Turn an Old Computer Into a Do-Anything Home Server with FreeNAS Eight

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You’ve heard the phrase “server” thrown round loads, however often within the context of internet sites or large corporations which have quite a lot of information to retailer. In actuality, a server will be simply as helpful in your house. In this information, we’ll stroll by way of easy methods to create your individual house server out of an outdated or low cost laptop that may do all of your downloading, streaming, and backup duties 24/7.

Note: If this submit appears to be like acquainted, it is as a result of we have coated FreeNAS earlier than. Our outdated information used FreeNAS 7, which is nice, however the brand new FreeNAS Eight makes putting in plugins for BitTorrent, media streaming, Usenet, and different duties a lot simpler. If you wish to take a look at FreeNAS 7—now known as NAS4Free—you possibly can nonetheless view our old guide here.

Also, earlier than getting began, be sure that FreeNAS is best for you. If you are seeking to arrange a easy house server (reasonably than an enterprise-grade one), you could be higher off with one thing like Amahi. Read more about your options here.

What Does a NAS or Home Server Do?

Network Attached Storage—or NAS for brief—is mainly a set of exhausting drives related to your community, so any laptop in your home can entry them. This is nice for larger households or folks with a number of computer systems (like a home theater PC) that each one have to entry the identical information. They’re additionally often fairly low energy and low price, and so they do not require a monitor, mouse or keyboard—as soon as you have put in the software program, you possibly can configure each side of your NAS from an online browser in your different computer systems.

The time period “house server” often has a special connotation than NAS, however they’re fairly related. The primary distinction is that house servers can carry out extra duties than simply storage—they’ll additionally do issues like obtain recordsdata for you, stream media to your different units, and so forth. These days, NAS units include an increasing number of performance out of the field, so the phrases NAS and residential server are sometimes used interchangeably. Don’t sweat the small print—the machine we make on this information will be as primary or as excessive as you need, it doesn’t matter what you name it.

You can buy a lot of great NAS devices out there, and so they’ll include their very own good software program. However, we will use some free, open supply software program known as FreeNAS to repurpose an outdated laptop as a substitute. That approach, you possibly can simply fill your outdated PC up with drives, stick it within the closet, and neglect about it, with out having to spend some huge cash. Alternatively, you possibly can build your own quiet, low-powered home server for fairly low cost (that is what I did), and configure it a bit extra to your wants. Whatever sort of PC you utilize, establishing the software program is fairly related throughout the board. Here’s easy methods to do it.

What’s the Difference Between NAS4Free and FreeNAS Eight?

FreeNAS Eight is the most recent model of FreeNAS, however FreeNAS 7 (now known as NAS4Free) remains to be very talked-about amongst some of us, together with myself (it is what I take advantage of on my server at house). In truth, we have guides about it here at Lifehacker. So which one must you use? Each has their very own strengths and weaknesses, and in my experiences with every, listed below are some issues I’ve discovered that can allow you to determine:

  • NAS4Free is healthier for older , particularly that has lower than 2GB of RAM.
  • FreeNAS Eight is a bit simpler to make use of with regards to primary stuff like including drives, sharing them over the community, and including plugins for torrenting, streaming media, and so forth.
  • NAS4Free is a little bit easier to troubleshoot, significantly once you’re installing programs outside the sanctioned system.
  • FreeNAS Eight has quite a lot of benefits if you are going to RAID your drives (particularly, the ZFS filesystem).

In basic, I would suggest FreeNAS Eight in the event you simply wish to share drives throughout the community and possibly set up just a few of the pre-built plugins. NAS4Free is healthier for these with older computer systems, or those who wish to set up extra superior extras that are not obtainable as plugins for FreeNAS Eight (since they’re simpler to put in and troubleshoot on NAS4Free).

Both are good items of software program, however which one you utilize will rely in your particular wants. If you continue to aren’t positive, give them each a shot and see which one you want higher!

What You’ll Need

You can set up FreeNAS on a ton of various methods utilizing a lot of totally different strategies, however listed below are the belongings you’ll want for our methodology:

  • A PC with a minimal of 2GB of RAM. FreeNAS recommends that you’ve at the least 4GB for its ZFS filesystem, but when your outdated laptop is not loaded up with RAM, the older-but-more-stable UFS filesystem will work wonderful for most individuals’s wants. Note additionally that some plugins—just like the Usenet ones—are 64-bit solely, so you may want a 64-bit suitable laptop to make use of them.
  • The FreeNAS Installer Image, obtainable here (extra data on this beneath).
  • A 4GB or bigger flash drive.
  • A community with DHCP reservations or static IP addresses. This is not required, nevertheless it’s positively most well-liked. If you do not have this, managing your NAS can get fairly annoying, since its IP tackle will change everytime you reboot it (as will your different computer systems’).

