Build or Buy

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Now that you have decided you want an unRAID server, your next big decision is whether to buy one already built, or build one yourself. It's an important decision, with a number of advantages and disadvantages either way. Cost is roughly comparable either way, if you value your time at all. Here are some of the pros and cons of both choices.


What every server build needs

  • a specific selection of good reliable parts that are compatible with each other
  • some experience in how to assemble these parts, including motherboard installation, thermal paste application, and a number of other unique bits of knowledge
  • a few special tools
  • a few hours to select and order or locally purchase parts
  • a few hours to a day (for beginners) to assemble the system
  • a few more hours to fully check the system out and test the memory - once assembled, every system MUST be tested
  • ongoing hardware support


Buying a pre-built server

Advantages

  • Safety! If you are buying from a reputable source, then you can rely on getting a good and tested system, ready to use
  • Time! If you don't have the time, let someone else design and build and test your system
  • The system will be designed by someone who knows what they are doing
    • Someone who knows good and reliable components
    • Someone who knows what works well with unRAID
    • Someone who has selected components known to be fully compatible with each other
  • The system will be assembled by someone who knows what they are doing
    • They know how to avoid the usual beginner mistakes that first time builders often make
  • The system comes with a warranty!
    • A percentage of all components, whether you build them or buy them, will fail early. That is just the way it is. A good warranty makes it your vendor's headache, not yours. You still have to go through a return process, and time will be lost, but there should be no further expense
  • Support! If something goes wrong, and you don't have the computer experience yourself, then you want good technical support behind your purchase
  • No special tools to buy
  • Don't have to keep track of all the various little screws
  • Don't have to worry about static and thermal paste, etc
  • [work in progress]

Disadvantages

  • [work in progress]

Additional comments

  • For most users, buying it already assembled and tested is the better choice. Most users already have busy lives, and just want to add an unRAID server for saving and serving their files, and don't have the time or interest in learning more about the internal nuts and bolts of a computer system
  • However, keep in mind one fact, that unlike most desktop computers, you will probably be opening the case of your unRAID server relatively often to install drives and install and connect cables. Once you have installed a drive, you will understand first-hand that it is not much harder to install RAM, or a controller card, or even replace a power supply. And from there, it is only a little farther to install a CPU or motherboard.
  • While choice sounds great, if you are installing your server in a closet or some other out of the way spot, who cares what color the case is. And if your vendor is reputable and knowledgeable about unRAID, who cares about which power supply or CPU it has, so long as the system specs match your needs, and they stand behind their warranty of the quality of the system. If they say it works well, then do you care about the details of each component? If you do care ... then perhaps you should be building your own system!


Building your own server

Advantages

  • Personal satisfaction! It's a great feeling when your first build boots up successfully. You know that you can not only say to others that you know a lot about computers, but that you can build them too!
  • Control! You choose every part of the build. While your personal economics may limit some of your choices, it is still your decisions behind every choice
    • Many of us have personal preferences and sometimes strong opinions about certain components. For example, many have preferences about the quality or size or brand of power supply. Some have preferences about the CPU chosen. Many have preferences about the style and color of the case. When you build it yourself, you get to make those choices yourself
    • On the other hand, if a part proves to be a bad choice, there is no one else to blame!
  • Self support!
    • When you build your own system, you learn a lot about how computer systems and their components work, and you gain confidence that you can do much of your own support and repair. You know that often you won't have to wait for products to be shipped and returned, you can isolate the problem and repair or replace it yourself
  • [work in progress]

Disadvantages

  • [work in progress]