Before you can install the FreeNAS server, you will need to download the latest version from the FreeNAS website (http://www.freenas.org). Go to the download section and find the latest “LiveCD” version. The LiveCD version is what is known as an ISO image file and will have the .iso file extension. An ISO image is an exact copy of the structure and data for a CD or DVD disk. Using a CD burning program, you can create a FreeNAS bootable CD. We will look at this in more detail later on.
What Hardware Do I Need?
In this tutorial, we will start exploring FreeNAS, so you will need a machine on which to install the FreeNAS software. At this point in time, it doesn’t have to be the final machine you are going to use as the FreeNAS server. You can use a “test” machine now and having learnt all about FreeNAS, you can build, install, and deploy a production machine (or machines) later.
So, what we need now is a PC with at least 96Mb of RAM (but 128Mb or more is recommended), a bootable CD-ROM drive, a network card, one or more hard disks, and either a floppy disk drive (and a blank formatted disk) or a USB flash disk (MS-DOS formatted and empty).
The hard disk will be for the data that you want to store and the floppy disk or USB flash disk will be for storing the configuration information.
For the installation and initialization stages, you will also need a monitor and keyboard (but not mouse) attached to the PC. You can remove the monitor later, once FreeNAS is up and running.
FreeNAS boots as a LiveCD, which means that it does not use the disks on the host machine during boot up. However, when you start to configure storage on the FreeNAS server (specifically, when you format drives) all the data on the disk will be LOST. Do NOT use a machine that contains important data or an operating system that you will need afterwards.
Virtualization & VMWare
The average PC runs just one operating system and inside that operating system, you would run your applications like word processing and email. There is a technology (called virtualization), which allows PCs to run more than one operating system, or to be more precise, to allow a guest virtual PC to run inside your actual PC. This virtual PC is an independent software box that can run its own OS and applications as if it were a physical computer. A virtual PC behaves exactly like a physical PC and has its own virtual CPU, RAM, hard disk, and network interface card (NIC).
You can install FreeNAS on a virtual PC and FreeNAS can’t tell the difference between the virtual PC and any other physical machine, also, it appears on the network just as a real PC would, running FreeNAS.
There are lots of virtualization products available for Windows, Linux, and Apple OS X today. You can learn more at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtualization.
A very popular virtualization solution is from VMWare (http://www.vmware.com). VMWare have both commercial and freeware offerings and there are pre-configured FreeNAS images available for the VMWare range of products. This makes it an ideal environment for testing the FreeNAS server.
Quick Start Guide For the Impatient
If you are comfortable with burning ISO images to CDs, setting your computer’s BIOS to boot from CDROM, disk partitions, and TCP/IP networking then this little guide should help you get a simple version of the FreeNAS server up and running in just a few minutes.
If, however, some of these things sound daunting, then skip this section and go on to the next one where we shall go through the installation process one step at a time.
For this example, we will use a USB flash disk to store the configuration information. You can use a floppy but be careful that during the boot process, the PC doesn’t try to boot from the floppy before it boots from the CDROM.
Burning and Booting
Once you have downloaded the ISO image file from the FreeNAS website, you need to burn it to a CD. Having done that, put the CD into the PC as well as the flash disk and switch it on. Make sure that the BIOS is set to boot from CD. If it isn’t, you need to enter into the BIOS and configure it to boot from CD. On many modern PCs, it is possible to select the boot device at start-up by pressing a special key (which is often either F8 or F12) to show a boot device menu. You can then select the CD as the boot device.
The boot process is in four distinct parts:
- First, the PC will go through its POST (Power On Self Test) sequence. Here, the PC will check the amount of memory installed (which you can often see being counted on the screen) and which devices are connected (like hard drives and CDROMs).
- It should then start to boot from the CD. Here, FreeBSD (the underlying OS of FreeNAS) will start to boot, this is recognizable by the simple spinning wheel (made up of simple text characters like | – / and , which are animated to give the appearance of spinning).
- The third step is the FreeNAS boot menu. This will appear for just a few seconds and you should just let it boot normally, which is the default.
