Of course, you can always buy a preconfigured NAS. But where’s the fun in that? Building a custom Network Attached Storage allows upgradability. It allows for greater flexibility in terms of hardware. And there’s the satisfaction you get from setting up a diy rig, too.
One of the central components for a NAS build is going to be your case. A NAS case is a tiny niche compared to mainstream tower cases. But there is undoubtedly a market for them. In this article, we will round up four best NAS cases you can buy right now.
We’ll try to stay away from proper rackmounts (although, technically, we do have one on the list). You can also build a diy Network Attached Storage using a Raspberry Pi, but we’ll not consider Single Board Computer (SBC) systems. Ready? Let’s begin.
Best NAS Cases – The Roundup
Best Overall Consumer NAS Case – Fractal Design Node 804
- Up to mATX motherboards and 260 mm PSU
- Drive bays: 1 x External slimline ODD, 8x Internal 3.5″, 2x Internal 2.5″, 2x Internal 2.5″/3.5″
- Fans: 4x 120 mm @ front (1x 120 mm included), 4x 120/140 mm @ top, 1x 120/140 mm + 1x 120 mm @ rear (2x 120 mm included)
- Integrated fan controller
- Reasonable price
- Versatile configurations
- No hot-swap bays
- Space not optimized for NAS
The top entry on our list is not actually meant for a NAS per se. But Fractal Design has included enough features in the Node 804 to recommend building a home NAS with it. Since NAS cases are a niche market, one of the modern manufacturers putting out a chassis is good news. What seals the deal is its versatility, if you want to repurpose it for other builds and its price. At $110, it is light on your pocket.
The design of the Node 804 is based on the two-compartment cube design. It also competes with the Thermaltake Cores and the Corsair Carbide Air in that category. But it outshines them for a NAS build, with the ability to house 10 3.5″ drives. The hallmark Fractal attention-to-detail is present here, which sets it apart from the rest of our list. For beginners building their first NAS, this case is very forgiving.
Versatility is another big win for this case. In case you wanted a desktop piece to show off, the Node 804 delivers. One side panel has a transparent window, offering a view of the interior. There are plenty of fan mounts and dust filters for cooling. Fractal includes 3 fans and a controller with the package, which is appreciated.
Some downsides may be that not all the space is utilized as we’d like for a NAS build. But that’s the price you pay for versatility. Same case for the hot-swap bays.
Best Compact NAS Case – Silverstone CS280B
- Up to mDTX and mITX motherboards and 100 mm SFX PSU
- Drive bays: 8x 2.5″ External hot-swap, 2x 2.5″
- Fans: 2x 80 mm @ front
- 8 x 6Gb/s HDD Backplane
- Easy hot-swapping
- Compact size
- Not enough cooling for HDDs
- Clearance issue for GPUs
The Silverstone CS280B is based on their SG05 chassis but optimized for NAS/HTPC. This Mini ITX NAS case is a unique proposition. If you already have 3.5″ drives or are planning to, look elsewhere. The chassis manages to slim its size down to only 11.8 liters, falling into the Small Form Factor (SFF) segment. It has a reasonable price of $180, considering the cost of the hot-swap PCB and the miniature size.
The front door swings open with a camlock to give access to the 8 hot-swap bays. Each of these has its own camlock. The vents of the two front fans also open here, covered by a dust filter. These vents push cold air to the internals.
But for a Network Attached Storage, you want your cooling to be focused on your drives, especially if they’re HDDs. This is a small letdown. Be aware that premature failure is possible if you don’t get your thermals right.
Another downside is the fact that thicker GPUs will have clearance issues. If you’re going for an APU, this will not be an issue. Since the chassis is reused from another model, possibly even more size compression could have been performed.
As this is an ITX enclosure, space for routing cables will be limited. But aside from these nitpicks, for a compact ITX rig, this NAS case delivers.
Best Home Rackmount – Rosewill RSV-L4500 4U
- Up to E-ATX motherboards and 100 mm SFX PSU
- Drive bays: 15x 3.5″ Internal
- Fans: 3x 120 mm @ front (3 included), 3x 120 mm @ middle (3 included), 2x 80 mm @ rear (2 included)
- Front door with key lock
- Heavy and sturdy
- Excellent storage capability for the price
- Spacious interior
- Shitty included fans
- Sharp edges and rack rails don’t fit
Okay, we did say we’d steer away from server chassis. But if you’re going all out on storage drives, a rackmount is the way to go. The Rosewill RSV-L4500 4U is a server case that many users have built a home NAS on. If you don’t care that your home Network Attached Storage looks like something from a data server, this is a fantastic purchase at around $190.
There are hot-swap variations of this case available if you wanted that. Otherwise, the L4500 fits up to fifteen 3.5″ drives, which should be more than enough for any home user. You could even try buying multiple cases in the unlikely scenario you run out of drive bays.
But this is a weird chassis, in that it does not fit well into a rack shelf. This is because it is taller than it needs to be to install some E-ATX motherboards.
At first glance, the 8(!) fans Rosewill includes seem incredible. But there are old-school Molex fans, and you should simply dump them in the trash after unboxing. The stock fans are also unbearably loud. Unlike desktop cases, space is not optimized much, but there is ample depth to fit in components.
No cable management features are present, this being a rackmount.
