At home I needed an upgrade for my Network-attached server. A colleague suggested the HP MicroServer, as we were both working for HP in Belgium, this sounded like a very good idea. So I did some investigating in how I could set up everything, what I would need to make it working etcetera.
Order all parts
The first thing I needed to do was order all parts, so I could setup everything in one go. I chose to order the HP Micro Server Gen8 G1610T from Amazon France, France because it’s a neighbouring country of Belgium. It was also the cheapest at the time of searching. If you look closely, you can see the HP Micro Server only has 2 GB of RAM, which isn’t enough, I’ll explain later. The HP MicroServer has 4 bays for 3.5 inch hard drives, which I can recuperate from my older NAS. It also has numerous USB ports for extra drives you can attach. My HP Micro Server has 5 USB 2.0 ports, and 2 USB 3.0 ports. Because the HP MicroServer has little to no internal memory, you will probably need one of those ports to install the software on.
So that is why I also ordered some extra RAM from Amazon while I was at it. I chose for the Kingston Technology KTH-PL316E; also from Amazon France. This will be an extra 8GB of RAM that would make the NAS a little more powerful. Make sure to check if the RAM is compatible with the HP MicroServer, because I’ve had problems with incompatible RAM in the past.
For the software on the machine I will be using FreeNAS, which offers a lot of functionality and is free. The only downside is that FreeNAS is using ZFS as formatting for its disks. It can read from most others file formatting too, but it can only write to ZFS. This makes it a little more tricky if you want to recuperate from your old NAS to your new NAS, because the old disks are probably not formatted as ZFS. Lucky for me, I had just bought a new 3TB disk I could be using as first disk in my new NAS. Then afterwards I can connect my two NAS with each other, and copy everything over.
As mentioned before, the HP MicroServer has no internal memory, so I’ll be using a USB flash drive for the Operating System. If you want, there is also a connector slot for an SD Card. You will also need another USB flash drive or CD with the installation media of FreeNAS.
I am working with 2 USB flash drives: the first (biggest) flash drive I’ll be using as the eventual storage for my operating system, the other one I’ll be using for the installation media of FreeNAS. Make sure both are empty before you continue, otherwise you will lose the data that is on the drives. You can just download the ISO from the website of FreeNAS. Then you have to copy the media to the USB Drive. You can find more information in the documentation of FreeNAS. Because I was using Windows, I used Win32DiskImager.
I also have the 3TB hard disk for data usages. So that makes a total of 3 drives in my case:
- The first for the operating system (at least 8GB);
- The second is with the installation media, in my case FreeNAS. This is a temporary drive and will be removed later;
- The third is the data drive, for the actual data.
The installation of the server is fairly easy, you just have to plug it all in and start the server. If you know what you’re doing, installing the RAM is probably something you have done several times before. Just make sure you don’t force it, because otherwise it can and will break.
Adding the drives to the NAS isn’t that difficult either. Just pull out the bay, remove the two metal holders that are meant to protect the disk drive against breaking, when they are empty. After you removed the metal holders, you can just put the drive in between the clamps and screw in the screws you just removed to remove the temporary metal holders.
Make sure the server is connected to the network and the power outlet. It will probably start automatically when you plug it in the power outlet.
Install the Operating System
After installing the hardware, it is time to boot up your server and see it in action. Make sure the USB drives are connected. When it first boots up, you’ll see a lot text on the screen, several tests on the hardware and so on. Give it some time to boot up. It will eventually boot into the Grub where you can select “FreeNAS Installer”. Follow the steps to install FreeNAS. Make sure you select to install the OS on the correct disk drive, you don’t want to install it on the data drive (probably the largest).
The last message of the installation process should be to reboot the server. Don’t forget to remove the temporary USB drive that was used for the installation media.
It should now reboot into FreeNAS. Chances are it will take a couple of minutes to configure everything, but the final result will be the IP address of the server. This IP address can be used to configure the FreeNAS server from another PC, connected to the same network as the MicroServer.
When you first boot up, you’ll get the initialization wizard, which you best complete. This will set some things like the time zone, keyboard layout, configuration of the already connected hard drives. There are a couple of things I want to set up, starting with a share so I can access the data from my PC. For this, I chose to use a Windows share.
Setting up Windows share
I chose to set this up using the Initialization Wizard, but if you didn’t the steps will be about the same.
On the left hand side, in the menu, you will find “Sharing”. Click on it, and add a new Windows share. I chose to create a new user and group for my share, so I can fine tune it later on. Give it a name, and select the volume you want use. Also make sure the CIFS service is running (check “Services” tab).
Finishing things up
After all things are set up, you could do a little more tweaking, depending on what you want to do with it eventually. It was a little difficult to find out how the Jails and their storage in FreeNAS exactly work. But once you get the hang of it, it is a really good and obvious system. After a couple of days playing around with it, I really started loving it.
If you have any questions about the above blog, let me know below. I’ll probably add some blogs later on, with some more information on how to install the Plugins in FreeNAS.
Versions I used in this blog
- FreeNAS: 9.3-STABLE-201504152200