How To Set Up Your FreeNAS Server To Access Your Files From Anywhere

James Bruce 05-10-2011

freenasFreeNAS is a free, open source BSD-based operating system that can turn any PC into a rock-solid file server. Today I’m going to walk you through a basic installation, setting up a simple file share, and setting things up so you can access your files from anywhere over the Internet using the encrypted secure FTP over SSH option.


Requirements & Alternatives

To set this up today, you either need a working FreeNAS installation already set up and running, or:

  • The latest install ISO from the FreeNAS download page.
  • A spare computer or VM.
  • A USB stick 4GB or larger.

As well as to set up remote access, you’ll also need:

  • The ability to configure your router to either forward ports or setup dyndns addresses.
  • An ISP that doesn’t block every port.

If FreeNAS isn’t your thing, here’s a few alternatives:

You can also check out our comparison of FreeNAS vs. OpenMediaVault vs. Amah FreeNAS vs. OpenMediaVault vs. Amahi: Which Is Best for a DIY NAS? Planning a DIY NAS but don't know which solution to choose? Find out which is best for you: FreeNAS, OpenMediaVault, or Amahi! Read More i for more help.


First up, FreeNAS isn’t something you’ll be dual-booting, and it doesn’t even come with a nice graphical partitioning utility. If you install to your nice 1TB drive then the space will be wasted. You need to install FreeNAS to either a USB drive, or an SD card if your PC supports them.


If you’re unsure, try on a virtual machine first (our guide to VirtualBox How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More should help you there). To write this guide, I used Parallels on the Mac, but it has issues booting from USB devices so you’ll need to create a separate 4GB internal drive for it to install too.

Upon booting, choose the default option at the top and be sure to choose the correct installation location. Remove the CD or detach the image when done, and reboot.


Once installed, there should be a web GUI URL listed, so you can switch back over to your main PC and continue to configure things over the LAN.


Click on Users -> Change password to harden the system – by default there’s no admin password set. Next, click Users -> Add User and go ahead creating your own regular user account. We’ll use this to authenticate later.

Configure A Share

Configuring a share involves first adding a ‘volume’ – that is, a hard disk – then creating a share. If you have more than one drive, you can configure them as a software RAID What Is RAID Storage & Can I Use It On My Home PC? [Technology Explained] RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, and it’s a core feature of server hardware that ensures data integrity. It’s also just a fancy word for two or more hard disks connected... Read More too for increased data integrity, but I won’t be going into details on that today.

Click on the storage button on the top menu.

freenas server


Click create volume. The name you assign doesn’t really matter, but you’ll need to ensure you check off the drives you want to be in the volume. For our purposes, I have one drive I’ll be adding to it.

freenas server

You should now see that you have 1 ‘active’ volume listed. Click change permissions and make the owner of the group the user you created before, as well as turning on the checkbox for the Group ->Write permission. In a real world scenario, you would create a group for all users and assign ownership to that rather that to an individual user, but for the purposes of testing, this is fine.

freenas server


Next, click on the sharing tab. Here you can choose between Apple, Unix or Windows shares. I’ll switch over to a Windows share for now and click Add Windows Share. The only difficult part about what comes up next is choosing the folder – I just made mine the root of the /mnt/drive1 volume that I added.

freenas server build

You’ll also need to enable the CIFS service, which starts the Windows share ‘listener’. Click on Services ->Control Services from the sidebar and toggle on CIFS. Toggle on SSH while you’re on this screen too, which we’ll use later to do secure FTP (don’t enable the regular FTP service though).

freenas server build

At this point, you should be able to access the share from a Windows machine – if it doesn’t show on the network yet , just type \\freenas directly into the address bar to force it. If you type //freenas, you’ll access the web GUI instead – good to know.

freenas server build

Now that you’ve confirmed the Windows share is working, let’s move onto remote accessing your data.


In order to use a simple URL to access our files, we’re going to be assigning a free dynamic DNS address to our home IP. Head over to DynDNS to set up a free account.

build a freenas server

You’ll need to confirm the email address too. When that’s done, you’ll be presented with a service plan page. In small writing at the bottom is the link to set up your free account for up to 2 hostnames. Click that.

build a freenas server

Enter your desired hostname (you can select various domains from the drop-down), then click on the blue text that lists your IP. This will automatically fill in your IP address.

build a freenas server

Port Forwarding

This is a different configuration for every router, so it’s really hard to show you how it’s to be done on your exact model. For mine, I accessed the router configuration at, and clicked on Port Forwarding.

freenas files

You need to forward the SSH service port – 22 – to your FreeNAS internal IP. This is .11 in my case.


First, let’s see if regular SSH works. From a linux or OsX terminal, type:


The username you set up earlier, and the domain is the address you chose at DynDNS . You may get an error about verifying the authenticity of the host, but don’t worry, type YES to connect anyway.

If you see a bunch of text, you know it’s working.

freenas files

Now open up your favourite FTP program and enter in the same details – username, the DynDNS domain, the password – but make sure the protocol is set to SFTP – this is crucial.

freenas files

If all went well, you should be presented with a straight overview of the whole filesystem, so you can now drill down into the precise folder or share you want access to. Congratulations, you now have complete access to your shares from anywhere in the world!


We have really only just scratched the surface of how powerful FreeNAS is – I hope to highlight some of its other features in the future, so stay tuned. I hope you also tried copying a file across to see how blazingly fast it is too!

Related topics: Remote Access, Web Server.

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  1. Stijn Haezebrouck
    January 8, 2017 at 6:46 am

    This will work until your ISP changes your IP adress. After that, your NAS will no longer be reachable from the your dynamic domain. To overcome this, you should have (a) configure your router to update your IP with dyndns when the IP changes, or, like me, if your router does not have this capability, (b) run a ddclient (preferable on your freenas) that updates the ip in your dns at a regular basis.

    • Silly Rabbit
      April 27, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Thats what DynDNS does...

  2. Greystripe3
    February 15, 2016 at 6:19 am


  3. Greystripe3
    February 15, 2016 at 6:19 am

    When I run the ash command in the terminal the request times out

  4. Matthew
    November 15, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Hi there, just tried to get a DynDNS account and it does not seem to be letting me get a free account. Have you any other suggestions for good free DNS sites?

    • JY
      December 2, 2015 at 8:57 am

      I use duckDNS :)

  5. Spyrule
    November 28, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Contrary to some people's thinking, FreeNAS is just that... a NAS. It's made to be a storage location and not a content server. It CAN do that after installing a bunch packages, but remember it runs BSD, which doesn't have as much "home" based apps having been written.  Although, setting up a storage location as an iscsi target and then sharing from that target produces phenominal performance, you still need to setup your media sharing from a pc to share your stuff... so to speak.  But if your looking for a simple, but good Network storage app... this is by far the best I've played with (that's free anyway!).

  6. Teach
    October 8, 2011 at 11:12 am

    thanks for this tutorial... great.. I already installed the FREENAS

    • Aibek
      October 26, 2011 at 11:26 am

      how do you find it so far?

      • Teach
        October 27, 2011 at 3:23 am

        its ok... but having some trouble installing mysql

        • DYN o mite!
          January 28, 2018 at 3:41 am

          You can register any old DLINK Router to get a free DynDNS. Then any other Router you own that supports DDNS Will work with that account and those credintals... Been doing it for years. Got a box of old routers. find a Dlink... Set up that account. Verify the Dlink SN then switch over to Netgear etc...