Mar 3, 2015

How-To Install FreeNAS To USB Drive

FreeNAS is an Open Source Storage Platform based on FreeBSD and supports sharing across Windows, Apple, and UNIX-like systems. It comes with a lot of protocols and services – here are some to mention: CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, TFTP, AFP, RSYNC, Unison, iSCSI (initiator and target) and UPnP, Software RAID (0,1,5), ZFS, disk encryption, S.M.A.R.T/email monitoring with a WEB configuration interface (from m0n0wall). You can use it to build your own secure network file server to store all your important information on.

FreeNAS can be installed on compact Flash/USB key, hard drive or booted from LiveCD (version 7.x). Personally I like to install it on USB key to keep the software separate from the data on the hard disk. The rest of this article will show you how to do it. At the time of writing the current stable version is 8.0.2. The little graph on the right shown the number of downloads – this is what people download most:

They also have a 32-bit version (FreeNAS-8.0.2-RELEASE-i386.iso) and 64-bit version (FreeNAS-8.0.2-RELEASE-amd64.iso). You should choose 32-bit or 64-bit based on the hardware of the computer you are going to run FreeNAS on:

Download the .iso file from Source Forge and save it to your hard drive, for example in C:\Temp folder.

From here you can do two things:

1. Burn the .iso file to a CD. This will give you a bootable CD from where you can install FreeNAS to a hard drive or USB stick. The older versions (7.x) also had an option to run FreeNAS from the CD without installing it. With version 8.x this option is not available anymore.

2. Extract the embedded version of FreeNAS from the .iso file and write it directly to a USB stick. This is a faster way of getting FreeNAS installed but will not allow you to add additional software later.

In this article we are going to take the second approach. I will provide a separate posting on how to do variant 1 and install Transmission.

Note: As of version 8.0.1-BETA3 the image size increased. The new size requires a 2 GB USB storage device.

Step 1) Extract the FreeNAS image

We need to extract a file from the .iso file. If you already have a tool that can do that go ahead and use it. If not you can install the Daemon Tools Lite which is free for home personal use. Mount the .iso file and extract the FreeNAS_i386_embedded.xz (32-bit version) file. In case you downloaded the 64-bit version the name of the file will be FreeNAS_amd64_embedded.xz. Copy it to your hard disk.

For the rest of the article I will assume we chose the 32-bit version.

The .xz file is a compressed file. Un-compress it and extract FreeNAS_i386_embedded which is the image we have to write to the USB drive.

I use 7-Zip for extracting the files from .xz file. Make sure you use the latest version of 7-Zip. Right-click the FreeNAS_i386_embedded.xz file and choose 7-Zip -> Extract Here. This will extract FreeNAS_i386_embedded file and place it in C:\Temp

Step 2) Prepare the USB key

Plug the USB key in your PC and format the disk as FAT32. Sometimes Windows will not be able to format it (if it was partitioned or formatted with Linux file system for example). In this case you should try a “low-level” format using this tool:

HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool

Step 3) Write the FreeNAS image to USB key

The next step is to download Physdiskwrite from here. It is a ZIP file. Unzip it and copy physdiskwrite.exe and PhysGUI.exe to C:\Temp. Run PhysGUI.exe. It has a graphical interface and will display information about storage devices (hard drives and USB devices:

Remember the Device ID (first column) of your USB stick. Open a command prompt, change the folder to C:\Temp and type:
physdiskwrite -u FreeNAS-i386-embedded
It will list the disks (the same Device ID you got from Physdiskwrite) and will ask you to which of them to write the file. In my case it is drive 1 (type 1 and press)

It will ask you to confirm (press y followed by)

The program will start writing the file and you can see the progress. After it is done you have USB stick with FreeNAS installed on it. To try it reboot your computer and make sure it boots from the USB stick (either change the boot sequence in BIOS or use one of the hot keys during boot to enter the menu where you can select the device to boot from).

Some people are experiencing problems at this step. One suggested solution (thanks Jim) is:
Open a command window as admin (“cmd”)
Type “diskpart” and hit enter.
Type “list disk” and hit enter to find out the number of your drive.
Type “select disk X” (where you replace X with the number of your drive) and hit enter.
Type “clean” and hit enter.
after that go back to your temp folder and then try the process again.

If something goes wrong and you do not get a working FreeNAS on USB stick then try the first method – burn the .ISO file to a CD, boot from the CD and install FreeNAS to USB.

If you decide to go for version 7.x you get bit-torrent client (Transmission). It is missing in 8.0.2 but there are plans to be included in the future versions.

See Roadmap for 8.1

That is all.

Or almost. Probably you could have got the same information elsewhere – in the Google’s age it is hard to be original. Actually some time ago I came across a discussion about whether the blogging was declining. There were several responses in support of this – people were not seeing much sense in re-posting information available in 1000’s other places.

Saying that I would like to thank you for visiting my blog.


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