DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2023

Almost every year, I put together a parts list for an economical do-it-yourself network attached storage (NAS) server called the “EconoNAS.” Each year, my goal with this DIY NAS is the same: to build an extremely budget-friendly DIY NAS that outperforms off-the-shelf products.

Nearly every year, the EconoNAS lacks two killer features that an off-the-shelf NAS always has: diminutive footprints and hot swap hard drive bays. This year, I felt ambitious and tried to close those gaps by setting a few additional goals:

  1. Use the same motherboard from the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition.
  2. Mini-ITX form factor.
  3. At least four external drive bays.

These three new objectives made this year’s EconoNAS an even bigger challenge! There are significant price premiums for small form factor PC builds and for cases which feature external drive bays.


For the past few years, I have not been buying the parts and building the EconoNAS myself. This year’s EconoNAS is no different. I always make every effort to try and pick components that would work well together, but it’s possible that some sort of incompatibility is lurking out there that I’m not aware of or have overlooked. If you wind up building the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2023 (or something similar) for yourself, then please share your experience in the comments!

AI generated 4-drive bay NAS

Motherboard and CPU

When I built the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, I was astonished at what a good value it wound up being. In fact, it was such an excellent value that I nearly decided to skip this year’s EconoNAS altogether. Rather than do that, I figured that I would make the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard the centerpiece of this year’s EconoNAS, too. The motherboard features:

  • Intel Celeron N5105 CPU (4 cores, 2.0GHz base, 2.9GHz burst)
  • 6x SATA 3.0 ports
  • 2x NVMe 2280 slots (PCIe 3.0 x1)
  • 4x Intel i225-V 2.5Gbps network interfaces
  • 2x SO-DIMM DDR4 (up to 64GB total)

Given that I didn’t actually build this year’s EconoNAS, picking the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard is a no-brainer. I’m already very confident in this motherboard’s ability to be a DIY NAS as well as comfortable with its compatibility with TrueNAS SCALE.


Picking out a case is going to make or break this year’s goals for the EconoNAS. Historically, small form factor cases with external drive bays have always been expensive, especially when they’re Mini-ITX.

I was really excited when I discovered the AUDHEID K3. It’s a compact case with four external drive bays which seems ideally suited for a motherboard like the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard.

I only wish that the AUDHEID K3 case had some internal 2.5” drive bays so that one could fully utilize all the motherboard’s storage capacity. If I were building this EconoNAS, I would be looking for gaps in the case where I could modify the case to squeeze in a pair of 2.5” SATA SSDs. For example, I could create the gap by moving the case’s cooling fan to the outside of the case. This would be a fun component to 3D-design and print on my 3D-printer. Alternatively, I would consider using Velcro or double-sided tape to adhere the SATA SSDs into any gaps inside the case.


When I picked out the components for this EconoNAS, I knew that I would need to save money on certain components. I was quite tempted by picking the bare-minimum amount of RAM recommended for TrueNAS SCALE, 8GB. However, I opted to go with this 16GB kit of 3200MHZ DDR4 RAM from Crucial instead.

I currently run 8GB of RAM in my off-site NAS, and in the few months that I’ve been using it, I think it has done a fine job. The biggest driver in the EconoNAS is extracting the most value out of the dollars invested. I simply think there’s even more value in having 16GB of RAM that it justifies the extra $20 that it costs. If your budget allows it, upgrading to 32GB or 64GB of RAM are both good values too!


It is wise to divvy up storage hardware into two categories: boot and user storage. Drives purchased for the boot drives in the EconoNAS are usually low-capacity SSDs with little to no hardware redundancy. Drives purchased for user storage are higher capacity, can be HDDs or SSDs, and hopefully there’s one—or more—drives’ worth of hardware redundancy in that user storage.

Boot Drive

For all of my DIY NAS builds, I aim to spend less than $20 per boot drive. Because I prefer the TrueNAS appliance OS (SCALE or CORE), it is important to understand that all of the boot drives’ capacity is dedicated to the appliance and that none of the capacity will be accessible for the purpose of user storage. TrueNAS doesn’t require very much capacity at all (quite a bit less than 16GB), which makes finding SSD in this budget pretty easy.

For this year’s EconoNAS, I picked out the Silicon Power P34A60 128GB NVMe (specs). At 128GB, it has eight times the capacity that it needs to have. Drives with a smaller capacity exist, but if they’re from a company that I recognize, they’re usually as expensive—or sometimes more expensive!

Storage Drives

The costliest part of any DIY NAS build is ultimately going to be the drives used for storage. The amount of money spent on storage increases with capacity, redundancy, and the performance of the storage. What kind of storage and how much of it is very specific to the person who is building it.

The focus of the EconoNAS is value, which I measure using price-per-terabyte, but the best value on storage is almost always the largest drives which also have the biggest price tags. And the drives with lower price tags are usually a pretty bad value.

AI generated hard disk drive

I don’t have any specific recommendations for storage to buy, but I have a few tips to share for getting the most storage for as little money as possible:

  1. Join the #deals channel in the Butter, What?! Discord server, where I regularly share good deals on hard drives.
  2. Build your storage pool by shucking external hard drives.
  3. Set a price point for evaluating hard drives that are “on sale.” Personally, I don’t get excited about hard drive prices unless they’re below $14/TB for a new hard drive or below $9/TB for a used/refurbished/re-certified hard drive.

Always avoid shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives when working with the ZFS filesystem!

Power Supply

Each year, when shopping for the EconoNAS’ power supply, I generally buy the cheapest power supply that I can find that fits the power needs of the rest of the components. When I was considering the AUDHEID K3, I was very worried that I wouldn’t be able to find an affordable FlexATX power supply. To my surprise, the Apevia ITX-AP300W (specs) came in at a very reasonable price.

Generally speaking, I think one of the best PC upgrades is to put in a high-quality power supply. If there’s room in your budget, then the power supply is a component that I would certainly recommend upgrading in this build. Here are a few alternatives:


Back in 2022, I rebuilt my own DIY NAS around TrueNAS SCALE once it hit its first beta release. For the most part, I think using TrueNAS SCALE is incredibly similar to TrueNAS CORE (formerly known as FreeNAS). But there is one area where TrueNAS SCALE really sets itself apart from TrueNAS CORE: hardware compatibility. TrueNAS SCALE is built upon Debian Linux, and TrueNAS CORE is built atop FreeBSD. Very broadly speaking, hardware support is simply much better under Linux than it is in FreeBSD.

Beyond that, TrueNAS SCALE’s other unique features (the KVM hypervisor, Linux Containers, etc.) seem to be superior to TrueNAS CORE’s equivalent features. Lastly, I feel like TrueNAS SCALE is more well suited for the storage enthusiast who wants to better utilize their hardware by turning their NAS into more of a homelab machine.

Final Parts List

Component Part Name Qty Cost
Motherboard Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard specs 1 $224.99
CPU Intel Celeron N5105 specs N/A N/A
Memory Crucial RAM 16GB Kit (2x8GB) DDR4 3200MHz specs 1 $29.99
Case AUDHEID K3 N/A 1 $76.99
Power Supply Apevia PS-ITX300W Flex ATX 300W Power Supply specs 1 $34.99
Boot Drive Silicon Power 128GB M.2 NVMe SSD specs 2 $15.97
TOTAL: $382.93

How does the EconoNAS Measure up to other off-the-shelf NAS Offerings?

I spent a little bit of time digging around the current NAS products from QNAP, Synology, Terramaster, and Asustor, searching for a comparable NAS with four drive bays and an x86 CPU. For each manufacturer, I wound up picking the NAS that I felt was most equivalent to DIY NAS: 2023 EconoNAS. And here’s what I found:

  1. Terramaster F4-223for $439: Intel Celeron N4505 CPU, 4GB DDR4 RAM (32GB max), 4 drive bays.
  2. Asustor AS5404T for $529: Intel Celeron N5105 CPU, 4GB of DDR4 RAM,
  3. Synology DiskStation DS923+ for $599: AMD Ryzen R1600 CPU, 4GB DDR4 ECC SODIMM (32GB max), 4 drive bays.
  4. QNAP TS-453E-8G for $635: Intel Celeron J6412 CPU, 8GB RAM (8GB max), 4 drive bays.

Each of these off-the-shelf NAS products is more expensive than the DIY NAS: 2023 EconoNAS. With regards to the CPU, all but the Asustor AS5404T have weaker CPUs, and the AS5404T has the same CPU but costs nearly $150 more than the EconoNAS. All four of these NAS appliances only have 4-8GB of RAM compared to the 16GB of RAM in the EconoNAS

However, it’s important to remember that each of these off-the-shelf NAS machines is already assembled and has some sort of a customer support department. Not having to assemble the NAS and not having to support it yourself are each compelling features, but they’re just not features that I value very much. It is important to realize and acknowledge that value is very subjective and varies widely by person. If these features are something that you value, then I liked the Asustor AS5404T best out of this group.

Is this the best EconoNAS ever?!

Ever since my very first EconoNAS build, I’ve been wishing that I would be able to build an affordable, small form factor NAS. This is something I’ve tried to do each time I pick out parts for an EconoNAS, but it always winds up being too expensive. That pattern broke this year, and I managed to accomplish a number of firsts for the EconoNAS build:

  • 2.5Gbps network
  • Mini-ITX form factor.
  • A proper 4-bay NAS case.

The first time I added up the cost to all of the parts, I was astonished that it was only about fifteen dollars more expensive than the DIY NAS: 2022 EconoNAS. I was so surprised, I had to triple-check my parts list for omissions and quadruple-check my math! I expected a NAS with this many features would’ve been considerably more expensive than last year’s EconoNAS.

Every year, I expect that each NAS will be better than the prior years’, but with the EconoNAS, I’ve often found that they all kind of blur together. Usually its a big black ATX case, a closeout-priced motherboard, and an inexpensive CPU with an integrated GPU.

But this year turned out different! This EconoNAS is hands down the best that I’ve ever put down on paper. What do you all think? Let me know in the comments!

Final Thoughts

I really like that both the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition and the DIY NAS: 2023 EconoNAS both use the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard. I’m excited because I have quite a bit of faith from my firsthand experience with the motherboard using it in the earlier DIY NAS build. This helps me be quite a bit more confident in this build, despite the fact that I did not build this NAS. I’m also hopeful that people who are reading this blog a few months down the road will have a greater opportunity to still be able to obtain the motherboard.

