FreeNAS Idiosyncracies.

July 27, 2008

I enjoy using FreeNAS. I have three FreeNAS servers. Why would anyone need three? It’s because of the idiosyncrasies associated with using the software. For one thing, Vista doesn’t like FreeNAS very much in certain configurations and I have 3 Vista machines. For example, if you set up one of your servers in a RAID 5 configuration, Vista will read it just fine. But it won’t write to it. It won’t write to it because it thinks the disk is full. Vista can’t get an accurate reading of the disk size. So it won’t write to it at all. XP does not have this problem, thankfully. If it did, I would not be able to use FreeNAS in a RAID 5 configuration.

I overcome this idiosyncrasy by having another server set up with its disks mirrored. Vista reads disk mirrors without any trouble. All I have to do is use an XP machine to sync up the data from the disk mirrors with the main server. This way I have all my data on one machine. I use the third server to back up the main server. In a way, it seems ridiculous. However, FreeNAS servers are cheap (the software is free). Moreover on a gigabit network, data transfer is fast. You could accomplish what I do with a Drobo. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as fast. Also I’m not sure that you could stream video from a Drobo. FreeNAS servers make excellent video servers.

I started out using Rsync to keep my servers synced with each other. This quickly crashed. I couldn’t figure out how to fix it either. So, I moved to Allway Sync. This program has worked wonderfully. Of course FreeNAS wouldn’t be FreeNAS with out idiosyncrasy here as well. You have to reboot the servers more than you should. Often, after transferring gigabytes of data, the server will drop out and need to be rebooted. I haven’t lost any data and the servers are fine once you reboot them. Sometimes, with Allway Sync, sinking directionally as opposed to bidirectionally works better.

The latest FreeNAS joy has been having two of the servers spontaneously switch IP addresses. I have no idea why this happened. I thought for a moment that maybe there was some malice involved from a third party. But no. My best guess is that IP addresses opened up and that the servers rebooted and picked those. I’ve been using FreeNAS for a long time and it has never done that.

You might think that is a lot of effort to use these servers. But I can tell you that that is not so. While I have identified the above issues, they are all manageable. The servers have great up time and I can move my data around quickly.  Plus, it is awesome to have all my data in one place.  It’s like having an old car that has problems but you know what the problems are and you know how to fix them. And in the meantime the car gets you where you want to go. With all the redundancy I have with these servers, I believe my data is safer than it has ever been (knock on wood).

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5 Responses to “FreeNAS Idiosyncracies.”

  1. Greg Says:

    If you roll back to stable .686 it will let Vista write to software RAID 5. I do that today with 3 Vista PC’s here. On the reboot issues go to the cifs/smb under services and scroll down to the bottom and click the button “Save and Restart” this restarts samba services without rebooting the server. When FreeNAS becomes unresponsive (no Web GUI and non responding cifs, ssh, ftp, stc.) I find it usually to be that one of the disk volumes needs to be fsck’d.

  2. Greg Says:

    On the fsck with a 2.7TB volume it will take 6-10 hours depending on your machine. It can be done from the Disks -> Mount Point -> Fsck tab. You will need to unmount the volume to run.

  3. Will Says:

    I’m having this trouble with 686.4. I could read and write with vista but when I started trying to transfer large amounts of data I’d get errors saying the volumes were full. I’ve switched to 0.69b3 and it seems to be better now.

  4. Bob Says:

    I had the problem using Vista to copy large quantities of data (say > 130Mb ) to Freenas 0.67, I think the message was disk full, but I cannot remember exactly as it was last year.
    The cure was to create another mount 1 level below the root mount point specifically for use with Vista.
    I am now just starting to try Win7 and FreeNas 0.71 and I think the same problem has appeared again, there is no error message, the FreeNas box just seems to die and then re-boots.
    In Win7, looking at the ‘properties’ of my share point it reports a size of 0 bytes. So I assume the same problem as before and will try the same cure.
    This is the first time that I have seen this problem discussed, I thought it was a simple fault that would have been documented somewhere and fixed by now.


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