- The final stage is when the FreeNAS logo appears and the system will boot as FreeNAS server. You can tell when the system is fully loaded because the PC speaker will make some short but melodious beeps.
To enable access to the web interface, the network of the FreeNAS server must be configured. Press the SPACE bar on the keyboard and the FreeNAS logo will disappear and a simple text menu will appear.
There are two aspects to configuring the network, first, you need to choose which network card to use and second, you need to assign it an address. If you have only one network card in your machine, then the FreeNAS server should have found it and automatically assigned it to be the LAN (Local Area Network) interface.
What If My Network Card Isn’t Found?
This probably means that the network card in your machine isn’t supported by FreeNAS or more specifically, by FreeBSD. You will need to replace the card with one supported by FreeBSD. Check the FreeBSD hardware compatibility page for more information: http://www.freebsd.org/releases/6.2R/hardware-i386.html
If you see something like this:
then the network has been recognized and assigned automatically by FreeNAS.
The default IPv4 address for FreeNAS is 192.168.1.250, if this is good for your network, then you can just leave it unchanged. However, if you need to change it then press 2 followed by ENTER. If you want the machine to get its address from DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), answer yes (y) to the IPv4 DHCP question, otherwise answer no (n). If you are not using DHCP, you can now enter the desired IP address. Next, you need to enter the subnet mask. For 255.255.255.0, enter 24, for 255.255.0.0 enter 16, and for 255.0.0.0, enter 8. At this point, you can now skip the default gateway and DNS questions (by just pressing ENTER). If you do want to enter a default gateway and DNS server at this point, they will usually be the IP address of your Internet router. We won’t be using IPv6 so the simplest thing to do now is just answer yes to the “Do you want to use AutoConfiguration for IPv6?” question. This will cause a small delay while FreeNAS tries (and probably fails) to get the IPv6 address but it is simpler than trying to enter the IPv6 address manually!
You are now ready to access the web interface. The FreeNAS web interface can be accessed from any machine on the network with a web browser (including Windows, Linux, and OS X machines). On this client machine, type the address of the FreeNAS server with http:// in front of it into your web browser. For example: http://192.168.1.250
The first time you access the FreeNAS web interface, you will be asked for the username and password. The default username is admin and the default password is freenas.
You should now be in the web interface. To configure some storage space, you need to work with “Disks”. The logical order of working is that disks must be added, then formatted (if need be), then mounted. Finally, access is given to the various mounted disks by configuring different system services like CIFS and FTP.
So, to add a disk, go to Disks: Management. There is a + sign in a circle on the right-hand-side of the page (it can be easy to miss first time), click on it to add a disk. On the next page, select the disk you want to add. If you click on the drop-down menu, you should see the hard disks of the machines, the CDROM, and the USB flash disk.
Dis’k Names in FreeBSD’
The disk naming convention in FreeBSD is:
/dev/ad0: Is the IDE/ATA Primary Master
/dev/ad1 : Is the IDE/ATA Primary Slave
/dev/ad2 : Is the IDE/ATA Secondary Master
/dev/ad3 : Is the IDE/ATA Secondary Slave
/dev/acd0 : Is the first ATA CD/DVD drive detected
/dev/da0: Is the first SCSI hard drive, /dev/da1 the second and so on.
USB flash disks are controlled using the SCSI driver, so they will appear as /dev/daN drives as well.
Make sure ad0 is selected (which it should be by default). The rest of the page you can leave alone. Click Add to add the disk to the system. You then need to click Apply in order for the changes to take effect. You will now have a table showing you the disk you have added, including its size and a description.
In FreeNAS, the majority of steps need to be applied (which saves the configuration file to disk) by clicking the Apply button. It is normally found near the top of the page before any tables or configuration information is given. If you do not apply the changes, the interface will, on the whole, remember your changes but they will not be enacted in the system. After a reboot, unapplied changes will disappear. It is possible on some pages to make multiple operations and apply them all at the end.
Next, the disk needs to be formatted. In Disks: Format, select the disk ad0 (which you just added above). Leave everything else unchanged and click Format disk. The disk will then be formatted. The low level output of the format command will be displayed in a box. It should end with Done!.
