FreeNAS® Hardware Requirements and Recommendations

FreeNAS is a free and open source Network Attached Storage (NAS) software based on FreeBSD. While FreeNAS will install and boot on nearly any 64-bit x86 PC (or virtual machine), selecting the correct hardware is highly important to allowing FreeNAS to do what it does best: protect your data.

These guidelines will help you select or purchase the appropriate hardware for your use case, performance needs, and the importance of your data. There is also a supplementary FreeNAS Hardware Guide blog available that provides additional detail.

UNIVERSAL SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS & NOTES

  1. FreeNAS is managed primarily through a graphical user interface (GUI). This requires a modern web browser on a separate computer on the same network as the FreeNAS device.
  2. When done correctly, RAID is what allows you to combine disk drives while providing the necessary protection against disk failure. FreeNAS & ZFS will provide the necessary RAID capabilities. Therefore, hardware RAID is not needed and should not be used with FreeNAS. If you want to add additional disks beyond what the motherboard supports, Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) are recommended instead. This provides FreeNAS and ZFS direct access to the individual storage drives and allows for maximal data protection. For best results, see the FreeBSD Hardware Compatibility List for supported disk controllers.
  3. The recommendations below should be adjusted to your individual use case. For example, while workgroup and backup servers are generally capacity-oriented, media and virtualization storage servers are typically more performance-oriented.

Minimum Hardware Requirements:

These specifications are the bare minimum requirements to run a small FreeNAS system with baseline performance for 1-4 users.

  • 64-bit processor
  • One Operating System Drive (8GB minimum; USB Drive)
  • 8 GB RAM (ECC recommended but not required) will support up to 8 hard drives and an additional 1 GB of RAM is suggested for each additional drive
  • A SATA or SAS drive controller with any hardware RAID functionality disabled
  • At least one direct-attached disk
  • One physical network port

Recommended Minimum Hardware:

These are the specifications for a home media server or small office file share that will have the minimum resources required to support up to 8 drives and run third party services (plugins, jails, VMs) and provide respectable performance.

The FreeNAS Mini is designed to these specifications and available from iXsystems as a prebuilt and professionally-designed system.

  • Multicore 64-bit processor
  • At least one operating System Drive (16 GB or larger recommended, SATA DOM, M.2, or SSD recommended)
  • 16 GB or more RAM (ECC recommended)
  • At least two SATA or SAS disks (mirrored) attached to a dedicated storage controller. LSI HBAs are recommended and check the FreeBSD Hardware Compatibility List for a full list of supported disk controllers and HBAs
  • NAS drives such as WD Red Plus are recommended for systems up to 8 drives
  • At least one physical network port (Intel® recommended). For best results, see the FreeBSD Hardware Compatibility List for supported Ethernet chipsets

Optional dedicated SSD write log (SLOG), and read cache (L2ARC) devices for greater performance

Typical Requirements for a Small and Medium Business NAS

These are the specifications for a higher-end system, beyond eight drives. You will notice that there is more variability in the recommendations here since the systems will need to be configured to meet the requirements of the specific use case, application, and performance, or reliability need.

To remove the guesswork from this process, iXsystems offers FreeNAS Certified Servers, which are pre-configured with FreeNAS using fully qualified hardware and spec’d to meet your needs.

  • One or two Intel 64-bit multicore processors. Intel® Xeon® or AMD® EPYC® Processors may be used for enhanced performance
  • Operating System Drive (32 GB or higher, SATA DOM, M.2, or SSD recommended)
  • 32 GB ECC RAM or more (add more to increase performance)
  • NAS drives such as WD Red Pro are recommended up to 16 drives, and WD UltraStar Enterprise drives for systems beyond 16 drives
  • High-endurance Flash/SSD-based write log device (SLOG) for synchronous writes
    (Flash drives or SSDs with “Power Loss Protection” recommended)
  • High-performance SSDs for read cache (L2ARC)
  • At least two physical network ports. Intel® is recommended for 1GbE and Chelsio or Intel are recommended for 10 GbE. For best results, see the FreeBSD Hardware Compatibility List for supported ethernet chipsets
  • Redundant Power Supplies

Enterprise Hardware Recommendations

If both data and uptime are important, iXsystems recommends the TrueNAS Enterprise Storage Appliances for maximal reliability, performance, data protection, scalability, and the peace of mind provided by 24×7 support.

TrueCommand

For complete control over your FreeNAS and TrueNAS fleet, TrueCommand is a “single-pane-of-glass” user interface that offers enhanced management, access control, and monitoring from one to many systems.

More Information

For a comprehensive guide describing these requirements, along with the reasons behind each recommendation, please read the Official FreeNAS Hardware Guide.

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