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I am looking for a machine to use as a home server for a few TB of files.
I don't have a lot of physical room so I am looking for the most compact machine as possible.
It is currently not possible to find 2.5-inch drives that can store several terabytes, so the PC should be able to receive one (or several) 3.5-inch drives.
I want to install a few applications on it (media server for example), so a NAS is not a solution. I also don't have enough time to allocate for learning new OSes, and will stick to a Windows machine for now.
Finally since I intend to leave the machine running constantly, a low power consumption, and silent design (fanless) are the last requirements.

What is the most compact PC that fulfills those conditions (silent, several TB storage, runs media servers smoothly)?

  • How many is several/how much storage are you planning to store? What applications are you planning to install? – JMY1000 Jan 4 '18 at 8:30
  • 6~8 TB? Plex Media Server – wip Jan 4 '18 at 13:49
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5 TB you can get in 2.5". Like this one: http://amzn.to/2ArkWGg. And then you can use any of the mini-PC line.

As for your question, there are some ASUS VivoMini PCs that support a 3.5" HDD.

For instance see in this review on the VM62N-G050R:

but this mini PC has a unique dual-bay design that allows for a 3.5" drive or two 2.5" drives

  • That is a desktop grade drives (not NAS) and is 5400RPM though. Not necessarily the end of the world, but ehhhhh. – JMY1000 Jan 5 '18 at 4:46
  • Thank you. I realized 5TB would be enough for my needs, so I got the Seagate Barracuda HDD you suggested. It was not easy to find a barebone/mini-PC that can store an HDD of this width (15mm) though. I however found this one: amazon.com/dp/B0742V3Q79 (Shuttle XPC Nano NC03U). – wip Jan 16 '18 at 8:58
  • Also as an aside... Look at this combo for two 3.5" drives, this is what small means... youtube.com/watch?v=yX3AMp0W3cA. The ODROID-XU4Q with the CloudShell2 NAS Kit – Yisroel Tech Jan 17 '18 at 5:09
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TL;DR: An Inwin IW-MS04, Fractal Design Node 304, or Silverstone DS380.

For the purpose of this, I'll be pretty much sticking to 3.5" HDDs–both since that's in the question, and since 3.5" HDDs still contain several advantages. Though high density 2.5" drives are becoming more and more common–@Yisroel Tech pointed out a 5TB drive–they're still not what I'd consider "ready." As of yet, most of these drives are intended as secondary for laptops: high density, 5400RPM, desktop drives (read: not rated for 24/7 usage nor-more importantly–high vibration environments.) They're also generally much more expensive than their 3.5" counterparts, especially given the ability to shuck WD Reds from external enclosures. Though 2.5" drives have also become common in the data center, these are high speed SAS drives, not SATA, and don't really make sense for a desktop build, especially when price is at a premium. In general, they're still also more expensive than their 3.5" counterparts.

Methodology

Basically, I went through PCPartPicker's list of Mini ITX cases, then for each case that looked promising, looked up the manufacturer specs on volume. For sake of transparency and record-keeping, here's the table I produced (you'll need something to render Markdown tables with, since StackExchange still doesn't support them.)

Case | Bays | Volume
 --- | --- | ---
*[Lian-Li PC-Q26](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/fnQRsY/lian-li-case-pcq26a)* | 10 | 34L
**[Silverstone DS380](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/BrtWGX/silverstone-ds380-mini-itx-tower-case-ds380)** | 8 | 21.6L
*[Lian-Li PC-Q25](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/zth9TW/lian-li-case-pcq25a)* | 7 | 20L
[BitFenix Phenom](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/37mLrH/bitfenix-case-bfcphe300wwxkkrp) | 6 | 31L
*[Fractal Design Array R2](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/9KrG3C/fractal-design-case-arrayr2)* | 6 | 17.5L
**[Fractal Design Node 304](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/BWFPxr/fractal-design-case-fdcanode304bl)** | 6 | 19.5L
*[Lian-Li PC-Q08](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/2w2kcf/lian-li-case-pcq08a)* | 6 | 21.3L
[BitFenix Prodigy](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/KsTmP6/bitfenix-case-bfcpro300kkxskrp) | 5 | 26.3L
[Lian-Li PC-Q35](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/zv648d/lian-li-case-pcq35a) | 5 | 18L
**[Inwin IW-MS04](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/7f7CmG/inwin-iw-ms04-mini-itx-desktop-case-iw-ms04-01-s265)** | 4 | 13.3L
[CHENBRO SR30169](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/ncqbt6/chenbro-case-sr30169) | 4 | 16.7L
*[Rosewill Legacy V6-B](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/KJYXsY/rosewill-case-legacyv6b)* | 4 | 12.6L
[Antec ISK600](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/rVh9TW/antec-case-isk600) | 3 | 18.7L
[Cooler Master Elite 110](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/QCjG3C/cooler-master-case-rc110kkn2) | 3 | 15L
[Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/VrZQzy/cooler-master-case-rc120awwn1) | 3 | 20L
[Cooler Master Elite 130](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/6wR48d/cooler-master-case-rc130kkn1) | 3 | 20L
[Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/Xg2kcf/cooler-master-case-haf915rkkn1) | 3 | 32.5L
[Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915F](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/hRQypg/cooler-master-case-haf915fkkn1) | 3 | 32.5L
[Thermaltake Core X1](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/8238TW/thermaltake-case-ca1d600s1wn00) | 3 | 56L
[Fractal Design Core 500](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/LvnG3C/fractal-design-case-fdcacore500bk) | 3 | 19.5L
[Raidmax Element](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/HJVBD3/raidmax-case-atx101bup) | 2 | 16L
<s>[Antec ISK 300-65](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/2YGkcf/antec-case-isk30065)</s> 2.5"| 2 | 7L
*[Inwin BP671](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/fmyFf7/inwin-case-bp671fh200b)* | 2 | 8.2L
[Thermaltake Core V1](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/fGvRsY/thermaltake-case-ca1b800s1wn00) | 2 | 45.5L
[Corsair 250D](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/gHkD4D/corsair-case-cc9011047ww) | 2 | 28L
[Lian-Li PC-Q19](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/bp98TW/lian-li-case-pcq19b) | 1 | 22.5L
*[Silverstone RVZ01B](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/GCfp99/silverstone-case-rvz01b)* | 1 | 14L
*[Silverstone FTZ01](https://pcpartpicker.com/product/P9Wrxr/silverstone-case-ftz01b)* | 1 | 14L
[Skyreach 4 Mini](https://www.sfflab.com/products/nfc_s4m) | 2x2.5" | 5L
[DR ZABER Sentry](http://zaber.com.pl/sentry/) | 4x2.5" | 7L
[Louqe GHOST S1 MkII](http://www.louqe.com) | 3x2.5" | 8.2L
[DAN Case A4 SFX](https://www.dan-cases.com/dana4_spec.html) | 3x2.5" | 7.2L