Now the disk needs to be mounted. Go to Disks: Mount Point. Click on the + in the circle (which I shall refer to as the “add circle” from now on). Leave the Type as Disk and select the disk ad0 again. You need to type in a name, store is as good a name as any, but feel free to use which ever descriptive name you want to.
In setting up and configuring your FreeNAS server, you will be called upon to invent various names for mount points and share names etc. Try to be as descriptive as you can without being long winded. Temp, scratch, blob, and even zob are OK for testing, but try more meaningful names like storeage1, storage60gb or backupstorage etc. Don’t use spaces in the names, instead use underline and in general, the names should be no longer than 15 characters.
Although filling-in the description isn’t mandatory in the web interface, it is worth using. Once you have completed the form click Add and then apply the changes.
Sharing with Windows Machines
Now that the disk has been added, formatted, and mounted, it is time to share it on the network and give other users the ability to read and write to it. FreeNAS supports many different types of access protocol, for this start guide, we will only look at Microsoft’s CIFS protocol that primarily allows Windows machines (but also Apple OS X and Linux machines) to access the storage.
- In Services: CIFS/SMB, tick the enable box (in the title of the configuration data table). At this point, you can just about leave everything else as is with the exception of the workgroup name. We will be leaving the authentication method as “Anonymous” here as this is the easiest to get working and provides unrestricted read/write access to everyone.
- To make sure that the Windows machines are able to find the shared storage, we need to set the workgroup name, on the FreeNAS server, to be the same as the workgroup name of the Windows PC that will access the share. The default workgroup name for Windows Vista is WORKGROUP but note that the default for Window XP Home Edition was MSHOME.
- Now click Save and Restart. This will save the changes you have made and restart the CIFS service.
- Go to the Shares tab and click on add circle. Enter a name for the share. Repeating the name of the mount point is probably the safest policy, so in this case, store and also add a comment. Then click … in the Path section. This will bring up a simple file system browser. The files you are seeing are on the FreeNAS server and NOT on your local PC. Click store and /mnt/store/ will appear in the little edit box at the click. OK it and you will be taken back to the shares page. Now /mnt/store/ has been added as the path.
- Leave everything else as it is and click Add and then apply the changes.
So now the first hard disk of the computer is formatted, mounted, and shared to the rest of the network. Now, we will access the share from a Windows Vista machine.
Testing the Share
You can perform this test from any machine that supports the CIFS protocol including Windows 95/98/ME, Windows 2000/XP, Apple OS X, and Linux. Here, we are going to use Windows Vista.
- Open the Network and Sharing Center by clicking Network on the Start menu. When the window appears, Vista will automatically scan the network for any shared network resources. When it has finished, you will see the available machines on the network including FREENAS.
- Open up the FREENAS computer and you will see store, the storage area that you configured. Double click on that and you now “inside” the FreeNAS server from within your Windows machine. Try dragging and dropping a few files in to the store area. Then try deleting them again.
- To access the FreeNAS server without using the Network and Sharing Center, click Start, and type freenas and then press Enter. This will bring up the shares available on the FreeNAS server directly:
Detailed Overview of Installation
It is time to get your hands on a working FreeNAS server and to do that, we need to boot it up onto a PC. There are several steps to this. First, you must burn a CD of the ISO image file you have downloaded. Then, you need to boot the PC from the CD; this may involve changing your computers BIOS to make it boot from the optical drive. Then, you can configure the FreeNAS server to make some storage space available on the network.
When using the LiveCD to boot FreeNAS, there are two types of storage on FreeNAS: data and configuration information. The data will be held on the hard drive of the PC, but the configuration needs to be held on a floppy disk or a USB flash disk. For this example, we will use a USB flash disk to store the configuration information.
Making the FreeNAS CD
To boot the PC into FreeNAS, you need a CD. The ISO image file you have downloaded contains all the information needed for the CD, but it needs to be written onto a physical CD. This process is often known as burning the CD as the laser writes to the disk by heating it and marking or scorching the surface layer.
