unRAID Setup Guide

unRAID Setup Guide

Before we get right into the nitty gritty of setting up unRAID, let’s just go over some of the basics of what is unRAID, suggested setups, etc.

What is unRAID?

unRAID is a software based on Linux that is close to a RAID3 or RAID4.  What this means is that there is parity across the disks in case of a failure.  It is a complete software RAID and is not suggested that you enable hardware RAID on your motherboard for this configuration to avoid configuration problems later.  unRAID is a very good choice if you decided to go with a NAS storage system for your home theater pc because it’s designed ideally for archival storage, write once ready many.  Which is precisely what your home theater pc needs.  It does however support a cache disk, an unprotected hard drive (SSD preferably for best performance) that allows you write faster to the single drive, then add to RAID protection after the initial write, without any effect on accessing it from your clients.

What is required to setup unRAID?

This is a subjective question:  how many hard drives are you going to use?  Do you intend to use a cache disk?  If you intend to use less than 3 disks starting off, you can get a free license of unRAID!  However, if you plan to use more than 3 hard disks, or want to take advantage of the suggested cache disk, you need to purchase at least a plus license for $69 if not a pro license for $119.  After you have figured out how many drives you are going to use and purchase your license, you also need the following.

  • PC Case (I suggest a case that will be able to accommodate at least 3 internal drives, if not more.)
  • Motherboard/CPU (motherboard should have a gigabit ethernet port if your network supports it, and at least 1 USB 2.0 port)
  • Fans for extra cooling are great
  • USB drive (1GB should be fine) PER their site, I would buy a Lexar Firefly, SanDisk Cruzer Micro, or Sony Micro Vault Tiny as these are definitely supported.
  • You don’t need an additional video card assuming your motherboard has at least a VGA port on it so you can tweak BIOS if need be.

Installation:

  1. Once your hardware is all assembled(including hard drives), obtain the installation files from here
  2. Plug in your flash drive to your PC
  3. Open My Computer (XP) or Computer (Vista/Win7), right-click your Flash device and select Format.
  4. For File system, leave what Windows sets as default.
  5. For Volume label, enter “UNRAID” (all-caps and without the quotes).
  6. Select Quick Format and click Start.
  7. After the format is complete, copy all the contents of the installation files into the root of the USB drive.
  8. Safely eject that USB drive from your PC and plug it into your NAS box.
  9. Make sure your ethernet cable is plugged in, and boot up the box.
  10. Go into your BIOS settings (usually by pressing F12 or some Fkey) and select boot from USB. (Most BIOS you can disable SATA boot and just enable USB boot only so next time you restart, you don’t have to do this again.)
  11. Let the system boot up and into unRAID.
  12. Once booted, from another workstation on your network open a browser and go to the address //tower (assuming you have DHCP enabled on your network)
  13. This will bring up the web interface for unRAID.
  14. Once the interface is up, you should see all your connected drives and their current status.
  15. If you are a plus or pro user, you might want to enter your serial number before progressing.
  16. At this time you want to start the array, and what this will do is wipe the drives and format them for unRAID (this will take some time, so you might want to read up on all the wonderful features unRAID has on their site, link below in sources.)
  17. While building, you should think about the kind of folder/share structure you are going to use for your unRAID system, I know it seems weird to be preplanning, but believe me, you will thank me later. (I suggest checking their site for more info on how “User shares” work on unRAID.)
  18. Once this is all done, you will have a share accessible to you on your network at //tower.
  19. At this time, you might want to set yourself a static IP address for your unRAID on the Settings tab, you can also change the hostname from tower, to whatever you prefer. (Make sure if you use a static address, it is OUT OF YOUR DHCP RANGE so you don’t get any conflicts)
  20. I would then look at their manual to figure out how you plan on using shares, and if you require user level permission. (for most deployments in a home theater pc environment, you can leave no access restrictions so that you don’t have to worry about access errors, etc)
  21. I would suggest looking into unMenu as well as it adds a bunch more functionality to your unRAID (in a way complicates it, but adds more functionality via GUI).

Connecting to your Media Center Apps:

Now that your unRAID is all setup, you have to get your media over here.  If you already have a bunch of content stored elsewhere, now would be a great time to migrate all that over to your unRAID.  If you are using SABnzbd you should now go and tell SAB to transfer all your data to your new storage.  Even if your SAB is running on a different box, it will simply preprocess it on your SAB server, and then transfer it over (just don’t change the INCOMPLETE folder, else you are in for a long process every time you download something).

Plex

Plex has a third party application you can get via the Unsupported App store that will let you manage some basic functions of your unRAID via your Media Center.

Other HTPC apps

I don’t have any experience with unRAID and XBMC or any of the other popular HTPC apps, but I would love to hear from any readers about any suggestions in the comments.
(Show the Lime Technologies Kitty some love!)
Sources:

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