I’m also excited that in this EconoNAS build, headroom exists for upgrades to the RAM, an empty M.2 slot, two empty SATA slots (but no obvious place to mount drives), and if you really wanted a CPU upgrade, then a variation of this motherboard exists with a Pentium Silver N6005 CPU:

What do you all think? Does unlocking the Mini-ITX and hot swap bay impress you in a budget-focused DIY NAS? Do you like this year’s EconoNAS? Would you prefer the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition instead? Or would you build something entirely different and uniquely suited for your needs? Let me know in the comments and come join the #diynas-and-homelab channel in the Butter, What?! Discord server to tell us all about your DIY NAS!


Within moments of publishing this blog, the TrueNAS Twitter account had this to say:

Naturally my reply was to accept TrueNAS’ challenge! There are 7 total ways to enter the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2023 featuring TrueNAS. The contest ends on October 21st and the winner will be drawn and contacted. In the event that the winner does not respond within 72 hours a new winner will be drawn, this cycle will repeated until a winner responds!

While everyone is entering the contest, I will be building, burning in, and doing some testing of the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2023. Good luck to us all!

DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2023 featuring TrueNAS

I spent $420 building a 20TB DIY NAS to use as an off-site backup

I have been using Backblaze B2 storage to back up my DIY NAS for almost exactly five years now. Thankfully, I’ve never needed to restore from that backup.

Over the years, I’ve slowly broadened the amount of my data that I’m backing up to Backblaze B2, and thanks to my YouTube channel, the amount of data that I’m accumulating has increased quite a bit in recent years. When my monthly charges eclipsed $50 a month, I felt like it was time to start thinking of alternatives.

Realizing that it was only inevitable that my costs would continue to climb, instead of continuing to pay every month for Backblaze B2, I figured that I’d build an inexpensive NAS and use the buddy system to host it off site.

What’s the buddy system for off-site backups, anyway?

An off-site backup is a copy of your data stored at a location away from the rest of your data. Off-site backups are an important part of the 3-2-1 backup strategy because an off-site backup helps protect you against theft, household disasters, and—depending on their magnitude—natural disasters.

The buddy system is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: work with a buddy—a buddy that you trust—and each of you hosts the other’s backups in your respective home.

For a little over a year and a half, I’ve been hosting Pat’s off-site storage server here in my office. Pat’s off-site NAS is a Raspberry Pi and a USB hard drive running Seafile and Tailscale. Pat uses this to keep his data synchronized across several devices, including revision history. I’ve been self-hosting my own cloud storage using Nextcloud, which would’ve made it simple to emulate Pat’s solution. I could have easily substituted Nextcloud in for Seafile and moved most of my data into Nextcloud, but I had something else in mind.

As a TrueNAS enthusiast, I really wanted to leverage TrueNAS as part of my solution. I’ve been really happy using TrueNAS’ Cloud Sync Tasks to back up my data to Backblaze B2, and I wanted to use TrueNAS’ Replication Tasks to accomplish something very similar to my off-site NAS. TrueNAS’ hardware requirements and the Raspberry Pi foundation’s decision to abandon the consumer market amidst their supply-chain issues meant I wouldn’t be using a similar hardware setup to Pat’s.

But before I dive into my solution, it’s important to talk about the most important aspect of all.

Trust is Critical!

In order for any kind of buddy system hosting to really work, you have to trust your buddy, and you have to be trustworthy! There’s a lot you can do to protect a machine that you’re leaving at a friend’s house, but there’s only so much that you can do when your buddy has physical access to your hardware.

There are all sorts of nefarious things that Pat could do because he has physical access to this NAS. There are all sorts of nefarious things that I could potentially do with this machine on Pat’s network. The buddy system works for us because we’ve built that trust and put in the work to maintain it.

Building a 20TB NAS for $420

For my off-site NAS, I decided that I’d use a Mini PC. I’ve been interested in the Intel NUC, the Mac Mini, and many other Mini PCs for a long time, but I’ve never had a reason to buy one. Before Pat first mentioned his idea for his off-site file server, I never would have imagined building a NAS with a Mini PC.


I ultimately decided to buy the Beelink Mini S (specs). Its specifications—an Intel Celeron N5095 CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and 256GB SSD—help it meet the bare minimum hardware requirements for TrueNAS SCALE. My experience with the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition had me confident that the Celeron N5095 CPU was more than ready to handle the tasks I needed it to perform using TrueNAS SCALE.

Beelink has a fantastic range of other Mini PCs too. Folks in our Discord server have shared their success stories doing all sorts of interesting NAS-related or homelab-related activities. I recently recommended a Beelink SER5 to my parents to replace their ancient desktop PC and have considered something similar to replace my wife’s old desktop computer too.

If I were starting this project over today, I probably would’ve spent the few extra dollars to get the Mini S12 Pro, and if I needed more compute power, I wouldn’t have hesitated on purchasing the SER5 Pro, SER5 Max, or any of the rest of the Beelink Mini PC lineup.

Finding storage was a bit of bigger challenge! My Backblaze B2 buckets had reached 10TB of capacity. I wanted my off-site NAS to be able to back up everything that I’d been sending to Backblaze B2, I wanted to institute some rudimentary snapshots, and I hoped I’d have a few terabytes left over for the future.

In the beginning of my search, I found that the largest of external hard drives were barely large enough, and the best deals that I was finding usually were for drives that didn’t have quite enough capacity. So I patiently waited to pounce on a great deal. I’ve been hyper-focused on an awesome deal for a 18TB (or larger) USB hard drive. Months later when I noticed that the WD Elements 20TB USB hard drive went on sale for $279.99 at the end of March, I sprang into action and bought the hard drive to use in my off-site NAS.

If you’re interested in deals like this, I regularly share these kinds of deals in the #deals channel of the Butter, What?! Discord server whenever I come across them. In 2023 alone, I’ve purchased 76TB worth of hard drives from deals that I’ve seen or posted in our Discord server!

Component Product Qty Cost
Mini PC Beelink Mini S specs 1 $139.99
Hard Drive Western Digital 20TB Elements specs 1 $279.99
Total $419.98

Tailscale and TrueNAS SCALE

In order to accomplish what I set out to do, I needed both Tailscale and TrueNAS SCALE. Of the two, Tailscale was more important, as it is my VPN software of choice. TrueNAS makes using Tailscale considerably more difficult than it is to use on literally any other platform that I use, but thankfully it was, not impossible.

I wound up using the Tailscale app from the Truecharts catalog and mostly following Truecharts’ how-to guide. But because TrueNAS’ replication tasks use SSH, I had to veer from the guide and make these changes:

  1. Enable Host Networking (under Expert - Pod Options)
  2. Disable Userspace (under App Configuration)

Once my new off site NAS was added to my Tailnet, I also made sure to disable Tailscale’s key expiry for the new machine. As Bruce D. points out in the comments, should this node’s Tailscale key expire in the future then I’d definitely need Pat’s assistance or I’d have to go visit his house in order to obtain a new key for my remote NAS,

I followed the TrueNAS SCALE guides on replication tasks and had my primary NAS replicating all of its contents over to this secondary NAS in no time. Because of the amount of data involved, I let this initial replication complete on my local network.

In order to have confidence that the replication would continue to work once this secondary NAS was off my network, I tethered my GL.iNet Slate travel router to my mobile phone, plugged the secondary NAS into the travel router, and reconfigured the NAS network settings for the new router.

The next 2—3 days I let my replication tasks run overnight with the secondary NAS connected to a completely different network. Everything worked just fine until my I ran out of my allotment of mobile hotspot minutes from T-Mobile. The tasks continued to work just fine, but they were so badly throttled that it didn’t make any sense to continue.

Brian, you’re an idiot! Don’t you realize that…

  1. …this is way more expensive than $420! I lurked for a long time and pounced on great sales prices for both products at the time that I bought them the past few months. I’m happy to share that the regular price of the Beelink Mini S has fallen to the promotional price that I paid for it a few months ago. The WD Elements 20TB hard drive is selling for $349 right now, which is quite a bit more expensive than what I paid. Regardless, a 20TB NAS for under $500 still seems like a pretty juicy deal to me.
  2. …there’s no redundancy! There’s absolutely no redundancy whatsoever in the hardware of this little NAS. In building this DIY NAS, that particular kind of redundancy is not on my radar. The data stored on this NAS is what’s important—and that data is quite redundant. In the grand scheme of things, a catastrophic failure of the off-site NAS’ hardware would be a disappointing inconvenience but not catastrophic.
  3. …USB hard drives are unreliable. We’ve all had one of our USB devices stop responding and are forced to disconnect and reconnect it in order to get it working again. It happens frequently enough that it’s ingrained into my consciousness. When Pat first told me of his idea to stash a NAS at my house, my experience with USB devices had me assuming that I’d be disconnecting and reconnecting the USB hard drive on a regular basis. But it’s never happened, ever. My results might vary from Pat’s, but I’m confident that the hard drive will be dependable.
  4. …you can’t use ZFS without ECC RAM! Please don’t perpetuate this; it simply isn’t true. ZFS works just fine without ECC RAM. ZFS provides features and benefits to all users, not just the ones using ECC RAM. This misconception gets employed too frequently and often to the detriment of people who really could benefit from ZFS. If you’re interested, you can read more about why I often choose to use non-ECC RAM in my DIY NAS builds.
  5. …this solution only works for you, Brian. I’d debate whether this makes me an idiot, but it is a fair point. The entire objective of this exercise is to create my own hardware solution equivalent to—-or better than—-what I have been using Backblaze B2 to do for the last 5 years.
  6. …you can’t trust Pat! Despite his proclivities of trying to look sus in his hoodie, Pat’s a good dude and he’s earned my trust. But if you do wind up doing something similar, make sure you trust your friend like I trust Pat!

Deploying the Off-Site NAS

Pat invited us over for pizza recently, and I saw it as an opportunity to get my new NAS deployed, although it felt a tiny bit rushed. I would have liked to have seen it in action at home, but communicating via Tailscale, for another few days before dropping the NAS off.

Regardless, I packed it up, enjoyed some pizza, and hurriedly plugged it in to Pat’s network at the end of the night. Within a couple minutes it was connected to my Tailnet, I’d logged in to the TrueNAS SCALE interface using the machine’s Tailscale IP, and I kicked off one of my replication tasks on my primary NAS. A few moments later, that replication task had succeeded, and I was confident in my off-site NAS’ ability to perform its function.

What’s Next?

I’m simultaneously running TrueNAS cloud sync tasks to Backblaze B2 and replication tasks to my off-site NAS. Before the end of my next Backblaze billing cycle, I anticipate that I will be able to delete my TrueNAS cloud sync tasks along with my Backblaze B2 buckets.

My monthly bill to Backblaze B2 has hovered around $60 for the last year. After spending $420 to build my 20TB off-site NAS, I expect to break even in about 7 months. It’s worth pointing out that there’s some risk here—the hardware could fail before it pays for itself. The products’ warranties might be helpful here, but the warranty process might be long enough that I’d just go ahead and buy a new set of hardware first!

