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Best Motherboard for NAS: 5 Top Picks for DIY Network Storage

Building your own network-attached storage, or NAS, device allows you to save money while fully customizing it to your needs and use case. And the motherboard you choose as the foundation for your DIY NAS will have a major impact on its capabilities and performance.

Picking the right motherboard involves more than just processor slot and form factor compatibility. Since NAS units are all about storage and networking, you need a model with robust features in those areas.

Here are the top things to consider when choosing a motherboard to use for your custom NAS build:

Key NAS Motherboard Features:

  • Number of SATA ports – More ports allow connecting more storage drives
  • Network connectivity – Gigabit ethernet at minimum, WiFi nice bonus
  • Expansion slots (PCIe, RAM) – For adding components later on
  • Form factor – Size constraints depending on case
  • CPU socket type – Must match your processor

In this guide, we’ll cover the 5 best motherboard options specifically for NAS usage and building network attached storage.

1. MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi – Best Overall

The MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi earns our top spot for being a very well-rounded NAS motherboard with great connectivity and expansion options.

Standout Features:

  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • Intel WiFi 6 + 2.5G LAN
  • 3 x M.2 slots, 4 x RAM slots

This ATX model from MSI supports current-gen Intel processors with an LGA 1200 CPU socket. It has four DIMM slots supporting up to 128GB of RAM for solid multitasking capabilities.

For storage, you get six SATA III ports with transfer speeds up to 6Gbps. Attaching six high-capacity HDDs or SSDs allows you to store a huge amount of data. There are also three M.2 slots if you want to add super fast NVMe drives.

The onboard 2.5GbE LAN port and Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless provide great wired and wireless connectivity. And you have room to drop in dedicated graphics or additional USB/networking cards thanks to three PCIe 3.0 x16 expansion slots.

Overall if you want a motherboard that can handle pretty much anything you throw at a home NAS while providing room to grow, the MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi is a superb choice.

Check Price on Amazon: MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi

2. Asus ROG Strix B450-F – Best Budget

The Asus ROG Strix B450-F gaming motherboard is our budget pick for delivering great NAS functionality without breaking the bank.

Standout Features:

  • 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • Gigabit LAN
  • 4 x RAM slots, PCIe 2.0 x16 slot

This Micro-ATX motherboard uses the AMD AM4 socket to support 2nd and 3rd gen Ryzen processors. You can utilize up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM across four DIMM slots clocked at up to 3466MHz.

It includes six SATA III ports for attaching numerous storage drives. Transfer speeds up to 6Gbps allow for smooth access of your data. There is also one M.2 slot available for adding a speedy NVMe SSD.

Networking capabilities come in the form of an onboard Realtek Gigabit LAN port. While not the fastest, it gets the job done for solid NAS connectivity. And you have room to install a dedicated graphics card or other expansion card thanks to a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot.

If you’re trying to save money on your custom NAS build while still ending up with excellent functionality, the Asus ROG Strix B450-F is a leading option.

Check Price on Amazon: Asus ROG Strix B450-F

3. Gigabyte X570 AORUS Elite – Best High-End

For those seeking ultimate performance and connectivity in a DIY NAS motherboard, the Gigabyte X570 AORUS Elite delivers.

Standout Features:

  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • PCIe 4.0, Triple M.2 slots
  • Aquantia 10GbE LAN + Intel GbE LAN
  • WiFi 6, BT 5.0

This high-end ATX board is built on the AMD X570 chipset. It works with 3rd gen Ryzen processors via an AM4 CPU socket. You also get four DDR4 RAM slots able to handle up to 128GB of memory clocked at blazing fast speeds.

Storage capabilities are expansive with eight SATA III ports for attaching numerous HDDs and SSDs. 10Gbps-capable USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports allow usage of external drives. There are also three ultra-fast PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots for NVMe SSDs.

Dual ethernet from Aquantia 10GbE and Intel Gigabit controllers offer incredible wired network speeds. Intel Wi-Fi 6 and BT 5.0 provide for speedy wireless connectivity as well.

If budget isn’t a concern and you want a powerhouse NAS motherboard decked out with the latest cutting-edge functionality, the Gigabyte X570 AORUS Elite is a stellar choice.

Check Price on Amazon: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Elite

4. ASRock Rack E3C246D2I – Best Mini ITX

The ASRock Rack E3C246D2I delivers excellent NAS performance while saving space with a compact Mini ITX form factor.

Standout Features:

  • 6 x SATA III ports
  • Dual Intel GbE LAN
  • IPMI remote management
  • Supports ECC RAM

Don’t let the small size of this motherboard fool you. It packs a punch in terms of storage and connectivity for top-notch NAS functionality.

It utilizes an LGA1151 socket compatible with Intel Xeon E3 processors. Four DIMM slots can handle up to 64GB of ECC RAM for enhanced stability and uptime. Six SATA III ports allow smooth access of multiple HDDs and SSDs.

