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Setting Up FreeNAS for a Central File Server: Part 1


  1. Benefits of Using NAS Devices
  2. Building Your FreeNAS Machine

Article Description

Sharing files using Windows is quick and simple at first, but it also has downsides. However, using network attached storage (NAS) drives has many advantages, such as centralized access, a network recycling bin, and multi-OS support. Eric Geier, author of Wi-Fi Hotspots: Setting Up Public Wireless Internet Access shows you how to set up a NAS or network drive for free by using the open source FreeNAS program.

Building Your FreeNAS Machine

First, you need to find a PC to use. Make sure that it has a network adapter, CD drive, and at least 128Mb of RAM.

You also need some type of drive for the file storage space: hard drive, USB drive, or flash drive. If you are going to use the LiveCD, you also need a floppy drive and a floppy disk to store the configuration.

If you don't have a CD or floppy drive, there are different configuration methods discussed in the FreeNAS Setup and User Guide.

Second, you need to download and burn the FreeNAS disc image to a CD or DVD. You could alternatively download and install the embedded version onto a drive.

Make sure that you plug the FreeNAS machine into the network by hooking an Ethernet cable between its wired network adapter and your router or switch. Then pop in the LiveCD disc, or install the embedded version, and boot the machine.

If you use the LiveCD method, make sure that a floppy disk is in before booting up. FreeNAS will search for and use any existing configuration on the floppy, or start a new one, during the boot.

If prompted about Invalid System Disk, don't pop in the floppy disc until you see the actual FreeNAS program booting.

Because you have to format the drives used for sharing/storage to the UFS filesystem, you might as well install FreeNAS onto a drive, instead of always using the LiveCD.

If you are working with just one drive, you can choose the option that will automatically format and partition the drive for everything: the FreeNAS files and configuration, storage space for data and sharing, and space for swap. To go this route, boot from the LiveCD, type 9 on the main console menu, and hit Enter.

Getting FreeNAS on the Network

Once FreeNAS boots up, you'll see the default IP,, displayed along with the Console Setup menu (see Figure 1). It automatically chooses an interface, so it might not be configured to the correct network adapter.

Figure 1 FreeNAS's main console menu

To check that you have the right interface, type 1 and hit Enter. You'll see a list of interfaces, in which ones with active connections are marked with UP.

Therefore, disconnect any other network cables and see which interface is the one hooked to your network. Then scroll to the interface and press Enter to select it.

For the optional interface, you can select the None option. Then on the confirmation dialog, choose Yes and hit Enter.

If your network is set in a subnet different from 192.168.1.x, you'll have to change the default static IP of FreeNAS[md]or simply enable DHCP to get it automatically. It's recommended to have a static, or permanent, IP because it's easier to remember.

To change the IP details, type 2 on the main menu of the FreeNAS Console and hit Enter.

To use DHCP, select Yes, or to set a static IP, select No, and then hit Enter.

When setting it manually, you'll probably want to use the default subnet mask of 24 (meaning and enter your router's IP for the default gateway and DNS server. Because you're likely only using the popular IPv4, you can ignore IPv6.

Stay Tuned

In Part 2 of this series, we'll access the web GUI and perform some initial configuration. Then we'll set up the disks, so we can start sharing with the popular protocols.