Last Updated on September 15, 2021
If you are building a DIY network attached storage, then choosing the right motherboard is the first step.
A DIY NAS can end up being much cheaper as well as more powerful than a pre-built NAS station. The beauty of DIY NAS is that you can choose the amount of storage drives, the processor as well as the RAM, among other things, for your setup.
Whether you want to build a NAS for your home or for your office, there are a few things that most DIY experts take into consideration which we will review below.
In short, here we will look into the best motherboards for NAS and also into some tips and pointers that can help you with building your NAS.
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Comparison of Top Motherboard for NAS
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1. ASRock RACK C236 WSI – Mini ITX – 8 SATA Ports – Best Mini ITX Motherboard for NAS
A mini ITX motherboard with the highest number of SATA ports found on this form factor : 8 SATA Ports. Supports ECC RAM as well.
When it comes to a NAS setup, this motherboard most certainly stands apart from the rest.
While it is from a lesser known brand name, this motherboard offers exactly what a DIY NAS builder would look for.
It has a mini ITX form factor and offers a whopping 8 SATA 3 ports. This is the highest amount of SATA 3 ports that can be found on a mini ITX form factor.
Mini ITX is the smallest form factor for consumer grade PCw and hence it is highly sought after for compact NAS builds.
You can add upto 8 hard drives on this thanks to the 8 SATA ports.
As far as the processor support goes, it has an LGA 1151 socket with support for Intel Xeon E3-1200 V5/v6 processors.
While this is an older motherboard, there is none out there that can give a configuration as this.
Another important point to note is that while it has a maximum support for 32 GB of DDR 4 RAM with 2133 MHz Max, it supports both ECC and non-ECC RAM Types.
The common RAMs, as we know them, are known as non-ECC or non error correcting code memory. The ECC RAMs, on the other hand, are server grade, they are expensive AND they are much more stable. Therefore, while it is not a MUST to have an ECC memory here, it is still a great option to have.
All in all, if you are looking for the highest number of SATA ports on a mini-ITX build then this is the best motherboards for NAS.
Unfortunately, given that the fact that it is relatively old, it can be a bit hard to find.
2. Asus Prime B450M-A II – Cheap NAS Motherboard – AMD – 6 SATA Ports
An affordable micro ATX motherboard for an AMD build. Has 6 SATA ports which is a significant for the price tag.
Next we have a very affordable micro ATX board for an AMD build. Unlike the motherboard listed above, this does not have 8 SATA ports, however, it does costs significantly less.
This motherboard offers a total of 6 SATA ports. This is on the higher range of the SATA ports found in a motherboard with such a low price tag as it is not uncommon to find 4 or just 2 SATA ports in most cases.
In reality, 6 SATA ports at this price range turns out to give you a better overall value than the motherboard above.
Another great aspect of this motherboard, as compared to the previous, is that it has an AM4 socket.
The beauty about the AM4 socket is that it compatible with AMD CPUs from Ryzen 1st gen all the way to 5th gen (5000 series) CPUs.
Therefore, you can slap in any cheap Ryzen 3 processor from relatively newer generation on this for an effective budget NAS build.
The cherry on cake here is that this does offer more expansion capability than a mere mini ITX motherboard is that has more PCIe slots to expand on.
Therefore, you can choose to add more PCIe SATA expansion cards if needed in the future.
All in all, for a budget setup with a decent amount of SATA ports, this is the best motherboard for NAS in our opinion.
3. ASUS PRIME A520M-K – Budget Motherboard for AMD NAS Build – 4 SATA Ports
A Micro ATX budget motherboard with 4 SATA ports.
NAS motherboards do not have to be expensive, here we have one of the most recommended AMD motherboards for those on a budget.
This motherboard offers 4x SATA ports. This is not an over the top of number of SATA ports. However, it does have three expansion slots, i.e one standard x16 and two x1 slots capable of expanding the amount of SATA ports you can have on this.
The best part about this particular motherboard is that it features the newer AMD A520 chipset as well. This is superior to the older A320 chipset in a few ways:
Firstly, it comes ready with support for the newer AMD CPUs including the 5000 series CPUs. Therefore, you wouldn’t need to worry about updating the BIOS.
