FreeNAS install and configuration

Published 30 January 2016.


This guide will take you through installation and basic configuration of key services enabling secure access, regular disk checking, scrubs and email warnings which are all in my opinion vital to ensure reliable robust operation of your server. I’ll build upon this guide with configuration guides for setting up a suite of media applications.


Download the latest FreeNAS ISO image from, this guide is based on the current 9.3.1 build.

Create a bootable USB stick with the downloaded image. I like using Rufus on Windows but there are several means to accomplish this.

Insert and boot your intended FreeNAS box from the USB key

When prompted, select option 1 to install FreeNAS.


Select where you wish to install FreeNAS. My recommended options include dual-USB sticks (8GB minimum each) or Supermicro SATA-DOM modules. You can use SSD’s too if you want but it’s overkill in my opinion.


Enter desired root password and then FreeNAS will commence installation.

Shortly after you should be presented with a success screen.


Remove the FreeNAS install USB and select Ok to reboot.


Your machine should now proceed to boot form the new created FreeNAS image. Once booting has completed, you will be presented with a menu. Lets configure the network interfaces first to allow us to connect to the web interface where we will conduct the rest of the configuration from.


Enter 1 to Configure Network Interfaces, depending on the type of network interfaces you have, yours may be called something other then em0, select accordingly.

The menu page should redisplay with the updated network configuration prompting you with the address to try to access the web user interface.


You should now be able to access the web interface at the address you entered, in my example here


Proceed to login with username =’root’ and the password you set during installation.

Complete the first stage of the initial wizard as follows:-


Create pool

Its not possible to advise outside of some general guidelines what and how best to structure an array of disks. Array configuration can be such as to prioritise IO, maximise capacity or redundancy. Its worth doing your research here, once you have created an array and populated it with data it can be difficult to migrate to another configuration.

For the sake of this guide, I’m going to create a 6 disk RAIDZ2 array which provides redundancy of two disks being lost from the array. The resilvering process which runs when a disk fails stresses the remaining disks in the array and it isn’t unknown for an additional disk to fail during the process. The problem is compounded by the capacity of drives now reaching and exceeding 4TB. For this reason I advise a RAIDZ2 as a minimum configuration. Hotspares and/or RAIDZ3 are alternatives worth considering.

/images/160130-freenas create_zvol

After a short while, you will be presented with a summary of the RAID volume you just created. The top ‘RAID’ label represents the pool, the second label is the RAID dataset. The reason for the size difference is the dataset only includes the useable space, not the overheads associated with the redundancy.


Setup FreeNAS foundations

The following are what I consider to be best practice steps worth undertaking for peace of mind.

Enable HTTPS access to the web configurator

Navigate to System > Certificates & click on Create Certificate Signing Request

The visor should report successful creation of the Internal Certificate Authority.

Now navigate to System > Certificates & Click on Create Internal Certificate

The visor should report successful creation of the Internal Certificate.

Now navigate to System > General and set the following options to enable HTTPS access.

The GUI will now restart and you will be prompted to accept a certificate before being able to log back in via a secure connection.

Miscellaneous additions

Display the console log in the bottom part of the GUI window.

Navigate to System > Advanced

Optimize system dataset.

This retains the RRD system log data in the pool rather than on the more limited system drive. Benefits are that historic data wont be lost of you need to replace your system disk and also space on the system disk is usually more limited than in your pools.

Navigate to System > System Dataset

Set NTP servers

Worth validating the default NTP servers are correct for your requirements. I sync all my local devices to my pfSense firewall instead of th freebsd ones.

Navigate to System > General > NTP Servers

Set network configuration

Navigate to Network > Global Configuration

Verify DNS works by Navigating to Shell in the left side column and verify you can perform a nslookup <domain> command, for example

[admin@freenas] /% nslookup

Non-authoritative answer:

Create ‘admin’ user

Best practice dictates we disable root logins and provide an admin user to manage FreeNAS with.

Navigate to Account > Users > Add User and enter the following data

Configure SSH access

Navigate to Services > SSH

Enter the following to enable SSH access.

