FreeNAS 9.10 Lab Build – Part 5

In part 4 of this series, I took a look at my new used Dell PowerEdge T110 and talked about the pros and cons about using this type of machine. Today, I’ll be installing the drives and completing the build.


To begin, I installed my drives into the server’s normal 3.5″ mounting locations. I had a few challenges here, but I was very thankful that I kept the Dell branded SATA cable that came with the PERC H200 card. It’s totally meant for this machine and keeps the wiring organized. In all of the custom builds I’ve done, it’s really tough to get clean SATA-power wiring because of the close proximity of the drives. Because of this, there is often too much pressure on the connectors and I’ve even had issues with them coming loose. This Dell breakout cable is very flexible and because of the built-in power connector, makes for a very clean and secure wiring job.

Unfortunately, I didn’t need to buy the two SATA breakout cables that I discussed in part 1 of the series, but at least I’ve got extras if I ever want to add more drives to the system.


To get the two 2.5″ SATA drives installed, I used a couple of Kingston brand 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapters. They were a perfect fit for the drive caddies I bought off of ebay, but they interfered with the Dell SATA brakout cable connector. To get around this, I just loosened the screws securing the SSDs and the cable connector to get a couple of extra millimeters of clearance for the connector. Eventually, I hope to add a hotswap enclosure to one of the 5.25″ drive bays for 2.5″ drives, but for now this will have to do.

In a very fortunate coincidence, the drive caddies I ordered were actually two different revisions of the same Dell part number. As you can see in the first picture above, there is a slightly smaller piece of plastic on the front of two of the caddies. If it wasn’t for these two, the connector would have been blocked on my SSDs as the adapter centers the drive in the caddy.


With the drives installed, I went ahead and installed an Intel Pro 1000/PT dual port NIC in the PCI-E x4 slot. The PowerEdge T110 has an onboard Broadcom NIC, but I’ll likely use that one for management purposes. I hope to dedicate the two Intel adapters for iSCSI.

I also used one of the internal USB ports for an 8GB USB thumb drive for the FreeNAS installation.

Finally, I had to figure out a way to get some active airflow over the heatsink of the volcanic PERC H200. Unfortunately, the plastic shroud over the CPU heatsink hampers cooling to the PCI slot area of the case.

Installing my Noctua NF-B9 fan in this area was a piece of cake. There are a few small openings at the bottom of the case for some kind of an accessory. I simply used a nut, bolt and a small metal bracket to hold the fan in position. I had originally thought there wouldn’t be enough clearance over the slots directly, but I was mistaken and this worked beautifully.

Getting power to the fan was a more challenging endeavour. I was originally hoping I could use some kind of a splitter on the 5-pin system fan header so that I could utilize the PWM capabilities of the Noctua fan. If successful, the fan could spin up/down along with the primary system fan. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that would work with this, and I really didn’t want to hack up the fan cable on the system fan.


To get this to work, I simply modified a ‘molex to fan’ power adapter by removing the 3-pin female connector and replacing it with a 4-pin female connector. This allowed me to connect a 4-pin PWM fan to a simple +12V two wire adapter. Also, because the T110 doesn’t have any molex connectors hanging off the power supply I had to buy a SATA to molex adapter as well. It’s quite a string of adapters, but works perfectly.


Then came the moment of truth. I powered up the system and everything worked perfectly. As you can see my four drives were detected in the Dell PERC H200 LSI 9211-8i BIOS. The two Kingston SSDs were also correctly detected as SATA-SSDs by the card.

Even with the Noctua fan was spinning at full RPM, I was happy that it added no noticeable increase in the noise of the system. It was totally masked by the noise of the system and PSU fan. Most importantly, the heatsink of the PERC H200 was barely warm to the touch – success!

Power consumption did increase a bit once I got all of the drives installed. Without the drives, the system drew about 50W at idle with C3 enabled. With all four drives, the dual port NIC and the extra fan, it now idles at about 76W. I’d say that is pretty reasonable when you consider that this is a powerful and capable FreeNAS system!


Final Hardware Specs:

  • Dell PowerEdge T110
  • Intel Xeon X3430 (2.4GHz, 4 cores)
  • 2x4GB PC3-10600E Unbuffered ECC
  • Dell PERC H200 flashed to LSI 9211-8i in IT mode
  • Intel Pro/1000 PT dual port NIC
  • 2x128GB Kingston V300 SSDs
  • 2x2TB Western Digital Black SATA HDDs
  • 8GB Kingston Datatraveller USB thumb drive
  • 1xNoctua NF-B9 PWM fan for PCI area

I’m sure I’ll be adding onto this system as time goes on, but for now this will do nicely. Now that I’ve got the system up and running, stay tuned for other posts on how to use FreeNAS in a vSphere home lab.

FreeNAS 9.10 Lab Build Series:

Part 1 – Defining the requirements and flashing the Dell PERC H200 SAS card.
Part 2 – FreeNAS and VMware PCI passthrough testing.
Part 3 – Cooling the toasty Dell PERC H200.
Part 4 – A close look at the Dell PowerEdge T110.
Part 5 – Completing the hardware build.

5 thoughts on “FreeNAS 9.10 Lab Build – Part 5”

  1. Hi, great build! I am thinking of re-purposing the same Dell T110ii. I noticed that you used 2x2TB Western Digital Black SATA HDDs. Have you tried using 8TB or 10TB dirves and would you know if it is supported?


    1. Hi Greg, I don’t have any drives that large to try, but I believe that the Dell PERC H200/LSI 9211-8i supports drives larger than 2TB. Not sure about the onboard SATA ports though.

      1. Thanks Mike!
        With your info, I have found some threads documenting how to flash the H200 with LSI firmware which will allow drive support greater than 2TB.

  2. Friend, its been a couple years since this build.
    How’s the long term stability been?
    What inexpensive base server would you use if starting over today for a very bedget build?

    1. Hi Jon, that build suited my purposes quite well for a couple of years and I didn’t have any issues with reliability at all. I wound up building a new, more compact cube system with a Supermicro x11scl-f board and i3 9100f for FreeNAS. Performance-wise, it’s fantastic and power consumption is low. The CPU was a great value but the Supermicro boards tend to be expensive. There are probably newer entry-level tower servers out there that would do a great job. Anything Sandybridge/Ivy-bridge running DDR3 is getting much cheaper these days. FreeNAS doesn’t need a lot of CPU horsepower, so try to get something with as much RAM as possible for a big zfs cache for best performance. Let me know what you decide on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s