Cheap and NASty - How to Build an Open Source FreeNAS Server



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Nice article oferall (grate pictures)

What I'd really liek to see in one of these NAS reviwews is what happens when things go wrong.  Specifically, I'd like to see how well the devices handle rebuilding the array after a drive fails.

I've read a bunch of reviews of various NAS appliances but none ever talk about the inevitable drive failure situation other than to say that "it's supported".

I also never see backing up NAS devices addressed.




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Is there any chance that you would be able to update the specs with currently available hardware?  I am mainly interested in the Motherboard and processor.  Not sure what makes one better choice for this application.



Great post, it is very informative and interesting, thanks for sharing....fobus



I was hopeful FreeNAS would be as advertised... and it is, almost.  I have three major problems however.  One was acceptable but the other two are going to make me spend $100 on WHS (probably).  I'm using an M6805 laptop and large (630GB) external USB HD.


1.  The external USB hard drive support is flaky.  Most of the folders and files in the root of the External HD share will dissapear often.  I'll try to play a song or movie from my library and it won't be there!  The external HD is formatted UMB.  The files return after a reboot of the FreeNAS PC.  I don't think the internal HD has the same issue from what I can tell.  However for my Laptop/External HD setup this is a showstopper.

2.  My XBOX 360 just will not play nicely with the UPnP media server.  I've messed with this for months now...  I have it setup with the name: "Mediashare: xbox" profile: "Microsoft XBOX 360" and transcoding is enabled.  The XBOX sees the media(if error 1 isnt in effect) but cannot play any music or videos.  This is also a showstopper.

3.  When the external HD was formatted with NTFS files became corrupted randomly.  This is a known issue and I tried to get around it by formatting the drive to UMB. 

I'd love to save the $100 bucks and keep FreeNAS if I can fix problems 1 and 2.  Any ideas?

I really love the web interface, utilities, integrated ftp/torrent/firefly, and price so it's too bad FreeNAS is unstable for me.  Alternatively I may try installing on an old PC with an internal HD and just live with the extra power usage...



It may be that either the on-board USB controler or the external USB drive isn't 100% compatible.  All of this stuff is supposed to work together, but reality is sometimes different.

Sometimes hardware is designed poorly and they put a work-around in the Windows driver but never publish the information so the open-source folks can fix their driver. 

Try a different manufacture's external USB drive.



Followed the instructions completely, I believe, but when I go to Explorer, find the server and the shared partition, and try to Map the drive, it tells me I don't have access.  I didn't do anything outside of what the article mentioned, only have one partition set up - any ideas?



I followed the instructions step-by-step also, and I can't map the drive for the very same reason; I don't have access.  What gives?

Was this ever addressed?  Would like to get this resolved; I even went to the FreeNAS forum and it's tough enough wording my problem properly in the SEARCH field without getting a ton of unrelated hits.  Help!



I read this article from page to page because I wanted to do exactly what it suggests; use old parts to create a home server.  This article gives instructions based on one HD and installing the FreeNAS OS on it.  I wanted a different setup.  I wanted to create RAID 5 with four 500 GB HD and install the OS on a thumb drive.  This setup instruction is not that, however between this article, site and some online forums I was able to piece together what I was looking for.  Mind you, it took the entire weekend and a lot of trial and error.

What I liked about this article is that it gave me a starting place and defined some settings that I would not have figured out on my own.  There was one catch took me some extra time to figure out.  I wanted to put access restrictions to the server.  The reason is I have an apt. attached to my house and provide the tenant internet access though my network.  It was not until I read about defining group access, which is I found at another forum site, before I was able to set this up.

I agree this article is limited in its approach but it got me in the right direction. 

I have my FreeNAS server up and running.  The OS system is installed on a 2 GB thumb drive and I have four 500 GB SATA HD running in RAID 5 mode (total available disk space 1,350 GB or there about, loose one HD capacity in making the RAID 5 configuration).  I have set up a group access, which requires a user name and PW to gain access to the server.  My PC OS system is Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit and I have no interface problems between the two system.

Now I can store my ripped movies, music, and photos here and gain access to them from any other PC in the house.  This makes it easy to watch movies on my big screen TV.  I hook up my LapTop to the HDMI port; connect to the FreeNAS server and WiFi stream the move to my Laptop/ TV.  It works and makes me happy.



