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Perfect NAS for home

January 16th, 2015

I was looking for the NAS (network attached storage) already for a while. Thus, I read quite many different reviews including on  Smallnetbuilder website. My final decision was that I should not go for a NAS which would have less than 800MHz CPU and less than 258MB of memory.

Amazon had quite a good deal for D-Link DNS-320L, so I went for it because it matched my criterion. Smallnetbuilder has pretty nice review about this D-Link NAS, which you can find here. Right now, I have owned this D-Link DNS-320L for more that for one year. The performance with the orginal D-Link firmware was some kind average. It was a little bit sluggish sometimes 😉

Choosing Home NAS

Briefly about the hardware

My hardware version is marked as A3, however I could not find on-line what are the differences between different versions A1<->A2<->A3.

My D-Link DNS-320L NAS is powered by Marvel ARM cpu with 1MHz.

Here is the output of cat /proc/cpuinfo:

Processor : Feroceon 88FR131 rev 1 (v5l)
BogoMIPS : 999.42
Features : swp half thumb fastmult edsp
CPU implementer : 0x56
CPU architecture: 5TE
CPU variant : 0x2
CPU part : 0x131
CPU revision : 1
Hardware : Feroceon-KW
Revision : 0000
Serial : 0000000000000000

The command lscpu shows it as an armv5tel CPU:
Architecture: armv5tel
Byte Order: Little Endian
CPU(s): 1
On-line CPU(s) list: 0

and the memory 256MB:

cat /proc/meminfo:
MemTotal: 248416 kB
MemFree: 2688 kB
Buffers: 44388 kB
Cached: 154720 kB
SwapCached: 1480 kB
Active: 82308 kB
....

The initial setup

Before buying this unit, I came across some Linux project called Fonz Fun Plug (FFP), which allows installing Debian OS on the hard drive without modifying its firmware. It relies on the functionality of the NAS which allows to launch specifically called script from USB drive. I followed this guide to enable it on D-Link DNS-320L and ended up by using it for around one year. It works pretty well what’s related to all Debian commands, however its performance does not change from FFP.

Alternative D-Link DNS-320L firmware

Only few weeks ago, I found that an alternative firmware exist for this D-Link DNS-320L and other D-Link DNS series NAS devices. Some guys built it from scratch. (Which seemed pretty cool 😉 ) After going through comments on Sourceforge, I decided to go for it as well.

At the moment of writing this post, this firmware is still a realise candidate RC4.1, which means that it might contain some errors! (keep that in mind).

You will get the best performance if you let new firmware fully initialize and set-up the hard drive on the NAS. As part of that, different partitions will be created on the hard drive. That means that all data will be wiped on it.

For this setup as the hard drive, I chose the server grade hard drive. In my case, that was Western Digital WD2000F9YZ. Choosing higher grade hard drive will ensure its durability and readiness for 24/7 operations in NAS even with not so heavy duty cycle . From my perspective, it pays off to pay slightly higher price (normally ~30%) and not worry too much about the data recovery, which can be pretty expensive or at least time consuming 😉

Perfect NAS for home

New firmware installation process & set-up of hard drive

Basically, new firmware installation process is quite straight forward. First, you will have  to download the firmware from SourForge and start the firmare update as you would do normally with D-Link update.

Once the update of the firmware is finished, you will be able to connect to your D-Link NAS. In my case, chrome browser cached the old firmware home page and I could not use it to configure the NAS. So, I switched to Firefox and ‘Abracadabra’ wizard started 🙂

Set-up linux on D-Link DNS-320L

Take your time to read all suggested options before pressing ‘Abracadabra’ button. I like those guys attitude towards old tail story … or at least to the word ‘abracadabra’ 😀

Later on, you will be asked to create a user, share name and other options:

Linux on D-Link DNS-320L
Perfect NAS for HomeAt the end of the wizard, do not forget to do what you are remind it during the whole set-up (above screenshot) – to save settings to flash memory! If you will forget to do it’s not a big deal, however you will have to go through the wizard again after switching off and on the NAS.

I hope that you successfully finished the wizard & setup.

Basically, what is left – just to copy all your media to the NAS 😉

At the moment, this D-Link DNS-320L NAS is mounted on my Raspberry Pi as samba drive and it works really fast.

Results

This D-Link DNS-320L used to be quite sluggish, but after the firmware replacement it turned into completely different beast! It become a lot more responsive, browsing through the files is comparable to browsing on your local disk 🙂

It is really impressive how different firmware can change the NAS 😉