What should I wind up spending that extra money on? I’ve got a few ideas:

  1. Save up money to build another off-site NAS.
  2. Start preemptively replacing some of the older hard drives in my primary NAS.
  3. Spend that money buying and reviewing more DIY NAS cases!

In my shoes, which option would you pick? Let me know down in the comments, or better yet, come tell us about it in the #diynas-and-homelab channel of the Butter, What?! Discord server!

Announcing the Winner of the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition

Each time I build a DIY NAS, I wind up deciding whether or not I can make use of it. On occasion, like with the DIY NAS: 2022 Edition, I wind up keeping it. But most of the time, I give the DIY NAS away in some sort of contest. This year, the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is being given away to the winner of the contest.

I changed things up a bit this year and had the contestants publicly share their answer to this question along with a link to the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition:

If you won the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, what would you do with it? What sort of problems would it solve for you?

I have genuinely enjoyed reading each and every one of the entries to the giveaway. It has been equally entertaining and interesting to see how others would put the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition to use.

I enjoyed reviewing the entries so much that I wanted to make sure this announcement included not only the winner, but a handful of my other favorite entries too.

Honorable Mentions

Each of these honorable mentions deserve being mentioned in this blog. While they fell just short of winning the contest, each one of them was compelling on their own. Having an abundance of great entries was a blessing, but it certainly made picking a winner a bigger challenge!


When I first learned of the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard, I immediately shared it with Pat. At the time, I had not picked any parts for the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition. But in just chatting about the motherboard with Pat the next few days, it became obvious to me that it was the best option for what I wanted to do with this year’s DIY NAS. Pat wound up writing two of his own blogs; first an entry into the contest and second about what a nice pairing the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard and JONSBO N1 make for a DIY NAS.

  1. I Am Excited About the Topton N5105 Mini-ITX NAS Motherboard!
  2. The Topton N5105 and Jonsbo N1 Are An Awesome DIY NAS Combination!

In his entry, Pat wrote:

I know that Brian would agree with me that it wouldn’t be fair for me to win the NAS.

Pat’s correct; it would seem a bit unfair if he were to win the contest. Nevertheless, either of Pat’s two blogs are fantastic entries into the contest and very well could have won him the motherboard. If you’re considering building the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, Pat’s two blogs are must-read!

I guess now I need to worry about Pat following through with his threat of sneaking off with one of the Topton N5105 NAS motherboards next time he’s over at my house!

And the winner is…

… Tyler S., for his blog, “What I would do if I won a NAS?” In the blog, Tyler talks a laundry list of things that anyone could do with a DIY NAS: back up critical data, create shared folders that can be accessed from other computers, set up a media server, host your own game server, and Tyler talks about several other homelab activities. What I really liked about Tyler’s entry is how he seems to be the spokesperson for anyone who doesn’t currently have a NAS, not just himself. Tyler listed off many problems that he’d solve with the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, but he answered them in a way that applies to the reader too. If you’ve been wondering if you need a NAS or not, Tyler’s entry into this year’s giveaway is a fantastic resource!

Final Thoughts

Thanks again to everyone who entered! I appreciate each and every one of the entries. Thanks to the change in the giveaway format, there were far fewer entries than prior giveaways. But the quality of each entry was so much higher! I enjoyed reading each entry, sharing it on social media, and then poring over each one to pick a winner!

What’d you think about the giveaway of the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition? If you missed out on the giveaway, are you determined to build a DIY NAS of your own? Let me know in the comments, or come chat with us in the Butter, What?! Discord server.

My journey to a new 3D Printer: the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

I’ve owned my Prusa I3 MK3 (not the MK3S or MK3S+) for just over 5 years now. It’s been a fantastic purchase. I’ve 3D-printed tons of things, including a 3D-printed Mini-ITX NAS case. I’ve designed and shared quite a few of my own designs. I even started selling some 3D-printed items on Tindie!

Ever since Pat decided to buy the Prusa I3 MK3S back in 2020, I’ve been wondering if I should buy a new 3D printer. This wonderment has been exacerbated a few times when I was bottlenecked by fulfilling orders from my Tindie store.

First I Preordered the Prusa XL

All the stars seemed to align back in November of 2021 when Prusa announced the Prusa XL. The Prusa XL was supposed to be bigger, faster, and way more advanced than my Prusa MK3. The announcement claimed printers would start shipping in “Q2/Q3 of 2022.”

The day of that announcement, I paid the deposit, and then I began waiting for the preorders to begin getting fulfilled. In the time that I spent waiting, a few other things happened:

  1. Bambu Labs successfully crowdfunded and delivered on the Bambu Lab X1.
  2. My computer’s GPU, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, began to show its age.
  3. Prusa FINALLY announced that they were shipping the Prusa XL, but the multi-tool version that I wanted was delayed to at least May of 2023.

As of the writing of this blog, Prusa is still not shipping what I wanted: the multi-tool version of the Prusa XL.

Once Prusa let me know that the earliest I’d see my printer was May of 2023, alternatives quickly came into focus. I could buy the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo ($1,450) and an AMD Radeon RX 7900XTX GPU ($999) for far less than the 5-tool Prusa XL ($3,500) that I planned to buy. Even better, there wouldn’t be a risk of the eventual delays that have followed.

Then I bought the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer instead.

When I realized I could have nearly everything that I wanted, that I wouldn’t have to worry about more delays, and that I could save $1,000 in the process, I canceled my preorder for the Prusa XL and immediately bought the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo and an AMD Radeon RX 7900XTX GPU instead.

What does Brian think of the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon?

As of the writing of this sentence, I’ve logged hundreds of hours of print time on my Bambu Lab X1C in the months following its delivery. Getting the printer unboxed, set up, updated, and printing took less than an hour. Most of those hours of print time have been 3D-printing things for my new 3D printer, but I have fulfilled a few Tindie orders of my ESP32 D1 Mini cases too. If these first 175 hours are any indication, I’m quite impressed!

  1. The X1C is incredibly fast: Just for fun, I had a “race” between my Prusa MK3 and the Bambu Lab X1C. I started printing this Adjustable Spool Holder for Silica Gel / Spool Weight on each printer using each slicer’s .20mm standard profile. I was able to print almost 4 of these spool holders on the Bambu Lab X1C in the time it took to print one on the MK3.
  2. The Automatic Material System (AMS) is genuinely impressive: I have wanted the option of multiple material prints for quite some time. From what I’ve learned in reading about others’ use of multiple filament systems (prior to the AMS) has been that they’re finicky and underwhelming. In those 175+ hours of 3D-printing, I’ve probably done hundreds—maybe thousands—of filament changes, and the only issue that I ran into was emptying a spool of filament, and it handled that quite gracefully.
  3. The X1C’s enclosure lets me print other materials: My first printer was tiny and came with an enclosure and hot end capable of printing higher-temperature materials like ABS. When I replaced that printer with the Prusa MK3, I attempted printing ABS but had a really difficult time doing so. Eventually, I decided to print almost solely in PLA. I’ve printed a lot of ABS since getting the X1C, and I think it’s exciting that I don’t have to worry about any 3D prints melting while they bake inside my car here in Texas.

Things Brian doesn’t like about the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

As much as I like the X1,C there are a few things about it that worry me a bit.

  1. Bambu Lab is a very new company: Bambu Lab exists because of the success of their Kickstarter, and there’s a chance that they might not exist for long. I don’t necessarily know how valid of a concern this should be, but it’s a risk that needs to be mentioned.
  2. There are very few user-serviceable parts available: Should my X1C falter outside of its warranty, my right to repair would be seriously hindered by a lack of available replacement parts. My only repair option might very well be to send it back into Bambu Lab, which would be disappointing.
  3. Bambu Studio is nice, but it’s not PrusaSlicer: Technically, Bambu Studio is PrusaSlicer, since it was forked from PrusaSlicer’s source. They’re both similar enough that I can use them both, but dissimilar enough that I definitely prefer PrusaSlicer. I’m worried how long it may take for PrusaSlicer’s new features to get incorporated into Bambu Studio.
  4. Prusa is open-source (for now?) and Bambu Lab is not: Up until now, Prusa has embraced the concepts of open-source, and that’s been to the benefit of both Prusa and its customers. Bambu Lab is not following in this model. It’s very much proprietary and could have the potential to be quite limiting.

Prusa Research seems to be floundering

While my new printer was in transit, Prusa announced the release of the Prusa MK4, and I said to myself, “Oh no, now it is time for my Buyer’s Remorse to kick in!”

I immediately began to worry that the Prusa MK4 might have been a better printer for me. I’m no stranger to Buyer’s Remorse, and thanks to a series of concerning missteps, Prusa Research helped me realize that the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon was the ideal printer for me.

Enough of the product page for the MK4 printer or its kit(s) is fictional that I’m as alarmed as I am disappointed. If you were to buy the MK4 today, you wouldn’t get input shaping—so you’re definitely not printing a Benchy in under 20 minutes that they’re bragging about. If Josef Prusa’s blog is any indicator the MK4 may not be an actual “open-source” printer, you aren’t getting the 10% off you were led to believe you’d get by buying previous i3 printers, and unless you ordered the MK4 quickly (when it’s back-ordered for 6—7 weeks) you didn’t receive the 1Kg of filament that was promised to buyers when it was released.

A tiny bit of proofreading, a newfound commitment to honoring promises made to its customers, and a firmware release might be all it takes to break this recent pattern. But until that pattern is broken, I’ll continue to be glad that I purchased the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo.

Is Brian getting rid of his Prusa MK3?

Heck no! I’m flustered and discouraged by what I’ve seen recently from Prusa Research, but that doesn’t completely erode goodwill accumulated from years of hassle-free printing!

My plan all along was to give me the option of simultaneously restocking my Tindie store while enabling me to work on other 3D-printing projects. A second printer has always been my plan, and I do love when a plan comes together!

Final thoughts about the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

Over the past two months, I’ve been a 3D-printing maniac. I’ve been really enjoying working with the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon. I’d probably be printing this much regardless of what 3D printer I bought. But maybe I wouldn’t have printed this much stuff:

  1. A handful of Adjustable Spool Holders for Silica Gel / Spool Weight.
  2. Enough parts for a dozen DIY Filament Dry Boxes using cereal containers.
  3. An awesome four-color Spider-Man figurine.
  4. Numerous ESP32 D1 Mini Cases to restock my Tindie store.
  5. A Venom-like MINI 13 figure scaled up 400%

Two weeks from when this blog is published, I won’t be surprised one bit if I’ve managed to eclipse 200 hours on my X1C. I already have a few projects in mind for my office, for my Tindie store, and I’m half-tempted to print a whole new MK735 case for my DIY NAS.

