HowTo Install FreeNAS

Getting FreeNAS

FreeNAS is available as a free download from the FreeNAS SourceForge site. Download the latest ISO image file. Be aware that this is a 34 MB file so it may take some time if you are on dial-up.

For those of you not comfortable with burning an ISO, I have also created a self-burning ISO. Simply download, run, and follow the instructions. If it does not run properly, you can compare the MD5 checksums. I recommend using the freeware program MD5 Summer for this task.

Selecting and Preparing Your Hardware

If you are like me, hardware selection is a pretty easy. The FreeNAS system will be made from whatever I have lying around. Fortunately, this is usually good enough for FreeNAS since it’s hardware requirements are quite low. (For a detailed look at the FreeNAS hardware requirements, see FreeNAS System and Skill Requirements).

There are two very important task that you need to complete in order for your FreeNAS server to boot properly. If you do not, then you will not be able to successfully install and run FreeNAS the way it was intended. Both of these tasks need to be configured in the BIOS of your system. If you are not comfortable with editing your BIOS, please carefully check your motherboard manual for proper procedures. (There is a section about working with the BIOS in Installing Ubuntu Desktop Part 2. Look for Booting From The Ubuntu CD. )

The first thing that you need to do in the BIOS is make sure that the system is set to boot from CD. This is crucial because you install FreeNAS by booting the system from the CD-ROM. How to do this varies from BIOS to BIOS so you will need to consult your motherboard manual.

BIOS boot

The other task that you need to do is disable the halt on keyboard error setting. This is usually on the very first page of the BIOS settings. If you do not change this setting, your system may not come back up when it is rebooted and the BIOS does not detect a keyboard. Typically, you would see an error something like, “Keyboard not found. Press F1 to continue or F2 to enter setup.” (Yes, ironic, I know.) But, since the FreeNAS system will be a headless system, you will not see the error and it will just stop without starting up properly.

Making the Boot CD

In order to start the FreeNAS installation, you will need to create a boot CD from the ISO you downloaded earlier. For those of you who have never created a CD from an ISO, this may be a bit of a daunting task because not all CD burning software supports burning from an ISO image. The built in burning software that comes with Windows XP does not allow you to burn an ISO. I recommend using the wonderful freeware software package CDBurnerXP Pro.

If you are not comfortable with burning a software, I suggest you download my self-burning ISO and then simply follow the instructions.

Installing FreeNAS

Now that we have all of the preliminaries out of the way, we can begin installing FreeNAS. If you are new to FreeNAS and you would like to get an idea as to what to expect during the installation process, I would suggest you first watch my Installing FreeNAS video (14 MB). It’s not going to win any Oscars (in fact, it is almost entirely in black & white without any sound) but you can at least watch the boot process and see the options that I picked when I installed my system.

Your first task is to put the FreeNAS boot CD into the system and boot from the CD. This will take a couple of minutes depending on your system configuration. Once you get to the console setup screen, you will have nine options:

Console Menu

Since we are going to be creating a permanent system, you will want to select option 7) Install on HD/CF/USB Key. This will let you install the FreeNAS operating system on a hard drive (HD), compact flash card (CF), or a USB drive.

Just a side note. If you have a system that will support booting from a compact flash or USB drive, this is a cool way to “limit” access to your data. Say, for example, you wanted to only give access to this data to people on the network while you are at the office. All you need to do is install FreeNAS on a compact flash or USB drive and then store your data on the FreeNAS server as normal. When you go home for the day, simply shut down FreeNAS, take the CF or USB drive with you. It would take a lot more effort to access the data without the CF or USB drive.

Once you get the setup screen, you will have three options.
Install Options
Select option 2) Install on HD: Create 2 UFS partitions (FreeNAS and DATA).

You will now be prompted for two pieces of information, where you are installing from and where you are installing to.

This is where things tend to get a bit dicey for people who are not familiar with any other operating system other than Windows. FreeBSD names devices such as CD-ROM drives and hard drives completely differently. For example, in Windows, all drive devices are referred to by letter (e.g. D:). But in FreeBSD, they are referred to by device type and number (e.g. acd0).

Don’t let this rattle you. The FreeNAS developers have thought about this and provide you with some very good cues.

The first thing that you are asked is the name of your CD-ROM drive. They then list the detected CD-ROM drives. All you need to do is type the name of the drive that appears on the screen. In our example, this is acd0. One tip that I can give you is to only have one CD-ROM drive on the system. This way, you do not have to guess as to which drive you want to install FreeNAS from.

The next thing that you are prompted for is the name of the hard drive to install FreeNAS on. Just like with the CD-ROM selection, it will list all of the drives that are available. In our example, we are going to install FreeNAS on the first drive (ad0). This is typical for many operating systems to install the OS on the first drive. Simply type the drive name and press to start the installation.


Once the installation is complete, you can now remove the CD from the CD-ROM drive and reboot the system. This is important because if you do not, it may reboot from the CD and you will be no further ahead.

Getting FreeNAS on the Network

Upon rebooting FreeNAS, you will now need to connect it to our network. I like to work with the webUI as much as possible because it is the easiest way to perform tasks. Because of this, all I do to get FreeNAS on the network is get it to grab an IP address from DHCP. I can then connect to this IP address from a web browser and fine tune the configuration from there.

To configure the system for with DHCP, simply select option 2) Set LAN IP address from the console setup menu. When you are prompted whether or not you wish to use DHCP type y and press . The system may pause for a moment while it retrieves an IP address.

Once it retrieves that address, it will display it and a web address on the screen. Write down this web address as you will need it in the future to access your system. Press to return to the console setup screen.

You have now completed the installation and network connection on your FreeNAS server. This is where I typically shut down the server and prepare it to sit somewhere on my shelf out of the way. I remove the CD-ROM drive, monitor and keyboard. I then fire it back up and let it do its job!


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