This operating system is designed to run a home server
If you have a computer lying around unused, it can become useful again by adding a new, large hard disk and turning it into a home network storage device.
Freenas is a good alternative to Windows for this purpose as it is designed to dedicate more of the computers resources to this job and it comes with the software needed for other network jobs such as streaming music to iTunes.
The system requirements are very low. Just 256MB of RAM is required (384MB recommended) and the operating system itself needs 400MB. The rest can be used for your files. This is version 7 of FreeNAS as version 8 does not have as many services yet for home users. Click here for a full comparison between the two versions on the Freenas website.
It supports plenty of different ways of transfering files including SMB and FTP.
The services it can provide over a network include Bittorrent, a uPNP server, the Firefly server for streaming media to iTunes, a web server and automated jobs with cron.
If you have more than one disk it supports software RAID, which can improve performance, reliability or both. It can send email alerts to warn of potential problems. If you don't know what RAID is, take a look at our explaination here.
This download is an ISO file that is used to create a boot disc for FreeNAS. Copying the file to a CD isn't enough. Windows 7 users should right click on the ISO file and select the option to Burn image to disc. Earlier versions of Windows will need a dedicated utility such as Active@ ISO Burner.
As installing FreeNAS will wipe everything from the disk it is installed onto, you should make sure all of your documents have been moved elsewhere before you begin.
Insert the CD in the computer and start it. You may need to set the computer to start from the CD.
When it starts you get a text menu with different options. If this is the first installation you should choose option 9. We couldn't find any real difference between options 2 and 3 unless you want to install on a flash or USB disk. We went for option 3, a full install.
This creates three sections (partitions) on the disk; for FreeNAS itself, for data and for the SWAP file (used when the system memory runs out). Select OK to confirm. This will wipe everything on the disk.
You can select the drive with the FreeNAS installation disc and the size of the partition for the operating system. We opted to make it a little bigger than the minimum of 380MB. That might never make a difference but it seemed better to do it that way rather than run out of space later on.
The installer then performed all the jobs on the drive. A message then appears saying to remove the disc and reboot the computer along with instructions of how to add the data and swap partitions to FreeNAS. We suggest writing these instructions down.
Press Enter to return to the main menu and then select Exit. Go through the network settings to get an IP address from the router and the server is ready to be controlled over the network. The address to use in a web browser on another computer on the network is displayed on screen. At this point the monitor can be disconnected.
The web interface is fairly well designed. There is something of an ommission in that the username and password to use don't appear onscreen at any point (admin and freenas we discovered thanks to Google). It would probably be a good idea to change this if you want to stop anyone on your network from making changes.
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