After years of running Windows Server as my primary server OS for my homelab, I am starting to branch away and go different routes with how I want my homelab to function. In the past, I had Windows Server 2012R2, 2016, and 2019 with a software called stablebit drive pool to pool my JBOD setup into one network share. While this served its purpose, I recently replaced my laptop OS from Windows back to glorious Linux and Windows SMB for file shares wasn’t cutting the bill. This blog post is the journey of getting Unraid onto my Dell R510 outfitted with 35TB of spinning disks.
Unraid is an awesome OS that acts as a NAS and also a VM hypervisor. You might of seen it on the countless Linus Tech Tips videos that Linus released such as 2 Gaming Rigs, 1 Tower.
While that’s cool, I don’t plan to do any gaming on my Dell R510 2u server. I plan to make a storage share that’s bulletproof with 2 SSD cache disks and 35+ TB of spinning disk goodness.
To get started, head over to Unraid’s website. While their software offers a free 30 day trial, it is a paid-for OS. Unraid has a couple different pricing options depending on how many disks you plan to throw in the server. Keep in mind, this also includes your parity disk (required) and cache disk (optional). Their pricing is listed below in the screenshot. For my build, I will be going with the trial at first but will end up purchasing the pro key. (My R510 is the 12 bay front with 2 bays in the chassis).
Once you decide what licensing you will be going with after your trial, you need to head to their download page and download their USB creator tool for Windows or Mac. They don’t have Linux support yet for their USB creator tool just yet. Luckily, I have a Windows VM with USB pass-through so I could create the bootable drive.
Once the creator tool is opened and you have a flash drive entered into your computer, you have the option to edit the network settings for your new Unraid install. I configured the needed settings and wrote the image to the flash drive.
Once that flash drive is complete, pop it in your computer and open the bios settings. In the bios settings, you will want to set the USB to be your primary boot device. Unraid lives on a flash drive that stays in your computer so it is necessary to set the USB as your primary boot drive.
After that, reboot your computer and now you should be able to access the Unraid server from your web browser. Go to http://unraid-ip-address in your browser and you will be prompted with the registration page.
If you are just doing the trial, select “get trial key”. After that, go to the main page and start adding your disks to the pool. Your largest disk MUST be the parity disk. If a drive on your array fails, the parity disk rebuilds the new inserted disk.
Once you have added your drives, scroll down and click start. It will overwrite the parity drive so make sure everything on that drive is saved elsewhere. If your file system is unsupported, you will have to format your disks to match what Unraid needs to make it happy.
After formatting, you will be able to go through and setup your shares and VMs. For 35 TB of disks, Unraid said it would take me 1 day to format everything before I could put data on the server.
So far, Unraid has been really surprising on how easy it is to manage the array and system. As soon as I get some time, I will create a new post and show how to configure shares on your Unraid instance.