I’m genuinely excited to 3D-design something and crank out iterations until I’m pleased with how it turned out. I’m ecstatic that I won’t feel have to choose to either print something for fun or restock my Tindie store.

Are you looking to add a second 3D printer to your setup? I certainly think that either the Bambu Lab X1C or P1P are fantastic values. But I also think you should check out the Sovol SV06 like Pat did. Much of the value is just having a second printer!

Are you thinking about buying a Bambu Lab X1-Carbon, a Bambu Lab P1P, a Prusa MK4, a Prusa XL, or something else? Come join us in the #3dprinters-lasers-cncs channel in The Butter, What?! Discord server and tell us all about it!

DIY NAS: 2023 Edition

I’ve been building—and oftentimes giving away—DIY NAS builds for over a decade now. I started doing this because I was frustrated when I was planning my very first DIY NAS. I had something in mind, but when I looked to others for some inspiration, I didn’t find any. To my surprise, I found that most of the people in the community did not see the value in what I was wanting to build. Undeterred, I decided to share that build on my blog, and the surprising popularity of that first blog has inspired a whole series of yearly DIY NAS build blogs.

I like to think that my key criteria for building a DIY NAS build has been pretty consistent over the years; that criteria is:

  • Small form factor
  • Room for six or more 3.5” hard disk drives
  • Passively-cooled CPU for quieter operation
  • Power efficient

My desire for a diminutive, quiet, and power-efficient DIY NAS was born from a lack of space in my office from ten years ago. My office has grown considerably since then, but I still value these features and strive to meet them with each of my DIY NAS builds.

Motherboard and CPU

The minute I learned about the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard, I knew that it was going to be in the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition. In fact, I was so excited about it that I ordered it the very next day after learning about it. When I couldn’t find any US-based vendors, I was inspired to buy some from the manufacturer and to open a store on eBay and see if I could sell some myself!

The motherboard features:

  • Integrated Jasper Lake Intel Celeron N5105 CPU
  • 2x M.2 NVMe (PCIe 3.0 x1) 2280
  • 6x SATA 3.0 ports
  • 4x Intel i226-V 2.5Gbps network interfaces
  • 2x SO-DIMM DDR4 (2400/2666/2933MHz) slots (64GB max)
  • Mini-ITX form factor

Nearly every one of my ideal criteria for a DIY NAS is checked off by this incredibly interesting motherboard. It supports up to 8 drives (2x M.2 and 6x SATA), it fits a small form factor, and its CPU sips power. The only criteria that it does not meet is that the CPU requires a fan. The icing on the cake on the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard is that it includes four 2.5Gbps network interfaces. For what you’re getting, I believe that the Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard is a fantastic value to use in a DIY NAS build.


One of my bigger gripes every year is that there are just not very many NAS-specific cases being designed each year. I strive to pick a new NAS-centric case each year, but each year the landscape of NAS cases is pretty static. In March of 2022, I caught a glimpse of the JONSBO N1 on the Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel. The release of the JONSBO N1 (specs) solved a big problem for me in 2023.

The JONSBO N1 has room for a MiniITX motherboard, requires a SFX power supply, has room for up to five 3.5” HDDs, and room for an additional 2.5” HDD. Personally, I’d like to see room for at least one more 3.5” HDD but I’m not deducting points for that. My criteria of six 3.5” HDDs was established back when you were lucky to get a 2TB HDD at $200. In 2023, we’re regularly seeing hard drives five times as big (or bigger) under $200. I believe it might be time to rethink this particular criteria. Unless you’re a serious data hoarder, five drives in 2023 can be more than plenty!

I spent most of 2022 being excited about building a DIY NAS inside of the JONSBO N1, and that anticipation paid off at the end of the year!


The Topton N5105 NAS motherboard has two laptop-style DDR4 SO-DIMM slots, so I opted to max it out with a Crucial 32GB kit of DDR4 2933Mhz RAM (specs). One of my only disappointments with the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard is that its capacity for RAM tops out at 32GB. Had I realized that the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard actually supported up to 64GB of RAM, I would’ve gladly bought twice the RAM for twice the price.

For the ECC zealots out there, I agree ECC RAM is a better choice—but that doesn’t mean it is a requirement. I tackled this quite a few years ago when I shared why I chose Non-ECC RAM for my own DIY NAS back in 2012. In the years since, I’ve built up and replaced all of that hardware a couple different times, and I happen to be using ECC RAM today.

However, I stand by what I wrote back in 2014. For the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, the motherboard, CPU, and RAM added up to just over $350. I’m reasonably confident that an equivalent motherboard, CPU, and ECC RAM would wind up being twice as expensive. Even if you wanted to spend that extra money, I think there’s more value in spending it differently than there is in spending it on ECC RAM.


For the past few years, I’ve divvied the storage devices into two categories: storage for the boot drive and the devices for the storage of your data.

In last year’s DIY NAS build, that line got a bit blurry as I partitioned the SSDs and used a slice of them for the boot device and then used the leftover space as storage for my VMs and containers. While I’m happy with how this has worked out, I’m not necessarily certain if I’d encourage others to do the same. It’s not a supported solution and requires going in and modifying the installation script prior to installing TrueNAS.

Boot Drives

I think that the most debatable choice that I made was picking a boot device. In the JONSBO N1 there is room for five 3.5” HDDs and one 2.5” HDD. The Topton N5105 NAS motherboard supports up to 6 SATA devices and two M.2 devices.

Because I like having redundancy on the boot drive, I opted to pick up a pair of 250GB PNY CS1030 NVMe SSDs (specs). 250 GB of capacity is definitely overkill for the capacity, but at around $20, the price was in the right ballpark.

If maximizing data density were my goal, I probably would’ve picked a single SATA SSD like the 240GB Crucial BX500. That would create the possibility of using the motherboard’s two M.2 slots for a pair of NVMe SSDs for some additional storage capacity to the NAS.

Storage Drives

For the sake of writing this blog, I pulled out five of my retired 4TB HDDs and loaded them into the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition. These are just excess drives that have been either upgraded or removed because their SMART test results have been suspicious.

It has been a while since I actually bought storage for one of DIY NAS builds. Most of the money spent on a NAS will be spent on hard drives, and the amount of capacity you’ll need depends on how much data you’re hoarding and how quickly you’re adding to it.

If I were building this for my own use, I think I’d be pretty interested in mirrored pairs of higher-capacity drives. I’d leave the fifth drive bay empty and use a spare hard drive to sneakernet large chunks of data between machines. For my needs, hard drive capacity has steadily outpaced how quickly I’m accumulating data. I no longer need half a dozen drives to hold all of my data like I did when I got started.

When I’m shopping for hard disk drives, I usually get pretty excited when I see a drive with a price-per-terabyte below $15. I very frequently see 12-16TB shuckable external hard drives hit this price. This Toshiba MG08ACA16TE 16TB 7200RPM SATA Enterprise HDD is on the verge of being tempting at $~260 ($16.25 per TB).

We are constantly sharing deals on hard disk drives in the #deals channel of the Butter, What?! Discord server. If you’re looking for a good deal or wanting to share a good deal that you have found, please join!

SATA Cables

Motherboard manufacturers have been cutting costs by skimping on things like SATA cables for years. But with the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard, they’ve taken it to a new level!

The motherboard didn’t come with any SATA cables whatsoever. In this scenario, this is actually preferable because the amount of room in the JONSBO N1 case requires that you use right-angle SATA cables.

Power Supply

It is very common for small form factor cases to require a small form factor (SFX) power supply too. Being somebody who’s a big enthusiast for small form factor DIY NAS builds, I understand and accept this reality—but I kind of wish that weren’t the case. I’d gladly trade a bit of case volume for a wider choice of compatible power supplies.

The JONSBO N1 is no different than many of the other Mini-ITX cases I’ve used in the past. A SFX power supply is required. As a result, I picked the SilverStone Technology 450W SFX (ST45SF-V3-USA) power supply (specs).

In picking out the power supply, I did some back-of-the-napkin math and attributed about 10–20W to the Celeron N5105 CPU, 5–10W for the each of NVMe SSDs, and up to 25W for each of the five 3.5” HDDs. I probably would have been fine with a 300W power supply, but I opted for the 450W power supply to be safe.


My biggest concern in building the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition was that I’d discover that Linux support of the hardware found on the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard would be lacking.

The Topton N5105 NAS motherboard was enough of a value that I gambled the hardware would be supported by TrueNAS SCALE, and thankfully, the gamble paid off. But had it gone a different direction, I would’ve gladly switched to another NAS appliance like UNRAID, OpenMediaVault, or building a NAS from the ground up using a recent flavor of Linux.

It’d be overly melodramatic to say that I breathed a big sigh of relief after I installed TrueNAS SCALE without any issues and had the NAS up and running, but I was definitely relieved.

Tell us more about TrueNAS SCALE, Brian!

In my opinion TrueNAS SCALE is a fantastic solution, regardless of whether you buy the hardware in the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition. To see if your hardware is likely to work well with TrueNAS SCALE, check out the TrueNAS SCALE hardware compatibility guide. You can also check out the TrueNAS Community Forums and/or TrueNAS Discord for tips and examples of DIY builds and more on containerized apps (Nextcloud, Plex, Syncthing, and more!) with TrueNAS SCALE.

Final Parts List

Component Part Name Qty Cost
Motherboard Topton N5105 NAS Motherboard specs 1 $224.99
CPU Intel Celeron N5105 specs N/A N/A
Memory Crucial 32GB DDR4 3200MHz CL22 (2x16GB Kit) specs 1 $56.99
Case JONSBO N1 specs 1 $140.00
Power Supply SilverStone Technology 450W SFX PSU (ST45SF-V3-USA) specs 1 $89.54
Boot Drive PNY CS1030 250GB M.2 NVMe specs 2 $24.05
SATA Cable Rosewill 3-Pack SATA III Right Angle Cable N/A 2 $6.99
TOTAL: $573.60

Hardware Assembly, BIOS Configuration, and Burn-In

Hardware Assembly

Most years, I include a time-lapse video of the assembly, but I wound up needing surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff. It was rather difficult to assemble the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition by itself–there was no way I was going to be able to set up my overhead camera rig!

That being said, assembling the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition was fairly straightforward. Building small form factor computers isn’t easy, but this year’s DIY NAS was easy enough that I managed to do it without aggravating my bad shoulder!

