Andrew’s Nas4Free Guide: Part I


Nas4Free Guide: Part I

Another Simple How-To for Beginners


Part I: About Nas4free, Creating your Box, and Installation

I have too much media. It’s a curse that weighs me down and costs untold amounts in hard drive costs. Periodically, I lose a harddrive and suddenly remember that backing up this stuff is not an optional undertaking—hard drives are guaranteed to fail. It might not happen for years, but it will happen.

I’m never prepared when they do, but all the stress associated with losing the data (the kick-in-the gut feeling of S.M.A.R.T. error screens, few days of futile “CPR” techniques of data recovery, the heartbreak and dashed hopes of recovering a file only to find out it’s corrupted ) apparently hasn’t been enough to convince me to invest in a more stable solution. So, I’ve just been shelving my concerns about data storage until it rears its ugly head a few months later. Until now.

My current multiple external/internal harddrive method of inconsistent backups and folders divided among multiple drives just isn’t cutting it for me. It’s clunky, takes up a lot of physical space, and downright insecure. So lately, I’ve been searching for a mediaserver/mass storage system with the following criteria:

It should be concise

you could say i’ve got the drive to succeed my race to a petabyte of data with Noah Feder and Sashank Karri

My current format is a logistical nightmare and inaccessible by anyone other than myself. I dart through folders upon folders with names like “BACKUP C MAY,” “MEDIA2 REALONE,” “ARCHIVES no VIDEO,” etc. I have to keep notes and an excel file to keep track of which version of what is where. Where a file ends up is largely determined by my mood.

It should be reliable/safe

Here’s a picture of my setup in Thailand. I need a 11-slot USB strip with an external power source, several power strips for my external hdds, as well as a few docks to slot internal hardrives in to store all my media. A powersurge (almost guaranteed in Bangkok) or even an inadvertent bump to the table could prove disastrous during file transfer or use. Starting a computer up and mounting all the drives took ages, and it’s just difficult to keep track of.

It should have some form of redundancy or backup

a diagram depicting some of the many raidz dev and pool configurations

Like I’ve said, harddrives are guaranteed to fail. Having a system in which your data is either mirrored on two harddrives or split evenly amongst several is one step closer to having a backup solution when your drives fail. One solution is to have a hardware RAID, in which a hardware interface card handles all the configuration of your drives. A simpler solution (for me) is to do a software RAID, even though it taxes your computer’s resources a little more. There are many choices, but I went with a zfs RAIDZ2, which is similar to RAID5 or 6 (can’t remember).

It should be accessible anywhere, and shareable to my friends.

I want to be able to easily share my NAS box over sftp or ssh tunnel, accessible from mobile devices, computers, and gaming consoles so that I can continue to pursue my hobby of vj’ing even when I can’t be there in person.


Between a busy work schedule, chinese/gmat studying, and relentless weight gain,  I haven’t had as much time to play around with computers as I’d like, but I decided to build a solution that addresses my media storage needs and eliminates the stress associated with losing data. Pre-built NAS solutions just didn’t cut it: they’re cost-prohibitive (sometimes up to $1000 before you even add the harddrives), lack customization and features, and often rely on proprietary software to create RAID configurations that’s difficult to work with. Check out some of the insane prices.

Asking around for options, I was told by my friend Paul that Freenas or Nas4free were a great free software solutions that could help me build a Network Attached Storage box for relatively low cost.  I looked into it, liked what I read, and commenced buying the hardware in order to create my own box. It’s been up for a few days now and thus far, I’m very happy with it. A few years ago, I created a MythTV box and wrote a simple walkthrough. from hardware to configuration, that was relatively successful.

I’m make no claim to be an expert, but I know a thing or two about building computers, and have been known to fake Linux skills from time-to-time, Of course, with nas4free (and even more so with freenas), there do exist many wikis, guides and brilliant forum posts detailing one aspect or another about setting up your own box, I’ve just tried to consolidate some of the more fragmented information around the internet into a single, complete walk-through chronicling my nas4free box creation from research to hardware purchase to completion.

Andrew’s NAS4Free Guide

Part I: About Nas4free, Creating your NAS box, and Installation

About Nas4free

What is Nas4free?

