5 Fun Things to Do with FreeNAS

Written by Annie Zhang on .

If I asked the average user how they use FreeNAS, they’d probably answer “back up and store files”. While that’s both practical and important, it’s also a bit boring. The software is designed for small and home offices but if you’ve got a system at home, you’re probably wondering what kind of fun you can have with it.

To that end, we’ve rounded up five of the more interesting ways you can use FreeNAS. Some of the tutorials I’ll link to make the assumption you’ve already built and set up your system. If you need some help with that, check out our official FreeNAS guide to hardware design and the FreeNAS YouTube channel.

Many of these projects make extensive use of the plugins system. An overview of plugins and a full list of the ones available can be found in the FreeNAS documentation. The guides range from a simple plugin installation to some command line hacking so make sure you’re comfortable with the difficulty level before attempting any tutorial.

1. Set Up the Ultimate Entertainment Device

Media Streaming

FreeNAS is a file server by nature—in order to turn it into a media server, you’ll need to install a few plugins to allow the system to download and stream media.

There are several combinations of plugins you can install depending on the type of media you’ll be using—the most popular being Transmission (torrenting) and Plex Media Server (streaming). However, there are many other plugins that specialize in specific media types such as Firefly (music), Mylar (comic books), Sickbeard (TV shows), and CouchPotato (NZB/torrents).

If you need to stream to a DLNA device such as a PS3 or XBox One, you can install MiniDLNA by following this tutorial from joeschmuck of the FreeNAS forums.

2. Host a Personal Cloud

OwncloudWith some of the horror stories out there about privacy breaches, some people are understandably on edge about handing over their documents and photos to a third-party. Now you can set up a secure personal cloud on FreeNAS that only you and authorized users have access to. Once you get OwnCloud set up, it’s like having a personal Dropbox. The easiest way to do this is through the official plugin located in the Plugin tab.

For more control, you can also configure OwnCloud manually—there are several ways to do that. Here’s a video tutorial from DrKK of the forums for his method and the corresponding forum thread.

Here’s an alternative method from Josh Parker Ruehlig who wrote many of the FreeNAS plugins.

3. Share and Distribute Files Privately

In a similar vein, you can also use FreeNASbittorrent-sync-logo to share files and pictures with friends and family with the Bittorrent Sync plugin. It functions a bit like Dropbox but BTSync is a peer-to-peer sharing application—unlike the cloud, all the files are stored locally on each device and updated when changes are made. This is useful for sharing photos or files across several computers regardless of size. Because you’ll be downloading from many sources, it’s also vastly faster than a cloud.

Here’s our official video tutorial for setting up BTsync. It’s relatively straightforward, and it explains in step-by-step detail how to configure FreeNAS first and then set up the plugin.

4. Set up a Private Voice Chat Server

mumbleYou can configure a FreeNAS system with Mumble. If you’re not familiar with Mumble, it’s an Open Source voice over IP application that enables you to voice chat with friends over a private and secure system. There’s no limit to how many people can join a particular chat; the maximum depends on the particular server.

This particular project takes some effort to set up. This tutorial again comes courtesy of DrKK and demonstrates how to set up your own Murmur server using FreeNAS.

5. Deploy a Minecraft Server

minecraftLove Minecraft? You’ll be happy to know you can configure your FreeNAS system to host a Minecraft server. Josh Parker Ruehlig, the person responsible for the FreeNAS MineOS plugin, created a video and forum thread to demonstrate how to set it up. As he points out, the MineOS plugin gives you the advantage of being able to manage your servers via a web UI.

Prior to the plugin, you had to install Minecraft from scratch into a jail. Alternatively, you can do just that as community member Cyberjock demonstrates in this tutorial.

A Few Final Notes

First and foremost, it’s up to you to secure your system, follow best practices, and make sure your data recovery plan is adequate. None of these projects mean very much if your files are compromised or corrupted by malware.

For more project ideas, I highly recommend browsing the FreeNAS forums and signing up for an account. It’s a huge repository of great information. If you’re confused about a topic, post or do a search in the forums. Chances are you’ll find something or someone to help you.

This is just the beginning of what you can do with FreeNAS. The DIY aspect of FreeNAS means that there are literally thousands of iterations of hardware combinations and use cases. Keep in mind the FreeNAS plugin system is based on FreeBSD jails and the PBI system from PC-BSD which means advanced users can install any software they want using the FreeBSD package tools, opening up even more possibilities for your NAS.

The FreeNAS Hardware Guide You’ve Asked For | Does ZIL Size Matter? Issue #18

Written by Annie Zhang on .

Hello FreeNAS Users,

We’re proud to present several guides this month, including one that’s frequently requested: an official FreeNAS hardware guide direct from the developers of FreeNAS. We’ve been working on it for a while and we hope you find it helpful.

