unRAID build HL15 [phase 1/?]

This is the first time I have built a computer. The most I’ve done up to 2020 was upgrade RAM once.

Last year I found an OptiPlex and made my first unRAID box. Upgrade RAM, add 20TB HDD and 1TB SSD. That’s it, that is my entire knowledge on this subject.

I was browsing eBay looking to build a box. I wanted a 4U unit, I wanted >12 drives, and most importantly, I wanted <24in depth. Noise was always a concern and all the units I found were “enterprise” so high power usage, way too much for my use.

I was almost set on building my own from parts, a 24bay backplane hot-glued vertically on an empty box. It was certain to cause me many cuts and trips to computer and hardware stores. I would’ve spent around $400 for the chassis.

I keep coming to the Q30 for inspiration since that was exactly what I wanted to build. A few more consumer components but that was it. The backplane, the dimensions, and the accessibility. But the price…

Then my searches started including Reddit posts about a possible HL, they seemed to be fielding opinions for the HL15. I’ll wait a couple of months, if it’s not the one then I’ll build my lil Frankestein.

Then it appeared… the HL15. I’ll admit, I would’ve preferred an HL30 but I’ll settle for 15 bays and tell myself I can get full retail in 2 years when it inevitably comes out after I’m happy with my setup.

There were a few quirks, the pre-order, the webpage, the specs and documentation.

Then my unit arrived… the PCIe tabs, the un-bored holes, the missing ears, the lack of documentation.
It all felt like a BETA test, for the price I’m a little bitter about it but I’m (maybe naively) holding onto hope that 45Drives will go above and beyond the on-paper promises and warranties when handling early adopters.

Keeping in mind that I am so inexperienced when building computers, here are some things that are still on my mind after having the unit for almost 2 months now:
I still don’t know exactly what ports to use in the PSU for the backplane, or their EXACT requirements;
There was no word on where to connect the power button and how;
I wish the button had these features, click to request OS to shut down “request shutdown”, and hold down to force shut down, is this even possible IDK;
To use the last PCIe screw the button is in the way;
The included screws were not individually labeled;
PCIe brackets are single-use, at least the rear face is a single piece and REV2 could be swapped;
The fans could’ve been 30+mm, have a manual speed control (toggle or knob), been PWM with a PWM-in on the PDU, or have a separate fan PDU altogether;
No place for 7mm SSDs (known before order, more below);
Backplane cables were loose during shipping, at least the unit is large and heavy so harder to mishandle, simple tape fix;
Backplane cables “A,B,C,D” instead of “A0-3,B4-7,…”;
The feet only go on one side, IDK who would want it backwards but it’s noted;
IO shield indentation “wastes” a little space that a small EATX MB could use (maybe);
In-between-fans trim missing (on purpose) on 2/4 places;
Would the extra pieces from PSU, MB and other come extra for those who ordered other trims of HL15?

My build is fairly straightforward, I’ll share the specs below:
I’ve divided the list into 2 since table 1 is mostly the HL15 full build but DIY and drives (table 2) are needed for use but may differ depending on setup or reuse.


Hardware: Item Name/Description: Count: Price: Shipping: Tax: Item Total: Coment:
Chassis: HL15 Chassis + Backplane 1 $799.00 $- $- $799.00 Pre-Ordered
Motherboard: Asus Pro WS W680-ACE 1 $313.99 $- $36.11 $350.10 Amazon
CPU: i5-12600K 1 $150.00 $- $17.25 $167.25 Amazon (price matched BF/PD)
Memory: Crucial 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) DDR5-4800 UDIMM CT2K8G48C40U5 2 $35.00 $- $- $70.00 Local FB MP
PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower PF3 ATX 3.0 1050W 1 $150.00 $- $17.25 $167.25 Amazon (price matched BF/PD)
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D9L 1 $54.95 $- $6.32 $61.27 Amazon
Drive Cables: SFF-8643 to (4) 29pin SFF-8482 2 $13.59 $- $1.56 $30.31 Amazon
HBA: LSI9300-16i 2 $69.99 $- $8.05 $156.08 eBay
Total: $1,586.52 $- $86.54 $1,801.25
Drives: Item Name/Description: Count: Price: Shipping: Tax: Item Total: Coment:
OS: Unraid OS Pro 1 $116.10 $- $- $116.10 Cyber Sale
Boot USB: SAMSUNG BAR Plus 3.1 64GB 1 $10.00 $- $1.15 $11.15 AEEFES
NVME Cache: SAMSUNG 990 PRO SSD 4TB 1 $250.00 $- $28.75 $278.75 Amazon (price matched BF/PD)
SSD Cache: SAMSUNG 870 EVO 4TB 4 $169.99 $- $19.55 $758.16 Amazon (price matched BF/PD)
HDDs: Seagate Ironwolf Pro ST22000NT001 22TB Recert 5 $279.99 $- $- $1,399.95 ServerPartsDeal
HHDs: Seagate IronWolf Pro ST18000NE000 18TB 4 $100.00 $- $- $400.00 Local FB MP
Total: $926.08 $- $49.45 $2,964.11
Parts: Build Cost:
Hardware: $1,801.25
Drives: $2,964.11
Total: $4,765.36

Reason for choices:

Since the beginning, I have been looking at the Full Build HL15 as a very specified storage appliance and my use is more involved with a couple of VMs, backups, dockers, etc. Sure IT could do it but I think I could build it better for me with more efficiency and less power consumption.