FreeNAS is definitely designed to run on a flash drive or compact flash card reasonably than one of many drives in your laptop. If your laptop would not have the flexibility as well from USB, you may should follow some slightly tweaked instructions here (and you will not have the ability to use one among your drives for storage). For this information, we’ll be booting from a 4GB USB drive.

Install FreeNAS

To set up FreeNAS, you may have to seize a 4GB flash drive and the FreeNAS installer image. You’ll wish to seize the USB picture, not the dwell CD. If the pc on which you are putting in FreeNAS is 64-bit succesful, seize the 64-bit picture; in any other case, you may wish to seize the 32-bit picture from the 32-bit tab alongside the highest.

Step One: Burn Your USB Drive

The first step is totally different relying in your working system.

Windows customers: to put in FreeNAS in your flash drive, you may first have to obtain Win32DiskImager and 7-Zip (if you do not have them already). Here’s what it’s essential do:

  1. Download the FreeNAS picture archive and open it up with 7-Zip. Copy the FreeNAS IMG file to your desktop, and exit 7-Zip.
  2. Insert your flash drive. Start Win32DiskImager and click on the blue folder icon. Browse to your FreeNAS IMG file you simply extracted.
  3. Choose your flash drive from the dropdown on the correct, then click on the “Write” button to put in writing the picture to your drive.

Mac customers: To set up FreeNAS in your flash drive, you may want an app known as Keka, in addition to a little bit command line work:

  1. Download the FreeNAS picture archive and right-click on it. Choose “Open With Keka” from the menu. It ought to mechanically extract the FreeNAS IMG file to the identical folder because the XZ archive.
  2. Insert your flash drive. Open Disk Utility (from /Applications/Utilities) and choose your flash drive within the sidebar. Click the Erase tab and format it, guaranteeing it solely has one partition. It would not matter what you format it as, we will overwrite it in a minute. Unmount the partition after its created.
  3. Open a Terminal window (from /Applications/Utilities) and run the next command:
  4. diskutil listing

  5. Note the trail of your USB drive within the listing. This shall be one thing like /dev/disk1.
  6. Run the next command:
  7. dd if=~/Desktop/FreeNAS-Eight.Three.1-RELEASE-p2-x86.img of=/dev/disk1 bs=64ok<br>

  8. Be SURE to exchange the “if” path and the “of” path with the proper ones on your system (the primary being the situation of your FreeNAS picture, the second being the trail to your flash drive). If you do that incorrectly, you possibly can trigger extreme information loss!
  9. Give it time to complete the copying course of. When it is achieved, you may get a message saying it accomplished efficiently.

Step Two: Boot and Configure FreeNAS

Now that you’ve your FreeNAS flash drive able to go, it is time to get FreeNAS began. Here are the issues we suggest doing to get it arrange:

  1. Plug the flash drive into your laptop and switch it on. Make positive as well from the flash drive. You might have to tweak a few BIOS settings so as to take action.
  2. It’ll take a couple of minutes to begin up. When it is achieved, it will offer you an IP tackle on the backside of the display screen. Head again to your primary laptop and sort that IP tackle in your browser’s navigation bar. You needs to be greeted with the FreeNAS internet interface.
  3. Before you do the rest, you may wish to change your username and password for this internet UI, since proper now it would not have a password—which may be very insecure. In the left-hand sidebar, head to Account > Admin Account > Change Admin User. Give your self a brand new username, and click on the “Change Admin User” button. Next, alongside the highest of that pane, click on the “Change Password” tab and provides your self a brand new password.
  4. This username and password solely applies to the FreeNAS internet interface, so you may wish to create a person for your self as nicely. To do that, head to Account > Users > Add User within the left-hand sidebar. Give your person a username, a major group (because the admin, I made my major group “wheel”), and a password. (Note: If you are including drives from an outdated FreeNAS 7 set up, it’s possible you’ll want to vary your User ID to 1000 as a substitute of 1001 in an effort to entry these drives).
  5. Optional: If you’ve got different folks in your family which are going to entry information on your house server, you may additionally wish to create a bunch for them at this menu. For extra data on this, see our guide to file permissions.
  6. Lastly, go to System > Settings and alter your protocol to HTTPS (for enhanced safety) and your timezone to your location. If you intend on utilizing your NAS to entry the web, you may additionally want to move to Network > Global Configuration and set your IPv4 Default Gateway to your router’s IP tackle. I additionally like to vary my NAS’ hostname to one thing apart from “freenas” (so I can simply spot it on the community), however that is non-obligatory.