I was wondering which File System you choose?  I really want to use NTFS...I know I would have to keep it defrag, which is no problem....but I just dont get why people are getting file corruption with NTFS?

On the WEB Interface...I understand the technology but they stated you can get access outside your Network your FreeNas.  You would have to get an additional IP from your ISP or just register your main IP coming from your ISP to some Free Domain Service







No, you really don't want to use NTFS under anything but Windows.  FreeBSD and Linux try to to work well with NTFS, but due to the propriatary nature of NTFS, developing drivers has proven very difficult.

Read-only support is pretty good, but I wouldn't trust read-write support. 



When I search for that motherboard on Newegg, I come across what seems to be an overkill mobo (not even my main system has that many USB ports). I was wondering if I substituted a few parts out?

I found this ASUS mobo (which will fit the suggested CPU): ASUS M4A785T-M (link)

It's a micro ATX board, which suits me better since I have an old micro case from an old HP. Also, I have the 250W PSU which came with that case which I never used. If I'm only running 1 drive (for now) will 250W be sufficient? If not, I'm upgrading my newer desktop with a better PSU and the server can have its old one.

Thanks for the guide, though. I'm really excited to have a media server which will also handle torrents overnight.




Your instructions leave a lot to be desired.  Followed them, and cannot mount anything other than the OS disc.  I am running 1 hard drive you said would be partitioned by FreeNAS.  The magazine article is similarly flawed.  Could you have average people test your instructions before you publish them?  This isn't the first time you guys leave out important details, or publish something flawed.



It's hard to tell what's missing from the article based on your comment, TafferBoy. Please note, though, that simply running the install (HDD & DATA & SWAP) thing from the install will set up your FreeNAS server correctly with an OS partition and a swap partition, and a partition for data, you have to go to the section Add a Data Disk on page 5 of this article and follow the instructions there.



This is great advise, and it seems like not a lot of expense to get a basic system up and running.

How would something like this compare as a website server compared to say server hosting from a traditional provider? Could it even be used as that or just as a home network?



What would be an even lower power CPU I could use? Would an Atom even be able to handle this software or streaming video? I really want to go small and VERY power savy. Suggestions?



Excellent article! When tuning FreeNAS you must remember, YMMV. One option may work for some and not work for others, that is how it is.


Content Chemist

Great article. Definitely gonna build one. But want to find out what you think about these minor upgrades:


(The 200 is a bit Darth Vaderish!)



Athlon II x2 Dual-core 250 ( 3.0ghz )





Also, as I add more drives how much of a larger PSU do I need? 650W?





I have been repairing an old machine of mine to play around with amahi. I have played around with it a little in a vm and it looks good but is a project that is more for people somewhat comfortable with terminal in linux. Also you need to configure its ip and network addresses online and then install it with the generated key. this method is a little clunky but the amahi project makes the server a dns and dhcp server and it makes an entry in its dns tables for a web interface that is used for configuration. An install comes with a free ddns subname (to get things from server from other networks). It also has an almost no-config vpn tunnel back to your home network. On the config pages you can install new server apps with web interfaces that require little config (username/password). I am sure this will become a very nice server system in the near future.



hello i currently have Openfiler for a nas which i love, but i'm trying FreeNAS in vm n i see theres the stream features that OPenfiler does not have. my questions is can i connect FreeNAS to my music DB on Openfiler thru some form of linux or even to a unc path. thanks



I'm in the market for NAS box. WHS or opensource.. I am curious if anybody has experience with this they have a wealth of plug-ins.

How does it compare aganist WHS and FREEnas?



Does FreeNAS support 64 bit operations, like using over 4GB ram and take advantage of 64bit processing?



Indeed 64 bit is supported. Download the AMD64 CD and you're good to go. I think the other poster means that FreeNAS will not require that much memory as the disk(s) are most likely faster than your network connection, thus caching data will not provide noticeable boosts in performance. Also note that the OS doesn't even use 100 MB of RAM itself.



Almost certainly not; you wouldn't want to waste that kind of hardware on a home server.