BIOS Configuration

The only changes that I wound up needing to make in the BIOS were changes to the boot order. That’s a really simple change that’s usually straightforward. But the BIOS provided on the Topton N5015 NAS motherboard proved to be a bit more challenging than most other BIOS versions. It wound up taking a little bit of spelunking through the BIOS menus to find the boot order. It wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t as easy as it should be.


The night before my shoulder surgery, I finished assembling the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, booted it up for the first time, kicked off Memtest86+, and then promptly forgot all about it as I recovered from my surgery.

Nearly 76 hours later, it’d completed a total of 42 successful passes!

Normally, I’m inclined to do some CPU stress testing. But seeing as how the answer to “the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” matched the number of successful Memtest86+ passes, I decided that the three days’ worth of running Memtest86+ was sufficient burn-in all by itself.

As I’m writing this blog, the uptime on the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is over 60 days and would’ve been longer had I not been keeping it up to date with updates to TrueNAS SCALE since I started building it. The machine has been completely stable.


Each year, I like to do a few different benchmarks to validate that the DIY NAS is performing up to my expectations. I’m not particularly interested in tweaking for the absolute best performance; these benchmarks are more a matter of validating that what I built is sound.


The first thing that I benchmark is network performance. The first and most likely bottleneck for a DIY NAS is going to be the network. TrueNAS SCALE includes the iperf3 binaries, so I grabbed the Windows binaries for my desktop PC and directly connected the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition to the unused 2.5gbps interface on my desktop computer. After setting up static IP addresses on each end, I ran iperf3 both as a server and as a client on this year’s DIY NAS. Unsurprisingly, iperf3 was able to fully saturate the 2.5gbps connection between my desktop PC and the NAS.

After that, I skip right to benchmarking throughput to a drive mapped to a Samba share hosted by the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition using CrystalDiskMark. I was pleased to see that the 2.5gbps network connection was pretty much saturated on both sequential reads and writes to the drive I mapped to an SMB share on the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition.

Power Consumption

In the past two years, I dove headfirst into home automation. One of the things that I’ve done in the past year is put smart outlets at each of my computers for monitoring their power consumption and track them using Home Assistant’s Energy Management. I made sure to reserve a smart outlet for my DIY NAS builds too.

For fun one day, I worked through a series of tasks and noted the peak wattage during each of those tasks. In addition, I captured the average wattage of the NAS being idle for an hour. Here’s a graph of the wattage over the 24-hour period from the beginning of these tasks.

I went through some of the metrics captured in Home Assistant and the peak wattage recorded during each of those tests. I also grabbed the peak and average wattage when the NAS is idle. Lastly, I grabbed some data for a 36-hour period of time–including these tasks–and captured the maximum wattage, average wattage, and total consumption over those 3 days.

Task Duration Max Wattage Avg. Wattage Total
Idle 60 min. 68.8 w 59.87 w
Boot ~2 min. 73.0 w
FIO Benchmark ~13 min. 73.0 w
SMB Benchmark ~4 min. 77.6 w
ZFS Scrub ~1 min. 71.2 w
S.M.A.R.T. Long Test N/A 76.2 w
Total 36 hrs. 77.6 w 60.49 w 3.4 kWh

Note: The ZFS scrub was comically fast because the pool was empty. I don’t believe that what I’ve captured here is a quality measurement; please take it with a grain of salt!

Lastly, I wanted to share just how much less power the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is using compared to my own desktop computer (Animal), my own TrueNAS SCALE machine and my homelab machine (Deskmeat). So I charted out the power consumption of the 24 hours following the beginning of these tasks.

What Does Brian think of the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition?


It does not matter. Regardless of how much effort I put into parts or how carefully I work to assemble the DIY NAS, there’s always something that I believe can be improved with every DIY NAS that I build. The DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is no exception.

  1. It is pretty much maxed out. The CPU is integrated, so you’re not upgrading it. There are no PCI-e slots for expansion on the motherboard, so you’re never adding a GPU, a 10GbE NIC, or a HBA for additional SATA ports. Pretty much the only viable upgrade option would be to upgrade from 32GB of RAM to 64GB of RAM.
  2. The JONSBO N1 front panel’s USB and audio ports aren’t connected, as there are no audio or USB 3 headers on the Topton N5105 NAS motherboard.
  3. It is a tiny bit noisy. The DIY NAS: 2023 Edition has sat right next to my current DIY NAS for over a month now, and with 2 fewer drives and way less utilization, it’s still the noisier of the two machines. However, it never approached the threshold where I thought it was noisy enough that I wanted to do something about it. Regardless, this felt like something I should mention.

Of these complaints, the first one is the most worrisome. Upgrades aren’t actually impossible, but if you’re wanting more CPU, or PCI-e slots for other components, then you’ll need to shop for a new motherboard. The other two weaknesses seem a bit nitpicky.


  1. The CPU compares well to past DIY NAS Builds. I compared the Celeron N5105 against the CPUs to the other CPUs that I’ve personally used here at home. I was shocked and impressed with how well the Celeron N5105 CPU measures up to the others and what a fantastic value it is today.
  2. Saturates the 2.5 gigabit network. This wasn’t that surprising. I expected that it should saturate the 2.5 gigabit network. But given that 2.5Gbit interfaces are becoming more common and the price-per-port on switches has dropped to around $20, it was very encouraging.
  3. The DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is inexpensive and carries a lot of value. At under $630 the entire build is less expensive than last year’s motherboard alone. A sub-$1,000 DIY NAS build is entirely possible with a pair of 10 TB NAS HDDs.

The cost of the four prior DIY NAS builds without any storage was $1565 in 2022, $1728 in 2020, $1379 in 2019, and $1890 in 2017. At $630, the cost of the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition is between 33% and 46% of the cost of those systems!

Each year, I strive to put together something with a quality price-to-performance ratio, and I think the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition really hits that mark. I think it could easily be argued that this year’s build is one of the best in terms of its value.

Let me know what you think!

It should go without saying that I’m impressed by the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, but what do you all think? If you’re interested in building your own DIY NAS, does the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition seem like something you would want to build? Has the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition sparked your curiosity and inspired you to build a unique DIY NAS of your own? Let me know in the comments or come tell us about it in the #diynas-and-homelab channel in The Butter, What?! Discord server.


As I have more than 10 times in the past, I’m giving away the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition and a $100 giftcard for some TrueNAS schwag! The team at iXsystems deserves a shoutout for sponsoring the giveaway and spicing it up! In prior years, this was a luck-of-the-draw raffle, but I’m changing things up this year.

For this year’s giveaway, I’m tasking entrants with answering this question:

If you won the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition, what would you do with it? What sort of problems would it solve for you?

Share your answer somewhere publicly accessible on the Internet: in a blog, a Tweet, post it to Mastodon, talk about in on TikTok, vlog about it on YouTube, live stream it on Twitch, etc. Then submit your entry by filling out the DIY NAS: 2023 Edition giveaway form.

As the giveaway runs its course, I’ll be consuming each entry, promoting everyone’s entries on social media, and eventually picking a winner. The winning entry will find a way to set itself apart from the others. The creativity and quality of the entry will be critical! Please keep that in mind when choosing the platform and crafting your entry.

As an example, it’s hard to imagine that a Tweet that says “To store files!” could be more compelling than a YouTube video from a dog rescue group that needs more capacity for videos that they create to help abandoned dogs find their forever homes.

Come talk to me in the #giveaway channel of The Butter, What?! Discord server if you want to maintain a bit of anonymity or if you lack a suitable platform to share your entry. We’d love to host your entry on The Butter, What?! blog!


  1. Only one entry per individual
  2. Each entry must:
    1. Include a link to this blog.
    2. Be publicly accessible on the Internet.
  3. Anybody can win, but shipping will only be covered in continental United States. Winners outside of the continental US will be responsible for the cost of shipping and customs.
  4. The winner will be chosen 90 days after the publish date on this blog.
  5. The winner has 3 business days to respond after being chosen.

Enter Giveaway Button

DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022 … sort of?

Each year, I like to write a blog—and hopefully build—two different NAS builds for two different budget points. Firstly, a powerful, small, form factor NAS that would meet all of my storage and other homelab needs. And secondly, the EconoNAS: a budget-friendly NAS build that outperforms off-the-shelf NAS products.

The EconoNAS has always intended to act as a template for other budget-friendly DIY NAS builders, which is more capable and has a more attractive price tag than the off-the-shelf NAS products.

Building a budget-friendly NAS in this economy is a challenge!

At several points in 2022, I’ve said to myself “I’m going pick out parts for the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022!” I started shopping online, compared it to the previous EconoNAS, became disappointed, and decided to set the entire build aside to work on a later day.

A number of factors exist today that continue to make an EconoNAS difficult to come up with. Corporate greed, inflation, a lack of new product offerings from Intel/AMD, supply chain disruptions, and the lingering impacts of COVID-19 have all worked against the concept of building an economical NAS which is unique from the prior year.

Each and every time I worked on picking out parts, I realized I was basically just rebuilding the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2020 over and over again.

Updating the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2020 for 2022

The last EconoNAS was one of my favorite NAS builds, but it was not perfect! My biggest complaint about the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2020 was its price tag. Since publishing it 18 months ago, many of the components’ prices have steadily climbed to the point where I feel it at the border of no longer being economical.

The DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2020 might have been expensive, but it was quite capable. It was hands down the most capable EconoNAS that I have ever come up with. Even though it is quite expensive, its capability makes it a really good value.

Ultimately, I decided to take last year’s EconoNAS and reimagine it by focusing on making it as economical as possible.

Disclaimer: Just like last year, I did not actually build this myself. I’ve done everything else in my power to crosscheck the compatibility of these parts. If I were building an additional NAS, I would not hesitate to buy all of these parts myself. Hopefully somebody can share their experience building something similar down in the comments below!

Motherboard and CPU

Since the Athlon 3000G’s initial release, AMD has yet to release another AM4 CPU which seems equally (or better) suited for an economical NAS build. I was a little disappointed that AMD’s latest CPU release did not include a comparable inexpensive dual core and four thread CPU with a reasonably low thermal design power (TDP).

So just like last year, this year’s EconoNAS is built around the AMD Athlon 3000G CPU. Among the Athlon 3000G’s specifications, these are the specifications that I think make it well suited for an economical NAS:

  • Number of CPU Cores: 2
  • Number of Threads: 4
  • Base Clock: 3.5GHz
  • TDP: 35W
  • Radeon™ Vega 3 Graphics
  • Unlocked for Overclocking
  • Bundled with a CPU cooler rated for a 65W TDP CPU

If I didn’t change the CPU, then why change the motherboard? The only reason I could think of for changing the motherboard would be if there was a significant price difference.