You need to use a PC with a CD-RW drive and a blank CD-R disk (I recommend using a good brand name CD-R for best results). Download the FreeNAS ISO image on to that machine. The PC with the CD writer should have some CD writing software on it (for example Roxio Easy CD or Nero). If you are familiar with the CD writing software, go ahead and burn the ISO file to the CD-R disk.
If you aren’t familiar with the CD writing software or it doesn’t have any CD writing software, then I recommend ISO Recorder. You can download it from http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm.
Booting from CD
Put your newly made FreeNAS CD into the CD drive of the machine on which you want to install FreeNAS, and also put the USB flash disk into a USB port. The flash disk will be used to store the configuration data. (You can also use a floppy disk. If you have both a USB flash disk and a floppy inserted, FreeNAS will save the configuration on the USB device). Now, you need to switch on the PC. When a PC starts, it goes through what is known as the Power On Self Test sequence. Here, the PC will check the amount of memory installed in the PC and find the installed hard drives. After the checks, the PC will try and boot from one of the hard drives, the CDROM, the floppy disk or even a USB flash disk. Which device the PC chooses first as its boot device can be changed by a built-in setup program. The setup program lets you modify basic system configuration settings. These settings are stored in a special battery-backed area of the computer’s memory that retains the settings even when the power is switched off. During the POST sequence, there is normally a message telling you how to enter into the built-in setup program. It is normally either the DEL key or F2, on some systems it is also F10.
You need to enter into the setup to check and/or change the first boot device to be the CDROM so that the computer will boot into FreeNAS. Each PC has a slightly different setup program, so you will need to search around until you find what you need. The three most popular types of setup programs (also known as BIOS Basic Input Output Program) are the Phoenix setup program, the Phoenix-Award setup program, and the AMI setup program.
There are many types of BIOS setup programs and each PC manufacturer modifies the setup program for their own use. The information below is really only a “rough guide” to help you feel your way around. Your BIOS setup program may be significantly different from the examples below. The best source of information is the manual that came with your PC or your motherboard. If you don’t have one, most PC manufacturers have them available for download on their websites.
If your machine has a Phoenix BIOS, then normally you need to press F2 to enter the setup program. The top of the setup program has a menu that you can navigate with the left and right arrow keys, you need to select the Boot menu.
On the Boot menu page, you can move up and down the available boot devices using the up and down arrow keys. You can expand and collapse sections with the + or signs using the ENTER key. To change the boot order, you use the + and keys. You want to make sure that the CDROM is the first device in the list. After you have changed the boot order list, you need to go to the Exit menu (by pressing the right arrow key) and select Exit Saving Changes. The PC will then reboot and after the POST, it will start to boot from the FreeNAS CD.
If your PC has a Phoenix-Award BIOS, then normally, you need to press DEL to enter the setup program. Once inside, you can the up, down, left, and right keys to navigate around the menus. Go in to Advanced BIOS Features and set the First Boot Device to be CDROM by using the + and keys. You now need to save your changes and exit. Pressing ESC will bring you back to the main menu, then select Save & Exit Setup. Often, pressing F10 will have the same effect. The PC will then reboot and if you have made the changes correctly, it will boot from the FreeNAS CD.
The American Megatrends, Inc (AMI) BIOS normally displays a message telling you to Hit <DEL> if you want to run setup. Once inside, it is quite different to that of the setup programs for Phoenix or Award. Here, the Tab key is used to navigate and the arrow keys are used to change values. To go from one page to the next, press the ALT+P keys. This information should also be printed at the bottom of the BIOS setup page. You need to find the variable Boot Sequence and make sure that it is set to boot from the CDROM first.
First Look at FreeNAS
The boot process is in 4 distinct parts. First, the PC will go through its POST (Power On Self Test) sequence. Here, the PC will check the amount of memory installed (which you can often see being counted on the screen) and which devices are connected (like hard drives and CDROMs). It should then start to boot from the CD. Here, FreeBSD (the underlying OS of FreeNAS) will start to boot, this is recognizable by the simple spinning wheel (made up of simple text characters like | – / and which are animated to give the appearance of spinning). The third step is the FreeNAS boot menu. This will appear for just five seconds and you should just let it boot normally which is the default. The final stage is when the FreeNAS logo appears and the system will boot as a FreeNAS server. You can tell when the system is fully loaded because the PC speaker will make some short but melodious beeps.
