Scott Hanselman

Upgrading the Storage Pool, Drives, and File System in a Synology to Btrfs

October 15, 2020 Comment on this post [10] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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Making a 21TB Synology Storage PoolI recently moved my home NAS over from a Synology DS1511 that I got in May of 2011 to a DS1520 that just came out.

I have blogged about the joy of having a home server over these last nearly 10 years in a number of posts.

That migration to the new Synology is complete, and I used the existing 2TB Seagate drives from before. These were Seagate 2TB Barracudas which are quite affordable. They aren't NAS rated though, and I'm starting to generate a LOT of video since working from home. I've also recently setup Synology Active Backup on the machines in the house, so everyone's system is imaged weekly, plus I've got our G-Suite accounts backed up locally.

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I wanted to get reliable large drives that are also NAS-rated (vibration and duty cycle) and the sweet spot right for LARGE drives now is a 10TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drive. You can also get 4TB drives for under $100! I'm "running a business" here so I'm going to deduct these drives and make the investment so I got 4 drives. I could have also got two 18TBs, or three 12TBs to similar effect. These drives will be added to the pool and become a RAID'ed roughly 21TB.

My Synology was running the ext4 file system on Volume1, so the process to migrate two all new drives and an all new file system was very manual, but very possible:

  • Use a spare slot and add one drive.
    • I had a hot spare in my 5 drive NAS so I removed it to make a spare slot. At this point I have my 4x2TB and 1x10TB in slots.
  • Make a new Storage Pool on the one drive
  • Make a new Volume with the newer Btrfs file system to get snapshots, self-healing, and better mirroring.
  • Copy everything from Volume1 to Volume2.
    • I copied from my /volume1 to /volume2. I made all new shares that were "Videos2" and "Software2" with the intention to rename them to be the primaries later.
  • Remove Volume1 by removing a drive at a time until the Synology decides it's "failed" and can be totally forgotten.
    • As I removed a 2TB drive, I replace it with a 10TB and expanded the new Storage Pool and the Volume2. These expansions take time as there's a complete consistency check.
    • Repeat this step for each drive.
  • You can either leave a single drive as Volume1 and keep your Synology Applications on them, or you can
  • When I've removed the final Storage Pool (as seen in the pic below) and my apps are either reinstalled on Volume 2 or I've moved them, I renamed all my shares from "Software2" etc to Software, removing the appended "2."

The wholes process took a few days with checkpoints in between. Be ready to have a plan, go slow, and execute on that plan, checking in as the file system consistency checks itself.

Removing drives

To be clear, another way would have been to copy EVERYTHING off to a single external drive, torch the whole Synology install, install the new drives, and copy back to the new install. There would have been a momentary risk there, with the single external holding everything. It's up to you, depending on your definitions of "easy" and "hassle." My way was somewhat tedious, but relatively risk free. Net net - it worked. Consider what works for you before you do anything drastic. Make a LOT OF BACKUPS. Practice the Backup Rule of Three.

Note you CAN remove all but one drive from a Synology as the "OS" seems to be mirrored on each drive. However, your apps are almost always on /volume1/@apps

Some Synology devices have 10Gbs connectors, but the one I have has 4x1Gbs. Next, I'll Link Aggregate those 4 ports, and with a 10Gbps desktop network card be cable to at get 300-400MB/s disk access between my main Desktop and the NAS.

The Seagate drives have worked great so far. My only criticism is that the drives are somewhat louder (clickier) than their Western Digital counterparts. This isn't a problem as the NAS is in a closet, but I suspect I'd notice the sound if I had 4 or 5 drives going full speed with the NAS sitting on my desk.

Here are my other Synology posts:

Hope this helps!

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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October 18, 2020 22:29
Why didn't you put all the 2TB drives back in the old Synology and copy everything to the new one with all the new drives in it?
October 19, 2020 5:33
By moving the drives over, I kept the complete config exactly as is. If I ran two, as you said, that’s totally valid but I’d need to set up the second synology from scratch. As mentioned in the post, it really depends on how much config and existing stuff you have and your tolerance for setup. Both ways work!
October 19, 2020 6:15
How well does Plex's transcoding work on the 1520?

I've been looking at that exact model for downsizing my home server, but I'm not sure if Plex will run as smoothly. (And details about HW transcoding are all over the place)
October 19, 2020 15:14
<blockquote cite="Scott">but I’d need to set up the second synology from scratch</blockquote>

Ah ok, makes sense. I guess I'm more in the camp of "had it for 10 years, it's probably time for a fresh start to clear out all the cruft".
October 19, 2020 19:43
4 aggregated 1Gbps links are not the same as one 4Gbps link. I.e. to the best of my knowledge, you won't get 400MBps while transferring a single file. From what I recall, a single tcp connection is not multiplexed. What seems to be happening is that tcp connections get assigned to links based on some combination of src/dst ip addresses and port numbers.
October 19, 2020 21:56
"plus I've got our G-Suite accounts backed up locally." Any chance of you showing how this is setup?
October 22, 2020 15:11
Great tip. Thanks.
October 23, 2020 11:04
Hi there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?
I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having trouble finding one?
Thanks a lot! Frankrig trøje
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November 05, 2020 9:01
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.