When my external HDD failed, I debated getting a network attached storage device (NAS) before realizing the price wasn’t worth it for me. I don’t have that much data, and really all I wanted was a way to automate backups and have a plex server that requires less power than my PC (so I could turn it off more often).

While I was looking around at options, I found I could do both of those things with a Raspberry Pi. I’d been wanting to get one for a while, but never had a good project to justify picking one up. I ordered a Raspberry Pi 3, a case with a fan and a power supply (that has a power switch), and a 32GB SD card. That is more storage than I need, but a 16GB card wasn’t much cheaper. I also picked up an 8 TB Seagate external hard drive.

While I think anyone can set this up, I will say that I have a decent working knowledge of Linux, which helped getting started and troubleshooting issues I ran into. If you aren’t very familiar with Linux and the terminal, you can still get all of this set up, but debugging issues and working through it all might be a little more difficult.

First, I would suggest setting up SSH on your pi so you don’t have to go back and forth between working on the pi and another machine: https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/ssh/ I’d also recommend setting it up with an ssh key so you don’t have to enter your PW every time you log in: https://www.thegeekstuff.com/2008/11/3-steps-to-perform-ssh-login-without-password-using-ssh-keygen-ssh-copy-id/

I didn’t do either of those at first and it became annoying switching back and forth between machines since I only have one keyboard/mouse/display set up. If you have a separate keyboard, mouse, and display for your Pi, it might not be as helpful right away, but I’d still recommend it.

My first step was to try to set up the NAS. I ran through this tutorial: https://www.howtogeek.com/139433/how-to-turn-a-raspberry-pi-into-a-low-power-network-storage-device/, but I hit a wall near the end. I think this was written for Windows 7 and I’m on Windows 10 where mapping a network drive looks different. I also think I may have skipped the last step of setting the samba PW for my user account, which may have been the bigger problem. Here are some notes about where I did things a little differently:

My external HDD had 4 partitions when I started the process and they automatically mounted, so I skipped the parts about mkdir /media/USBHDD1 and mount…USBHDD1

‘security = user’ was not already in the samba config file commented out so I just added it in the authentication section. For the section they tell you to add to the config file, I made four copies of that at the bottom of the file, one for each partition that I have.

For the last part of the tutorial about adding the network drives on my Windows PC I had to follow different directions and go to Windows Explorer -> This PC -> Map network drive (in the file menu) -> then in the file for folder enter ‘\raspberrypi', then I clicked ‘Browse’ which let me select the folder (I divided my external HDD into a few partitions). I was also to manually enter ‘\raspberrypi\nameOfFolder’ to get it to see a drive. I repeated that for each of my drive partitions.

One mistake I made was only setting up one of the partitions in fstab. This caused me some serious issues with permissions when trying to set up backups with rsync.

I’m in the process of automating my backups. When I finish testing my backup scripts, I’ll be sure to post about it.

To set my pi up as a plex server, I followed this tutorial: https://www.codedonut.com/raspberry-pi/raspberry-pi-plex-media-server/

The only problem I ran into was that I had to change permissions on the folder ‘/media/pi’ where it automounted my drives because Plex couldn’t access them. The permissions on the drive folders themselves were fine.

After that small adjustment, I was able to stream a 1080p movie with a bitrate ~10Mb/s over my local network without any trouble, but I tried streaming one closer to 25 Mb/s and the Pi definitely couldn’t handle it. I’m not sure where exactly the limit is, but that is something to note.

Finally, I wanted to test how resilient this set up is so I made sure I could restart while ssh’d and even shut down the pi.

To restart from command line: ‘sudo reboot’. This allowed me log back in after a couple of minutes.

To shutdown then start up the pi: ‘sudo halt’ on the command line. This shuts it down, but the red light stays on (and the fan, so the board is still getting power). I can then use the power button on the AC cable to shut off power, then press it again to turn it back on. When it comes back up, the NAS drives automount and I can see them on my PC and Plex is running.

One last thing I did, for security, was to create a user other than pi, give it sudo permissions (‘sudo usermod -a -G sudo USERNAME’), and give the ‘pi’ user a much more complicated password so it would be more difficult to hack. I saw one tutorial recommend deleting the pi user account, but I decided that was overkill. At the very least, you should change the default password of you default user if you are going to make the Pi visible on a network.