The product listing for the Gigabyte Aorus M (specs) has hovered right around $100—right near where its price sat at the end of 2020. As I worked on this blog, I saw the price go down as low as $79.99. Combined with its price, this motherboard’s specifications still make it ideal for the EconoNAS:

  • 6x SATA 6Gbps connections
  • Up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM
  • Potential support for a vast range of CPUs (Note: Newer CPUs require an updated BIOS. See the supported CPU page for details.)
  • 3x PCI-e slots
    • 1x PCI-e x16 running at x16
    • 1x PCI-e x16 running at x4
  • 1x M.2 slot


In the previous EconoNAS build, I chose to get 32GB of DDR4 RAM. This choice was quite extravagant for a budget-friendly build. The focus for this year’s EconoNAS is budget, so I decided to trim the amount of memory.

At first, I was tempted to go with 8GB of RAM because that’s more than enough to meet the minimum requirements of the TrueNAS products, OpenMediaVault, and UNRAID alike. However, more RAM in a NAS is beneficial enough that picking a 16GB kit (2x8GB) of Crucial DDR4 2666MHz RAM (specs) seemed like a good value.

Operating System Drive

When it comes to being economical, picking out a boot drive can be especially difficult. Especially when many NAS products use the entire boot drive’s capacity. Higher-capacity NVMe and 2.5” SATA SSDs are the best value (dollars per GB), but much of that potential value is wasted if the entire drive is consumed by the NAS distribution. There are many viable options; here are my two favorites:

  1. Buy an inexpensive (~$20) SSD without much capacity and use 100% of it for the boot device.
  2. Spend a few dollars more ($30-$50) to buy a much larger SSD (ex: 512Gb NVMe SSD for $40 or 1TB NVMe SSD for $77). Then split the NVMe into partitions, use one of the partitions for the OS drive, and use the remaining capacity for your own purposes.

The second option is a bit more complicated and often not recommended (or supported) by the NAS products. So for this year’s EconoNAS, I opted to go with the first option and selected a 16GB Intel Optane NVMe SSD (specs). At a little over $1/Gb it is not a tremendous value, but the capacity is sufficient for its purpose, it is relatively inexpensive, is high performance, it frees up a SATA port, and frees up a drive bay.

Update! Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader pointing it out, I’m realizing that I overlooked the fact that the Gigabyte Aorus M motherboard manual clearly states that using an NVMe drive will prevent you from using 2-3 of the SATA ports. An inexpensive SATA SSD like the Kingston 240GB A400 is probably a much better idea for the boot drive!

Case and Power Supply

As far as value goes, it’s hard to beat the case used in last year’s EconoNAS, the Fractal Design Node 804. It is a fantastic case and at the time it was selling for a fantastic price. To save some money in this year’s EconoNAS, I opted to go with the Antec VSK3000 Elite (specs), which is almost half the price of the last EconoNAS’s case.

With an inexpensive 5.25” to 3.5” drive adapter you can fit up to five 3.5-inch hard drives, a Micro-ATX (or Mini-ITX) motherboard, and an ATX power supply in this case. It’s a fairly small-ish form factor case from a reputable brand which helps make it ideal for this budget-friendly DIY NAS build.

For the power supply, I searched around a bit for an inexpensive 80 Plus-certified power supply that seemed to be well reviewed and found the Enermax Cyberbron 500W (specs). 500W should be an ample amount of power to supply to the CPU, up to five 3.5” HDDs, and the rest of the components in the parts list.

Final Parts List

Component Part Name Qty Cost
CPU AMD Athlon 3000G specs 1 $79.95
Motherboard Gigabyte B450 Aorus M specs 1 $102.63
Memory Crucial 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2666 UDIMM (CT2K8G4DFRA266) specs 1 $57.99
Case Antec VSK3000 Elite specs 1 $70.60
Power Supply Enermax Cyberbron 500 Watt 80+ Bronze specs 1 $37.99
OS Drive Intel Optane Memory M10 16 GB specs 1 $18.25
TOTAL: $367.41

What about Storage Drives?

The particulars of storage are really quite specific to the needs of the DIY NAS builder. As a result, I haven’t been including storage drives in my build suggestions. I do have a couple suggestions which I think will help you in choosing your storage media:

  1. How much data do you want to store on your NAS?
  2. At what rate is your storage growing?
  3. How difficult would it be to replace what you plan to store on your NAS?

The answers to these questions should help point you toward the total capacity of your NAS, the level of hardware redundancy you’ll want to have within your NAS, and hopefully help you realize that you’ll likely need a way to potentially back up the contents of your NAS if you really care about your data.

All that being said, here are few decent deals on hard drives that could go well with the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022:

If you’re looking for HDD deals, you can join the #deals channel in the Butter, What?! Discord server. I and others regularly share good deals in this channel that we find elsewhere.


Another change I’d make in the 2022 EconoNAS is to change which TrueNAS product is in use. For this build, I would highly recommend TrueNAS SCALE. There’s a lot of reasons to like TrueNAS SCALE, but above all others I think that the fact that TrueNAS SCALE is built atop Debian makes it ideal for an Economical NAS build. The hardware support for consumer-grade hardware is much better in Debian that it would be under FreeBSD (used by TrueNAS CORE).

TrueNAS CORE and TrueNAS SCALE have been pretty comparable for my own use. However, I think it is worth pointing out that with regards to file sharing, others (and I) have found that TrueNAS CORE outperforms TrueNAS SCALE in benchmarks. With regards to actual real-world use, I have not noticed this performance at all on my own DIY NAS running TrueNAS SCALE.

All that being said, I fully expect that TrueNAS SCALE is more than capable of saturating the gigabit network interface found on the motherboard.

What does Brian think of this 2022’s EconoNAS?

At its roots, the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022 started out as a carbon copy of the last EconoNAS. This time around, I put an emphasis on shaving dollars off the price tag. I’m a tiny bit disappointed that I ended up recycling old material and I’m also a bit disappointed that this EconoNAS can only accommodate five 3.5” hard drives.

Everything that I was excited about for the prior EconoNAS is still valid. Thanks to the AM4 socket and an up-to-date BIOS, there’s a ton of room for CPU upgrades. The two empty DIMM slots mean that RAM upgrades are possible too. The empty PCI-e slots mean that a 10Gb NIC, an HBA to support more HDDs, and potentially a GPU could be added to make this economical NAS even more powerful.

Most importantly, I’m excited that I managed to shave more than $275 (41%) off the price of the prior EconoNAS. My goal with every EconoNAS is to build something—storage included—that is $500 or less. You could buy three refurbished 4TB HGST enterprise drives with the $125 left over. A 4TB-12TB, 5-bay NAS, with lots of room for future upgrades for under $500 seems like a great deal to me.

I always worry that I might be a bit biased, so I spent a couple hours digging around the Internet looking at off-the-shelf NAS products. I searched for NAS machines with 5 drive bays and also for NAS products that are less than $400. Here’s what I found:

The 5-bay NAS products that I found were all considerably more expensive than this EconoNAS. But many of them also included premium features like 10GbE or 2.5GbE network interfaces. Considering how easy it is to build an inexpensive 10GbE network, I don’t think those features justify their hefty price premiums. The majority of these more expensive NAS machines also failed to measure up to the AMD Athlon 3000G and 16GB of DDR4 RAM in the EconoNAS. Comparing this EconoNAS build to the products that were a similar price ($300—400) wasn’t even a fair fight. All of these machines had four (or fewer) drive bays, meager CPUs, and a fraction of the RAM.

In my opinion, off-the-shelf NAS machines’ only two benefits not accounted for in the EconoNAS are product support and hot-swap drive bays. As infrequently as you’ll need to swap HDDs, I think this a NAS’s most overrated feature. I think there’s definitely value in having a product support team to contact if you have questions, but that value diminishes pretty quickly if you’re willing to type the same question you’d ask into Google and read through the results that come back.

What do YOU think of the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022?

But enough of what I think! How much would you expect to be charged for a NAS with the following specifications?

  • AMD Athlon 3000G CPU
  • 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM
  • 5x 3.5” Drive Bays
  • Intel 16GB Optane M10 NVMe SSD
  • Loads of upgrade options

If you were building it yourself, what improvement would you want to make on the DIY NAS: EconoNAS 2022? A bigger case? A more powerful CPU? What about more RAM? The biggest advantage of a DIY solution is that you get to make these decisions on your own rather than let a company make that decision for you.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or come share your opinion in the #diynas-and-homelab channel in our Discord server!

Laser Engraving with the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller

I recently reviewed the Ortur Aufero Laser 2 and had a lot of fun both engraving and cutting a variety of materials with the laser engraver.

But the Aufero Laser 2 wasn’t the only thing included in the package for me to review! Next to the laser engraver was the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller. The rotary tool was so interesting to me, I felt it needed its own blog!

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What is a rotary tool for?

A rotary tool is an accessory to be used with a laser engraver. The accessory is comprised of a pair of rollers. This rotary tool is plugged into the laser engraver’s motherboard in place of the Y-axis stepper motors.

As the laser engraver sends commands to move the Y-axis, the rotary tool’s wheels spin and rotate your material while the laser moves back and forth the X-axis and engraves the material.

It takes some configuration and tweaking in the laser engraving software (LightBurn or LaserGRBL), but once that setup is done, the rotary tool enables users to engrave cylindrical objects like mugs, glasses, tumblers, baseball bats, etc.

Assembly of the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller

The Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller comes in a kit that comes completely disassembled. Assembling that kit is fairly straightforward thanks to the documentation, Ortur’s assembly video, and other various guides shared by content creators on the Internet.

I assembled the entire thing after breakfast one Saturday morning. The assembly was complete before I had finished my morning cup of coffee.

Configuration and Use

While assembling the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller seems to be well-documented, hooking it up to your laser engraver, configuring your laser engraving software, and the positioning of the rotary tool aren’t part of what’s covered in any documentation from Ortur. This is my only complaint about the Ortur YRR 2.0.

Considering that both the laser engraver and the rotary tool are made by the same company, I expected that there would be a myriad of directions for using the Ortur YRR 2.0 with all of Ortur’s different laser engraving products. I was a tiny bit disappointed when I realized this, but in retrospect I’m a bit glad these directions weren’t included! I enjoyed tinkering with the engraver and gradually coming to an understanding of how it works.

Thankfully, there’s a bunch of content from other makers that have put in the work to help fill this documentation gap. In particular, The Louisiana Hobby Guy shared a guide setting up the Ortur YRR 2.0 which I found tremendously handy.

3D-designing and 3D-printing things specifically for the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller

I enjoy when my interests overlap. I especially enjoy when they happen as blog topics. For example, 3D-printing parts for my quadcopters, using home automation to monitor my 3D printing, and most recently 3D-printing parts to use with my laser engraver as part of this blog!

