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Safest way to transport a FreeNAS machine

akalin

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 12, 2017
Messages
14
So I have a custom FreeNAS machine (Fractal 804 case, SuperMicro X11SSL-CF, 6 WD Red HDs, more details) that's been working quite well for a number of years, but now it's time for me to move across the country. What's the best way to ensure that my NAS will survive the move?

I've kept the original box for the case, so I at least have something I can put it in, but the main question for me is whether or not to pull out the HDs to take with me on the plane to my destination (the machine itself, and everything else, will be on a truck).

Pros of taking the HDs with me:
- I can wrap them up and take care while handling them (they'll stay in my carry-on)
- If somehow the machine itself gets lost, I can recreate it.

Cons:
- I might mess something up when pulling them out or putting them back (wrong order, etc.?), leading to data loss.
- Might arouse suspicion at the airport?

The only other option I can think of would be to put some packing material in the case itself and hope for the best.

Has anyone else ever done something like this? Also, any other important things to do that I'm missing?

(Of course, I have backups for my important data, and I'll be backing up my config separately as well.)
 

Alecmascot

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2014
Messages
375
The physical drive order is not important.
If the drives are securely mounted in the chassis then they will be fine.
You could pull the drives and package them separately and ship with the chassis.
 

Samuel Tai

Never underestimate your own stupidity
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2020
Messages
1,304

jgreco

Resident Grinch
Moderator
Joined
May 29, 2011
Messages
12,390
Just throw the thing in the back of the pickup and try to hit all the potholes. ;-)

I do not suggest keeping the drives in the chassis. Best survivability for HDD is when they are individually ESD-bagged and then wrapped in bubble wrap. I do not normally see drives failed when packed separately. I've seen lots of failures when people ship gear with the drives in the chassis.
 

Patrick M. Hausen

Neophyte Sage
Joined
Nov 25, 2013
Messages
1,481
Seconded. Plus, removing the drives removes quite a bit of mass and, hence, inertia - think of the force working on the components should you need to take a sharp break. Your NAS is not one homogenous block of matter ;)
 

jgreco

Resident Grinch
Moderator
Joined
May 29, 2011
Messages
12,390
Yeah sorry I kinda wrote a terse reply, I kinda started out meaning to write what @Patrick M. Hausen did. He's exactly right.

Years ago, I watched idiots load a full rack's worth of disks, 8 shelves of 9 each 72GB Seagate ST173404LWV's, purchased at a cost of $1118 per drive, into the back of a U-Haul, just layin' them on the bed, and they proceeded to drive (maybe "bounce" is a better word) them to another state some hundreds of miles away.

The ST173404LW's were legendarily sensitive to even minor mishandling. Anyways they got back to Kalamazoo with their $90,000 5.2TB HDD array, and found that something like a quarter of the drives had died, and another quarter had significant problems. And since we had used full-height (1.6" high) 3.5" drives, there had been no good way to tray them without buying some vendor's extremely expensive storage shelves. So instead we had built them into Kingston 4U shelves and this was GREAT because the airflow was GREAT without all the tray hardware.

It had long since stopped being my problem, but the K-crew tried to say that they got them in that condition, because, well, of course, no one wanted to be the one responsible for $50K damage.

This is, ironically, the very array that had caused me to write the solnet-array-test tool that is popular here on these forums, and I had records showing that the whole array had been in good condition.

This whole thing bothered me. I reviewed a similar array with 50GB drives (ST150176LW). These are massive 1.6" high 3.5" drives that are quite heavy. The mounting had used typical 5.25-to-3.5 mounting hardware. For you post-optical-5.25 kids these looked like:
0316762_281436.jpg
Heavy sheet steel bent and punched, and it seemed solid. However, upon review, it turns out that what they had ordered and assembled the 73GB arrays with were the cheapest 5.25-to-3.5 brackets they could find, because they had ordered 100 sets, and bought from Cheapest Taiwan Import Co., and they were definitely weedy. I could twist-flex the things in my hands.

So. I will never know for sure, but my best theory is that there was enough give and play in the mounting that these drives may have been not only getting physically shocked in the manner Patrick suggests, but that they might also have been knocking against each other laterally, because they were only separated by maybe one or two millimeters, and the drives are massively heavy, and the mounting brackets were flex-y. This story had no happy ending, because they had to RMA lots of drives, and you had to shut down the shelf to remove a drive because ... no trays.

Wasn't a problem up until the drives were physically abused.

I hope that this convinces you to take the extra precautions. Your drives maybe didn't cost $1100/each, but the data may be of significant value, and replacing stuff is a pain. Get ESD bags, used are fine, and bag the drives. Desiccant packs are not a bad idea especially if you will be encountering temperature fluctuations. Wrap liberally in bubble wrap, and pack them in a box in such a way that they cannot shift or move.
 

danb35

Wizened Sage
Joined
Aug 16, 2011
Messages
11,327
I've had success pulling the HDDs from the server, and layering them in a laundry basket with a quilt for a drive down the highway--a couple of hurricane evacuations under my belt so far. Left the server itself behind though.
 
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