FreeNAS Setup Guide - How to Build Your Own NAS

Updated on January 15, 2018
skear profile image

Sam works as a Network Analyst for an algorithmic trading firm. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Information Technology from UMKC.

As the number of devices on my network continues to increase I've found that the need for centralized network storage continue to grow. Storage is a lot easier to manage and backup when it is all in one central location.

Instead of buying a network attached storage appliance I opted to build my own using FreeNAS and some old computer hardware, which I seem to have plenty of!

FreeNAS is a network storage operating system that is based on FreeBSD 8.0. FreeNAS has a lot of great features built in that make it easy to set up and manage.

Since it's completely free to use you can use the money you save to buy more hard drives for your NAS too!

Source

What is network attached storage?

A NAS is basically a computer connected to a network that is dedicated to data storage and file sharing. Most NAS systems use a stripped-down operating system optimized for security and reliabily.

Unlike a regular file server network storage systems are typically more like an appliance than a server. It's not unusual for a NAS to operate without a display , keyboard , or mouse.

FreeNAS Features

I like to use FreeNAS because it has lots of different features and can be customized for different environments. Best of all it's completely free and open source!

Below are some of the features that I consider to be the most useful ones. You can find a more a more comprehensive list of features on the FreeNAS website.

Web interface - After FreeNAS is installed all of the configuration can be managed through the web interface. There is no need to have a keyboard or monitor connected to the device.

Support for several protocols - FreeNAS has support for several different protocols including CIFS (Samba), FTP, TFTP, NFS, SSH and many others.

ZFS filesystem support - ZFS is a cutting edge fully open-source filesystem. ZFS includes several great features such as data integrity protection, automatic repair, and RAID-Z.

Remote monitoring - FreeNAS has several features that allow the system to be managed and monitored remotely. Syslog support allows the NAS logs to be forwarded to a remote system.

SNMP monitoring allows performance counters and other information to be remotely polled. Email alerts can also be configured to provide additional visibility of the systems status.

Hardware Requirements for FreeNAS

FreeNAS 8 is based on FreeBSD 8.2 so it supports the same hardware listed in the FreeBSD 8.2 compatibility list.

To build a high performance NAS using the ZFS filesystem you're going to need a computer with a 64-bit processor and at least 6GB of ram.

If you are building a simple home performance NAS you can use the UFS filesystem which has much less requirements.

Recommended Hardware

  • Processor - 2GHz or better Intel or AMD 64-Bit
  • Memory - 6GB Minimum for ZFS (1GB per Terabyte of storage)
  • Network - Gigabit PCI or PCIe adapter

For more details about the hardware requirements for FreeNAS 8 check out the hardware requirements page.

Installing FreeNAS

FreeNAS can be installed on a hard drive, memory card, or USB flash drive. I like to use a USB drive because it saves more room in the NAS for hard drives. The installation requires about 2.5GB of space so it will fit on most USB drives.

If you do install the software on a hard drive the drive must be dedicated to the operating system, this means you cannot use that drive for file storage.

To get started with the installation you will need to download the ISO file and burn it to a cd. If you are installing FreeNAS on a 32-bit system download the i386 file, if your system has a 64-bit processor use the amd64 iso file.

Running the Installer

After you have burned the ISO to a disc place it in to the machine and boot from it. Once the live cd has finished loading the installation wizard will run.

  1. At the first screen select option 1 (Install/Upgrade).
  2. Select the drive to install FreeNAS onto.
  3. Confirm your drive selection. The destination drive will be erased so be sure to select the correct drive.
  4. Reboot the system and remove the installation disc.

Installation Screenshots

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Select option 1 to begin the installation.Select the location to install FreeNAS.The destination drive will be erased to make sure  you select the correct one.After the installation is complete you can remove the CD and reboot the system.
Select option 1 to begin the installation.
Select option 1 to begin the installation.
Select the location to install FreeNAS.
Select the location to install FreeNAS.
The destination drive will be erased to make sure  you select the correct one.
The destination drive will be erased to make sure you select the correct one.
After the installation is complete you can remove the CD and reboot the system.
After the installation is complete you can remove the CD and reboot the system.

Configuring an IP Address

When FreeNAS finishes booting the console setup menu can be displayed. The first thing you should do at this point is assign an IP address for the system. Once an IP address has been assigned you can access the web user interface.

  1. Select option 1 from the console menu.
  2. Chose the interface you want to configure. There will only be one choice here unless your system has multiple network cards.
  3. Choose "no" when asked to delete the existing configuration.
  4. Select "no" again to disable DHCP.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
FreeNAS console setup menu.An IP address can be assigned from the console menu.
FreeNAS console setup menu.
FreeNAS console setup menu.
An IP address can be assigned from the console menu.
An IP address can be assigned from the console menu.

Accessing the Web Interface

After you have assigned an IP address you can connect to FreeNAS using the web gui. To connect just open up your web browser and type in the address you assigned to the NAS.