Navigate to Services > Control Services and switch SSH on.

You should now be able to login with the user ‘admin’, note root user login is disabled so you will need to specify the username as part of the connect command. For example, on a Mac using Terminal, -l allows us to specify the login user as ‘admin’.

$ ssh freenas -l admin
admin@freenas's password:
Last login: Sun Jan 31 14:24:10 2016 from
FreeBSD 9.3-RELEASE-p28 (FREENAS.amd64) #0 r288272+f229c79: Sat Dec 12 11:58:01 PST 2015

    FreeNAS (c) 2009-2015, The FreeNAS Development Team
    All rights reserved.
    FreeNAS is released under the modified BSD license.

    For more information, documentation, help or support, go here:
Welcome to FreeNAS

[admin@FREENAS] /%


Before we can configure e-mail for our admin user, we need to give the root user a valid email address too. Navigate to Account > Users > View Users, highlight ‘root’ and then select ‘Change E-mail’.

We can now set up our admin user, navigate to System > Email and enter the details of your SMTP server as required. These are Google’s default SMTP settings for reference.

Once you have entered all your info you should select ‘ Send Test Mail’ to verify this is working. After a short while, you should receive an email from the admin@freenas.local user.

Configure UPS

Running a fileserver without a safe means of providing power during an outage to enable safe shutdown is very likely to end in corrupted data. FreeNAS makes extensive use of all available RAM for caching so the risk is significant.
My advice is simple. Do not risk any non-disposable data to a FreeNAS system that isn’t powered by a UPS capable of providing adequate runtime and properly configured to shutdown in an emergency.

I use a APC SMT1500 2u UPS which provides in excess of an hours power for my FreeNAS box. The UPS is connected via a APC AP9630 network connection to pfSense which provides UPS power status via my LAN to a number of devices which are configured to power down should power be lost for a certain time period.

The configuration below assumes you are also running a NUT master. It is possible to connect FreeNAS directly to the UPS via a USB connection but this is outside the scope of this guide for the time being.

Navigate to Services > UPS

Navigate to Services > Control Services and turn UPS on.

Its possible to verify everything is working by navigating to the Shell and entering the uspc command, for example

[admin@FREENAS] /mnt% upsc ups1@
device.mfr: APC
device.model: Smart-UPS 1500 RM
device.serial: AS**********
device.type: ups snmp-ups
ups.load: 41.60
ups.mfr: APC 01/08/08
ups.model: Smart-UPS 1500 RM
ups.serial: AS**********
ups.status: OL
ups.temperature: 27.00 12/27/2015
ups.test.result: Ok

Configure S.M.A.R.T testing

First of all its worth taking a look at the bigger picture of how a combination of short and long term SMART tests in collaboration with regular scrubs can provide a secure storage environment that can provide early warning of possible issues. By regularly reviewing the results of these tests you can identify a hard disk is starting to fail before it actually fails providing you with the best chance of securing your data before any emerging problems can do it any harm.

Before you finalise your own personal testing schedule, its worth getting an understanding of the expected durations of both short and long SMART tests. You accomplish this with sudo smartctl -c /dev/ada1 (obviously replacing ad0 with your own drive identifier). In the output you’ll see the following section about half way down, these values will help you fine tune your test start times versus your periods of heavy activity when you wouldn’t want users to experience any degradation in performance.

Short self-test routine
recommended polling time:    (   2) minutes.
Extended self-test routine
recommended polling time:    ( 517) minutes.
Conveyance self-test routine
recommended polling time:    (   5) minutes.