I made my cart in PCPartPicker and started exploring the options:

MB: 12/13/14th Gen Intel mainly for QS, after that there is only 2 options for ECC memory. The Asus Pro WS W680-ACE or the SuperMicro X13SAE. Went with the ASUS for the price mainly, confirmed memory second, and looks third. Gonna miss the IPMI (never used) but saving 30+% is a huge factor. Will dabble with KVM or whatever it is that best emulates a simple remote reboot.

CPU: Woul’ve gone with 12100 that I was seeing and bidding for $50-70 but I jumped at 12600K for $150 NIB.

PSU: At the time the requirements were less clear and honestly I went by feel. Similar or superior numbers at the rails and more ports. Consumption seemed to be around 400W 75% load so ÷ 40% for silent PSU and bam! ~1kW PSU with a silent mode of around 40% and a better efficiency rating for a similar price. Have yet to see it spin or get warm.

Memory: Just needed something to boot and work while I source the desired one below and found a local FB ad for a 2x2x16GB kits. Has worked great and frankly I don’t need an upgrade to this.

Cooler: At the time the requirements were less clear and I doubled down on clearance, Height (with fan): 110 mm. I have seen no cooling issues. The cooler could be larger, informal measurements show a little below 2in space remaining rounded to 50mm extra (sloppy measurements).

HBA: This one I spent a long time learning and understanding to arrive at the same cookie-cutter answer I always read online. 9300-16i for the backplane, the same for the SSD cache since the 8i was the same price. The jump to the newer one would take years to pay in electricity savings for 0 performance benefit so I’m “stuck” with these for a while.

Drives: NVMEs, SSDs, and HHDs I have all used before for about a year, and no issues + good reviews equal repeat customers. So maximize the 15 bays with 18+TB drives with a $10/TB goal and just send it. For the SSDs, I went for a balance price/capacity knowing multiples of 4 would be best in my case since HBA port. Originally the SSDs were SATA off the MB but new cables cleaned up the air path and placement.

Future Plans (in order or likelihood/priority):

  1. I would love to reduce the noise level of the unit, after reading online for a bit I will most likely add in-line noise reducers or change the feed to the MB with PWM.

  2. I would like to use a more reliable USB boot drive. Will research, currently have a cold spare drive.

  3. Would LOVE to properly mount my SSDs, waiting for someone to create a mod of 45Drive’s SSD mount. Want them mounted to the back or behind the middle fan and in line with the air 6x would be nice although 8x is the goal. Then I’ll spend the $ to have them printed.

  4. I have 8/15 drive bays populated with a 22TB spare. I want to add the remaining 7 drives, 6x18+TB and 1x22TB #2 parity. Price target of $10-$12/TB most likely on next BF/CM sales.

  5. I would like to replace/upgrade the 2xHBAs to a 1x less hot and power-hungry one. Looking at the LSI9305-24i price target of $150, or LSI9600-24i price target of $200. This might take a while since I want to source a non-China one but I have seen American-based sales on eBay. Search flags are up and I browse r/HomeLabSales with little hope since they are so spendy.

  6. I would like to max my memory with 4x32GB DDR5-4800 ECC-UDIMM with a price target of <$100/each. I’ve seen plenty of units sell lower than this but getting 1-2-3 sticks and then not finding the missing matching one(s) is harder than getting all 4 together.

  7. Since my MB supports 14th Gen, the best this build could handle is likely the 14700K (power and thermals). Currently selling for ~$400 but I would browse eBay for a $200 price target.

What I would like to see on REV2:
HL30 (2 rows of 15 HDDs, or 1 row HDD and 1 row HDD/SSD) or HL1524 (1 row of 15 HDDs and 1 row of ~24 SSDs);
Better fans, wider maybe, separate PDU definitely;
Fan filters, magnetic afterthought, removable insert;
Better backplane?, maybe lights for each HDD to locate, maybe fan control for each group. It would be nice if a drive’s temp spikes the closest fan boosts to 100%, the others to 75%, sustained temps could be all fans increase speed (loose idea);
Data Distribution Unit/Board (DDU), “A,B,C,D” cables could be hubbed together similar to the PDU and with a 6-12in SFF-8643 cables from DDU to HBA;
Since the unit is a U-piece (where the board and backplane fasten) to 2 faceplates (front and back) maybe an EATX middle+cover could be made/offered;
Feet placement on bottom/top/sideways (not for me but dual socket. or EPYCs);
Custom cables, since 45HomeLab has all the specs they could order bulk 150-200mm PSU cables for a cleaner finished product (new store product);

That’s all I can think to write right now so feel free to comments or ask questions.


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A Q30 is 26 inches deep. If <24 in. is most important, then a Q30 is not what you want. If a Q30 is what you wanted, you can get empty cases off of ebay from SuperMicro that are 4U 26 inches deep and will hold up to 36 drives. Or 3U that will hold 16-20 3.5" drives. The point being, though, that you can put in your own motherboard and swap out the fans and the build won’t be noisy and power hungry.

If you did not know, the original storage pods were open source from Backblaze, so with the help of a metal fabricator you could have probably built your own chassis,

Don’t get me wrong, I have an old Q30 from 10 years ago and like it.

I’m waiting to see what V2 is like before placing another order. Note, though, it seems some of the issues are from unexpected success and order volume.

It seems like you got some of these sorted, but …

Connect the four molex connectors on this cable to the PDU board on the side of the chassis

This is in the motherboard manual where it talks about the front panel header

This is how most systems respond to the power button. Check your motherboard manual and BIOS. Although this may also be an OS thing, so perhaps Unraid does not support that. Anyway, not an HL15 issue I don’t think.

Agree. A bit awkward, but not sure what the best design change would be.

This is the way rack mount chassis are typically designed.

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That is one way to add some SATA SSDs haha.