How to Install FreeNAS on VMware with iSCSI Disks – Windows 10 Host

VMware is one of the best and user-friendly virtualization software in the market. Their Workstation and VM Player can be installed on most of the client Operating Systems to virtualize the physical hardware and install multiple Operating Systems top of it.

Not only the server or client Operating Systems but even we can also install network storage Operating Systems on VMware as a virtual machine. Here I’m going to show how to install FreeNAS on VMware Workstation and configure iSCSI disks. This method gives the ideal test lab setup to have NAS as a virtual machine on single computer hardware. We can use this storage to setup Microsoft Windows server cluster.

Freenas On Vmware

What is NAS (Network Access Storage)?

In the physical environment, NAS is a hardware device with hard drives and it is accessible via the network port. The controller will have its own Operating System to manage the disks and allow the access. Every NAS devices have plenty of features and tools to make it scalable, secure and accessible.

These NAS devices support iSCSI, that can be used to set up a Windows failover cluster. But for the testing purpose in VMware, we can’t have the expensive physical NAS devices to configure a cluster with high availability in VMware. So, there is some free open source NAS software available to install on computers or servers to build a NAS system with existing hard disks and partitions. These free storage virtualization software make your computer hard disk as network access storage and allow other clients to access the disk directly through the network.

I found that these two famous free NAS software can be installed in the computer and make NAS.

Openfiler
FreeNAS

Installing FreeNAS on VMware is simple and straight forward. But setting up and configuring the iSCSI disks involves several steps. Also, remember that the steps involved in configuring iSCSI disks in FreeNAS as shown below remain the same on any platform. For example, if you have the physical FreeNAS box, or install it on VirtualBox or any other virtualization software, you can follow the same below steps to set up disks.

How to Install FreeNAS Server on VMware workstation?

1) Download the latest stable version from the official site here. At the moment you can find FreeNAS 11.2 as on writing this guide.

NOTE: The current version requires a minimum 8GB of RAM. Since I have enough resources on my PC, I could configure a VM with 8GB RAM. If you do not have enough RAM, then you can try with lower capacity. It may impact the performance of VM.

2) Create a virtual machine in VMware workstation. Once you browse the downloaded FreeNAS ISO, it will automatically detect the OS version.

Os Type

3) Set a hard disk size for the Operating System. Remember, this hard disk will be used to install the Operating System only. We can’t use this disk to create storage, disks and LUNs for sharing a purpose. We need to attach another hard disk again to this VM. We will discuss that later.

4) Set the appropriate hardware resources. I modified the RAM to 8GB and Processor numbers to 4.

Hardware Configuration

Make sure that the ISO file is attached to CD/DVD drive.

5) Boot the system with the first option (default)

Boot FreeNAS

6) Select the Install/Upgrade option and press OK.

7) On the next screen, select the virtual hard disk to install. You need to choose the hard drive and press spacebar key to make the selection.

Select The Harddisk And Install

8) Select the Boot mode as ‘Boot via BIOS’ option to make the things simple.

You will see the installation screen. It is fast. The installation will be completed

9) Remove the loaded ISO file and reboot the virtual machine.

Reboot VM

At this point, we have successfully installed the latest FreeNAS on VMware which is running on Windows 10 host.

Let’s see some more settings to make it work.

Network Settings in FreeNAS VM – Vmware

Once the VM booted, you can see the below screen which gives several options.

First VM Options

By default, the VM network is in NAT mode in VMware. I’m not going to explain more about VMware networking.

In the NAT mode, your virtual machines and host will communicate well even though the host and VM IP look different.

If you want you can change the network mode to ‘Bridge Mode’ so the FreeNAS virtual machine will get the same IP scheme of your host computer physical network.

In both cases, we need to configure static IP for FreeNAS storage. That is the ideal way to keep the IP unchanged for your storage device.

10) Enter 1 and continue the network configuration. Set up a manual IP which is not in the DHCP scope.

Here are the steps involved in setting up the IP.

Configure IP

Once the IP changes, it will display the web URL on the screen.

11) Open a browser and access the URL. Login with the root user name and password you set during the installation.

Freenas Web Login

You must land on the FreeNAS management page without any issues.

Add Disk and Configure iSCSI in FreeNAS 11 on VMware

12) Now we are ready to configure the storage system and iSCSI disks. But we do not have any more drives than the OS disk. Hence we need to add another disk. You can add a few disks if you want.

Luckily VMware allows adding the virtual disks to a virtual machine while it is working. SCSI disks can be added.

Add Another Disk

I added another 10GB disk for testing purpose.

Added 2nd Disk

 

13) Make sure VMware and FreeNAS detected the new disk successfully. It should be listed under the disks.

Freenas New Disk

14) Create a pool. Select and add the new disk to the pool, as shown below.