Hardware requirements in the server world just don't work the way
they do in the desktop world.  GUI's and their associated GUI applications are memory and CPU pigs, while
servers are sleek, optimized worker bees.  And, the
big commercial servers that have the heavy hitting hardware are doing a lot
more work and serving a lot more users then you can expect to find at home.

On the other hand, for more of a comercial grade NAS, look at OpenFiler.



I'd used WHS as my backup server since the OS was released. There were several things that I found a pain. One was that I always seemed to have problems with the Connector software. It seems llike every time I got it to work, MS would have a WHS update that required me to download and install new Connector software. Now, I'm not a newbie to computers but it seems like I had to spend a lot of time trying to get the new connector to recognize the WHS server again. The other problem was trying to uninstall a WHS version of an antivirus program. I was never able to successfully uninstall the program. I spent hours and it's still sitting on the hard disk. About a month before Windows 7 was released, I turned off WHS and as yet have not tried to download and install the connector on Windows 7.

A few weeks ago I ran across another article on FreeNAS and decided to give it a shot as I've tried PC-BSD and FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD. I did some research online and found some very good articles about installing and configuring FreeNAS. I had an extra computer sitting around and decided to install on it. One of the great things about FreeNAS is its small installation size - only about 78MB - and that it can be installed on a USB drive or a Compact Flash (CF) card. I found a CF/IDE adapter and a 2MB CF card (way overkill) at Fry Electronics. I set this up inside my computer and connected the adapter to the IDE drive connection on the motherboard.

FreeNAS had absolutely no problems recognizing and installing on the CF card. My two hard disks in the system are strictly data disks. The system boots fast; once booted, my understanding is that FreeNas runs on system memory so there's very little reason for the OS to further access the CF card after bootup.

I want to make it clear, I'm not a computer professional, just a home user that likes to build computers and play with different operating systems (though I still prefer Windows for my everyday use). With that said, I admit that FreeNAS has a larger learning curve than WHS (pretty automated setup and configuration from start to finish). It took me much more time to install FreeNAS but in the end, I learned a lot about mounting and configuring hard drives, setting up network connections, etc. There's a lot of great step-by-step articles on the web that walk you thru setup and configuration. I appreciate the flexibility and power offered by FreeNAS and, very important in this lousy economy), IT'S COMPLETELY FREE!  If you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty, you'll like FreeNAS. If you want a a home server where installation and configuration are mostly automated, stick with WHS.



Let me preface this with the fact that I am a huge fan of FreeNAS...

 For those of you who have messed around with Windows Server OSes, there is a bit of a warning.  There is currently a problem that has yet to be resolved with SMB (and WinBind) on FreeNAS.  After adding the NAS to the domain (which works pretty smoothly) you can add and remov files and folders just fine.  But changing permissions (and setting Owners) results in a dialog telling you, the Administrator of the whole forest (!!!!) that you don't have adequate permission to do that.

The problem appears to be with WinBind mapping the accounts and groups from Windows to Unix users and groups.  While you can preform some command line magic that results in FreeNAS showing you all of the users and groups, undoubtedly when you access the files or folders on the NAS drives, you are not quite recognized as any of those users or groups.  The only items in the permissions tab are Root and Wheel, and no others may enter...

If any of you readers have any ideas on how to fix it, it would make me eternally grateful.  Otherwise, the FreeNAS OS still kicks ass, just not so hard as Chuck Norris...




Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. - Terry Pratchett



Great article Nathan, very informative. I totally agree with the plus sides of having a centralized NAS server,
ease of administration, security and backups, plus you don't have to go to so many different places looking
for your data.

 I just wanted to add that folks who really want to try FreeNAS (of which I am great fan of),
can also try it without using any additional hardware just to get comfortable with.
They can download VMWare virtual appliance free from the VMWare site or build there own virtual machine
for FreeNAS. With such a small foot print that FreeNAS has, the performance hit in a virtual machine is
hardly noticible to a home user.

If you want, I have done two step by step articles on setting up FreeNAS as a virtual machine, you
can have a look at them at


 Any comments and feedback are most appreciated.



I do love WHS, but this looks good too.  I'll dig up some parts and make a box to test it out.

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