Secondly, the chipset based PCIe lanes powering the two x1 slots conform to PCIe v3.0. In the older A320, the chipset based PCIe lanes conformed to PCie v2.0.
Thirdly, the newer chipset features faster USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports as well.
Again, while this may only have 4 ports, the PCIe slots can allow you to add SATA expansion cards when needed.
All in all, for a budget AMD we highly recommend this for NAS.
4. Gigabyte A520I AC – Mini ITX NAS Motherboard – 4 SATA Ports – AM4
Mini ITX form factor is generally the golden factor of choice for NAS motherboards. Since they are compact, they can fit into smaller chassis for convenient network storage.
However, the Mini ITX motherboards tend to be expensive. They seem to charge a premium for their compact design.
Given the fact that they are small, they are a bit restricted in the amount of features they offer.
For instance, mini ITX motherboards, including this Gigabyte A520I AC, offers only a single PCIe x16 slot. You can use this for a power SATA RAID controller expansion card.
Additionally, most, with a few rare exception, only offer 4 SATA ports.
But if you really value a compact build, then a mini ITX motherboard such as this is highly recommended for a NAS build.
Like most mini ITX motherboards, this too comes with a built-in WiFi card. Hence you can actually build a compact wireless network storage with this.
I recommend that you use an AMD ‘G’ series CPUs with this as they have the integrated graphics cards required to power the video output ports on the back IO panel.
This way you would not have to sacrifice the x16 slot for the graphics card and instead use it for more SATA ports via expansion card.
5. ASRock X570 Pro4 – 8 SATA Ports – Recommended Micro ATX NAS Motherboard
If you don’t mind a larger ATX form factor, then you will find this to be of an excellent value.
ATX motherboards have a size of 12 x 9.6 inches as compared to 9.6 x 9.6 inches for micro ATX and 6.7 x 6.7 inches for mini ITX.
Therefore, you will require a somewhat larger chassis, however, you also get a lot more added functionality with a larger form factor.
For starters, it has 8 SATA ports. This is quite the significant number for building a decent sized NAS. You can add 8 hard drives to this board from the get go.
In addition to that it also offers 2 x M.2 SATA slots for NVMe SSDs.
Also, this motherboard features the premium X570 chipset. With this chipset, both the CPU as well as the chipset PCIe lanes conform to PCIe v4.0.
Meaning, you can add the latest gen 4 SSDs to this motherboard.
Being a larger motherboard, it also offers more PCIe expansion slots. It offers one PCIe x16 slot, one PCIe x16(x4) slot and two PCIe x1 slots all conforming to PCIe v4.0.
Hence you can have a robust NAS build with the expansion capability this motherboard offers. Additionally, it has 2 USB 3.2 Gen2 USB ports (Type A+C) as well as 10 USB 3.2 in case if you want to add external hard disks as well.
One very significant, and often overlooked, feature here is its amazing phase power design. A phase power design genrally entails the amount of Voltage Regulator Modules (VRM) used by a motherboard.
The higher the number, the more stable is voltage passing through the board and thus the less prone it is to damage or malfunctions.
It is essential for NAS to remain stable 24/7. A good phase design ensures that. This motherboard has a 10 Power Phase Design.
All in all, if you are okay with a larger form factor, then this is the best motherboard for NAS with its 8 SATA ports.
6. Gigabyte C246-WU4 – 10 SATA Ports – Best Motherboard for NAS Server
A server grade ATX motherboard with Intel C246 chipset, LGA 1151 socket ad 10 SATA ports.
This is a unique server grade motherboard in this list with an ATX form factor.
However, to be fair, it is still quite reasonable in terms of price if you compare it with ASRock RACK C236 WSI above. This is basically a NAS server motherboard given the sheer amount of SATA ports it has.
Despite offering so much, it is still quite reasonably priced. Of course, the downside here is that you will need a large chassis as well as a large area for your NAS storage.
The motherboard has a whopping 10 SATA ports. You can add 10 hard drives to this to make the ultimate DIY NAS for yourself.
However, since it features the older LGA1151 socket, you will need to look up for either Intel 8th or 9th gen CPUs for this processor. You can also pair this with an Intel Xeon E processor.