The FreeNAS Team
A Complete Guide to FreeNAS Hardware Design
Check out the definitive FreeNAS hardware guide authored by the one and only Josh Paetzel, a core member of the FreeNAS team and iXsystems Director of IT:

Why ZIL Size Matters (or Doesn’t) by Marty Godsey
Marty Godsey, Sales Engineer at iXsystems, explains how ZIL size can affect performance and the other factors that you need to take into account to get the best performance from your system. Read more >>

FreeBSD Journal


How to install MiniDLNA into FreeNAS 9.3
One of our forum community members, joeschmuck, wrote a helpful, step-by-step tutorial for manually installing MiniDLNA in a jail on FreeNAS. Read more >>
FreeNAS Certification Classes
We now offer a free Intro to FreeNAS class that runs every day. For those of you interested in learning more about advanced topics, we also offer paid, fully interactive classes. Read more >>
6 Reasons Why TrueNAS is replacing NetApp and EMC – Free Webinar
What’s the difference between FreeNAS and TrueNAS? For the answer, we invite you to join Matt Olander, Co-Founder of iXsystems, in a free webinar about TrueNAS. Find out why people are making the switch from big-name, legacy storage vendors to TrueNAS. Read more >>
Upcoming Live Events

TechTip #14
FreeNAS will automatically check for updates every night, or you can check manually whenever you want. You can then apply them at any time.
Join the Team
iXsystems, the company that sponsors FreeNAS, is looking for a few good people to join our team. Interested? The full list of available positions can be found on our website.
Links of the Month


A Complete Guide to FreeNAS Hardware Design, Part IV: Network Notes & Conclusion

Written by Joshua Paetzel on .


FreeNAS is a NAS and/or IP-SAN (via iSCSI)…which means everything happens over the network. If you are after performance, you are going to want good switches and server grade network cards. If you are building a home media setup, everything might be happening over wireless, in which case network performance becomes far less critical (there really is a difference in performance between a Cisco 2960G or Juniper EX4200 and a Netgear or Dlink! This difference becomes more pronounced if you are doing vlans, spanning tree, jumbo frames, L3 routing, etc).

In the current landscape, gigE networking is nearly ubiquitous and 10Gbe networking is expensive enough to keep it out of the hands of many home and small business setups. If you have a number of users and appropriate switch gear, you can benefit from aggregating multiple gigE network connections to your FreeNAS box. Modern hard drives approach, and oftentimes exceed, the performance of gigE networking when doing sequential reads or writes. Modern SSDs exceed gigE networking for sequential or random read/write workloads. This means that — on the low end — a FreeNAS system with a 3 drive RAIDZ pool and a single gigE network connection can hit a bottleneck at the network for performance, since the volume will be able to read or write sequentially at 200+ MB/sec and the network will be limited to ~115MB/sec. If your application is IOPs bound instead of bandwidth bound (such as a database or virtualization platform), and your storage is comprised of spinning disks, you might find that a single gigE connection is sufficient for a dozen or more disks.

Intel NICs are the best game in town for Gigabit networking with FreeNAS. The desktop parts are fine for home or SOHO use. If your system is under-provisioned for CPU or sees heavy usage, the server parts will have better offload capabilities and correspondingly lower CPU utilization. Stay away from Broadcom and Realtek interfaces if and when possible.

In the Ten Gigabit arena, Chelsio NICs are hands down the best choice for FreeNAS. There’s a significant premium for these cards over some alternatives, so second and third choice would be Emulex and Intel (In that order). FreeNAS includes drivers for a number of other 10Gbe cards but these are largely untested by the FreeNAS developers.

Fibre Channel

Options here are very limited. Qlogic is pretty much the only game in town. The 16Gb parts do not have a driver yet and the 1Gb parts are no longer supported, so you’ll be limited to the 8Gb, 4Gb and 2Gb parts. Fiber initiator mode works out of the box, and the “easter egg” to enable Target mode is well documented and tested.

Boot Devices

FreeNAS was originally designed to run as a read-only image on a small boot device. The latest versions now run read/write using ZFS. A SATA DOM or small SSD is a great boot device for the latest versions. Since ZFS is used, the boot device itself can be mirrored. As an alternative to a SATA DOM or SSD, one or more high quality USB sticks can be used. As an absolute minimum, the boot device must be 4GB, however 8GB is a more comfortable and recommended minimum. Beyond 16GB in size, the space will be mostly unused. Since the boot device can’t be used for sharing data, installing FreeNAS to a high capacity hard drive is not recommended.


Hardware configuration is one of the most prominent and active categories in the FreeNAS forum. I have attempted to share some best practices that we at iXsystems have seen over the years and I hope that I have not missed anything big. With so many options and use cases, it’s difficult to come up with a set of one-size-fits-all instructions. Some other tips if you get stuck:

  1. Search the FreeNAS Manual for your version of FreeNAS. Most questions are already answered in the documentation.
  2. Before you ask for help on a specific issue, always search the forums first. Your specific issue may have already been resolved.
  3. If using a web search engine, include the term “FreeNAS” and your version number.

As an open source community, FreeNAS relies on the input and expertise of its users to help improve it. Take some time to assist the community; your contributions benefit everyone who uses FreeNAS.

To sum up: FreeNAS is great—I’ve used it for many years and we have several instances running at iXsystems. I attempted to provide accurate and helpful advice in this post and as long as you follow my guidance, your system should work fine. If not, feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Josh Paetzel
iXsystems Director of IT

<< Part 3/4 of A Complete Guide to FreeNAS Hardware Design, Pools, Performance, and Cache