Select And Move The New Disk

15) Now start the iSCSI service in FreeNAS. By default, it is off.  Go to ‘Services’, select and switch on the iSCSI service.

Start ISCSI In FreeNAS

16) Go to ‘Sharing’ and select ‘Block (iSCSI)’ to configure more options.

17) Click on ‘Portals’ and add a new one. If it is the first time you are configuring, most probably you need to add a new portal.

You can comment for your reference. Click on the drop-down and select the IP address of the FreeNAS VM.

New Portal With IP Address

18) Now click on ‘Initiators’ tab and add a new one.

If you do not want more restriction, then keep both ‘All’. Otherwise, add the client network where you will be accessing the iSCSI storage. I left ‘All’ and applied the settings.

Initiators All

19) Time to add targets. Click on ‘Targets’ and add a new one.

Give a name related to the type so that you can understand later. Here select the portal you created in the earlier step.

New Target

20) We need to create Extents to add the storage. Click on ‘Extends’ and add new.

Give an appropriate name, and select the type as ‘File’.

Browse the mount point where you intended to store the iSCSI disk and give a name at the end of the mount point. This method will allow hosting several LUNs in the same disk. Give the size of the extend. When host access this iSCSI target, it will read the disk size what you mention here. It should be less than the mount point size.

Create Extend

21) As the final step, add an ‘Associated Targets’. Make sure to select the correct names from the drop-down and add LUN ID. It can be any number between 0 to 256 but should be unique.

Associated Targets

With those steps, we have successfully created an iSCSI disk in FreeNAS which is running on VMware workstation.

Connect and Test the iSCSI Target in FreeNAS from Windows

Make sure the network connectivity to the FreeNAS is working and iSCSI protocol allowed on the Windows firewall and any other network security protection software on Windows computer.

I’m going to test this from my Windows 10 computer. You can use the same method on Windows servers such as 2016, 2019 or any other earlier versions which have Microsoft iSCSI service.

22) Start the iSCSI initiator on Windows client and type the IP address of FreeNAS in quick connect. It will connect successfully.

Windows Initiator Quick Connect

23) Go to ‘Volumes and Devices’ and press ‘Auto Configure’. Windows will find the mount point with the device which is hosted on FreeNAS.

Volumes Auto Configure

24) We are almost done. Now open the disk management under Computer Management in Windows 10. It will pop up the new volume it found via the iSCSI. Format, give a name and initialize it.

Disk Management New Volume

With the above clear steps with the images, you should be having a FreeNAS server on VMware workstation with Windows 10, 8.1 or any client OS. We created iSCSI disks successfully on FreeNAS that can be accessed by any client as long as the network to the virtual machine available.

70 thoughts on “How to Install FreeNAS on VMware with iSCSI Disks – Windows 10 Host”

  1. Hi ,

    I got it working now. I just started the web interface from one of my nodes which I am gonna put in the cluster.

    Thanks
    Prashanth

  2. Ok… My next hurdle, lol…. I get this connection failed message when I try to add the target portal in the ISCSI initiator properties in my windows nodes.
    Any ideas friends ?

    Thanks
    Prashanth

  3. yes Prashant. me too.
    I can ping the FreeNAS machine from another VM, and from this same VM i can open the FreeNAS interface,
    but i cannot find the target from iSCSI initaitor. exception is set in fw.
    any suggestion please.
    great job BTW!!!!

  4. @aazpf1 : I figured out about the connection failure message. You know when we add portal in the web gui for configuring disks. I had given the same port number for both disks. 3260. One was my data disk and other I created for quorum. So I went and changed the port number for one disk to 3261.And I was able to connect. Hopefully this helps.

    @Dinesh — This is an awesome article, helped me to create win2008 cluster. I am very thankful for your efforts in posting this article and helping others. Good job friend.

    • @Prashanth,
      Good, finally you managed to setup disks and cluster.
      Yes, setting up latest 2008 or R2 cluster in single computer is fun and excited, useful for learning also.

  5. Hi Dinesh,

    Thanks for a such a great article.

    I am having a problem while trying to add a 1 GB disk. I followed the same steps and at 31st step, when I click on browse button, the UI hangs for while and nothing turns up as you said ‘It will bring the pool you created as a directory. Click on it and press OK button at top right side.’

    Could you pls help me figure out the issue here ?

    Awaiting for ur response.

    • @Ram, any luck?

      If you follow the all steps correctly then all should be OK.

      Do you have any pop-up blocker in your internet browser? It may stop the next screen.
      Let me know.

  6. Hi,

    I have 2 servers and boths can see on disk created on freenas.
    The disk are divied in 3 partitions : /ocr1 /ocr2 /ocr3.

    I mounted and formated these partitions with ocfs2 format.

    After create a file on on partition on server1, i go to server2 and the file is not there. if i reboot the server2 the file is there.