Take a while to poke round FreeNAS’ configuration settings and tweak something you see that you just may wish to change. The above steps ought to get most individuals going, however in case you have particular wants (like in the event you’re utilizing static IP addresses as a substitute of DHCP reservations) you could have to tweak extra.

Step Three: Add Your Disks

Now that your FreeNAS system is up and working, it is time to add your exhausting disks to its pool. Here’s how:

  1. Head to Storage > Volumes > Volume Manager within the left-hand sidebar so as to add a brand new, clean exhausting drive.
  2. Give your new exhausting drive a reputation, select it from the listing of related drives, and select a filesystem. If you’ve got a extra highly effective machine, ZFS is FreeNAS’ really helpful alternative, however UFS is nice for lower-powered methods (I am utilizing UFS on my machine).
  3. Click the “Add Volume” button. This will wipe the drive, so be sure you’ve backed up something you want from it first.
  4. Once your quantity exhibits up within the left-hand sidebar, click on on it and select “Change Permissions.” This half is as much as you, however I like to vary the proprietor to my username. You may change the group in the event you need—I’ve created a bunch known as “household” because the proprietor of those drives, so different members of my family can entry them. Once once more, see our guide to file permissions for extra particulars on what all this implies.

Repeat this course of for all of your connected exhausting drives. If you are utilizing drives from an outdated FreeNAS system, you may wish to select “Import Volume” as a substitute of “Volume Manager” in step 1. Then simply choose what filesystem it is already utilizing, and you’ll use your current information.

Step Four: Share Your Disks

When your exhausting drives are all arrange, it is time to share them over the community. We’re going to make use of CIFS, since its preferable for households with Windows machines or with a number of working methods. If you’ve got an all-Mac family, look into AFP in its place.

  1. Head to Sharing > Windows (CIFS) Shares > Add Windows (CIFS) Share within the left-hand sidebar.
  2. Give your share a reputation, and click on the Browse button subsequent to Path. Navigate to the drive you wish to share.
  3. Click OK. It’ll ask you if you wish to allow the CIFS service. Don’t accomplish that simply but. Click No, then head to Services > CIFS within the left-hand sidebar. Change your NetBIOS identify to no matter you need, and tweak every other settings you need. The defaults needs to be wonderful for most individuals.
  4. Repeat Steps 1-Three for the opposite drives you wish to share.
  5. When you are achieved, head to Services > Control Services and flip the CIFS change to “On.”

Now, head to your primary laptop. If it is a Windows machine, open Windows Explorer and click on on the “Network” shortcut within the left-hand sidebar. You ought to see your FreeNAS machine pop up, and from there you possibly can navigate to any of your shared drives. If you are on a Mac, simply open the Finder and head to Go > Connect to Server, and sort smb://freenas (or no matter your CIFS share’s netBIOS identify is) and click on Connect.

When prompted, enter your username and password (the one we created from the FreeNAS “Users” settings earlier) and it’s best to have the ability to create and edit recordsdata proper out of your PC.

Congratulations, you’ve got a totally operational file server! Now you need to use these disks for no matter you need. You can retailer information on them, use them for backup, and even entry them immediately from your house theater PC (although in the event you require streaming to DLNA units, you may wish to take a look at the streaming part beneath).

Do More with Plugins

If you wish to do extra than simply share recordsdata, FreeNAS has a unbelievable plugin system to benefit from. Here, we’ll present you easy methods to set up three fashionable plugins for some fairly cool duties.