Why should I use Nas4free?

Creating your NAS box



Create a bootable Nas4free USB Stick

Boot ‘er up

Web Gui and Initial Configuration

Part II: (Coming Soon)

(coming soon)

About Nas4Free

What is Nas4free?

NAS4Free is an embedded Open Source Storage NAS (Network-Attached Storage) distribution based on FreeBSD. It is also a direct continuation of the extremely popular freenas code. A NAS, or networked attached server, is basically a centralized file server or media box for all your home networking, home theatre, or internet file-sharing needs.

*It should be noted that nasboxes, even ones with zfs RAIDS, are not a fool-proof backup solution. Nothing short of having raided, redundant copies of everything in multiple locations (and one locked away in a bank vault) is safe; however, for the time being, one nas box is cost-prohibitive enough

Why should I use Nas4free?

It’s always nice to have a project instead of a store-bought box; it just so happens that your NAS4free project will likely be cheaper, more powerful, and more customizable than most commercial NAS boxes.

  • NAS4Free supports sharing for and between Unix, Mac, and Windows systems
  • It can run on a very simple machine or even virtual environment
  • It supports a wide range of network and sharing protocols such as SMB/CIFS, FTP, AFP, SSH, Bittorrent, and iSCSI targeting
  • It supports a variety of hdd management such as ZFS, software RAID 0, 1, 5, and mixes

I chose NAS4Free mainly because of the level of customization it affords even a casual user such as myself, it’s powerful and secure “raidz” zfs software configuration, and its ability to run on a cheaply-made box.

This box will become my primary location for much of my media, and all my harddrives sitting around will probably be shelved (in dust/static-proof boxes) for safekeeping.

Creating your NAS box

 This step covers hardware suggestions and requirements.  , but feel free to select your own, referencing a (partially outdated) compatible hardware list. so as to avoid purchasing something that might lack compatibility with your nas4free install.

Minimum Requirements

according to the wiki are as follows:

  • A PC with a minimum of 512MB of RAM,a bootable CD-Rom Drive plus either:
    • A Floppy Disk/USB Stick (for configuration storage) and one or more Hard Drives (as storage)
    • A Bootable USB or CF drive (256MB minimum for Embedded platform, 384MB for Full platform)
    • and 1 or more Hard Drives for it’s data storage.
    • A Bootable Hard Drive and one or more Hard Drives (as storage)
    • A Bootable Hard Drive (which will be partitioned for NAS4Free and Data)
  • For using ZFS, we recommend a absolute minimum of 1 GB RAM and using a 64-bits install by using the NAS4Free-x64 releases.



Thermaltake Chaser MK-1 VN300M1W2N No PS Full Tower Case (Black)

I like this case because of its sleek looks, the hot-swap hdd bay on top, it’s size and spacious interior (6 easy-access hdd bays), and it’s many fan positions/great air flow. (4 x 200mm, 2 x 120mm). It proved very spacious and easy to work with. Make sure your case has enough bays for the many hdds you’ll be adding to your nas box.


 Gigabyte Intel Z77 LGA 1155 AMD CrossFireX/NVIDIA SLI W/ HDMI,DVI,DispayPort Dual UEFI BIOS ATX Motherboard GA-Z77X-UD3H

I’ve always been a little hazy on motherboards – I just pick one that supports the RAM and CPU I want. This one has the added benefit of having onboard graphics (no need to buy a GPU), 6 Sata ports, and an easy-to-use mobo gui. Just make sure your motherboard has the right slots for what you need, can boot from removable media, and can fit your CPU.


Intel Core i3-2120 Dual-Core Processor 3.3 GHz 3 MB Cache LGA 1155 – BX80623I32120

I’ve read minimum requirements for nas4free is only a pentium iv, but if you’re planning on using zfs, dual-core or better is recommended as a minimum requirement. I’m not sure if I should have spent a little more and gotten an i5 Quad-core, but the processor’s load has been quite low so far. On more pcu-intensive tasks like resilvering, I’ll probably wish I had spent a little more.


Corsair Memory Vengeance 16 Dual Channel Kit DDR3 1600 MHz 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9

This stuff is way cheaper than it used to be. I read you need a gig per TB of zfs, so 16 seemed safe. I probably need to update my 6 GB gaming PC.


