Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Drive Array

A couple of years ago I got ahold of an old ATX computer that I intended to use as a file server. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with it. The biggest problem was that the drive cage for the smaller drives was missing. Smaller problems like an underpowered power supply and limited onboard IDE adapters were fixed with things like a new 600W power supply, and extra IDE expansion cards. As it turns out, Linux had no problem with two onboard adapters and two more cards (two adapters per card). With IDE's master/slave setup, that brought me up to two DVD burners (/dev/scd0 to /dev/scd1) and six hard drives (/dev/hda to /dev/hdf). But the drive cage, that was a problem.

Fortunately, like many American bakers and pastry chefs, I spent a lot of time at the hardware store. And believe it or not, the roofing section at Lowes carries a simple solution: roofing ties. Not TILES, but TIES (no "L"). Behold, the drive array, now connected to my Thinkpad (click to embiggen):

Yes, dear readers, the file server is dead. It seems to have developed memory issues in its old age, leading to its untimely demise. Not Alzheimers, but some form of dementia. A close-up on the array itself:

Sadly, my Thinkpad does not have an external IDE adapter of any kind. But USB to IDE adapters are relatively cheap and easy to find. I can't access every drive at once, but that's not a big deal at the moment.

Lowes has several different sizes of roofing ties, and several different styles. I used two different sizes, both completely flat, but with rows of holes exactly the same width as a standard 3.5" internal drive. One is five holes high and one is three holes high.

If you're going to do this, you'll be buying them in sets of two each. And while you may be tempted to stack three drives in one 3-high roofing tie set, fight the urge! You need airflow between the drives, or they will overheat. I speak from experience. Limit yourself to three drives for the 5-high ties, and only use the 3-high ties for connecting sets of 5-high ties. Look back at photo #2 to see what I mean.

Speaking of heat issues, it's not a bad idea to point a fan at these if you're going to have them all on at once. It's not a big deal with one or two USB-connected drives, but with all six drives that I have in my array, I always had a fan going.


  1. Dude! Great guarana action shot!

  2. I was thinking the same thing!

    I've got to update my fileserver one of these days...



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