Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is FreeNAS?
  2. Why would I use FreeNAS?
  3. What do I need to get started with FreeNAS?
  4. Is FreeNAS Safe and Secure?
  5. What else can I do with FreeNAS?
  6. Can FreeNAS be used as a Media Server?
  7. Why does FreeNAS only support the ZFS filesystem?
  8. How do I upgrade FreeNAS?
  9. Where can I get help with FreeNAS?
  10. What if I don't want to build my own hardware for FreeNAS?
  11. Why is FreeNAS 64-bit only?
  12. FreeNAS Recommended Minimum Hardware

1. What is FreeNAS?

FreeNAS is a Free and Open Source Network Attached Storage (NAS) software appliance. This means that you can use FreeNAS to share data over file-based sharing protocols, including CIFS for Windows users, NFS for Unix-like operating systems, and AFP for Mac OS X users. FreeNAS uses the ZFS file system to store, manage, and protect data. ZFS provides advanced features like snapshots to keep old versions of files, incremental remote backups to keep your data safe on another device without huge file transfers, and intelligent compression, which reduces the size of files so quickly and efficiently that it actually helps transfers happen faster.

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2. Why would I use FreeNAS?

The benefit of using a NAS is that all your important files can be stored in a central location, allowing you to access them from multiple devices simultaneously, while also keeping your backup and redundancy resources in one place. FreeNAS lets you install programs for other purposes, such as bittorrent clients, media streaming servers, and cloud backup services, so it can fulfill many roles of a home server as well.

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3. What do I need to get started with FreeNAS?

To use FreeNAS, you'll need standard PC hardware with a 64-bit processor and at least 8GB of RAM. FreeNAS is intended to be installed on USB Flash drive, with a recommended minimum size of 8GB. 16GB provides more room for boot environments. FreeNAS supports installation from a burned CD or by directly burning to the flash drive.Boot from the installed drive and in most networks you will automatically be provided with an IP address. Point your web browser at the IP address of the FreeNAS system and you're good to go! Read the FreeNAS Documentation for more information.

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4. Is FreeNAS Safe and Secure?

FreeNAS is based on the highly secure FreeBSD operating system and follows security best practices in development. However, FreeNAS is not designed as security software and it depends on being protected from hostile traffic by a properly configured firewall. FreeNAS supports 256-bit encryption to prevent drives from being read if they're physically removed from the system, but this doesn't protect against data being read in transit over the network or via compromised user credentials. Like all software, FreeNAS depends on good security practices to keep data safe.

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5. What else can I do with FreeNAS?

FreeNAS supports a number of third-party plugins, including Transmission for bittorrent, btsync to sync with a wide variety of devices without exposing your data to others, and OwnCloud to host your own cloud services server.

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6. Can FreeNAS be used as a Media Server?

It sure can! FreeNAS includes support for a wide variety of third-party software plugins, including Plex Media Server. Plex Media Server allows FreeNAS to stream television shows, movies, and music to a wide variety of devices. If you're concerned about system requirements, the FreeNAS Mini Storage Device from iXsystems has enough power to support 1080p HD video and still run normal FreeNAS operations.

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7. Why does FreeNAS only support the ZFS filesystem?

FreeNAS is designed around the OpenZFS filesystem, which enables many of the advanced features of FreeNAS such as data integrity, early indication of faulty drives, and the ability to boot into a previous working copy of the operating system after a failed upgrade. Other filesystems, including UFS, NTFS, FAT, EXT2 and EXT3 are supported "read only", in order to allow data migration onto a ZFS volume.

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8. How do I upgrade FreeNAS?

FreeNAS provides a built-in Update Manager, allowing the administrator to determine when to apply system patches and new features. When the system is updated, a copy of the current operating system is added to the boot menu, making it easy to revert to the previous version of the operating system should the update fail. Administrators can also track different versions of FreeNAS, in order to test new drivers and features, knowing that they can still return to the previous version of the operating system from the boot menu.

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9. Where can I get help with FreeNAS?

There are many resources for FreeNAS troubleshooting, including the Community Forums and IRC channel. However, if you require hardware support or software support with a Service Level Agreement, iXsystems offers Professional Support for FreeNAS Certified Servers and the TrueNAS Unified Storage Appliance, both available at iXsystems.com/storage.

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10. What if I don't want to build my own hardware for FreeNAS?

Many commercially available home servers work well as FreeNAS devices. If you want a device that's designed specifically for FreeNAS, consider a FreeNAS Mini or FreeNAS Certified server from iXsystems, the developers of FreeNAS. If you want to use FreeNAS in a scenario that requires high availability or very high performance, consider a TrueNAS Unified Storage Appliance. For more information, visit iXsystems.com/storage.

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11. Why is FreeNAS 64-bit only?

FreeNAS requires a 64-bit processor. This is because the memory requirements for FreeNAS are not supported by 32-bit PCs. Additionally, FreeNAS leverages modern technologies that will not function as intended under 32-bit. For the last version of FreeNAS that supports 32-bit, the official release can be downloaded at http://download.freenas.org/9.2.1.9/RELEASE/x86/. Please be aware that this version is no longer maintained and is unlikely to receive software or security updates.

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FreeNAS Recommended Minimum Hardware

  • 64-bit x86 Processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • FreeNAS should be installed on a USB flash drive. The recommended minimum is 8GB. 16GB provides more room for boot environments if you plan to test many configurations or follow a fast-moving update line.
  • At least one additional disk for storage.
  • Wired network port (wireless not supported)
  • Computer on the same network with a modern web browser (for management)

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