Is FreeNAS overkill for my situation?

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Jul 24, 2018
Newbie alert!!!

I am replacing my laptop because the hinge has broken inside the case. (The new one will arrive tomorrow.) It's still holding together for now, but I'm afraid that one day it will completely break and I'll have trouble getting it open or closed. (I think I can fix it if it comes to that, but hey, why turn down an excuse to buy a newer laptop, huh?) Since the laptop is still running fine otherwise, I hate the idea of just throwing it away, so I was looking at alternate uses for old computers and ran across an (old) article on Lifehacker about using FreeNAS to set up old hardware as a NAS server. All I'm really interested in using it for is a place to store (and access) some files other than my primary laptop.

From one standpoint, I know I could just move the old laptop upstairs next to the router as is, and set up some shared folders. But there are a couple of requirements that make me want to move away from Windows.

Besides not wanting to buy any additional hardware (or software), the main thing is that I want it to be able to boot up without requiring a login (ie, headless). Too often I open my laptop and it has gotten a Windows upgrade push or the power has gone out, and when I move the mouse it needs for me to log in. I think at that point any shared folders will be unavailable, which is what I want to avoid. I think I could just remove the password requirement, but the thought of a Windows box sitting on my network without a password makes me cringe.

Other than simple file storage, the only extra I would really want would be to have it serve as a Plex server. I am currently using my current (soon-to-be old) laptop for this right now. If I do set up a FreeNAS server I might play around with using it to download torrents, but if that would slow things down because of its configuration I could always download them on my new laptop and manually copy them to the FreeNAS machine.

However, my laptop isn't up to the official minimum specs for FreeNAS. For one thing, it only has 6GB of memory. But, I'm not going to be setting up a muti-terabyte RAID filesystem, like most people on this forum seem to have. The only storage would be the 500GB internal hard drive. (And currently, I only have about 40GB of data I would put on it. I know, I know, once it's there I will fill it up.)

I read through cyberjock's excellent post on "Slideshow explaining VDev, zpool, ZIL and L2ARC for noobs". It was very well written, and a little over my head unless/until I study it some more (and have a FreeNAS setup to play around on). But it pointed out to me that FreeNAS may be (probably is) way overkill for what I want to do.

I was in I.T. for 37 years, heavily into Unix for about 25 of those years (primarily AIX, IBM's version of Unix), so I know I could pick up what I need to know if I put some time into it. But I know enough of the lingo to know that it sounds like more than what I need.

So I guess my questions for the forum are:

1) Would FreeNAS even work on a laptop with 6GB RAM and 500GB DASD? (with no plans to add more disk in the future)

1a) If it would work at all, would the lesser memory cause it to be so slow that I would throw it away within a week?

2) Since I would never begin to touch the full potential of FreeNAS, is FreeNAS too much overkill for what I need?

2a) If FreeNAS is overkill, is there a better alternative that someone could suggest?


Not strong, but bad
Sep 12, 2014
In short, don't do it.

Chris Moore

Hall of Famer
May 2, 2015
The 8GB memory minimum is for the ZFS cache (ARC) and should not be ignored. The system would not be stable.

If you are comfortable with AIX you might be able to adapt to one of the Linux versions out there. Mint Linux is very easy to use and runs on 4GB of memory just fine.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I537 using Tapatalk


May 2, 2018
It's overkill for your use. I'll second @Chris Moore's suggestion of Linux Mint, but once you start using Plex you'll likely want more than 500Gb of space.


Aug 14, 2017
I would just install a CLI only Linux and use it as a server.
I used Archlinux on my old pIII laptop which was heavier than 4 bricks, but you could even use Ubuntu Server or any other distro. Set up SSD and that's all you need to be able to get in and configure stuff like plex server or any other services you plan on running.
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