How To: DIY Music Server Using FreeNAS, SlimNAS and an H-P T5700

Hardware Platform

The SqueezeCenter software will run adequately on just about any PC. FreeNAS also has trivially light hardware requirements. My choice of a hardware platform stems from something that I had conveniently at hand…a box of recycled H-P T5700 thin clients.

H-P T5700 Thin Client
H-T T5700 Thin Client

Thin clients are nice little boxes for embedded projects. The T5700s I have feature a 1 GHz Transmeta CPU, 256 MB RAM, several USB 1.1 ports, ethernet, VGA & audio capability. At first glance they seem more than adequate for hosting SqueezeCenter, given suitable storage arrangements. They are also completely fanless, dead silent, and consume very little power.

H-P T 5700 thin client with the side removed
H-P T 5700 thin client with the side removed

The T5700s come with an internal flash disk-on-module (DOM) on a 44-pin IDE connector. Thus the obvious choice for a storage strategy is to replace the flash module with a laptop style 2.5″ IDE hard drive.

The most appropriate deal I could find was a 250 GB, 5400 RPM Western Digital disk for $99. My music library is over 400 GB but I decided that I could keep a significant portion of the library on offline storage. Thus I only needed about 200 GB available for music.

While commercial NAS often feature RAID storage for my purposes I decided that this wasn’t necessary. As well as the original CDs I have all my music backed up onto portable hard drives so I feel that I’m adequately protected. Fault tolerance is simply not a requirement for my dedicated music NAS, so one 2.5″ disk was all I needed.

FreeNAS could easily be configured to support RAID 0, 1 or 5 given suitable storage media. Fitting multiple disks into the T5700 chassis might be a challenge. I’m reasonably certain that I could fit three drives into the expansion case, but mounting them sensibly might be tricky, as would be finding a 40-pin IDE cable with connectors for multiple drives.

T5700 expansion chassis (left) vs regular side (right)
H-P T5700 Expansion Case (left) vs Standard Side Cover (right)

The T5700 chassis is small. It’s possible to mount a laptop disk in the standard case, but I happened to have one of the optional expansion kits on-hand. These are intended to allow the addition of a PCI card, but also provide enough space for a couple of small disks. The metal portion of the expansion kit is perforated to provide extra cooling to the PCI card, or in my case the hard drive.

The expansion chassis also makes possible a second storage strategy. You could add a PCI card with USB 2.0 interfaces, then use externally attached drives. They might be 3.5″ desktop drives in a USB housing or 2.5″ drives in bus-powered USB cases

Be aware that the T5700 will not boot to a drive attached to a USB port on a PCI card. It will boot to the on-board USB ports, but these are USB 1.1 so not especially fast.

7 thoughts on “How To: DIY Music Server Using FreeNAS, SlimNAS and an H-P T5700”

  1. I can’t find a 40 pin IDE cable anywhere, and neither can I find a hard disk so…

    Are you sure you didn’t mean a 44 pin?
    If it was a 40 pin, can you give me the models of the HDD and IDE cable?

  2. Nice post.
    You have done a thorough job of explaining a step-by-step process to set up a combo that I had my eye on for some time now – I will definitely use it for a reference 🙂

  3. Great article. I just built a similar system using the VortexBox linux distro. It has more features then FreeNAS including auto CD ripping.

  4. Great article, I have purchased a T5700, an SATA->IDE converter and a SODIMM of 512MB. However I wonder what the recommended HDD is, since I read somewhere that the power of the IDE connection is quite limited. Any suggestions would be welcome (brand, type, size)!

    1. I’m reasonably certain that any 2.5″ IDE HD can be powered from the IDE connector. I’m not certain if a 2.5″ SATA HD requires a separate power connection. If it does then anything you can rig up will surely work. The power requirements of HD has been steadily declining as each new generation of HD comes along.

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