OSX) except Windows.
 
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TType85

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My problem with ZFS on a media server is if you don't go big enough at the start it is hard to upgrade.

For a RaidZ2 if get 7 (5+2) 3tb drives. I would end up with about 12.5TB of usable space. If I fill that up I need to set up a whole new vDev larger than this one and copy it off.

With Snapraid / Unraid you can upgrade individual disks as long as the parity is the equal or larger than the largest. With my 7 3TB drives above, I upgrade the parity and one of the data drives with 6TB then as needed, replace the rest of the smaller drives.

ZFS has some awesome features and I have used it in production and love it. I am just not a fan of it for a media server, where most everything could be replaced. Just make sure you have a good back up plan with versioning for stuff that is not replaceable.
 

_CiPHER_

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For a RaidZ2 if get 7 (5+2) 3tb drives. I would end up with about 12.5TB of usable space. If I fill that up I need to set up a whole new vDev larger than this one and copy it off.
Why?

Why do you need to 'set up a whole new vdev larger than this one' ?

You can add two disks in a mirror if you like. I do not recommend it, but it is possible.

You can start with 6 disks in RAID-Z2 and add 10 disks in RAID-Z2. But you can just as well do it the other way around.

Maybe i do not understand what you mean properly, but you seem to suggest you need to add higher capacity than what you begin with. This is not true. You can even add one disk to the existing pool, but in that case it will be without redundancy (RAID0) which is not what you want. But as long as you add disks in groups you are good to go. Generally, you need to buy a new controller for added SATA ports so adding disks in groups is pretty logical.
 

drescherjm

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I see the main difficulty of using ZFS for a HTPC type server is the user probably wants to add a single hard drive at a time. Not 6 or 10. Also the user wants to add whatever size drive currently is the most cost effective. At least that is what I want so I run SnapRAID on top of zfs single drive vdevs.
 

PsycoGeek

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I see the main difficulty of using ZFS for a HTPC type server is the user probably wants to add a single hard drive at a time. Not 6 or 10. Also the user wants to add whatever size drive currently is the most cost effective. At least that is what I want so I run SnapRAID on top of zfs single drive vdevs.
Well, I'm not building an HTPC, I'm building a NAS to serve a variety of media (music & movies & pictures) to devices (Apple TV/Roku, iPads, and iPhones), and act as a file server for downloads & documentation, and possibly to run Time Machine backups to.

If I build (or maybe when) I plan on doing a small SSD for the OS drive, and 4 or 5 drives for ZFS raid. I don't need anywhere near 12TB of usable space at this time, but I'm not building just yet and will re-evaluate that as time progresses. And I agree with you TType85, go big or go home... within reason. I'm also trying to tread lightly where power is concerned. I am after all trying to build a home NAS, not a freaking Google or Apple datacenter... :D

You have to also realize that when I said I was ex-IT I meant Network Engineering, server builds/config/management. So, I'm used to going big (but big then is not so much now ;)). Going small-ish is where I need a bit of help.

I have more serious Q's for users of the ATOM boards, how big of a power supply are you using with it? And what case?

So far I'm up in the air as far as HD's go. I like the idea of the 2.5" drives for lower power consumption. Not so sure about the WD Red drives in that size, though. HGST also have drives... the Travelstar 7K1000 which are rated for 24/7 power on use, that looks good for my purpose. But, 3.5" drives I think have higher reliability for my purpose
 
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_CiPHER_

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I cannot help you with the casing, but i use J1900 'atom' boards a lot for ZFS servers so may be able to help you with that.

I like these boards:

ASRock Q1900DC-ITX



ASRock N3150DC-ITX - http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/N3150DC-ITX/



This last board is basically the same as the former, but uses a lower power chip which is slightly less powerful. But it comes with AES-NI hardware acceleration and, more importantly, is bundled with a 65W DC power brick.

Both boards are 'DC' meaning they have their internal power supply already, but still need a power brick to work. The power brick is included with the N3150DC-ITX board. 65W should be enough to spin up 4 Green drives. But not much more!

Some other things:
  • You do not need Red drives as you do not need TLER for ZFS. Green is fine, or recently the Blue EZRZ series which is the same as the Green - WD likes to confuse us. Red and Green (or the new Blue EZRZ) are physically the same aside from a tiny vibration sensor, but comes with TLER firmware and additional warranty.
  • All harddrives are suited for 24/7 usage. It is the other way around: server harddrives are ONLY suitable for 24/7 usage because they have limited start/stop cycles so may not be used in desktops which power down frequently. Desktop drives have additional start/stop cycles so may be used both 24/7 and casual in desktops. All harddrives like a datacenter environment the best where they are never turned off and run in constant temperature/humidity environment and free from shock and vibrations.
  • You do not need an SSD, you can boot right from the disks with some ZFS platforms like ZFSguru. Other platforms like FreeNAS can be run from USB stick instead.
  • 2,5" harddrives are much more expensive but slightly lower power per TB storage. But the difference is minor. WD Green 3,5" drives are very low power like 4W idle. I recommend the 6TB version if you want lots of space because the 6TB version is faster than the 2 - 5TB versions because it has 1200GB platters instead of 1000GB. This means it does up to 175MB/s which is very fast for a 5400rpm drive.
Good luck! :)
 
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