I revived an old Medion NAS with OpenWrt


(Update 2020-12-31) I wrote up the installation procedure on a project-page. Have a look if you are interested.

(Update 2021-08-29) I was notified that OpenWrt might lead to suboptimal NAS performance on some models of the Medion NAS. See comments section for details.

We have an old Medion NAS server from the German supermarket chain ALDI. There is no model-number on the device or anything, but from what I could reverse engineer it is most likely the model P89635 from the year 2012.

Our old Medion Life P89635

Old software = unusable device

The server served us well for some years but after only 3-4 years it started to fail on us. The issue was not the hardware, but the software: The Software that is installed on these NAS systems is an old version of some Zyxel Linux OS which only supports the Samba 1.0 protocol which was deactivated in recent versions of Windows and Linux. This meant that the drive could not be used from Windows anymore and only with tricks on Linux. Pretty inconvenient.

Normally one would fix this issue with a software update, but there are none. No upgrades. The software was stuck on version 1.01a (if I remember correctly) with the outdated Samba server. So I had to find another way to do patch the Samba server.

OpenWrt to the rescue

We ended up replacing the NAS with a custom-build NAS server, but the hardware was still lying in one of my cabinets. So, with COVID-19 raging and not much else to do, I checked whether it was possible to breath some new life into the old device. I found that OpenWrt references install instructions for the Medion model md86587 (Note: the instructions on that page refer to these and these instructions, specifically. Do not use the ones from the official page – they are outdated. This is accurate advice for 2020-12-19).

All in all, installing OpenWrt amounted to the most complicated Linux install that I ever did. It required disassembling the NAS, building a custom serial interface for interacting with the device’s bootloader, and setting up tools I never used before.

Mainboard of the Medion NAS Custom serial interface performing a 0-3.3V level shift to RS232 levels.

Even though the process way quite involved, it finished pretty smoothly. OpenWrt now is installed on the system, I was able to install and configure Samba, and now it can assume its old role again – maybe a nice little Christmas present?

I captured extensive documentation of my process. I intend to put it in some form of document for later reference. No promises, but if I do so, I will post it on this page.


6 responses to “I revived an old Medion NAS with OpenWrt”

  1. Hi,

    I followed your guide and now the transfer speeds are much lower.

    With the stock firmware I had an upload of 50mb/s and 85mb/s down and with openwrt I have a upload speed of 15 mb/s and 25mb/s down, no matter if I use samba4 or vsftpd .

    Did you have the same problem? Do you know of any way to solve it?

    • Hey Simon!

      Cool to hear that the guide helped you in some ways, thanks for the feedback 🙂

      Regarding your question: Wow, you had 50 MB/s and 85 MB/s transfer speeds with the stock-firmware? I only ever reached ~15 MB/s – we are talking megabytes, right, not megabits? With OpenWrt this dropped a bit for me as well. I tested it again today, it is at about 10 MB/s for me. I also checked a few options in samba to see if I can tune it but to no avail. My Medion is starved for CPU power. When copying full-throttle a single core is pinned to 100% and that seems to be the bottleneck. iostat -x 2 only shows ~35% disk utilization at those moments.

      Something that I saw and was not mentioned in the article is that I ultimately had to add a bit of swap space (on a USB dongle -.-) to prevent the server from crashing. It seems that samba is using quite extensive internal buffers that especially during reading can get quite big. Maybe only a problem for me because I installed a bunch of other software on my NAS as well to make it work as an offsite backup server.

      I cannot really give exact advice for your situation, because you seem to have a much more capable Medion on your hands than I have. Unlike what I did, I would use a simple file system like ext4 because that probably saves a few cpu cycles for the access to the disk. And then, if you installed the luci-app-samba4 you can check the services -> network shares -> (in lower part of the UI) “Edit template”-Tab of the OpenWrt web-management console. The config file itself suggests a few options you could try like “aio” options. On the first page under general settings you can also find the “Force synchronous I/O” options that might lead to a better performance?

      I was much more concerned with installing a VPN on the Medion NAS, and compared to before the performance seemed not too bad for my taste. I will put a disclaimer in the article to warn people that this might happen. If you find a solution, please feel free to post it as well. I can link it in so that people have the solution at hand if someone needs it.

      Hope you can solve the issue for your usecase. Enjoy your weekend and happy tinkering!

      Paul

  2. I am using for a few years this NAS with OpenWRT and just upgraded to v21 LuCi.
    Check the mount options for the drive.
    Without async option mine was also delivering poor results.
    (though 50 and 80MB/sec is kind of unbelievable, I never had such speeds.)

  3. Hey Zoltan,

    Thanks for commenting. I think this is valuable information. I will give that a try as well, for sure. I found that newer Samba servers have encryption enabled by default as well. However, my aging NAS only has little computation power to run those encryption algorithms. Luckily, it is possible disable these settings and I got a nice performance boost on mine as well. I hope to finally finish my backup settings for that thing at some point, then I can write another update on this blog post maybe!

  4. Why do you say this unit is unusable nowadays? I have been using mine for 10 years with no trouble at all except occasionally hanging up, so fixing it with just power cycling. I only stopped using it last week because the internal drive is failing. I tried to replace it with 4TB WD drive but it wouldn’t accept it. I found that max. size of internal drive is 2TB. I guess this shows its age; yet this limitation does not apply to drives attached to either of the USB ports. I am going to replace it with a budget-priced 2TB SSD and see what happens. Should at least have much less power consumption than the 3 1./2′ Seagate drive. When I saw it was a Seagate, i was surprised it lasted as long as it did.

  5. Hey freddydead!

    Sorry, I do not have time to answer on my blog in a timely fashion right now. I had really big problems with my NAS because the firmware that was installed on it only supported some older Samba-standard that was disabled at some point in WIndows 10 by default. I know that it can be re-enabled, but that was super annoying and also it just felt better to use an up-to-date
    OS to power the NAS. Those were the main issues I was facing.

    I also did not like the firmware they come with themself too much when it worked fine – but that is mainly subjective. (I think compared to a Synology-firmware it is pretty obvious why it is “not so nice”).

    Other than that, I really really like the hardware and formfactor of these NASes. That is why I went down the rabbit hole and reinstalled it with OpenWrt. The USB-port is super-duper handy as you mentioned already. I use it very often and wondering if I could use it as a printer-server for our USB-home printer as well. OpenWet offers a nice upgrade path for the future to allow the thing to do other things than “just being a NAS”.

    Btw – if you consider upgrading your storage, I would maybe even look into buying a SSD. I think that could be a great upgrade for the internal disk. The longevity of SSDs can pretty much not be beaten by spinny disks. And the speed-boost of even the “worse brands” out there is still a very nice-to-have.

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