How To: Install TrueNAS Core

What is TrueNAS Core? It’s an open source operating system/appliance that will turn most PCs into a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server.

Why would you use TrueNAS Core? Most commonly, a TrueNAS Core system is used to provide file sharing services. However, it can also be used to provide a media hub and other services to a network of computers and mobile devices in a home or office. Best of all, you can use this software without a large expense and on old equipment that you already have lying around. You could say it is a “green” solution that can help get additional mileage out of a obsolete system, instead of discarding it. The other major reason that TrueNAS Core is used, is that it’s mature and stable and has broad community support.

TrueNAS Core is maintained and owned by iXsystems Inc. and has been re-branded from FreeNAS.

Lets get started.

You’ll need:

  • An old computer that still runs with a 64 bit processor.
  • While not required, the main board/processor should support ECC memory

    ECC memory corrects small errors in the data being processed. This helps ensure the integrity of the data before being written to the storage media.
  • 8GB of memory and again preferably of the ECC type.

    For systems with more than 8 drives, 1GB per each additional drive is required. For example, a system with 12 hard drives should have 12GB memory.
  • 1GB USB Thumb drive used for the installation process
  • 16GB USB Thumb drive for the operating system installation.

    TrueNAS recommends using a SSD or traditional hard drive for this, however for our demo we’ll be using a USB thumb drive.
  • TrueNAS Core ISO which can be downloaded here
  • At least one hard drive (SSD or mechanical) for data storage, preferably more than that.

Our test system is a second generation Core i3 on an Intel desktop board with 4GB non-ecc memory and a 500GB SATA mechanical drive. The system used is not worth more than $25. The nice thing about our setup is that it’s board has two network interfaces. Many desktop computers only have one onboard. If you are planning a setup like this, I would recommend a cheap small 120GB or less SSD for the operating system (they are about $25 now on amazon), and make sure your board/processor has onboard video. It’ll cost you more to operate if it does not because it consumes more electricity than integrated video.


Download TrueNAS Core to your computer.

In order to boot the computer and install TrueNAS you’ll need to prepare the USB stick with the installation image. Download Rufus, or UNetBootin to write the ISO file to the USB stick.

Insert the prepared USB stick into the computer you are making into the NAS and boot to it. Some computers require you to select the boot device on startup (often requiring you to press F11, F8 or F12 during boot).

You should see a boot menu. You can hit enter or just wait for a few seconds for the system to being to boot. Once it’s done you’ll see the following menu. Choose 1 “Install/Upgrade” and hit enter.

You may get this error message if you are installing with less than 8GB of memory. Our test system only has 4GB. Hit Y for Yes to continue.

The next screen requires you to select which drive you wish to install TrueNAS on. Follow the onscreen instructions to make your selection and hit enter to continue.

The system will prompt one final time before erasing the drive you are installing the system on. Hit enter to proceed.

Enter the administrator (root) password on the next screen twice and hit enter when done.

On this screen select Boot via BIOS on older equipment, such as our test system (i3 first generation with 4GB memory). For newer equipment you’ll choose Boot via UEFI.

The last screen before heading back to the menu and rebooting is prompting us to create a swap partition of 16GB. If you’re space constrained and have the memory, choose “No Swap” otherwise create the swap partition.

After you’ve restarted the system, your machine will boot to the screen to the left. We had to reset the network configuration on this system, but you’ll see that the machine can be reached by any browser on the local network at Jump on another computer and confirm you can get to the management tool through Chrome or Firefox. If that’s successful, the rest of the configuration can be done from the web interface.

A final note – you’ll probably want to set a static IP address for this system here as it can be problematic if the address changes later on and you’re not able to reach your NAS! You can do that by following the steps under option 1 “Configure Network Interfaces”

Check out more of our How-To’s for additional great tips like this one.

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