Antec BP550 Plus 550W ATX12V V2.3 Modular Power Supply

  Every calculator I used had the Power usage so low I couldn’t justify getting something more than 550. But I’ll admit it does seem very low. One thing i love is the cable management, which is an idea I had ages ago that antec stole from me.


APC BE550G Back-UPS ES 8 Outlet 550VA 120V

Memphis gets it’s fair share of lightning storms, and it’s not unusual to lose power for a few seconds if we have a storm, so something like this that can keep the computer on battery power for a few minutes while it safely shuts down seems like a good investment. Also, my Nas box is plugged into one of those socks that a light switch can turn on or off, so this is great if I switch that by mistake.


Kingston Digital 8 GB USB 2.0 Hi-speed Datatraveler Flash Drive DT101G2/8GBZET – Red
(for running the OS)

Koutech USB 2.0 Header-Pin to Dual Type-A Adapter
(some other walkthrough suggested this adapter so that you don’t accidentally knock loose your OS stick–great idea).

2 extra 200mm fans, and 1 extra 120mm fan

(so if the hdds crash, at least the nasbox can double as a RC-helicopter).

A NZXT SENTRY 2 Accessories 5.25-Inch Touch Screen Fan Controller (Black)
so I can pretend I’m on a spaceship.

price w/o hdds: $650-700

…so that’s not too bad for a pretty awesome computer. Unfortunately, with the current configuration, you won’t be able to store any data at all, much less the terabytes upon terabytes promised, so here’s the killer. For my raidz2 4 + 2, I need 6 large hdds. For RAIDz2, the useable capacity is a little less than (smallest hdd’s capacity) x (number of hdds-2). In my case, that would be 3TB x (6-2), or about 10.7TB


here we go

6 x Seagate Barracuda 7200 3 TB 7200RPM SATA 6 Gb/s NCQ 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive ST3000DM001
6 of them, bought at different times from different stores so as to prevent simultaneous failure from a similar manufacturing defect. So, I get 10.7TB of semi-secured storage for $900? That’s not a total dealbreaker if it’s going to save me time, stress, and money in the future.

total price $1550-1600

Install Nas4free

Whether or not you use my suggested components or ones you’ve researched on your own, I’m gonna assume you know how to put all these components together. It’s hard to get anything wrong nowadays, anyway. Grab a few beers and a friend and just get down to it. So after you’ve built your box, you’ll need to install Nas4free onto a usb stick and tell your new computer to boot from it.

It is alive!

Create a bootable Nas4free USB Stick

This is my preferred method, because you don’t need a CD drive on your NASbox, and you don’t use up any of your hdds to store your OS.

I think you only need 2gigs  or something, but I went with an 8 GB Kingston USB and a header adapter so that it rests inside my box. Combined price was very low.

  • Unrar it with any program like Winrar
  • Rename the resulting file by adding a .img extension

  • Boot up Win32 Disk Imager, browse to your new .img file, confirm your new usb stick as the target write location, and click write.

Boot ‘er up

Just plug your nas4free usb stick into your new nasbox, set your bios to boot from removable devices, hit power and hold your breath for that beautiful “It Lives!” experience you only get the very first time you hit a new computer’s power button.  I think it just goes ahead and live boots. This address is the default IP for the Nas4free WebGui. If everything seems to be going well, and nas4free recognizes your LAN interface (you might have to manually set this if it doesn’t work or is the correct one), it’s time to uplug and shelf your monitor, for most of the rest of your administration can (has to) be done from the webGUI.

WebGui and Initial Configuration

If, at this point, you can type in this ip on another computer and access the webgui, then congratulations! You’ve successfully built your NASbox and are ready to start customizing it.

Default Username as admin
Default password as nas4free

Of course one of the first things you should do upon logging in is change the password:

In the System menu, under General, you can click the Password Tab and change it.

Other settings to change under General:

  • Hostname – the name of your NAS
  • WebGui Protocol and Port – the default is http and port 80, should you like to change these for security or privacy reasons, go ahead and do so (port 443 is the https port)
  • Set your time zone

More to come in Part II: Disks, Services, and Access


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