Install FreeNAS on Intel SS4200-E Network Attached Storage

First of all let me explain why I decided to Install FreeNAS on Intel SS4200-E. We are using Intel’s SS4200-E Network Attached Storage since many years to backup all data to the NAS. I have listed the configuration of the NAS device below. So far we were using legacy ntbackup utility to backup data of only a single Windows file server. Recently we decided to switch to NovaBackup software to backup all client computers as well servers including application servers having Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. Now we were in need of more storage space as the volume of backed up data is going to increase due to the inclusion of all computers and servers in our backup policy.

Processor : Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU 420 @ 1.60GHz
Memory : 512MB DDR-2 RAM
OS Media : 512MB IDE DOM (Disk on Module)
Operating System : EMC Storage Manager by EMC
Network : 1Gbps Network Interface
USB : 4 USB Ports (2 on Front panel and 2 on back panel)
Fire wire : 2 Firewire port (both on back panel)
SATA : 4 SATA Ports
Storage : 2 x 1TB HDDs
RAID Mode : RAID-1 (Mirror)
Usable Storage Space : 1 TB (1 TB Used for redundancy)
RAID Protection : Redundancy if one of the two HDD fails. If both HDD fails data will be lost.

We decided to buy 1 tera byte HDD and form a RAID-5 with 3 HDD x 1 TB where usable storage available will be 2 TB which we felt sufficient today and near future and the remaining 1 TB will be used to provide redundancy (store parity information to provide redundancy). This decision was taken on the fact that RAID-5 requires at least 3 HDDs.

We backed up all the data from NAS because we are going to break existing RAID-1 and form a new RAID-5 volume which will destroy all data. We followed below steps but failed to configure RAID-5 with 4 x 1 TB HDD.

  • Installed newly bought 1 TB HDD in third SATA port of SS4200-E.
  • Powered on the SS4200-E NAS.
  • Logged in to the web interface.
  • I didn’t find any option to break existing RAID-1 in web interface.
  • Googled a lot but no solution found.
  • Contacted local dealer who supplied the SS4200-E NAS. They told us that RAID-5 will be only possible with total 4 HDDs.
  • We bought one more 1 TB HDD.
  • Installed this 1 TB HDD in fourth SATA port of SS4200-E.
  • Powered on the SS4200-E NAS.
  • SS4200-E failed to boot. The power/status LED was flashing blue according to SS4200-E User’s manual which means that System is in process of booting up.
  • Again contacted the local dealer but they were unable to provide any solution.

When I was searching for solutions to the above issues I came across the Free Network Attached Storage project named “The FreeNAS Project”. I was very surprised by the features set provided by this Open Source FreeNAS and convinced to install FreeNAS on SS4200-E NAS if possible. I started searching for tutorials on installing FreeNAS on SS4200-E NAS.  I found below two useful links which ensure me that it is possible to install FreeNAS on SS4200-E NAS device.

Second link was not useful in my case (at least at this time) because installation of FreeNAS requires 2 GB of space while I was having only 512 MB IDE DOM. So, I decided to go for first link.

Install FreeNAS on USB Stick using Win32 Disk Imager

On my Windows PC I followed below steps to install FreeNAS on USB Stick.

  • Download FreeNAS
  • Download FreeNAS Users Guide
  • Download 7-Zip which will help to extract .iso and .xz files
  • Extract FreeNAS .iso file using 7-Zip. Further extract the FreeNAS-x86.img.xz using 7-Zip. After this we get a file named FreeNAS-x86.img.
  • Download and extract Image Writer for Windows. Now we get a few files including Win32DiskImager.exe
  • Run Win32DiskImager.exe by double clicking it. Ignored any errors received while launching Win32DiskImager.exe.
  • Select FreeNAS-x86.img in Win32 Disk Imager  window and select USB Stick (must be at least 2 GB) on which you want to install FreeNAS from the Device drop down box. Click Write button to start writing FreeNAS-x86.img to USB Stick. This operation will erase entire USB Stick and all data will be lost. Click Yes button to continue. Refer the snapshot given in Figure 1.

Install FreeNAS on USB Thumb drive using Win32 Disk Imager

Figure 1 :: Install FreeNAS on USB Stick using Win32 Disk Imager

  • Writing image file to USB Stick will take a few minutes. Once writing completes a window will pop up showing that “Write Successful.”. Click OK to close the pop-up window.
  • That’s it we have installed FreeNAS on USB Stick. Unplugged the USB Stick from Windows PC.

Booting Intel SS4200-E from USB Stick

  • Shutdown Intel SS4200-E
  • 4 x 1 TB SATA HDD are already installed
  • Plug in the USB Stick we recently installed FreeNAS in one of the USB port on rear panel of SS4200-E
  • Hold reset button located on rear panel of SS4200-E along with Power/Status button to power on the SS4200-E. This will boot the Intel SS4200-E NAS from the USB Stick.
  • Intel SS4200-E will boot into FreeNAS from USB Stick.
  • Power/Status LED is steady amber which means that the system has booted from USB.

Configuring FreeNAS

  • FreeNAS will obtain an IP address automatically if there is a DHCP Server on the subnet. It can be confirmed from DHCP Server’s lease table whether it has got any IP automatically or not. My unit failed to obtain IP address even there is a DHCP Server. So, I needed to manually configure network interface. But I was not having console cable to get into the FreeNAS screen. I simply plugged in a USB keyboard in one of USB port of SS4200-E and blindly entered below sequence of keystrokes which I gathered from this link.
    • 1 ↵
    • 1 ↵
    • n ↵
    • n ↵
    • y ↵
    • ↵
    • n ↵

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2 thoughts on “Install FreeNAS on Intel SS4200-E Network Attached Storage

  1. Hi, thanks for your sharing. I have trying like your instruction and working. but after I restart the nas boot still run from the DOM. Can you help?

  2. Nice write up.  I’m trying to evaluate if there is a advantage to going to FreeNAS over the built-in OS besides space.

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