Configuring the Network
The majority of the configuration for FreeNAS is done via a web interface, but before you can use the web interface, the FreeNAS server needs to be configured for your network. This is done via a simple text menu system using the keyboard and monitor attached to the PC with FreeNAS running on it. You probably only need to do this once, and after that this new network information will be saved on the USB flash disk (or floppy disk) and the server will boot into this configuration every time.
If you press the SPACE bar on FreeNAS machine, the FreeNAS logo will disappear and a simple menu will appear.
Here, you have a number of options including options to reboot or power off the system. The first two options are about configuring the network and they reflect the two parts to configuring the network, first you need to choose which network card to use (option 1) and second you need to assign it an address (option 2).
If you have only one network card in your machine then the FreeNAS server should have found it and automatically assigned it to be the LAN (Local Area Network) interface.
What If My Network Card Isn’t Found?
This probably means that the network card in your machine isn’t supported by FreeNAS or more specifically by FreeBSD. You will need to replace the card with one supported by FreeBSD. Check the FreeBSD hardware compatibility page for more information: http://www.freebsd.org/releases/6.2R/hardware-i386.html
If you see something like the following screenshot:
then the network has been recognised and assigned automatically by FreeNAS.
What is a LAN IP Address?
IP stands for Internet Protocol and it is the basic low level language that computers use to talk to each other on the Internet. It is also used on private networks (in the office or at home) to connect different PCs and even printers to each other. An IPv4 address is made up of 4 sets of number (0 to 255) and is expressed in what is known as dot notation (meaning that each number has a dot between it). So 192.168.1.250 is an IP address, it also happens to be the default IP address for the FreeNAS server. Like email, the postal service and telephone, each destination (email account, mailbox or handset) needs a unique way of being identified. This is what IP addresses do; they allow each piece of equipment on the network to have a unique identifier so that messages can be addressed to the right place on the network.
Pronouncing IP Addresses
If you need to speak to someone about an IP address, the simplest way is to speak about each digit separately, so 192.168.1.250 isn’t “one hundred and ninety two dot” but rather “one nine two dot one six eight dot one dot two five zero”.
There are two ways in which you can obtain an IP address for the FreeNAS server. The first is to have the address assigned automatically via the DHCP service (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), and the second is to assign it manually.
What is DHCP?
The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) automates the assignment of IP addresses and other IP parameters (like subnet masks and default gateway). A computer that needs an IP address will send a request to the DHCP server and the server will reply with an IP address from a pool of addresses that have been set aside for this purpose. A DHCP server can be a PC or server (running Windows, OS X or Linux) as well as small devices like modern DSL modems and firewalls.
The advantage of the DHCP method is that the IP address assignment, all happens in the background and you don’t need to worry about setting it yourself. The disadvantages are that first you need to have an already configured and running DHCP server on your network; and second, DHCP assigns addresses from a pool of available addresses. This means that every time the FreeNAS server boots, it is not guaranteed to have the same address as it had previously. This isn’t a problem when using the CIFS protocol, however, for accessing the web interface or using protocols like FTP, it is desirable to have a stable IP address to refer to. However, for testing the FreeNAS server and learning about how it works using a DHCP assigned address could be acceptable for now.
It is actually possible to assign fixed, permanent IP address to certain pieces of hardware, including a FreeNAS server over DHCP, but that requires extra advanced configuration changes in the DHCP server that cannot be covered in this tutorial.
So opting for the manual IP address, you now need to obtain two pieces of information. The first is the actual IP address for the FreeNAS and the second is what is known as the subnet mask. The subnet mask will also be expressed in the dot notation and is normally something like 255.255.255.0. If you are in an office environment, you need to speak to the network administrator and he/she will be able to give you the information you need. If you are administering your own network, you need to choose an IP that isn’t currently allocated to any other machine on your network (and also, isn’t part of the address pool of any DHCP server on your network).
