Wednesday, 9 February 2011

FreeNAS - first time setup

NAS means Network Attached Storage. It's an easy way to quickly add disk space to a network, without the need for installing a complicated, expensive server with a network operating system. Typically in the shops you can easily buy a NAS, a hard disk in a box that can be plugged into your network. It's like a simple self-contianed server.

FreeNAs is a free operating system that comes pre-configured with file sharing features. You can install FreeNAS on nearly any PC. Typically, if you have an older computer you no longer use, you could install FreeNAs on it, this is because FreeNAS doesn't need a high-spec computer. For more information on the specifications that FreeNAS can support visit the website

As an example I'm going to take you step-by-step through installing and configuring FreeNAS. We'll assume
this is a typical home network and the computer I'll use is an old IBM ThinkPad T42 with a 40GB hard disk
and 512MB RAM. At the time of writing FreeNAS 7 was the latest version, that's what I'll be using in this guide but the principals should be the same for later versions of FreeNAS too.

Download the latest ISO image from An ISO image is a single file that can be written to a CD to make a bootable CD to install FreeNAS. On the FreeNAS website there are two types of file you can download, either X86 or AMD64. For most computers, including the computer I have, the X86 image is the one to get.

Once you've downloaded it, insert a new CD-R 700MB disc. Burn the ISO to the disc, use your CD writing software to do this (CD Burner XP is excellent and free). Write "FreeNAS" on the CD.

Planning and Requirements
Before you install FreeNAS you should plan how you want to install and use it. Here are some considerations:

- When you install FreeNAS all files currently on the target computer will be destroyed. Before you begin, backup/copy any files from your target (old) computer to somewhere safe.

- The target computer cannot use WiFi to connect to your network (at least not initially). You will need a
working RJ-45 UTP LAN cable.

- You may need a USB flash drive, if it has any data on it, back it up first.

Why would a USB flash drive be useful? This is where FreeNAS is clever and where the planning comes in. It is possible to install the FreeNAS system files to a USB flash drive (even a small 256MB one!). The idea
of this is that you keep the operating system (system files) separate from the data. Your data could be stored exclusively on the hard disk drive of the computer. The advantage of this is that it is very easy to upgrade FreeNAS without endangering your data files. It makes upgrading your storage easy too. Let's say you start with a 40GB disk but later you want more space, you can add the extra space or easily replace it without having to worry about reinstalling the operating system (FreeNAS)!

It is also possible to install FreeNAS onto the hard disk or even run it from CD. My feeling is that installing to a USB flash drive is the most flexible approach and probably the most popular so that's what I'll focus on in this guide.

Insert the FreeNAS CD you created into your target computer.

Restart the computer, it should boot from the CD (if it doesn't, you'll have to enter the BIOS setup and change the boot order).

You'll see the 'Console setup' menu

Select 9 - Install/upgrade to hard drive/flash device, etc.

Insert a USB flash drive - FreeNAS will detect and mount it.

'FeeNAS installation' - select OK

'Choose installation media' - select acd0 (your CD/DVD drive) and OK

'Choose destination media'

ad0 38155MB (this is usually the hard disk, your MB size will vary)
da0 1828MB (this is your USB flash drive, the MB size will vary)

Select da0 (the USB flash drive) and OK

FreeNAS has been installed.
You can now remove the CDROM and reboot the PC.
Press Enter to continue.

Press Enter (as it says on screen)

Remove the CD (leave the USB flash drive plugged in).

'Install & Upgrade' - select Exit

Select Reboot

It will boot from the USB flash drive for the first time. If it does not, check in the computers BIOS setup that the USB flash drive is the first in the boot order.

Plug-in the RJ-45 LAN cable (if it's not already plugged in)

'Console setup' - select 2 - Set LAN IP address

'Do you want to use DHCP for this interface?' - select No (you could select yes if you wish but it's best to set a static IP address for your FreeNAS computer)

'Enter new LAN IPv4 address' - enter the IP address you want for your FreeNAS computer. For example, it should be on the same sub-net and with a unique IP address. If you are on a home network, this is what you can do to decide which IP address to use:

a) Go to your Windows PC
b) Click Start | Run
c) Type CMD [Enter]
d) Type IPCONFIG /all [Enter]
e) Where it says 'IP address' it'll read something like, that's the address of your Windows PC. The address you should enter for the FreeNAS should be the same but the last number should be different, like .250. For example, on your FreeNAS computer enter

'Enter new LAN subnet mask' - the default is 24, this should be correct in most cases, select OK

'Enter IPv4 default gateway' - enter your default gateway, typically your Router, the same IP address as before but ending in .1. Take a look on your Windows PC, the default gateway is listed on the IPCONFIG
information. In our example I will enter

'Enter DNS IPv4 address' - again you can find this in the IPCONFIG information from your Windows PC. Often this is the same as your default gateway. In my example my DNS address is

'Do you want to configure IPv6 for this interface?' - select No

Press Enter

The FreeNAS computer is ready!

Configure and Share
Go to your Windows PC

Start your browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc)

Enter the IP address of your FreeNAS (the 'LAN IPv4 address' you entered earlier)
Username: admin
Password: freenas

Disks | Management

Click Disks | Management

Click the + to add a disk

Select ad0 (ad0 is typically the first hard disk in your computer)

Description: DATA

Click Add

Click Apply changes

Click Disks | Format

Disk: ad0
File system: UFS
Volume label: 40GB (I used the label 40GB because my disk was 40GB in size, this doesn't matter, you can enter anything you like as a label)

Click Format disk

Click Disks | Mount Point

Click the + to add a mount point

Type: Disk
Disk: ad0
Partition type: GPT
Mount point name: DATA

Click Add

Click Apply changes

Click Services | CIFS/SMB

[X] Enable

[X] Enable Asynchronous I/O (AIO)

Click Save and restart

Services | CIFS/SMB | Shares

Click the Share tab

Click + to add a share

Name: files
Comment: FreeNAS

Path: click [...]
Click DATA

Click OK

Click [X] Enable recycle bin

Click Add

Click Apply changes

Click System | Reboot

The FreeNAS will restart - wait for the beep!

Once the FreeNAS computer has restarted, shut down and restart your Windows PC

Click Start

Click My Network Places

Click Entire Network (if you don't see it in the list, click Folders)

Click Microsoft Windows Network

Click Workgroup

Click FreeNAS

Click Files

You can use this just as you would any other drive.

The instructions above are just to set up a simple FreeNAS for sharing files on your LAN. However, I do hope this introduction to FreeNAS has been helpful. As you've probably seen, there are many options, many
ways you can configure your FreeNAS system, you can add users and control what access they have to
different files. FreeNAS is an excellent way to use an old computer you have or maybe to make a robust
file sharing server without having to buy expensive hardware.


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