Sunday, June 3, 2012

DIY NAS: with freeNAS - Step 1

Step 1: Preparation

  • You have read Home Servers & NAS devices: an overview
  • You are finally ready to dive into your first dedicated file server.
  • You have decided that a low power NAS with minimal server function is what you want.
  • You have no idea where to begin!

Let's assume that you are going to build your own hardware. This guide is applicable to pre-manufactured NAS boxes, but they often come pre-installed with their own software. You can probably work around that software and use freeNAS if you want, but the goal of this guide will be to help an individual to put together a terrific NAS from scratch.

As with anything, there are many different ways of getting from A to B.
I do not claim that this is the best way to build a file server, but  I do feel that this is a great place to start learning. Because this guide is aimed at those who are new to the field, I will not be discussing any form of redundancy. This will be a simple file server with windows samba (SMB) shares for each added drive. There will be no RAID!
Coincidentally, this is also the cheapest way to build a file server, since redundancy costs space and space costs money!

We are going to use v0.7.2. The newest freeNAS 8 is too unstable for the beginner, and too unstable for a reliable file server.
[UPDATE: step two will actually use nas4free 9.1 don't stress it is just a newer version on freeNAS 7.2 everything in this post still applies]

Here is what will your new server be capable of:
  • SSH
  • NFS
  • AFP
  • Rsync
  • Unison
  • iSCSI
  • UPnP
  • DAAP
  • Dynamic DNS
  • SNMP
  • UPS monitoring
  • Apache Webserving
  • Bittorrent (transmission)
That's plenty of stuff to keep you entertained and tinkering for a while, right?
You are either excited at all those prospects, or are freaking overwhelmed!

What to do first?


  • A suitable case with room for HDD's
  • Low power motherboard 
    • Appropriate # of sata ports for HDD's
    • 10/100/1000 gigabit LAN preferable
    • Low power CPU. Frequency and sheer power are not needed for this build.
    • Graphics not required beyond VGA output for cli
    • USB 3.0/eSATA ports are not required unless you have external drives you wish to dedicate to this machine.
  • Memory. 
    • More = better performance with software raid, but we are not using raid! 
    • You are fine with 2Gb of RAM
  • Power Supply
    • How many HDD's are you using?
    • Use the thermaltake Power Supply Calculator to estimate your wattage needs.
    • Make sure that you buy a power supply with enough connectors for your peripherals!
  • OS HDD
    • freeNAS 7 is able to run from a usb disk, but it is better to install the embedded version to a disk.
    • This disk cannot be used for anything else, and can be very small. Many people recommend using a compact flash disk with an IDE converter.
    • I used a 14 year old 2Gb pata HDD I had laying around. And it works GREAT!
  • Storage HDD's
    • I recommend the WD low power drives for storage. I have several of them in my server and they work great. Mine are only 5200rpm sataII, but they have no trouble streaming video while also downloading torrents. They have been running 'always on' for over 2.5 years with no issues!
    • Western Digital 1TB Caviar Green - $109.99
    • Western Digital 2TB Caviar Green - $124.99
  • Cheetos and Mountain Dew
    • You are building a computer, it's tradition damn-it!
I am going to assume that you know how to put together a computer from parts...
If not, its time to learn... 
All the parts fit in the case...
And all the wires will only fit into certain slots...
Read your MOBO manual!

Recommendation: Install only the OS HDD at first. Once you have freeNAS installed and functioning on your network, then you can shutdown and install the storage disks.  I recommend doing them one at a time as well. Since this is your first server it will benefit you to mount each disk and each file share one at a time.

Once your hardware is assembled, you have your primary disk installed, and are attached to a monitor, keyboard and router, then move on to Step two.

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