First: Set Up a Jail for Your Plugins

In order to put in plugins, you may have to arrange what’s known as a “jail.” Basically, a jail is a small digital FreeBSD atmosphere working inside FreeNAS that may run different packages. If you are utilizing ZFS, FreeNAS recommends you utilize their slightly more complicated method, however we’re simply going to set them up utilizing just a few folders on one among our exhausting drives:

  1. Choose one among your drives to carry your jail. I am placing it on my drive known as “Media.”Make positive this drive has the mandatory permissions to put in a jail and plugins. That means the drive ought to have Read and Execute permissions for “Other” in Storage > Volumes > (Drive Name) > Permissions.
  2. Create two new folders on this drive: one for the jail, and one for the software program we’ll set up on it. I simply known as these folders “Jail” and “Software.”
  3. Head to the the FreeNAS SourceForge page and navigate to the folder of the FreeNAS model you are utilizing (for me, that is FreeNAS-Eight.Three.1/RELEASE-p2/x86). Go to the “plugins” part and obtain the Plugins_Jail PBI for the model of FreeNAS that you just’re utilizing.
  4. In the FreeNAS internet interface, go to Services > Plugins > Management > Settings. Choose the quantity on which you created the 2 folders in step 1 when prompted.
  5. Set the Plugins Jail Path to the trail of your “jail” folder created in step 1, and the Plugins Archive Path to the trail of your “software program” folder. Give your jail a reputation (I known as mine “software program”) and an IP tackle and netmask. This needs to be a special IP tackle than your FreeNAS field makes use of for itself.
  6. Click Upload Jail PBI, and nagivate to the PBI file you downloaded earlier.
  7. Head to Services > Control Services and flip the Plugins change to On.

Now you are prepared to begin putting in your plugins! Here are just a few you may wish to check out.

Download Torrents with the Transmission Plugin

The Transmission plugin will will let you obtain and handle torrents out of your server, which is nice for seeding these torrents 24/7.

First, obtain and set up the plugin:

  1. Download the Transmission plugin from the identical web page you downloaded the Plugins PBI on FreeNAS’ SourceForge page.
  2. In the FreeNAS internet interface, click on Services within the sidebar and click on the “Plugins” tab alongside the highest. Click the “Install Plugin” button.
  3. Browse to the Transmission PBI you downloaded and click on Upload. You ought to see Transmission present up within the sidebar beneath Services > Plugins once you’re achieved.

Now that you’ve Transmission put in, we want a spot for it to retailer downloaded recordsdata. Since it resides in a jail, it will probably’t entry our regular drives, so we have to create a “mount level” throughout the jail that factors Transmission to our drive exterior the jail. Here’s how that works:

  1. In the FreeNAS internet interface, click on “Shell” within the left-hand sidebar to deliver up a terminal window on your server. Run the next command to see your present jails:
  2. jls

  3. Note the JID of the jail you wish to use (on this case, you most likely solely have one). Then Run:
  4. jexec 1 tcsh

  5. Where “1” is the JID of the jail you wish to use.
  6. Next, run:
  7. mkdir /usr/BTDownloads

  8. Exit the terminal window and go to Services > Plugins > Management > Mount Points within the sidebar, and click on Add Mount Point. For the Source, navigate to the folder you wish to use for Transmission’s downloads in your exhausting drive (in my case, it is /mnt/Media/Downloads). For the Destination, navigate to the /usr/BTDownloads folder we simply created. This will hyperlink the 2 folders collectively. Click OK.
  9. Open the Terminal again up by clicking “Shell” within the sidebar. Repeat steps 1 and a couple of to get again into your jail’s shell. Then, run the next command to vary the proprietor of your downloads folder:
  10. chown 1001:transmission /usr/BTDownloads

  11. Replacing 1001 with the UID of your person, if totally different than 1001.
  12. Next, run the next command to vary the permissions on that very same folder:
  13. chmod 775 /usr/BTDownloads

Now you possibly can simply arrange Transmission and get to downloading. Select the Transmission choice within the sidebar to vary its settings. You’ll positively wish to change the Downloads listing to /usr/BTDownloads, in addition to examine the “RPC Auth. Required” field and create a username and password (which ensures that solely you possibly can entry the Transmission internet interface). Tweak every other BitTorrent-related settings you need right here, then click on OK.

When you are achieved, return to Services within the sidebar, and click on the Plugins tab. Flip the Transmission change to “On” to allow the service. If all goes nicely, it’s best to have the ability to entry the online interface by typing this into your browser’s tackle bar:

192.168.zero.20:9091

Where 192.168.zero.20 is your jail’s IP tackle that you just picked earlier, and 9091 is the port for Transmission’s internet UI, obtainable within the Transmission settings. Try downloading a torrent, and it’s best to see it present up in your Downloads folder!

