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Build Your Own Network-Attached Storage System

Nate Ralph | Oct. 18, 2011
With cheap storage readily available, the temptation to build vast libraries of music, movies, photos, and documents is ever present. But when each PC in your home is packed to its aluminum gills with gigabytes upon gigabytes of digital goods, managing all of that data can be a hassle.

The Setup: Installing FreeNAS

With the hardware selected and the FreeNAS CD at the ready, it’s time to get started.

Insert the DVD and USB key into the computer you’re setting up as your NAS. Before you start the machine up, be sure that the ethernet cable is plugged into the motherboard. You’ll also want to have another computer that’s connected to your network up and running, as you’ll be using it to connect to and configure the NAS.

Start up the PC and enter the BIOS. The steps to getting into the BIOS will vary depending on your motherboard, but the general rule of thumb is to mash the F2, F7, F8, or Delete key while the PC is booting up--watch the monitor after you’ve pressed the power button, and the instructions will scroll past during the normal startup sequence.

Once you’re in the BIOS, set the machine to boot from the optical drive. The steps will once again vary based on your motherboard model, but you should see a section that lists a Boot Priority order. Once you've set that, press F10 to save and exit; the machine will restart, query your optical drive, and then start loading FreeNAS from your CD.

You’ll know that FreeNAS is running when you see a plain blue screen with a list of options. You want to install FreeNAS onto your USB key, so select the very first option. FreeNAS will list arcane drive model numbers, so looking for the capacity of the USB key (in this case, 2GB) should be the easiest approach. Follow the prompts; FreeNAS will warn you that it will delete everything off of the USB key. Click through that message, and then go get a cup of tea while the progress indicator rolls over to 100 percent complete.

Once it’s done, you’ll see a prompt to eject the CD and reboot the machine. When your computer restarts, it should boot FreeNAS from the USB key--if it doesn’t, head back into the BIOS, set the motherboard to boot to the USB key, and restart again.

As FreeNAS is starting up, it will present lots of arcane lines of code, followed by a numbered list and a Web address to connect to. This is normal. That URL is the network address of your new file server. Type that address into a browser on a computer in your home that’s connected to the same network as the NAS, and you’ll reach the FreeNAS configuration screen.

FreeNAS will prompt you for a username and password. The default user name is “admin,” and the default password is “freenas.” You can change the default to whatever you’d like in the FreeNAS options.

 

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