Here’s how a month looks from a macro testing perspective.

|task          day->|01   |02   |03   |04   |05   |06   |07   |08   |09   |10   |11   |12   |13   |14   |15   |16   |17   |18   |19   |20   |21   |22   |23   |24   |25   |26   |27   |28   |29   |30   |31   |
|boot scrub         |01:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |01:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|pool scrub         |02:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |02:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|long smart test    |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |02:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |02:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|short smart test   |     |     |     |06:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |06:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |06:00|     |     |     |     |     |     |06:00|     |     |     |     |
|send smart report  |     |07:00|     |     |07:00|     |     |     |07:00|     |     |     |07:00|     |     |     |07:00|     |     |     |07:00|     |     |07:00|     |     |     |07:00|     |     |     |
|send zpool report  |     |07:01|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |07:01|     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |

Configure short tests

Navigate to Tasks > S.M.A.R.T Test

Add S.M.A.R.T test and configure options as follows:-

Here’s what your SMART test panel should look like

/images/160130_short smart testing

Configure long tests

Navigate to Tasks > S.M.A.R.T Test

Add S.M.A.R.T test

Here’s what your SMART test panel should look like

/images/160130_long smart testing

Configure scrubs

Navigate to Storage > Scrubs and select View Scrub. Highlight the scrub allocated to Volume called RAID and select edit. Complete the form with the following options:


Configure S.M.A.R.T. reporting

Open up the Services menu on the left and highlight ‘S.M.A.R.T.’. We will configure FreeNAS to send an email if any drive temperatures rise above 37 degrees. I established this value primarily from the following articles by Google and Backblaze who both have enough data points to be able to speak from significant experience.

Google’s Failure trends in a Large Disk Drive Population
Backblaze’s reliability stats of Q3 2015
Backblaze’s raw data access

Navigate to Services > S.M.A.R.T. and configure the panel as follows:-

Navigate to Services > Control Services and switch S.M.A.R.T on.

I would suggest this is an important stage so its worth verifying by setting an value into the critical field to validate the email notification is being sent. For example, I set it to 25 and within a short time period had an email in my inbox and the red alert warning flashing in the GUI advising of a problem.

Device: /dev/ada6 [SAT], Temperature 35 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/35)
Device: /dev/ada4 [SAT], Temperature 35 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/35)
Device: /dev/ada1 [SAT], Temperature 33 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/33)
Device: /dev/ada2 [SAT], Temperature 35 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/35)
Device: /dev/ada5 [SAT], Temperature 35 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/35)
Device: /dev/ada3 [SAT], Temperature 33 Celsius reached critical limit of 25 Celsius (Min/Max ??/33)

Additional scripts

Generate Config Backups

To ensure your configuration is safe and protected its beneficial to run a daily cron job to copy the current FreeNAS configuration file into a folder on your pool. We are going to do this configuration in the Shell so first SSH into your FreeNAS box.

Create a location for some user scripts.

mkdir /mnt/RAID/.scripts
cd /mnt/RAID/.scripts

Now lets create the script itself

sudo ee

Paste the following line into this file.

cp /data/freenas-v1.db /mnt/RAID/.scripts/ConfigBackups/`date +%Y%m%d`_`cat /e

Make the file executable

chmod +x

and create a directory for it to store the backups in

mkdir /mnt/RAID/ConfigBackups

Next we setup a cron job to automatically run this script everyday at 11:55pm

Navigate in the GUI to Tasks > Cron Jobs > Add Cron Job

Enter the following

Even though the backup files are sall, its stil worth reviewing this folder regularly to prune it of old files.

SMART mail report

Its worth paying close attention to SMART attributes of all of your disks. Theres an active thread on the FreeNAS forums here where some useful scripts created by BiduleOhm are being developed. To implement the SmartReport script which will email you a summary of daily SMART stats:

cd /mnt/RAID/.scripts

Paste the contents of the script from here into this file. Note that you will need to enter your email address and drive identifiers into the top of the script.

Save, Exit and verify it runs by entering

sudo ./

If all has gone well, you should receive a mail with your drives SMART details.

Next we add a cron job to execute this script per our schedule above. Navigate in the GUI to Tasks > Cron Jobs > Add Cron Job

You should start receiving regular emails with SMART status reports contained within. Keep an eye on them and watch for signs that any of your drives may be about to develop a fault.


That should provide you with a suitable configuration to build upon for whatever your purpose is.