If you are serious about expanding your motherboard with some SATA PCIe Card to add even more Hard Drives to your NAS, you can do so with the plethora of PCIE expansion slots its offers.
It offers one PCIE X16 slot running at X16 bandwidth, one PCIE X16 slot running at X8 bandwidth and 2 PCIe X16 slots running at X4 each.
Hence the expandability you can perform here is huge.
For the ultimate DIY option, we recommend this to be the best motherboard for NAS. However, since it is expensive, it may not be suitable for average small setup that most DIY builders aim for.
This is a motherboard suitable for an enterprise grade NAS build.
Are Storage Controllers worth it?
Logic controllers such as this LSI Broadcom SAS 9300-8i can expand the amount of SATA ports you have significantly but are expensive.
Storage controllers are basically add in cards that you can attach onto your PCIe slot to expand the amount of SATA ports available to you on your motherboard.
Many find these to be an excellent alternative to getting a motherboard with a large amount of SATA ports built in.
With this strategy, you can simply get a very cheap motherboard and add these to the expansion slots.
There are two drawbacks to expansion cards however. For starters, they require a free PCIe slot with atleast X4 lanes in most cases and are also quite expensive.
A good storage controller capable of RAID such as the LSI Logic SAS 9207-8i can cost more than a motherboard itself.
On top of that, you will need to invest in separate SAS to SATA cables. A SAS cable can basically connect a PCIe Controller like the one above to 4 discrete SATA hard drives.
Therefore, the total cost of acquiring this controller plus the cables can get quite expensive for those on a budget.
Also Read: Best Motherboards with Integrated Graphics
What are People Looking For in NAS Mobo?
While the beauty of a DIY setup lies in the fact that you can make your ideas come true, there are still a few pointers that can get you started with sifting through the NAS motherboards if you are new to building them.
Higher SATA Port Counts
It goes without saying that SATA ports are single handidly the most important ports for NAS motherboards. The higher the number of SATA ports you have, the more hard drives you can fit into your NAS system.
Therefore, you can follow this notion as a rule of thumb that the higher the number of SATA ports the better.
A higher number of M.2 Slots also matter. NVME SSDs are FAST and data stored on a NVME SSD can be fetched multiple faster compared to a normal hard drive.
However, unless you have a huge budget to spare in procuring expensive NVME SSDs, the M.2 slots matter little for a media, home or an archival NAS system.
Mini ITX Form Factor – Great for NAS Motherboards
Many love the idea of their NAS builds to be as compact as possible. That is where the form factors matter.
A smaller form factor of a motherboard would mean that you can fit it into a small chassis.
The smallest form factor available for consumer grade use is the mini ITX. It has a dimension of 6.7 inches x 6.7 inches.
Therefore, the holy grail is to find a Mini ITX form factor with the highest possible SATA ports – this is actually quite a tough find.
Balance between SATA Counts and Price
Of course the number of SATA ports is not the only main consideration. You have to balance the cost of the overall build as well.
For example certain high end motherboards do feature upto 13 SATA ports. However, such motherboards are not just expensive themselves, but the processor they require is also significantly expensive.
As such, here it would be illogical to invest in such a premium setup as you would otherwise practically be able to build multiple smaller NAS storages for the price of a single setup with the premium motherboard and processor.
Not Processor Hungry – Particularly True for Home NAS Motherboard
A NAS setup is NOT really a processor hungry setup. However, in the end, it does depend upon what you want to accomplish.
If you plan to use the setup as workstation or perhaps build working VMs, then a faster processor may be best.
On the other hand, if you are going to use the NAS as a static storage space, then budget processors would do just fine. Many users are okay with suggesting low key processors i.e Pentium, Core i3 etc as ideal for most NAS.
The type of hardware that you get would depend a lot upon your use case. Do you want a home NAS motherboard or an business NAS motherboards?
Home NAS motherboard would obviously be cheaper with low key components installed. A server grade NAS motherboard would have more expensive components.
Here we looked at some of the best motherboards for NAS in our opinion while taking into consideration the most common pointers for a DIY setup.
All in all, your NAS system does not have to be expensive. It just depends upon what you want to accomplish on it. For basic NAS, any budget motherboard with an entry level processor would do just fine.