    Any help?????

    Thanks in advanced

    • @JRSS,
      You didn’t mention which server OS you are using.
      Anyhow, I used FreeNAS shared disks with Windows OSs only and never had any issues. Even both servers read the shares correctly and I managed to setup fail over cluster also.
      I’m sure your servers are not Windows OSs. I can suggest one thing, if you are facing this issue only on server2 all the time, then some thing could be wrong on this server disk connectivity or reading/refreshing intervals.
      I’m not sure though. Sorry my friend.

  7. Hello, I’ve have recently tested this tutorial with the same error 1.

    I solved adding 2 discs to the virtual machine that holds FreeNas, as if they were two partitions.

    Install FreeNas in one of them , and iSCSI drive ZFS on the other, and the error 1, won’t appear.

    good luck.

  8. Hello:

    Thank you for writing this and including all the screenshots. It helped a lot. I used most of your instructions to install FreeNAS on VMware ESXi 4.1. I used the file FreeNAS-amd64-LiveCD-0.7.2.5543.iso which will work on Intel 64-bit even though it has “amd64” in the file name. I was able to get my Server 2003 VM to connect to the iSCSI target. Eventually I will set up a Windows Server 2003/Exchange Server 2003 two-node cluster (yeah, I know that’s old, but we use it at work so I’d like to try to set one up at home).

    In your instructions you used two disks – one for quorum and one for data. I don’t know if you ever tried, but you can use one disk and create multiple extents and targets from it.

  9. Hi Dinesh,

    Thanks for your contribution, this blog seems to be very helpful.
    I am currently trying to install “FreeNAS-8r5698-amd64.iso” in my Windows XP SP3 32 bit O/S through VMWare Workstation 6.5.3 and got ‘BTX halted’ error at the very first step, can you please help me.

  10. You have a wonderful site here, but I cannot see the pictures, they are blank. When I right-click and select show pictures, nothing happens.

    Regards,
    Liam

    • Liam,
      Thanks a lot for the information.
      Two days ago I moved this complete site to different hosting server, which caused the issue. Its fixed now.
      Enjoy now. Sorry for the inconveniences.

  11. Hi this tutorial is great but I have downloaded the latest freenas (version 8) and the layout and options are completely different. Is it posible to update the tutorial with screenshots and instructions based on this version. For example, I cannot find the disk button and I cannot find the version you used!!

    I probably should be able to work it out but do not have experience in storage.

    thanks

    J

    • Update: I can see you have a tutorial on how to install freenas 8 but I am looking for the configuring of disks and presenting it element.

  12. Hi,

    I have 2 Windows 2003 ent servers and boths can see on disk created on freenas.
    The disk are divied in 2 partitions.

    I mounted and formated these partitions in wondows 2003 server

    After create a file on on partition on server1, i go to server2 and the file is not there. if i reboot the server2 the file is there.

    Any help?????

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Nicola: A LUN cannot be accessed at the same time by two servers (at least not with Windows Server 2003). Whichever server connects to the LUN first will lock it for its own use. When you rebooted server2, it took the LUN connection away from server1, so that’s probably why you were able to see the file. You should have the servers set up in a cluster. When you fail over the disk from server1 to server2 (using Cluster Admin) it will allow server2 to access the disk. That is the safest way to share a LUN between two servers–you must use some type of cluster program, otherwise you can corrupt the disk and cause other problems.

  13. Hello. I have configured my win 2008 r2/freenas clustering environment in vmware wkst 7. When I run the cluster validation test on each indiv node separately (I have 2 nodes) it passes all tests. When I run the validation test and select the 2 nodes together the test fails on storage and networking. Can anyone tell me why this may be happening? Thanks.

  14. Hi Dinesh,

    I have follows your steps to install NAS OS, however am not able to access the Web GUI.

    My host machine subnet is 255.255.248.0 accordingly whine configuring LAN for freeNAS i gave 21 as subnet (As this the CIDR no for the above mentioned subnet)
    Please let me know how to solve this.
    Thanks,
    Guru

  15. I have downloaded freenas latest version and tried installing the iso file in vmware workstation by creating new VM as other freeBSD 32bit/64 bit. It pops with initial screen and ends with BTX halt. How can i solve this issue? My LAPtop OS is windows 7. Please help me.

  16. hi Dinesh, thank you so much for this article, it is very useful.
    It seems to be that only available download of freeNAS is version 8.0 from RC1 to release version.
    I installed this and after installation and configure NICs I am unable to see web page giving an error as done but with errors.
    I tried different browsers but still unable to see web admin page.

    Thank you!

  17. hi

    It is very good for cluster but i am not get the last part of setup like
    while selecting this option( File path (e.g. /mnt/sharename/extent/extent0) used as extent. ) my path does not showing current disk.So could you help what was wrong thing i did my freesan set ..

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