Idiot’s guide to installing Freenas

This is a multi-page document. Make sure you view all the pages.

Freenas is a popular free open source application for turning a low power PCs into a network attached storage device. The main advantage of Freenas is it’s free and runs on minimal hardware. The current hardware requirement for FreeNAS-i386-LiveCD- is:

A PC with a minimum of 192MB of RAM, a bootable CD-Rom Drive plus either:

  • A Floppy Disk (for configuration storage) and one or more Hard Drives (as storage)
  • A Bootable USB or CF drive (64MB minimum for Embedded platform, 128MB for Full platform)and one or more Hard Drives (as storage)
  • A Bootable Hard Drive and one or more Hard Drives (as storage)
  • A Bootable Hard Drive (which will be partitioned for FreeNAS and Data)

Or a virtual PC emulator such as VMware/QEMU, configured as above.

As with many open source projects, the documentation can either be lacking, outdated, or just plain non-existent. As of this writing, about half of the links in the setup and user guide of Freenas lead to blank pages. Even if you can find the docs, there is no sequential layout for a typical installation from start to finish. There may be section descriptions but you have no idea if you need that feature at all. So this is an attempt at providing some basic documentation for installing Freenas in a Windows environment. Even if you don’t use Windows, it will be enough to get your NAS box up and running and you can figure out how to connect your particular client share.

Method 1: Download and install for Live CD & then copy to usb key or cf card

  1. First step is to download the software from SourceForge. Do not automatically click the download button. If you are using any modern 64 bit cpu, choose the AMD64 Live CD version even if your cpu is an Intel 64bit cpu. For new installations by a novice, do not try to download and burn the smaller embedded img file. It’s much easier to use the larger iso file.

Method 2: Download the smaller embedded img file and write it to a usb key or cf card using Physdiskwrite

  1. You will first need to download and extract Physdiskwrite. There are two versions of this utility. A text version and a gui version.
  2. Download the smaller embedded AMD 64 img file from SourceForge.
  3. Use the gui version of Physdiskwrite to select the image file to burn or drag and drop the img file to Physdiskwrite.exe and specify the usb key to burn. Make sure you do not overwrite your main hard drive. The usb key will have a much lower cylinder count than your hard drive. This will create a bootable usb key if all goes right.