So, I’ve got another project for your old PC. Turn it into a NAS. A NAS stands for network attached storage, and it basically shares a computer’s hard drives over the network so it can be accessed in multiple shares. Then, with your main computers or laptops, you can mount the network drive and have it show up as a regular hard drive would.
Before we get started, let me answer a few questions:
What’s the advantage to this instead of upgrading my main computer’s storage?
- Multiple users on computers can access the share(s) as once (My main reason)
- Better redundency (RAID) options and stability
- Backups to another device
Why not just use Ubuntu Server?
Ubuntu Server is great. However, configuring Samba on it can be confusing and there are often many problems with it, even with a control panel like Webmin. If all you want is a NAS, I would use an operating system like NAS4Free that is meant specifically for network shares.
What is RAID?
Raid stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. Watch this video by TechQuickie because Linus explains it better than I would:
Why aren’t we using FreeNAS or WIndows Server 2012?
FreeNAS writes it’s operating system to the RAM, and on it’s site it lists that it requires at least 8gb of RAM. Since most older PCs don’t have that, it wouldn’t be a good option. Windows Server 2012 costs a lot and has a lot of extra features if all you want is a NAS. However, solutions such as unraid and OpenMediaVault could definately work as well.
Alright! Let’s get started!
So, if you’re doing this on an old computer, you may want to open up the computer and clean some of the components inside. You’ll be surprised to see how much dust and gunk collects inside. Follow this video by LinusTechTips or this tutorial on WikiHow. This will actually improve performance.
What you need:
- An old computer (that can be connected to your network via Ethernet)
- Need to use WiFi? Buy this ethernet wireless adapter: IOGEAR Universal Ethernet to Wi-Fi N Adapter for Home or Office, GWU627
- A computer connected to the Internet with a DVD drive (OPTIONAL)
- Any USB Flash Drive or DVD over 4gb
- A monitor and keyboard that can connect to the old computer.
- Go to NAS4Free’s download page and click the folder for the latest version
- If you have a 32-bit processor on your old PC, download the x86 LiveCD iso file. If you have a 64-bit processor, download the x64 LiveCD iso file.
- A rule of thumb: If your PC has 2gb or less, then go with the 32 bit version. I would also reccomend looking up your processor to check. The 64-bit version will preform better, but won’t work with everything.
- (WINDOWS ONLY) Once downloaded, you burn the NAS4Free image file to either a USB drive or a CD
- For a USB drive: Download Rufus to write the iso file to a USB drive.
- In Rufus, leave everything as is except change “Create bootable disk using” to “Iso Image” and click the disk icon to select the NAS4Free image you downloaded. Click Start to begin writing the image. Agree to all downloads and press OK if a dialog pops up.
- For a DVD/CD drive: Download ImgBurn to burn the iso file to a DVD or CD.
- After going through the installation wizard, open ImgBurn and File > Open the iso file. Make sure you have the right drive selected, and click the big button on the bottom to burn to the DVD.
- For a USB drive: Download Rufus to write the iso file to a USB drive.
- (LINUX ONLY) If you are running Linux, you should already know what you’re doing… Just use dd or Brasero to burn the image.
- (OSX ONLY) Use Disk Utility to burn the image to a DVD or CD.
- Now that you have you have the NAS4Free on your USB drive or DVD, safely eject from your computer.
- Plug in the computer, monitor, the keyboard (and the USB drive) to back side of the the old computer. Often the USB drive cannot boot when in the front USB ports.
- Turn on the computer. When it first turns on, a screen should flash that will give you a key to press to enter into the BIOS/startup menu. Some common keys are ESC, F2, F3, F10, F12. Repeatedly press the keys to enter the BIOS. For help, go here.
- Locate boot options on your BIOS using the arrow keys and ENTER, then navigate to Boot Options/Boot Order/Boot Sequence. Also, insert your DVD into the drive at this point
- Put the DVD drive or USB device before the hard drive in the boot order.
- Often times, you have to go to extra lengths to enable the USB boot. Look for “Hard Drive Boot Sequence” or “Enable USB Drive Boot” or something similar. If you have no luck booting from a USB device, switch to DVD.
- Also, if you see the option for legacy boot, enable it.
- Usually somewhere on the screen (mostly the bottom) it will give you instructions on how to Save and Exit.
- After saving your changes, the computer will probably restart and boot into NAS4Free this time!
- The machine should take a while to power up so don’t worry if you see a lot of stuff going on (even if there are a few errors/warnings in there)
- A “Console menu” should pop up. Press 9 and ENTER on your keyboard to Install from LiveCD/USB.
