I'm looking to build a medium sized (6TB, mini ITX board) server for personal use. Most importantly, it will serve as a seedbox and will store a whole lot of data. I will be accessing the data over my home network on a regular basis.

I was looking around to decide which OS to use and fell upon FreeNAS. It looks pretty cool, but I was wondering if it would be able to do everything a regular server distro could do (package manager, easy updating, web server, etc).

Is FreeNAS really only good for an actual NAS setup and not a server? (Bonus points if you also include FreeBSD as a possible server OS).

3 Answers 3


One of the greatest things with FreeNAS is that it uses ZFS. ZFS has a powerful feature called snapshots. You can take file system snapshots damn fast. With snapshotting you can make backups easy and more often. And also I am not sure why would you need package managers and web server on a dedicated storage server? Btw FreeNAS has web based administration tools. And I really don't recommend you to install anything besides OS on any storage servers unless you are not doing mission critical operations.

Also read this! http://www.freenas.org/about/news/item/freenas-803-release-notes

With FreeNAS you just install it and use. Nice web administration tools.

BUT. Personally just going to use FreeNAS on more serious things. Before that I was just playing with it. So I really don't know about hidden rock when using FreeNAS.

With Linux you would have more flexibility but also you would need to configure everything by yourself.

You have a choice.

  • I agree that ZFS is great, but be aware that FreeNAS ZFS support could lag behind. At the moment, FreeBSD 9.0 got ZFS v28; the next 8.x release, 8.3, apparently gets it, too -- but I couldn't find which FreeBSD version FreeNAS is based on. So if you're after ZFS, better check carefully or choose plain FreeBSD. (Also, people still use BSD for various reasons beside ZFS... :))
    – sr_
    Jan 19, 2012 at 17:27
  • FreeNAS based on FreeBSD 8.0 freenas.org/features and yes, I am not going to start Holy War :D (*BSD vs Linux)
    – bakytn
    Jan 19, 2012 at 17:35
  • 1
    With the introduction of NAS4Free (the true heir of FreeNAS), the increase in FreeBSD version have pulled in the v28 pool format, with all the toys/tools. NAS4Free makes a great OS, be it for a "simple" NAS or scaled up to a server.
    – killermist
    Oct 3, 2012 at 15:11

I've gone through FreeNAS 0.7, OpenFiler 2.3/2.99, and somehow i ended up on Scientific Linux 6.x. FreeNAS seems to be concentrated on the interface more than the stability of the system and safety of your data. FreeNAS 0.8 was even less stable than 0.7 somehow (WTF? shouldn't software iterations make things better?). Openfiler 2.3 didn't have the hardware support I needed. 2.99 had the hardware support, but the stability was horrid.

So I went with a vanilla Scientific Linux 6.0 (newest at the time), and I havent had a glitch since. RAID1 for startup disks, iSCSI exporting LVM2/software RAID-5 over 5 disks. It's so stable it's boring.

Since then we have FreeBSD 9.0 that just came out few weeks ago, so that might be a good option, as long as it supports your hardware. I've used older FreeBSD's for servers in the past and they were very nice, so if 9.0 is of the same quality, it might be a nice option.

There is no one clear answer on these sort of questions, you usually end up picking whatever is stable enough that runs on your hardware, and fits your use case (ZFS over HBA's, or hardware RAID with LVM on it, do you need iSCSI, etc...) The best advice I can give you is boot them all up, and just see what boots first. That usually narrows the field quite a bit, making the selection process much shorter.

  • 1
    can you tell us what kind of instability and problems you had? Lost link. Data loss etc?
    – bakytn
    Jan 19, 2012 at 16:53
  • Frankly, I don't remember anymore, I had two experiments going at the same time, one at work and another at home, so there was a lot of distros/hardware/configs tossed around.
    – Marcin
    Jan 19, 2012 at 22:03
  • I've never used FreeBSD before. Coming from a Linux background, how easy is a LAMP/NAS/Seedbox setup?
    – n0pe
    Jan 20, 2012 at 1:57
  • Not hard at all, there are some unique conventions & mechanisms, but ultimately it's Unix-relatives, so it's still plain text configs, command-line, files, and pipeline processing. Everything else is 'syntactical sugar' ;) Once you set it up, you won't even notice.
    – Marcin
    Jan 20, 2012 at 2:10
  • FreeNAS8 is a commercial project designed for the purpose of selling hardware. They abandoned a lot of the good design decisions of FreeNAS7 series. That with the inflated system "requirements" (because they're trying to sell more or more expensive hardware) makes FreeNAS8 very suspect.
    – killermist
    Oct 3, 2012 at 15:15

I would suggest to use SmartOS -- Joyent's smark fork of OpenSolaris(/Solaris??).

It has got all the facilities offered by OpenSolaris, plus it is mainstream now unlike OpenSolaris which is moot now. SmartOS has active community around it with active engineers who are the real faces behind innovations like ZFS, DTrace and others.

SmartOS is comprised of the Illumos kernel (with ZFS, DTrace, OS-level virtualization and next-generation KVM) with BSD package management and a GNU toolchain.

My primary reason to pick SmartOS, however stems from the fact that ZFS is now actively developed filesystem and more so it the latest version of the filesystem will be ported and available on SmartOS in native performance mode (rather than ported performance behaviour).

Go for it, you would not regret! (I am not affliated with any marketing of the distro nor have any gains/losses associated with the business of it, its just my personal preference)


  • smartOS is not the same as FreeNAS or Openfiler.....it is purpose built to do more than just storage. Also it has less equipped interface....its basically a hypervisor + Storage. Suggest you do a bit more reading on this...
    – JMS77
    May 31, 2012 at 18:16
  • Oh well, I was not comparing them but added few points to be noted about ZFS presence in SmartOS. BTW, SmartOS is "not" basically a hypervisor + Storage. On the suggestion of reading, sure let me know if you can point me to any relevant docs around. Jun 8, 2012 at 4:55

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