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FreeNAS Setup Part 1 – Installation and Initial Configuration

Quick and Easy FreeNAS Tutorial

As you’ve read our articles, you may have noticed that we are big fans of network-attached storage servers, or NAS for short. We cannot rave enough about the benefits of having a storage server at home. In addition to being a repository for files, a NAS can stream music and video to iTunes and DLNA devices, backup your computers, act as an FTP and Webserver, perform BitTorrent client duties, and many other things.

freenas logoWith so many different options out there from prebuilt NAS servers to NAS-specific operating systems it can be a bit overwhelming with what to choose. With the economy the way it is, we know that not everyone can spend $300 to $1,000 for a prebuilt unit, or even $100 just for the excellent NAS operating system Windows Home Server. Enter FreeNAS. Just as its name implies, it is a free, open source NAS operating system. FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD, a variant of UNIX, but don’t let that scare you off. The developers of FreeNAS have done a great job of making the installation and configuration process as simple as possible. To make life even easier for you, we have written a step-by-step tutorial on how to setup your very own FreeNAS server as quick and painless as possible!

FreeNAS can be built on the most modest hardware. Any old computer with an Intel Pentium 3, 192MB of RAM, and about 256MB of storage space for the operating system would suffice. You can find the official minimum requirements here and the downloadable install files here! Feel free to also check out this example of a FreeNAS server I built for my Home Theater.

In our example below, we used VMWare Server (a free download) to build a virtual system. This made taking screenshots a lot easier, but the instructions below would not be any different for building a physical machine. There may be some variants depending on your hardware and network setup, so please feel free to note your issue in the ‘Comments’ box and we will be glad to try to help!

Part I: Installation and Initial Setup

1. Select option ‘1. Boot [default]’


2. First thing we need to do is install FreeNAS to your storage device.

a. The operating itself is very light. It can be installed on a hard drive, USB Flash Drive, or other forms of flash media. . The ‘embedded’ version of FreeNAS requires only 64MB, while the ‘full version’ needs 128MB of space.  It can also be run from the CD-ROM, though all changes will be lost once the system is rebooted.

3. In the ‘Console setup’ menu, select ‘9) Install/Upgrade to hard drive/flash device, etc..


4. This will take you thru the installation of the application. In the menu, you are presented with several choices. For simplicity sake, I chose to install ‘Embedded’ instead of ‘Full’.

a. (optional information) Here are some key points about ‘Embedded’

i. FreeNAS was designed as an embedded operating system, not dissimilar one you would find on router, ATM, access point, and etc. This tends to make it easier to support

ii. The operating itself can be upgraded via the Web interface, without the need for a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and CD-ROM

iii. Instead of having to back up the whole partition where the operating system is installed, all you need to backup is one configuration file called config.xml. (This makes recovery a whole lot easier!)

iv. The embedded version runs from a RAM disk, which is loaded from files on the disk. Whenever the system is rebooted you have a fresh system. Because the system is loaded on a RAM disk, your total RAM capacity is reduced by the size of your installation


5. Click on ‘1 Install ‘embedded’ OS on HDD/Flash/USB’

6. Read thru the note about the FreeNAS ‘embedded’ installer and click ‘OK’

7. Choose the location of your CD/DVD drive for installation and click ‘OK’

8. Choose the location of where you want to install your FreeNAS and click ‘OK’

a. Be very careful during this step because your disk will be reformatted, and the remaining space on the partition will not be available for storage


9. Remove the ‘CD-ROM’ and click ‘Enter’

10. This will take you back to the ‘Install & Upgrade’ menu. Click ‘Exit’ and it will take you back to the main ‘Console setup’ menu

11. Select ‘7) Reboot system’

12. Once the system is rebooted it should now boot of your hard disk, you will once again see the ‘Console setup’ menu. This is the console menu of your newly installed FreeNAS System

13. First, select ‘1) Assign interfaces’ to choose which network adapter you would like to use

14. Pick your adapter and click ‘OK’


15. On the next page, you can pick an additional interface. If you only want to use one, click ‘none Finish and exit configuration’ and click ‘OK’

16. Read over the summary and click ‘Yes’ if everything looks okay

17. Once your network adapter is setup, click on ‘2) Set LAN IP address’ to change the network address of your NAS

18. You want to assign a static IP address to your NAS to ensure it remains accessible. This can be done by selecting ‘2) Set LAN IP address’ in the console menu

19. When asked if you want to use DHCP, select ‘No’ and click ‘OK’

20. Enter the IPv4 address that you want to assign your server and click ‘OK’


21. In the next screen, choose your subnet mask as bit counts and click ‘OK’

a. If you do not know what it , check the subnet mask of one of your computers

b. If you’re still are unsure, select ‘ = 24’ because this is usually the default for most routers


22. Select your default gateway address on the next page and click ‘OK’


23. Select your DNS IP address on the next page and click ‘OK’. In my case, it is the same as the default gateway.

24. The next page asks you to if you want to configure IPv6 for this interface. I chose ‘No’ since my network does not currently use IPv6. This is the case with most home networks

25. The system will now initialize the interface. Once done, write down the WebGUI URL. This will be the URL you type in to access the FreeNAS interface from your web browser. Once you are done, hit ‘ENTER’ to continue


That’s it! You have now installed and completed the basic setup of your new FreeNAS server! Stay tuned for Part II where we will show you how to configure your disks, users, and shares.

If you’re experiencing any trouble with your installation, feel free to leave us a comment so we can help!


Be sure to check out Part 2 of John’s FreeNAS setup here!

About the Author

John ReyesJohn, a seasoned IT professional working in the field since the Dot-Com Era, currently works as a system engineer for a large health care organization. In addition to his full time job, John also specializes in small business consulting, data recovery, forensics and freelance writing. He is also very active in the open-source community. When he’s not in front of a computer, you’ll usually find him mountain biking on a hill somewhere.View all posts by John Reyes

  1. scentsy

    great tutorial on freenas, very easy to understand

  2. opthamologists

    Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!

  3. Keith_T

    Guys if i only knew it was this simple, thanks to the tutorial, I would have built my NAS a long time ago, I got my OS in well under 30 min. I have forward this to all my friend, thanks again……

  4. Jim

    When I have installed Freenas I click 1 to setup my LAN interface. The only option i get is Auto-detection. I tried going through and doing it like it asks but the auto detection wont work and I can't get an IP address to connect to the webGUI. I know it works with version 8, but I want to be able to stream media. Any ideas on how to get this up and running on version 7? Thanks.

  5. John Reyes
    John Reyes01-11-2012

    Hi Jim,

    It looks like FreeNAS 7 may not support your network adapter. I would suggest installing a different network adapter into your computer. If it still does not detect it, please let us know and we would be glad to help you further.


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Setup & Integration of Home Technology: Home Theater - Home Server - HTPC - Home Networks