Dual Intel i210AT Gigabit LAN ports provide great wired throughput and link aggregation capabilities. This board also comes with IPMI 2.0 for full remote server monitoring and control.

If you need to build a tiny but mighty NAS with full-sized performance, the space-saving ASRock Rack E3C246D2I motherboard fits the bill perfectly.

Check Price on Amazon: ASRock Rack E3C246D2I

5. ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe II – Most Expandable

For those looking to construct an extremely high-performance NAS with room for future expansion, the ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe II is the top choice.

Standout Features:

  • 10 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • U.2 port, triple M.2 slots
  • 8-Channel memory support
  • Multiple PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
  • Thunderbolt header

This EATX motherboard offers tons of flexibility for building a custom NAS. The LGA2066 socket supports high-end Intel Core X-Series processors for serious horsepower. You also get eight DIMM slots able to utilize a crazy 1TB of quad-channel RAM.

It comes with ten SATA III ports allowing connection of ten HDDs/SSDs simultaneously. A U.2 port and three M.2 slots provide for incredible expansion capabilities with the fastest NVMe drives.

There is also enormous potential for attaching additional components like sound cards, capture cards, RAID controllers etc. thanks to multiple PCIe 3.0 x16 expansion slots. And the onboard Thunderbolt header lets you add fast 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

If you think you may want to turn your NAS into the ultimate storage/networking/media processing beast down the road, the ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe II sets you up for limitless possibilities.

Check Price on Amazon: ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe II

How to Choose the Right Motherboard for Your NAS

Beyond picking from one of the top recommended NAS motherboards above, you can also go through the process of selecting the ideal model yourself based on your planned usage and setup considerations:

1. Determine Use Case and Performance Needs

Think about what you intend to do with your NAS and any applications you aim to run on it. Will it just be used for basic file serving and backups? Or do you plan to also host media center services, databases, web apps etc? More demanding workloads may call for a more powerful CPU and additional RAM.

2. Consider Physical Size Constraints

Make sure to get a motherboard form factor (ATX, Micro-ATX etc) that fits properly in your computer case and leaves room for all the other NAS components. Also account for stuff like CPU cooler clearance.

3. Mind Your Budget

Figure out how much money you’re able/willing to put into your custom NAS hardware. Motherboard costs vary hugely based on things like chipset, power delivery quality, onboard ports. Set realistic spending expectations.

4. Confirm Socket and RAM Support

Double check that the motherboard CPU socket lines up with the processor you intend to use. Also ensure it offers adequate DIMM slots and maximum RAM capacity for your needs.

5. Prioritize Storage and Networking Capabilities

Focus your search on motherboards with plentiful SATA ports and fast ethernet connectivity since those aspects are most vital for NAS usage. M.2 slots and WiFi are also nice bonuses to have.

Building Your NAS with the Chosen Motherboard

Once you’ve selected the ideal NAS motherboard model based on the above criteria, you can start collecting other components to fill out your system:

  • Processor (CPU) – Choose reliable model compatible with motherboard’s socket. No need for anything too powerful unless running demanding apps.
  • RAM – 16-32GB is good target for most NAS setups depending on multitasking needs.
  • Storage Drives – Mix of large HDDs for capacity + small SSDs for caching/metadata.
  • Power Supply – 650-850W unit normally sufficient depending on # of drives.
  • Case – Pick one fitting mobo form factor and with ample HDD bays.
  • OS – Linux-based options like FreeNAS or Ubuntu Server work great.

With all your hardware assembled, installing the operating system is straightforward. Linux distros like TrueNAS will do most of initial NAS configuration automatically. Some fine-tuning of network shares, users, symlinks etc may be needed depending on your environment.

Expanding and Upgrading Your DIY NAS Later On

A major advantage of rolling your own NAS rather than buying a off-the-shelf unit is future customization and upgrading. Here are some ways to improve your system over time by taking advantage of your motherboard‘s capabilities:

  • Add more RAM to support more simultaneous users as needs arise
  • Install supplemental SATA storage drives for increased capacity
  • Attach additional PCIe NVMe SSDs utilizing spare M.2 slots for extra speed
  • Pop in a dedicated RAID or 10GbE controller card for better drive or network performance
  • Switch out the processor for a faster model to better handle heavier workloads

Choosing the right foundation in a motherboard that offers ample expansion potential will ensure your DIY NAS can gracefully scale up to keep pace with your needs for years to come.

Bottom Line

Building your own NAS around a carefully chosen motherboard unlocks customization, upgradability and cost-savings that buying a pre-made unit just can‘t match.

Make smart decisions based on your use case and budget when selecting a primary component. Prioritize plentiful SATA ports and speedy networking specifically for ideal NAS performance. And pick a model allowing flexible expandability down the road.

We hope our rundown of the 5 best motherboard recommendations takes some of the guesswork out of commencing your own DIY NAS project. Just match our top picks here against your needs to identify the perfect starting point.