Having obtained the IP address and subnet mask, you can now configure the FreeNAS server for your network. Select option 2 on the console menu. If you have chosen to have DHCP assign the address, answer yes (y) to the first question about using DHCP for IPv4. Otherwise answer no (n).
If you are setting the address manually, you can now enter the address in dot notation, i.e. 192.168.1.240. Next, comes the subnet mask. If your subnet mask is 255.255.255.0: enter 24, for 255.255.0.0: enter 16, and for 255.0.0.0: enter 8. At this point, you can now skip the default gateway and DNS questions (by just pressing ENTER).
We won’t be using IPv6 so the simplest thing to do now is just answer yes to the “Do you want to use AutoConfiguration for IPv6?” question. This will cause a small delay while FreeNAS tries (and probably fails) to get the IPv6 address but it is simpler than trying to enter the IPv6 address manually!
After you have successful set the IP address, there will be a small message on the screen inviting you to access the web interface by opening the listed URL in your web browser. If you have used DHCP, note down the URL listed. If you set the IP address manually, check that the URL listed is the same as the IP address you set with [http:// http://] in front of it.
You are now ready to access the web interface.
What is IPv4 and IPv6?
The Internet Protocol has been around since the mid 1980’s and when it was designed, the popularity of the Internet was not envisaged. The number of computers connected to the Internet is quickly growing beyond the addressing capabilities of the original protocol. As an answer to this, a new version of the IP protocol has been designed and has been given the name IP version 6 or IPv6 for short and the older version has taken the name IP version 4 or IPv4 for short. FreeNAS supports both versions of the Internet Protocol. In this tutorial, we will concentrate just on IPv4 as it still remains the most popular of the two protocols.
With your FreeNAS server now being up and running, it is time to access the web interface. Open a web browser on a computer on the same network as the FreeNAS server. Enter in the URL of the FreeNAS server. This should be the same as the IP address of the server with [http:// http://] in the front. The default URL is http://192.168.1.250
The first time you access the FreeNAS web interface, you will be asked for the username and password. The default username is admin and the default password is freenas.
FreeNAS Web Interface
You should now have the web interface in your browser. The interface is split into two main sections. Down the left-hand-side are the menus, and the right-hand-side contains the pages for configuration. The menus are split into various sections: System, Interfaces, Disks, Services, Access, Status, Diagnostics, and Advanced.
When talking about a particular menu item, we shall use the notation Subsection: Menu Item to help you find the right menu option easily. So, the Management option, which is in the Disks subsection, will be referred to as Disks: Management.
This section is for system level configuration and operations, here for example you can change the username and password, backup and restore the configuration data, and shutdown or reboot the server.
Here, you can configure the network of the FreeNAS server much like you did via the console menu. You can change the network card that is used for the web interface and assign permanent or automatic IP addresses.
Be careful when you change things here as some changes won’t take effect until you reboot. If you have changed any of the addressing, you will need to access the web interface with the IP address.
This section of the menu is for administering the disks on the server. Here, you can set up disk redundancy (RAID), control encryption, format disks, and mount the disks on the server.
The various access protocols like CIFS, NFS, and FTP are controlled from here. Each service is administered individually and by default NONE of the services are enabled, so before you can access files stored on the FreeNAS server, you need to enable at least one of these services.
Most of the services offered by FreeNAS use some form of list of users to control who has access and who does not. This section is for defining these users and the groups they belong to as well as connecting the FreeNAS server to other directory services.
The status menu has several reporting tools for you to see the current state of your FreeNAS server including a general overview, memory usage, disk usage, and network usage. You can also configure emails to be sent periodically about the status of the server.
The diagnostics menu contains different tools to help diagnose any problem with the FreeNAS server, including logs of all the important services and diagnostic information from the hard disks and other system modules.
The advanced section provides some simple tools for executing commands at the operating system level and should not be used by those unfamiliar with FreeBSD.