FreeNAS set up file share
Basic set up

How to set up network file sharing on FreeNAS

Here are all the instructions to get you started setting up your first shared folder using FreeNAS 11.2 and higher.

FreeNAS is perhaps one of the best solutions to set up a Network Attached Storage (NAS) on your home or office to share files and media with Windows 10, macOS, and Linux users.

If you have already installed the FreeNAS on a PC or server hardware, there are a few steps that you need to follow before you can share a folder to network users, including creating a new user account, storage pool, and dataset.

In this guide, you’ll learn the basic steps to successfully share your first folder with Windows 10 devices using FreeNAS (version 11.2 and higher).

How to create new user using FreeNAS

The first step to share a folder using FreeNAS is to create a user account to access the storage.

Use these steps to create a new user on FreeNAS:

  1. Open FreeNAS in your web browser.

  2. Sign into your root account.

  3. Click on Accounts from the left pane.

  4. Click on Users.

  5. Under the “Users” section, click the Add button.

    FreeNAS add new Windows share folder
    FreeNAS add new Windows share folder
  6. Fill out the name, username, and password fields.

  7. Click the Save button.

    FreeNAS user account settings
    Create new FreeNAS user account

Once you complete the steps, the user will be created on the server, and you can proceed to create a new pool.

Usually, you would want to create an account per user, but if you won’t be saving important files, or it’s not a concern, you can always create the single account to connect all users.

How to create storage pool using FreeNAS

When setting up FreeNAS, you must create a pool, which is a logical group of physical drives that you can then use to create volumes (vdevs) using the ZFS file system advanced features.

Use these steps to create a pool on FreeNAS:

  1. Open FreeNAS in your web browser.

  2. Sign into your root account.

  3. Click on Storage from the left pane.

  4. Click on Pools.

  5. Under the “Pools” section, click the Add button.

    Storage Pools settings on FreeNAS
    Storage Pools settings on FreeNAS
  6. Select the Create new pool option.

  7. Click the Create Pool button.

    Create new pool
    Create new pool
  8. Type a name for the new storage pool — for example, StorageCollection1.

  9. (Optional) Check the Encryption option.

    Quick note: Encryption is not required, but it’s recommended, so you don’t have to worry about your data when you need to send faulty drive to repair or recovery.
  10. Check the Confirm option.

  11. Click the I Understand button.

  12. Under the “Available Disks” section, select the drives that will participate in the storage pool.

  13. Click the Right arrow button to add the drives to the “Data VDevs” section.

    FreeNAS pool configuration
    FreeNAS pool configuration
  14. Under the “Data VDevs” column, use the drop-down menu and select the Raid-Z option to create a storage pool with redundancy and performance.

    Set up Raid-Z pool on FreeNAS
    Set up Raid-Z pool on FreeNAS

    These are all the available layout options when setting up a pool with FreeNAS:

    • Raid-Z — single drive parity similar to RAID5.
    • Raid-Z2 — double drive parity similar to RAID6.
    • Raid-Z3 — which uses triple drive parity.
    • Stripe — data is shared on two drives (similar to RAID0).
    • Mirror — copies data on two drives (similar to RAID1, but not limited to 2 disks).
  15. Click the Create button.

  16. Click the Confirm option.

  17. Click the Create Pool button.

    Confirm FreeNAS pool creation
    Confirm FreeNAS pool creation
  18. Click the Download Recovery Key button if you selected the “Encryption” option, and then the Done button once you saved the file key.

    FreeNAS encryption key download
    FreeNAS encryption key download

After you complete the steps, the FreeNAS pool will be created, and you can now proceed to create a dataset that will host folders that you want to share in the network.

How to create dataset using FreeNAS

Usually a dataset is confused as a shared folder, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a unit in the ZFS filesystem that allows you to apply different settings, and it’s the section that will contain the network share.

Use these steps to create a dataset using FreeNAS:

  1. Open FreeNAS in your web browser.

  2. Sign into your root account.

  3. Click on Storage from the left pane.

  4. Click on Pools.

  5. Click the settings (three-dotted) button next to the pool and select the Add Dataset option.

    Add dataset on FreeNAS
    Add dataset on FreeNAS
  6. Type a name for the dataset — for example, DataSetOne.

  7. Under the “Share Type” section, select the Windows option.

  8. Click the Save button.

    FreeNAS dataset configuration
    FreeNAS dataset configuration
  9. Click the settings (three-dotted) button next to the dataset and select the Edit Permissions option.

    Dataset edit permissions
    Dataset edit permissions
  10. Under the “User” section, use the drop-down menu and select the user that you created earlier.

    Configure dataset permissions on FreeNAS
    Configure dataset permissions on FreeNAS
  11. Click the Save button.

Once you complete the steps, the dataset will be created inside the pool, and you can now continue setting up a folder that will be accessible by all Windows 10 computers.

How to create share folder using FreeNAS

Use these steps create a Windows 10 share folder on FreeNAS:

  1. Open FreeNAS in your web browser.

  2. Sign into your root account.

  3. Click on Sharing from the left pane.

  4. Click on Windows (SMB) Shares.

  5. Under the “Samba” section, click the Add button.

    FreeNAS add new Windows share folder
    FreeNAS add new Windows share folder
  6. Click the folder, navigate, and select the dataset you created earlier.

  7. Under the “Name” field, type a name for the folder you’re sharing.

    FreeNAS folder share configuration
    FreeNAS folder share configuration
  8. Click the Save button.

  9. Click the Enable Service button (if applicable).

After you complete the steps, the shared folder will be created, and it can be accessed by any Windows machine.

How to map FreeNAS shared folder on Windows 10

Use these steps to map a FreeNAS shared folder as a network drive using File Explorer on Windows 10:

  1. Open File Explorer on Windows 10.

  2. Click on This PC from the left pane.

  3. On the “Computer” tab, click the Map network drive button.

    File Explorer map network folder option
    File Explorer map network folder option
  4. Select a drive letter, but you can leave the default.

  5. In the Folder field, type the path of network share on FreeNAS — for example, \\10.1.2.158\Data.

  6. Check the Reconnect at sign-in option if you want to permanently connect to the FreeNAS location.

  7. Check the Connect using different credentials option in the case you need another account credentials to access the files.

    Map FreeNAS folder on Windows 10 File Explorer
    Map FreeNAS folder on Windows 10 File Explorer
  8. Click the Finish button.

  9. Sign-in with the FreeNAS user account credentials you created earlier.

Once you complete the steps, you can go to “This PC” to access the newly FreeNAS mapped drive.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to map the folder in File Explorer, you can simply browse to the shared folder typing the path in the address bar, and signing in with the FreeNAS credentials.