Zyxel NSA310 / NSA320 Hackable Network Access Storages Run Debian Linux

Yesterday, we saw how to make a NAS enclosure for the Cubieboard, but DesertF0x commented “Better take a NSA-310 or NSA-320. It is easy to install Debian and it has Gigabit!”, and I decided to have a look. The 2 devices appear to have been released at the end of 2011, and are powered by a Marvell ARMv5 compatible processor. Many NAS are expensive kits, but NSA310 (1 bay) is currently available for $88.50 and NSA320 (2 bays) for $95.34 on Amazon, which is just a little cheaper than the DIY Cubieboard NAS solution (~100 USD). Price looks attractive, now let’s have a look at some technical details, and instructions to install Debian.

Zyxel NSA310 (Left) and NSA320 (Right)
Zyxel NSA310 (Left) and NSA320 (Right)

Both NAS more or less share the same hardware specifications except for a few details:

  • Processor – Marvell Kirkwood 88f6281 ARMV5-TE compliant processor @ 1.2 GHz (Hardware datasheet)
  • System Memory – 256 MB (NAS310) or 512 MB (NAS320) DDR2 memory
  • Internal Flash – 128 MB NAND Flash
  • Hard drive interface – 1x or 2x 3.5″ SATA I/II hard disk interface supported
  • Ethernet – 1x 10/100/1000 Ethernet RJ-45 connector
  • USB – 2x or 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • One eSATA port (NSA310 only)
  • Buttons – Power button,Copy/Sync button and Reset button
  • Power consumption
    • NSA310 – Access mode: 16.3 watt / Wake-on-LAN mode: 0.24 watt
    • NSA320 – Access mode: 32.2 watt / Hard disk hibernation mode: 10 watt
  • Power
    • NSA310 – Input: 100 ~ 240 V AC,50/60Hz / Output: 12V DC; 2.5A
    • NSA320 – Input: 100 ~ 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz / Output: 19 V DC; 3.42 A
  • Dimensions – NSA310: 58 x 196 x 130 mm | NSA320: 108 x 205 x 147 mm
  • Weight – NSA310: 662 g | NSA320: 1,060g

Both NAS come with a power adapter, an Ethernet cable, a quick start guide, a support CD and a warranty card. NSA310 includes a stand. So specifications are much lower than Cubieboard with a processor equivalent to ARM9, less RAM and internal storage. However, they come with Gigabit Ethernet, and both devices support 2 hard drives and RAID 0/1 and JBOD. If you want to know details about NSA310 board, check pictures and see how the serial port is connected, check out that post.

TTL Debug Board Connected to NSA310
TTL Debug Board Connected to NSA310

The stock firmware supports several network protocol (CIFS/SMB, NFS, DHCP client, PPPoE), comes with several applications including a personal cloud (with Polkast support), a media server (DLNA 1.5, UPNP, iTunes..) and web servers (FTP, HTTP, RSS client and server), as well as lots of other features.

But if you want to have full control over your device instructions to install Debian Wheezy are detailed on a NAS Central forum post. That’s quite long so I won’t reproduce those here. There are however some known issues listed on github:

  • Samba crashes whole system
  • Ethernet leds don’t work @ 1gbit
  • All mtd blocks read as bad. The chip is somehow not supported by kernel.

The most critical may be SAMBA support crashing, but according to reports on NAS central forums, it may happen to all users, and this issue may have already been fixed (TBC).

NAS310 is part of mainline Linux (kirkwood-nsa310.dts), and at least in theory, you should be able to install the latest Linux kernel on NSA310, although I’m not quite sure of the port status.

If you want to go ahead, and give it a try, following the instructions to install Debian in NSA310 in the 25 minutes video below may help.

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