Best Budget Mini ITX NAS Case – Bitfenix Phenom mini-ITX
- Up to mITX motherboards and 160 mm ATX PSU
- Drive bays: 6x 3.5″ Internal, 11x 2.5″ Internal
- Fans: 2x 120 mm or up to 230 mm @ front (1x 120 mm included), 1x 120/140 mm @ rear (1x 120 mm included), 2x 120 mm @ top
- Front door with key lock
- Cheap but good-looking
- Front vent needs modding
- Tight PSU fit
The Bitfenix Phenom is the cheapest on our list, and actually has one of the better aesthetics. What’s going on? After the popularity of the Prodigy, which was a case with a handle, this is another somewhat cubical chassis. Bitfenix has taken an SFF enclosure and crammed drive bays into it. At around $85, it is quite a steal for building a tiny home NAS.
This case is an ITX enclosure that barely supports six 3.5″ drives. But we consider it fit for a NAS build because it manages impressive support for 11 2.5″ drive bays too. The Phenom does this without sacrificing on GPU support, as up to 320 mm GPUs will fit.
This case is something you’d love to have on your desk, as unlike many NAS cases, it looks quite good. The matte finish and angular design may not keep up with the newest trends in mainstream tower case design. But the understated look is quite acceptable for most people.
Cooling support is well designed. You can even opt for a massive 200 or 230 mm fan at the front to keep the interior cool without generating much noise. The ODD bracket needs to be uninstalled for this config. What is not well-thought-out, however, is the PSU.
Although ATX power supplies are supported, they will be a tight fit. Another letdown is that the front vents are severely restricted. It is advisable to do a bit of DIY and cut more holes without damaging the chassis.
To buy a computer case suitable for a Network Attached Storage, you first need to consider the form factor you’re looking for. Depending on the number of drives and how long you plan to use the rig, you’ll want to consider cooling options thoroughly. As the drives are the focal point of your build, the one features you will be most concerned about are the drive bays.
What size and motherboard form factor is ideal for a NAS case is a diverse topic. On the one hand, a simple build unconcerned about graphics and peak performance will not make use of larger motherboards’ features. On the other hand, smaller motherboards may not have enough SATA ports, and often cost a lot more than say, ATX ones.
- mini-ITX is a common choice for smaller builds, especially ones also meant to be on display. Gaming ITX motherboards can and do have a premium price. There are some cheap ITX boards out there, but finding one with more than 4 SATA ports may be challenging.
- mATX and ATX motherboards will be larger but may come in cheap. They also often increase the number of available SATA ports. If your case has enough space and you are adding many drives, then these may be a better choice.
- We don’t really recommend other form factors for a Network Attached Storage. Sure, you can go for an E-ATX motherboard, but that will be overkill.
The size of your case is similarly variable. Larger cases will have more options for drives and cooling. Smaller cases will be easier to maintain and even carry around.
- Traditional towers may not be the best purchase here. They are optimized for gaming or content creation most often, and mid-towers rarely have more than 3/4 drive bays. Giant towers may support more, yet space is often prioritized for multiple GPUs and cooling.
- Many cube cases are designed keeping NAS and HTPC builds in mind. Some cube cases are also designed for portability, e.g., shipping with handles, so not every single cube case is fit for a NAS.
- Rackmount cases are often meant for industrial-grade servers. They are measured in rack units (U), which specifies their height (as in 1U, 2U, 4U). Some rackmount cases are quite cheap and offer a massive number of drive bays.
Do you need a graphics card?
Depends on what your build is for. If you also plan on using this build as a backup gaming system, then yes. Some media servers also support hardware acceleration (i.e., using GPU) during transcoding.
But aside from these two scenarios, you don’t need a GPU. A discrete card will only add more power consumption, noise, and heat to your system. It will also take up valuable PCIe slots and space on your rig.
Due to this reason, decide early if you want a GPU or not. A standard option may be to choose an APU, such as the AMD Ryzen 3200G, with integrated graphics. This allows you to have the best of both worlds.
Some cases on our list simply do not have space for a large GPU. If you simply must have a graphics card, maybe look at full-towers such as the Phanteks Enthoo 719 that support ludicrous numbers of drives. But then you’re moving away from Network Attached Storage and into gaming systems.
Keeping your build cool is still a priority in a NAS rig. But how you do it may be a little different than usual.
We would advise against a water-cooled build. Your rig should never be pushing out really high-temperatures unless something is wrong. Water cooling will also be more complex and involved, for no apparently useful reason. Most NAS servers are not built for aesthetics, so the advantages of water cooling are overlooked.
Do go for an air-cooled build. While passive cooling might also be an option, that increases the risk of premature failure of your drives. Throw in a couple of quality fans and maybe a CPU cooler, and you should be good to go.
Unlike mainstream builds, focus on maintaining steady airflow to your drives, which are likely to be mechanical ones. If you’re going for an all-SSD build, these drives do not need to be cooled.
Drive Bays and Hot-Swapping
The primary feature to look out for is drive bays for sure. You’ll want at the very least six or more drive bays, preferably 3.5″ ones. Once again, going for an all-SSD build will be different. That is a costly endeavor, but you can manage to minimize space to an extreme that way.
More often than not, the bulk of your storage will be 3.5″ hard drives spinning away. Be sure to look at hard drive specifications for NAS usage – Seagate Ironwolf and WD Reds are standard choices.
Increasingly, there are 2.5″ hard drives available, which changes the scene a bit. These can run hot and offer smaller storage than their larger counterparts. But the reduction in size is a definite advantage.
A feature that some NAS cases have is hot-swapping. The term means that you can take out and reinstall your drives, while the system itself is running. Again, whether this feature will appeal to you depends on your usage. If you need your home server up 24×7, then this may be an excellent thing to have.
Otherwise, it will only add to the cost, and turning off your system may not be a difficult job. As the number of disks you have increases, hot-swapping becomes more and more useful. Once you go over, say 8 disks, consider hot-swap drive bays.