I wound up encountering two challenges with the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller that I knew right away I wanted to solve with 3D printing:

  1. Relocating the built-in roller guide to accommodate longer material.
  2. Raising the entire laser engraver up above the Ortur YRR 2.0 and the material being engraved.

I was able to conquer both of these challenges with my 3D printer; I even designed one of the solutions myself.

Firstly, I used these awesome Lego-like risers by Enduro512 on There were a variety of heights for the risers which make adjusting for different diameters of material a breeze. Secondly, I wound up 3D-designing a base that the Ortur YRR 2.0’s roller guide can attach to. This way the roller guide could be placed independently of the Ortur YRR 2.0 and support a much longer piece of material.

Other suggestions from Brian

Want to buy the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller but you’re a little wary by the lack of documentation on configuring your software and using the YRR 2.0 for the first time? Don’t be. There’s information out there that fills this gap, and if you’re willing to tinker, then it’s not that difficult to get set up without that documentation.

I tinkered and muddled my way through getting the Ortur YRR 2.0 working and thought I’d share a few tips that I think might be helpful for you too:

  1. Have a set of digital calipers—even inexpensive digital calipers—handy.
  2. When using the Ortur YRR 2.0 with the Aufero Laser 2, unplug both the Y-axis stepper motors.
  3. Dial-in your rotary tool using a test job like The Louisiana Hobby Guy describes in his Ortur YRR 2.0 video.
  4. Have a bunch of material to practice on. I bought a couple closet rods at the nearby big box hardware store and then cut it down to quite a few different 6” pieces.

Complement these tips with others’ content, experiment with the Ortur YRR 2.0, and you will be well on your way to understanding how to get it to work best for you!

What’s Brian think about the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller?

While I would’ve liked if there had been a bit more documentation to help me get started, I also enjoyed the extra tinkering with the Ortur YRR 2.0 that I needed to do in order to get it working. I wound up investing some of my raw material and time in the process, but I’m pretty happy with the returns from that investment.

Having an Ortur YRR 2.0 enables you to engrave an entirely different shape of material. It accomplishes this fairly inexpensively, without a tremendous amount of effort to assemble or effort dialing it in. I do not have a tremendous amount of experience with laser engraving, but I had it working fairly quickly.

If you own a laser engraver and you think it’d be fun to engrave mugs, drinking glasses, baseball bats, tumblers, stemware, etc., then I would encourage you to strongly consider the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller!

Getting More Serious about Lasers: Ortur Aufero Laser 2

Over the past few years, Pat and I each have collected 3D-printers, Pat acquired a CNC machine, and we recently chipped in together for a LumenPNP pick-and-place machine for the Ooberlights project.

Between the two of us, we have a decent collection of machinery that we can use for different methods of fabrication. For a long time, I’ve been wondering what I might buy next (other than my Prusa XL 3D-printer, of course). I had narrowed down my most likely choices, and it has been a coin flip between my own CNC machine and some sort of laser cutter.

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The only thing that’s held me back from making this purchase is its cost. Both in the shape of the impact to my bank balance and the investment of my time learning to use each machine. A machine the size I’d want to work with the materials I want to work with is going to be expensive, and I have little to no expertise with either kind of machine.

So when I was contacted and asked if I wanted to review the Ortur Aufero Laser 2, I saw it as an excellent opportunity to try and answer this question once and for all!

Ortur Aufero Laser 2

Several years ago, I reviewed a very inexpensive laser engraver, the NEJE DK-8-KZ. It was fun to review, but it wasn’t very capable. Its limitations prevented me from incorporating it into any of my making. Skimming through its specifications, I realized that the Aufero Laser 2 was much, much, much more capable than what I had used in the past:

  • Workable area: 390mm × 390mm
  • Laser: 4500—5500mw Short Focus Laser Module (LU2-4-SF)
  • Speed: 0—10,000 mm/min
  • Cuttable materials: Plywood, pine board, paperboard, black acrylic, leather, felt cloth, etc…
  • Engravable materials: Food, MDF, paperboard, black acrylic, leather, stainless steel, powder-coated metal, stone, etc…
  • Price: $399 $369

On paper, I thought that the Aufero Laser 2 seemed quite capable without breaking the bank!


Before agreeing to review the Aufero Laser 2, I was curious about what was in the box. I was also curious about how challenging it would be to assemble it and to learn how to use it. As part of my preparation, I went spelunking through the first page of Google results and found myself encouraged by the fact that nearly each search result said that the laser engraver was easy to assemble. But given my level of competence, would I think it was easy to assemble too?

The assembly of the Aufero Laser 2 was exactly as I expected: incredibly simple. There were a handful of bolts, two at each corner of the frame’s four corners, and a pair of bolts (and washers) on each side of the engraver’s X-axis. The laser module’s installation was incredibly straightforward. A few power cables needed to be plugged in to the laser module and each of the stepper motors. Finally there was a tiny bit of cable management that needed to happen.

The assembly did not take much time, and I was ultimately successful, but not without a couple relatively minor problems.

  1. Laser Module ground cable: The laser module power cable’s ground is held in place by one of the four screws that go through the laser module’s plastic lid and down into the module’s metal body. The problem being that there’s a tiny countersink in the lid so that the screw sits flush. After trying to tighten that screw all the way back down so it sat flush, I noticed that the ground was being deformed and coming loose as I tightened it more and more. However, that screw is quite long, and I quickly realized that I would not need to tighten that until it was flush for it to properly perform its function. I backed the screw out, straightened out the ground connector, and then screwed it in tightly enough that it held place, but not so tight that the ground connector deformed again.
  2. Short X-Axis Bolts: The four bolts that attach the X-Axis to the frame seemed quite short. I had a very difficult time getting the included M5 nuts to bite down on those bolts with the included wrench. A difficult enough time that I am pretty certain that I stripped the threading on two of the nuts. Thankfully, these M5 nuts are the same size as what I use to hold the propellers on my 5-inch quadcopters. I have a collection of spare colorful aluminum M5 nuts and decided use four of those rather than the M5 nuts provided in the kit.

As you can see from this time-lapse video, I spent the largest amount of time struggling with the bolts on the X-axis. I invested that time because I was interested in being thorough in this review. For others buying the Aufero Laser 2, I’d recommend using a proper 8mm driver to try and avoid the issues I ran into by stripping those M5 nuts.

Laser-Engraving Software

The Ortur website lists two applications to control the Aufero Laser 2: LightBurn and LaserGRRBL. Pat and Alex have both spoken highly of LightBurn, so I opted to give it a try. I watched a few of the videos from the LightBurn Software channel on YouTube, and within a few minutes I had proved that I could control the Aufero Laser 2 from my laptop. LightBurn worked well enough that I decided against trying out LaserGRRBL. Once my trial license expires, I’ll be purchasing LightBurn.

My first few engraving jobs

My first few engraving jobs were all successful, mostly. Using Ortur’s materials reference spreadsheet for the LU2-4-SF laser module, I started off experimenting with engraving “” into some scrap cardboard.

I was a tiny bit concerned about cutting through the cardboard and into my table below it, so I set the laser engraver atop another layer of cardboard. I didn’t secure the piece I was cutting very well, and the laser module’s shield moved my cardboard piece a bit. The power setting also wound up being a bit conservative. It definitely engraved into the cardboard, but so faintly that you could only make out the text at certain angles.

My second engraving job was a bit bolder. I decided that I wanted to engrave my site’s logo into the cardboard but then to also cut that around the logo out of the cardboard entirely.

IIt took me a couple attempts to accomplish this well. On the first attempt, I left the laser power at the same setting for the engraving and so it was very difficult to see my logo again. However, the power of the cut was nearly perfect. It cut straight through the cardboard and even scorched the second layer of cardboard that I had beneath it.

My second attempt at engraving my face into the cardboard and then cutting around it was even better. The laser was moving fast enough and set a low enough power that it engraved—but did not burn—the top layer of the cardboard box.

While the result was still on the faint side, I was still rather impressed with how it had turned out. I had expected that cardboard would char quickly and that my attempts would all turn out quite well done. I was super impressed that the top layer(s) of the cardboard were removed but nothing was charred by the laser.

As soon as I agreed to review the Aufero Laser 2, I started brainstorming things to try and create as part of this blog. A long time ago, I had a laminated QR code with an NFC tag that had our house’s WiFi credentials in it. When guests visited, we could just hand them that card and they could join our WiFi access point. I decided that I wanted to engrave something similar into wood.


I’m really impressed with the Ortur Aufero Laser 2. Before this review, I was interested in buying a laser cutter but I had no idea what I was doing. I was especially a bit worried about the cost, as powerful laser cutters get expensive very quickly.

Before being made aware of it, I was mostly oblivious and unaware of laser engravers like the Ortur Aufero Laser 2 existed. If I had known about it sooner, I’m pretty certain that I would already own one. Especially knowing exactly how much it can do.

Using the Aufero Laser 2 has me very interested in buying an even bigger laser some day down the road. When—or if—that day comes, I am confident that buying the bigger laser will not replace the Ortur Aufero Laser 2.

But watt wait, there’s more!

The Ortur Aufero Laser 2 was not the only thing that was sent to me. I was also sent the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller for cylinder engraving. Once I finish this blog and tidy up my studio, I’m going to get busy using the rotary roller, thinking of ideas to put it to use, and reviewing it too!

What sorts of projects would you use the Ortur Aufero Laser 2 and/or the Ortur YRR 2.0 Rotary Roller for? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below, out in social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram), or over in the Butter, What?! Discord server!

I like ESPresense so much…

…that I want to make it even easier for other Home Assistant users to enhance their own home automation!

I’ve been using ESPresense in my home automation for 3—4 months now. A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how easy adding presence detection using ESPresense was for me. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten in the comments and on social media, others seem to agree!

What is ESPresense?

I explain it in more detail in my earlier blog, but you use ESPresense to create a tracking base station by flashing ESPresense to a supported ESP32 development board. Depending on its configuration, ESPresense then relays information about nearby Bluetooth devices to Home Assistant.

In my case, I have several ESPresense base stations in different rooms that are tracking my Apple Watch SE and reporting the watch’s location back to Home Assistant as I move around the house.

ESPresense was the final piece of the puzzle that I needed to fully automate the lights and ceiling fan in my office. Since setting it up a few months ago, I rarely—if ever—have needed to use either switch.

What’s the catch, Brian?

To be honest, I don’t think there is a catch. ESPresense is an open-source project, the hardware isn’t difficult or expensive to obtain, I have a 3D printer, and there are lots of free designs for 3D-printed cases for the ESP32 D1 Mini.