From that, I chose the above four cases, primarily based on drives/volume and availability (since some of the cases have unfortunately been discontinued.)

Inwin IW-MS04

At 13.3 liters with support for 4x3.5" HDDs hidden behind a pretty face, this case is pretty impressive in itself. What's more, these drives are hot swappable. However, this does come at a cost: though it comes with a 265W Bronze PSU, you probably won't be able to upgrade from this if you decide to, since the case only supports Flex ATX power supplies. The $160 price tag doesn't help either. Oh well. Still worth a look if you meet the power requirements!

Fractal Design Node 304

At 19.6 liters with support for 6x3.5" HDDs with support for full ATX PSUs up to 160mm in length, this case sure packs a lot into a little package, and for $100, isn't too expensive either. Fractal Design also has an awesome reputation and good looks.

Silverstone DS380

Unfortunately @Nicholas Martin got to suggest this before I could, so I'll just have to second the quality of this case. At 21.6 liters with support for 8x3.5" HDDs in hot swap bays, this is the best in drives/volume. It's not too expensive at $150, but you will need a more expensive SFX or SFX-L PSU. Silverstone also has a solid reputation and good looks.

Discontinued cases

Sadly, there are several cases which I would have loved to recommend, but are discontinued and out of stock: the Lian-Li PC-Q26, Fractal Design Array R2, Lian-Li PC-Q08, and Rosewill Legacy V6-B. If you can find one of these used, they're amazing options, but my guess is they were discontinued due to low volume sales, as they're fairly specialized products.

Not-quite recommended

The Inwin BP671 is a cool little case at a mere 8.2L that supports 2x3.5" drives. However, the bundled 200W TFX PSU is just too weak and too sketchy for my recommendation, and availability of TFX PSUs is quite low.

The Silverstone RVZ01B and Silverstone FTZ01 are both neat little cases at only 14L, but 1x3.5" drive is just too little for NAS purposes.

Really small cases

If you were paying extra close attention, you'll notice at the bottom of my table I listed three cases that don't even support 3.5" drives! Okay, yes, I said I wasn't going to do this, but I had to mention them if not recommend them. They're all extremely tiny, extremely well built, extremely expensive cases. Even though they're not really appropriate for this application, they're interesting to look at.

  • Thank you very much for this detailed list. In the end I changed my mind and followed Yisroel suggestions. – wip Jan 16 '18 at 8:55
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    @wil Fair enough, though keep in mind you're making some serious speed and and cost compromises. – JMY1000 Jan 16 '18 at 8:57
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A nas is not much different from a media server. It uses all the same parts. I haven't built many myself, so take this advice with a grain of salt. Other users will be more informed.

What you want is an mitx form factor nas case that can support multiple 3.5inch drives, ecc ram, and a low end xeon (or comparable) processor. (that said, if data integrity isn't a huge issue just go with an athlon or i-line intel and regular ram)

The SilverStone DS380 or any similiar case will fit your needs well. The amount of bays you have is your biggest limiting factor as 8 3.5 inch bays is...well kinda big.

p.s. You might want to also look into gigabit ethernet cards, but I am not the guy to ask about that.

p.p.s. The line between servers and consumer hardware is more about how beefy and reliable the hardware is. Double check to make sure you absolutely need something like a xeon before forking a large chunk of money at the thing.

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