Stream Music with the Firefly Media Server Plugin

Firefly Media Server is an effective way to stream music from your house server to different computer systems and units in your home. It’s designed to work with the Roku Soundbridge and iTunes by way of the DAAP. Here’s easy methods to get it up and working:

  1. Download the Firefly Media Server PBI plugin from FreeNAS’ SourceForge page, as soon as once more navigating to the model that matches your model of FreeNAS.
  2. In thee FreeNAS internet interface, click on Services within the sidebar and click on the “Plugins” tab alongside the highest. Click the “Install Plugin” button.
  3. Browse to the Firefly PBI you downloaded and click on Upload. You ought to see Firefly present up within the sidebar beneath Services > Plugins once you’re achieved.
  4. Open up a Shell, similar to you probably did for Transmission, and run the next command:
  5. jexec 1 tcsh mkdir /usr/Music

  6. Once once more, substitute “1” along with your jail’s quantity. You can identify the listing no matter you need.
  7. Go again to Services > Plugins > Management > Mount Points and add a brand new mount level. Like we did with Transmission, set the Source to your drive’s music folder (in my case, that is /mnt/Media/Music” and set the Destination to the folder in /usr you simply created (in my case, /usr/Music).
  8. In the sidebar, head to Services > Plugins > Firefly to vary Firefly’s settings. Set the MP3 Dir to /usr/Music and click on OK.
  9. Go again to Services > Control Services and click on the Plugins tab alongside the highest. Flip the Firefly change to On to allow it.

Open up iTunes or your Roku Soundbridge and it’s best to see your new music server pop up, prepared for streaming. You may go to Firefly’s internet interface by typing this into your browser’s tackle bar:

192.168.zero.20:3689

Where 192.168.zero.20 is your jail’s IP tackle that you just picked earlier, and 3689 is Firefly’s port, obtainable in Firefly’s settings. You will not have the ability to stream music from the online interface, however you’ll see its standing.

Stream Videos with the MiniDLNA Plugin

Firefly will care for streaming music. Many house theater PCs will already have the ability to stream video simply by accessing your shared drive immediately over the community, however in the event you want one thing that shares over DLNA—say, for an Playstation Three or Xbox 360—that is a job for MiniDLNA. Setting it is extremely easy:

  1. Download the MiniDLNA PBI plugin from FreeNAS’ SourceForge page, as soon as once more navigating to the model that matches your model of FreeNAS.
  2. In thee FreeNAS internet interface, click on Services within the sidebar and click on the “Plugins” tab alongside the highest. Click the “Install Plugin” button.
  3. Browse to the MiniDLNA PBI you downloaded and click on Upload. You ought to see Firefly present up within the sidebar beneath Services > Plugins once you’re achieved.
  4. Open up a Shell, similar to you probably did for Transmission, and run the next command:
  5. jexec 1 tcsh mkdir /usr/Videos

  6. Once once more, substitute “1” along with your jail’s quantity. You can identify the listing no matter you need.
  7. Go again to Services > Plugins > Management > Mount Points and add a brand new mount level. Like we did with Transmission and Firefly, set the Source to your drive’s music folder (in my case, that is /mnt/Media/Videos” and set the Destination to the folder in /usr you simply created (in my case, /usr/Videos).
  8. In the sidebar, head to Services > Plugins > MiniDLNA to vary MiniDLNA’s settings. Set the Friendly Name to no matter you need, the Media Directory to /usr/Videos, and examine the “Rescan on Restart” field. ClickOK when completed.
  9. Go again to Services > Control Services and click on the Plugins tab alongside the highest. Flip the Firefly change to On to allow it.

Now, in the event you head to your Xbox, Playstation, or different DLNA-compatible machine, it’s best to see your machine pop up beneath DLNA or UPnP servers. Flip by way of your movies folder, choose a film, and get to watching!

These are removed from the one plugins you possibly can set up. There are plugins obtainable for Usenet, Subsonic, and others. Check out this forum post for extra of the plugins obtainable, and notice that a few of them would require you to arrange mount factors such as you did for Transmission. (Note additionally that a few of the plugins on the market are 64-bit solely, so you may want a 64-bit suitable machine to make use of them). And, if the software program you need is not obtainable as a PBI, you possibly can still install it from the command line.

You’re by yourself now, however in the event you’ve adopted this information up to now, it’s best to have all the abilities it’s essential do absolutely anything along with your new house server. Be positive to take a look at the FreeNAS documentation in the event you ever need assistance, in addition to the boards. Good luck!

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