- Now, it will ask you what type of installation/upgrade you would like. I opted in for Embedded because all I need is make network shares. If you have a beefier PC and want to install additional packages, consider installing full. I selected “Install ‘Embedded’ OS on HDD/SSD/CF/USB (preferred)”.
- Press Okay to confirm changes and select the DVD drive and Hard Drive/SSD/Flash Drive that you want to install the OS to. If you install the OS on a 8gb flash drive, the entire hard drive can be used as a network share!
- Press ENTER to continue, click Cancel on the Install/Upgrade screen, and press 7 and ENTER to reboot server on the main menu.
- You should now remove the installation media such as the flash drive or CD/DVD while it is rebooting.
- You should boot into NAS4Free! Press 1 or wait the five seconds to boot into the main mode.
- It will take a while for NAS4Free to boot and do it’s thing.
- You should be back on the NAS4Free page, but this time with more options. If the URL it gives you for the WebGUI is not on your gateway, or it doesn’t work when you try to connect, press 2 to Configure Network IP Address.
- Since I use DHCP, I pressed Yes to use DHCP for this interface, and I pressed no for IPV6.
- Your server should initialize the connection and obtain a new IPv4 address.
- Press ENTER to continue and use another computer on your network to log into the WebGUI with the supplied URL.
- Log in with the username “admin” and the password “nas4free”.
- Navigate to System > General to change your password. Then click the small “Password” tab:
- Head over to Disks > Management and press “Import Disks”. This should detect your hard drive.
- Note: to set up RAID with multiple disks. Go to Disks > Software RAID and create a new volume with your specified RAID type.
- Click “Apply Changes”
- Go over to Services -> CIFS/SMB and press “Enable” in the top right corner.
- Make sure Authentication is “Local User” and go to the bottom and press “Save & Restart”.
- You will now need to create the home directory for the user you will be creating. Go to Advanced > File Manager and authenticate with the username and password you just set.
- Click on the “home” folder/directory to open it.
- On the top right, change New from “File” to “Directory” and name it your new user you’ll be creating.
- Press Create to make the new folder
- Keep the file manager open, but in a new tab open up the WebGUI again and head over to Access > Users and Groups to add the user to access your share.
- Press the blue plus button towards the right side to make a new user.
- Change the username, full name, and password to your liking.
- Set the Primary Group to “nogroup”
- Click the three dots next to “Home Directory”
- In the pop-up window, click Parent Directory to go to /
- Click “home” to open the home folder, then click on the directory you made for the user.
- After selecting your user’s directory. Press OK to set it.
- Now, press “Add” to add this user.
- Click “Apply Changes” to save these changes.
- Go back to Services > CIFS/SMB and this time click the “Shares” tab.
- Click the blue plus to add a new share for the user you just created.
- Name the share whatever you want. I named it “bens_pictures”
- “Comment” is just the description of the share, so make it anything
- Set the “Path” to the home directory for the user. (Click parent directory, “home”, then the directory you made)
- Uncheck “Enable Guest Access” and click “Add”.
- Click “Apply Settings” to apply the settings (obviously).
- You did it! To make more shares, you DO NOT have to make more users. Instead, make new folders in the user’s home directory instead of sharing out the whole home directory. However, you can also make more users as well.
Connecting to your new network share
Windows: Open This PC and right click on “Network” on the left sidebar. Click “Map Network Drive”. Change the drive letter to any of your choice, then type two BACKSLASHES “\\” and then the NAS4Free server’s IP. Then another backslash and the share name. Select “Reconnect at sign-in” and “Connect using different credentials” to login with the account you created.
Then, enter the username and password you created. No need to change the domain in the username by using @ or slashes.
Now, you should be connected and it will appear and work as an ordinary hard drive.
The only reason my network share is so small is because I used a VM.
On Linux: Various file managers have different ways. For Ubuntu: use this tutorial.
On OSX: Use this tutorial. However, if you are making a share only for macs, I would suggest using AFP shares in Services > AFP. It is similar to SMB.
On a ChromeOS device: Open Files and on the sidebar, click “Add new services” and install “File system for Windows”. Then connect to it like you would on Windows. However, the settings are a bit different. Then press “Mount” to mount it. It will then show up as a location in your sidebar.
So, you did it! What’s next? Well, you could try this backup program for Windows that backs up your files to your SMB share!
Some products that relate to this tutorial (please use the links, it supports me):
- A ethernet wireless adapter work’s great to give your server internet without having to configure WiFi on FreeBSD (it’s horrible)
- Western Digital Red Hard Drives are built specifically for network storage and work great in RAID configurations. 1tb, 2tb, 3tb, 4tb.
- To connect multiple hard drives, you will probably need SATA cables:
- Servers can be loud. Buy some quiet case fans from Fractal Design. And maybe a quiet CPU fan/heatsink?
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