As I see it, there are a few very minor obstacles for the Home Automation enthusiast who wants to deploy ESPresense base stations in their home:

  1. Access to a 3D Printer to make cases.
  2. Acquiring a supported ESP32 development board.
  3. Flashing the ESP32 development board with ESPresense.
  4. Configuring and deploying ESPresense Base Stations.

I am going to try and remove obstacles!

My experience with ESPresense has been so positive that I wanted to try and provide a shortcut around as many of these minor obstacles as I can for other Home Automation enthusiasts.

No 3D printer? No problem!

A few people have contacted me asking about how they can buy a 3D-printed case for their ESPresense Development boards. I encouraged them to see if there’s a 3D-printer at a nearby makerspace or library that they can use.

But that advice might not be very helpful. Learning the workflow of 3D printing and then successfully 3D printing requires an investment of time. Places that do on-demand 3D printing could be an option here, but they’re usually pretty expensive.

I figured I’d address this by designing my own case for the ESP32 D1 Mini and selling them on my Tindie Store.

Unit price for the ESP32 D1 Mini cases is $3.00 when ordering 5 or more.

This friction-fit case snaps together around the ESP32 D1 Mini. There are two holes in the case so that you can see the ESP32 D1 Mini’s LED and to access the reset button. There are seven different styles for both the top and bottom sides of the case: solid, horizontal bars, vertical bars, diagonal bars, ESP32, Bluetooth logo, and WiFi logo.

If you’re curious about another color of filament or a different style of case, just ask! If there’s enough demand, I’m happy to buy the filament or put in the effort to meet your needs.

Sourcing ESP32 Hardware and Flashing ESPresense

Let me start off by saying this: It is not difficult at all to flash ESPresense to an ESP32 development board! As part of writing my first ESPresense blog, I probably flashed and re-flashed different ESP32 development boards 20+ times as I tinkered with the project. I absolutely never ran into any difficulties.

That being said, I’ve bricked my fair share of different devices with seemingly innocuous firmware updates. I’ve also accidentally bought the wrong hardware for small electronics projects like ESPresense too. If you’re worried about buying the hardware and flashing it with ESPresense, then consider buying one of my ESPresense Base Stations. Each base station includes:

  • An ESP32 D1 Mini pre-flashed with the latest ESPresense release.
  • A 3D-printed ESP32 D1 Mini Case
  • A USB power adapter
  • A short Micro USB Data/Power Cable

Like I did with the ESP32 D1 Mini cases, I am selling the ESPresense Base Stations on Tindie. I am hopeful people will find some value in being able to skip having to be concerned about sourcing the hardware and flashing ESPresense on their own.

Unit price for the ESPresense Base Stations is $12.00 when ordering 5 or more.

What’s Next?

I’m pretty curious about branching out! In the home automation for the lights in my office, I have a separate motion sensor that I use to turn on the lights and my ESPresense node to keep the lights on until just after I leave the room.

There are empty pins on the ESP32 D1 Mini and ESPresense supports: PIR motion, radar motion, temperature, ambient light, weather, and weight sensors. For other rooms in my house, I’d love to add a motion sensor to my ESPresense Base Stations and combine those two functions into a single piece of hardware. It’d be especially fun if that meant I got to 3D-design a new case to accommodate additional sensor types.

Whether you wind up buying my ESPresense Base Station(s) or you decide to go ahead and do it yourself, I hope this blog encourages you to check out the incredible presence-detecting capabilities of Home Assistant and ESPresense.

What sort of home automation projects have you done using an ESP32? I’d love to hear other home automation problems that people have solved with their own ESP32 development boards. Or come join the #home-automation channel in the Butter, What?! Discord server and tell us all about them!

ESPresense: Easy Room Detection for Home Assistant

I recently installed a Wink Relay in my office and “hacked” it to work with Home Assistant. This completed one of my home automation goals: all of my office’s lighting and its ceiling fan are accessible to Home Assistant for automating tasks.

Ever since first installing up Home Assistant, I’ve been wanting to automate turning on my ceiling fan. I very easily threw together this Node-RED flow. On each update of the temperature from office’s Zooz 4-in-1 sensor, it will use the temperature to decide whether to turn the fan on or turn it off.

There’s a shortcoming with this flow, though. Turning on a fan doesn’t lower the temperature in the room, it only makes it feel cooler thanks to the evaporative effect of air moving over your skin. The only time this automation would be beneficial was if someone (me) was already in the room.

Room-Specific Presence Detection in Home Assistant

Thanks to the Home Assistant iOS App and the GPS features in my iPhone 12 Pro Max, my Home Assistant installation has a pretty good idea of when I’m home. For the longest time, I’ve used this as a condition to either turn the lights on or off inside my office.

But my phone doesn’t necessarily know what room I’m in. I don’t think the GPS is accurate enough, and I definitely don’t want to try and figure out the GPS coordinates for the boundaries of each of the rooms in my house. This is problematic, but even more problematic is the fact that my phone isn’t always near me. I routinely leave my phone in other rooms as I nomadically wander around my house during the day.

I was in need of an easier—and better—method to implement room-specific presence detection inside Home Assistant.

Enter ESPresense

Thanks to a reply to one of my tweets from @HolgBarath, I learned of the existence of the project, ESPresense. After it caught my attention, I took a look at the ESPresense website, the ESPresense GitHub repository, and watched a few videos on YouTube. I immediately knew that I wanted to give it a closer look.

What is ESPresense? On their website, they say it’s “An ESP32 based presence detection node for use with the Home Assistant mqtt_room component for localized device presence detection.”

ESPresense accomplishes its goal by providing an interface to easily flash their firmware onto an ESP32 development board, which enables the ESP32 board to monitor nearby Bluetooth low-energy devices. Scatter a few of those ESP32 devices across your house and set up the Bluetooth device(s) in Home Assistant you want to track and you’re ready to unlock the room presence achievement!

I have two Bluetooth devices that are pretty much attached to me all the time: my Apple Watch SE and my Medtronic 770G Insulin Pump. Of those two devices, I figured the watch was the better device to use ESPresense to track.

Brian implements ESPresense at home

I am relieved to report that setting up ESPresense was easy enough and well-documented enough that I don’t think there’s much need for this blog to turn into a how-to guide. The ESPresense install page has all the information you need to get started, including Everything Smart Home’s excellent video on ESPresense embedded in the page.

The software prerequisites for ESPresense are pretty straightforward. I already had my own functional Home Assistant installation, which includes a MQTT server. For the hardware, I decided that I’d use the following hardware to build my ESPresense base stations:

  1. D1 Mini NodeMCU ESP32 ESP-WROOM-32 Development board (5 pieces) ($34.99)
  2. UorMe 1A 5V Single Port USB Power Adapters (6 pieces) ($10.96)
  3. Spater 6” Micro USB Sync Cable (5 pieces) ($7.98)
  4. A 3D-printed ESP32 D1 Mini case:

Altogether, I wound up spending $60 and some time on my 3D printer to add Bluetooth tracking to 5 different rooms in my house. I definitely could’ve done it cheaper too. I didn’t really need all the USB power adapters or cables, as I probably have plenty of both stashed somewhere in the house.

Flashing ESPresense onto my ESP32 boards was a snap from their Install page. Their website allows you to flash the ESP32 with the latest version of ESPresense from right inside the browser and to open a serial terminal connection to the ESP32 after it is done flashing.

For the most part, everything went as smoothly as I expected from the documentation. I thought I’d share a few things that I encountered along the way that might have made it even smoother.

Bluetooth Chatter: I have a lot of Bluetooth devices in my office: my insulin pump, watch, phone, work laptop, personal laptop, smart speaker, etc.. Figuring out the Bluetooth details to create the sensor in Home Assistant wound up being a bit of a challenge. I used a couple different methods to try and sort that out.

  • MQTT Explorer, connected to my MQTT server on Home Assistant, and monitored the espresense\devices topic.
  • Took my laptop, watch, and an ESP32 board to a room with no BLE devices and used the ESPresense Terminal to determine the Bluetooth IDs
  • Bluetooth Scanner Apps were recommended a couple different places, and I expected them to be helpful. But I didn’t exactly find them to be especially useful—but everyone’s mileage may vary!

ESPresense’s very active development and automatic updates: By default, the auto-update feature is enabled on the ESPresense base station. It is also a very active project on GitHub. The combination of these two factors might occasionally work against you. On the day I was setting everything up for the first time, a release happened that caused my ESP32s to repeatedly crash and be quite unreliable. I wound up disabling the auto-update and using the ESPHome-Flasher to flash an earlier, more stable, version.

Each base station required calibration: This should be expected—especially in areas of the house where there were base stations near each other. I had to fine-tune each base station’s Maximum Distance to Report (in meters). It’s good to point out that this is an approximation based on the Bluetooth signals RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator). I ended up using Home Assistant’s developer tools to monitor the state and attributes of the sensor I created while I walked around each room.

When it was all said and done, I had ESPresense base stations in my office, the master bedroom, the living room, and our dining room.

What about that Ceiling Fan Automation?

Incorporating presence condition into the automation was a snap! I wound up adding a node to that flow to check which room ESPresense detected my watch was in. In order for the fan to get turned on in my office, two conditions would now need to be met: the temperature would need to be over 75 degrees and my watch would need to be nearest to the ESPresense base station in my office.

We had a rather warm day last week, and the automation worked great. I was working on writing this blog and noticed that the fan turned on. As the day progressed, I wandered in and out of my office to do other tasks. It was awesome to see that the ceiling fan was on when I was in the office—but off when I was somewhere else.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed implementing ESPresense enough that I went ahead and ordered another 5-pack of the D1 Mini ESP32 boards. I don’t necessarily need them, but I like the idea that we could have ESPresense base stations in every room in our house. Adding presence detection in Home Assistant for about $12 per room is a tremendous value!

Reliable room-based presence detection is going to open the door for creating better automation that hasn’t been available to me before:

  1. Motion detection and room presence to turn the lights on in my office, keep them on, and turn them off shortly after I leave the office.
  2. Create new automation to automatically turn off the lights in my office when it’s empty
  3. Using my iPhone’s charging status and room presence in the bedroom to deduce whether I’m in bed.
  4. Personalize automations for other members of the household.

I have enjoyed using ESPresense that I’ve already published a second blog about how much I like ESPresense. In this blog, I talk about my experience after using ESPresense for 3—4 monthsand I discuss listing two products on my Tindie store:

What other kinds of ideas am I overlooking? If you had presence detection enabled in your smart home, what kind of Bluetooth devices would you use for presence detection? What kind of tasks would you automate using presence detection? I’d love to hear what you think; share your ideas in the comments below!