How do I upgrade a Synology NAS drive?

Synology NAS drives are terrifically versatile machines, but if yours is showing its age and you fancy one with a little more punch, today is your day. This guide will walk you through how to upgrade from an old Synology NAS drive to a new one.

And this is no academic exercise: we know it works, because it’s exactly what we did.

The good news? Upgrading a Synology NAS is rather a pain-free process. The software is intuitive and performs much of the work itself. So don’t tolerate the inadequate performance and features of an old model for a single day longer!

A Synology DS214play next to a Synology DS418

Why would I want to upgrade a Synology NAS?

The reason to upgrade a Synology NAS are as numerous as the tasks we ask of them. Perhaps you have a two-bay model and require more bays to upgrade the storage capacity.

Perhaps you need more speed. Newer Synology NAS drives have faster processors and more RAM that can efficiently transcode 4K media streams at 60fps without buffering. If your NAS acts as a fileserver in a small business, a more powerful Synology makes access more efficient and responsive whilst bringing options for collaboration.

Use the NAS selector tool to help you decide which Synology NAS would suit your requirements.

Upgrade with minimal reconfiguration

It is possible to upgrade to a new Synology NAS without losing the configuration settings. An efficient NAS setup is usually the result of many hours of tinkering and this is one of the reasons why people put off upgrading their NAS drives; who wants to repeat such a time-consuming procedure?

With some preparation, however, the upgrade process can be slick and pain-free. And if you follow our steps, you won’t need to fiddle around with much at all.

We’re going to follow a real-life upgrade from a 2-bay Synology DS214Play to a 4-bay Synology DS418. Let’s begin:

A Synology DS214play next to a Synology DS418

Step 1: Backup and preparation

A successful upgrade needs preparation as migrations can often have unforeseen results. It is possible that the upgrade will result in a 100% fully functional, carbon copy of the original. And perhaps yours will work out that way. However, we need to prepare for the probability that we’ll get the 1% version.

First step is a data backup. The upgrade process involves removing drives loaded with your precious files and one small slip, drop or electrostatic mishap could ruin your day. On the DS214Play, there is just over 3TB of data which is backed up to various places using the versatile Synology HyperBackup utility. For the migration, I’ve used HyperBackup to push everything onto a 4TB USB hard drive.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  USB backup

To save hours of configuration, export the Synology NAS settings to a configuration file. Bring up the DiskStation Manager (DSM) Control Panel then Update and Restore >>> Configuration Backup. Select Back up configuration and save the .dss configuration file somewhere safe on your computer.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Configuration Backup

According to Synology, the .dss contains the following information:

  • Users, groups and shared folders
  • Workgroup, domain and LDAP
  • File sharing (e.g. Windows File Service, Mac File Service, NFS Service, FTP, WebDAV, and rsync) and Backup Service
  • Others (e.g. User Home, Password Settings, Task Scheduler and Notifications)

If you use the NAS for a specific task such as webhosting, then it’s possible that the .dss file will not capture the settings for your application. Take the time to make notes and take a backup of critical data.

A mobile phone can help with the final bit of prep. Search for the DS Finder app in your app store – it’s available for Android and iOS.  Alternatively, visit http://find.synology.com/ and make a note of the IP address of the NAS.

DSFinder app on Android mobile.

Step 2: Hardware

Power down your existing NAS and swap the drives into the new unit.

Your new NAS may have different voltage requirements so use the new power supply (PSU). Position the new NAS and re-attach the Ethernet cabling and PSU then turn it on.

Although we’re upgrading to a 4-bay Synology NAS, it will continue to use the two drives from the DS214Plus leaving two empty slots for future upgrades. You don’t have to fill all the drive bays to upgrade.

DS418 with two empty bays.

Step 3: Wait

The NAS will beep and flash LEDs as tries to work out what you’ve done to it. It’s not unusual for this stage to take up to half an hour.

Step 4: Find the NAS.

Use either the DS Finder app (or http://find.synology.com/) to locate the NAS. In our example, the DS214Play used a static IP address but the DS418 has been assigned a dynamic IP via DHCP. We’ll use the new IP until the configuration is restored.

Step 5:  Migration

In our example, you can see that the Synology software has detected that a migration is required from a DS214play to a DS418. Press Migrate.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Migration

Two choices now appear. Selecting Migration will attempt to Keep my data and most of my settings. The word to note here is ‘most’. This is the reason for all the prep in Step 1. Press the Right Arrow and the DSM will begin to reconfigure. This process takes around ten minutes.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Select Installation type.

Step 6: Welcome to your new NAS

Your experience may differ slightly from our example at this point, but we’ll go through the most important aspects that require checking.

DS Finder (or http://find.synology.com/) may reveal that the NAS is still using a dynamic IP address (which may be correct for your setup) or your custom configuration may have returned. To modify, visit Control Panel >>> Network >>> Network Interface. If the IP is reserved via your router, then you’ll may need to modify this setting as the new NAS has a different MAC address.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Network settings

The migration should have identified all your installed Synology packages correctly, but some may require attention. Visit Package Center and press the orange Repair All button.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Package Repair

If you use QuickConnect to manage external access, you’ll need to re-enable and re-authorise as a QuickConnect ID can only associate with one Synology NAS. Go to Control Panel >>> QuickConnect to rectify.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  QuickConnect re-authorisation.

You’ll need to re-verify Push status messages via email, browser or SMS. Visit Control Panel >>> Notification >>> Push Service.

Check your user accounts. If you find that they haven’t been recreated, or other parts of your configuration are missing, go to Control Panel >>> Update & Restore >>> Restore Configuration and point it in the direction of the .dss configuration file that you saved in step one. You can choose to restore all the system configuration or make specific selections. Once completed, restart the NAS and the accounts will be restored.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Restore the configuration

Step 7: Test

This stage depends on exactly how you use your Synology NAS. As some package configurations don’t migrate across, some remedial work may be necessary using the settings harvested in Step 1.

You may need to log out then log back in to some mobile apps, but your usernames and passwords will remain the same.

If the Synology NAS is your media streamer then the content may need to be re-indexed before DLNA will function again. Visit Control Panel >>> Indexing Service >> Media Indexing and press the Re-Index button. This process can take some time so run it overnight.

Synology DSM Screenshot:  Media Re-indexing.

Finally, once you’re happy that everything is working correctly, save a new .dss configuration file to a secure location.

Welcome to your new Synology NAS.

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About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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