The default username and password for the web GUI is admin / freenas.

From within the web interface you can configure shares, enable or disable services, and access the reports and monitoring features.

Creating a New Volume

The first step in setting up a file share is to create a volume. A volume is made up of one or more physical disks.

  1. To create a new volume click on the storage tab then click the button labeled "Create Volume".
  2. Next, assign a name to the volume and select the member disks. If you are selecting more than one disk the raid options will become available.
  3. Select a filesystem type of ZFS or UFS. I always use ZFS unless I'm setting up FreeNAS on a system without much memory or a slower CPU. ZFS is a better filesystem but requires a more powerful computer to run it.
  4. Click on "Add Volume" to finish creating the volume. This process will erase any files already on the drive so be careful!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The first step in adding a file share is creating a volume, this can be done by clicking on the storage tab.Click "Create a volume", then select the physical disk to assign to the volume.Once the volume is successfully created it will be listed as an active volume.
The first step in adding a file share is creating a volume, this can be done by clicking on the storage tab.
The first step in adding a file share is creating a volume, this can be done by clicking on the storage tab.
Click "Create a volume", then select the physical disk to assign to the volume.
Click "Create a volume", then select the physical disk to assign to the volume.
Once the volume is successfully created it will be listed as an active volume.
Once the volume is successfully created it will be listed as an active volume.

Datasets

Volumes can be divided further into datasets, each dataset can have different quotas assigned to them.

Datasets also allow you to apply compression to a dataset without having to compress an entire volume.

I like to create a separate dataset for each share that I plan to create. For example I created individual datasets for videos, pictures, music, etc. This allows me to control access to the shares on a much more granular level.

Volumes can be divided into data sets with individual settings.
Volumes can be divided into data sets with individual settings.

Turning on Services

FreeNAS supports several different protocols that allow clients to access files on the NAS in many different ways.

By default all of the services are turned off, I recommend only turning on the services that you plan to use. This will preserve system resources and increase security as well.

To turn on services click on the services tab in the web gui and click on any service that you want to enable.

Individual services can be enabled or disabled through the services tab.
Individual services can be enabled or disabled through the services tab.

Setting Up Shares

After the services you're planning to run have been turned on you can begin adding shares. To set up a share click on the shares tab and then select either Apple, Unix, or Windows.

The share path can point to a volume or a dataset.

File shares for Windows, Unix , or Apple clients can be added on the shares tab.
File shares for Windows, Unix , or Apple clients can be added on the shares tab.

Learning More about FreeNAS

I've just started to scratch the surface of what you can do with FreeNAS.

As an open source platform FreeNAS has tons of features that you won't find in most commercial NAS products.

The FreeNAS documentation contains a lot of great information on how to configure various different services in sharing systems.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Sam Kear

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Dan 

        4 months ago

        Whenever I try to install on my flash drive, it says the device is not configured. Any help?

      • profile image

        Bob 

        6 months ago

        Resurrecting a post from seven years ago, giving the post a 2018 date with a UI from 2011?

      • ChadCrouch profile image

        Chad Crouch 

        2 years ago from South Africa

        Great article!

      • timtalkstech profile image

        timtalkstech 

        5 years ago

        Great hub showing how to setup your own NAS.

      • networmed profile image

        networmed 

        6 years ago from SPL

        You hub is such a good timing. I'll be setting up on one of my client's office.

      • profile image

        Exmedic113 

        6 years ago

        Solid...FreeNas is intuitive and rock solid reliable and enables repurposing unused hardware. Excellent Hub Skear!

      • usenetreviewz profile image

        usenetreviewz 

        6 years ago from Washington DC

        thanks for this article . would you have a recommendation about the best NAS program that would be compatible with Usenet apps such as SABNZBD, etc

      • Julz09 profile image

        Julz09 

        6 years ago

        excellent hub, free NAS is great to use.

      • skear profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Kear 

        6 years ago from Kansas City

        Here is a link to the roadmap for version 8.1 in case anyone else is interested.

        http://www.freenas.org/about/news/item/freenas-81-...

      • skear profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Kear 

        6 years ago from Kansas City

        @wegl

        Not yet, but both of those features are in the roadmap for version 8.1. At the rate updates are coming out I don't think we are too far away from seeing a release, it's in beta now.

      • profile image

        wegl 

        6 years ago

        iTunes and Torrent ??? DLNA ?

      • skear profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Kear 

        6 years ago from Kansas City

        Thanks Gazook! I think turning an old pc into a NAS is a great way to recycle hardware. A laptop would actually make a nice micro NAS. If you want to add additional storage you could hook up an external hard drive to the laptop via usb or esata.

      • gazook profile image

        Jesper Berg 

        6 years ago

        Excellent guide. Will try this on an old(ish) laptop that should easily be able to serve as a decent NAS minus zfs.

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