Documentation by Dysphunkional
To run a FreeNAS server of your own you will need a computer to install it on. If you already have a spare computer you could use that or you could buy hardware just to run FreeNAS. Full hardware recommendations are on the FreeNAS website but here are some general things to look out for when choosing hardware for your FreeNAS server.
FreeNAS only runs on x86 based processors and to get the most out of FreeNAS you need to have a 64-bit CPU. If your processor is only 32-bit you can still use FreeNAS but you probably won’t be able to use the ZFS filesystem so you will be missing out on some functionality.
The more the better. If you have a 32-bit CPU you can only use 4GB of RAM and you should have at least 8GB if you are using ZFS.
USB Thumb Drive
FreeNAS works best if you boot it from a USB thumb drive. 2GB should be enough but go for a 4GB drive just in case. If you don’t have a CD drive you will need a second USB thumb drive to install from.
Only really needed when installing FreeNAS for the first time and you want to install from a CD instead of a flash drive. Afterwards you could remove it to free up a port for another hard drive.
Here is where you should probably buy new instead of reusing old hardware. Old drives will probably fail sooner and are smaller and slower. It is best to have identical drives if you are going to have more than one. With multiple drives you can use striping to make them faster than a single drive, mirroring to add redundancy, or parity to make them faster and redundant.
If your motherboard doesn’t have enough ports for the all the drives you want to install you can get an add-on storage controller to add more ports.
The case should have enough room for all the hard drives you plan to install. If it doesn’t have enough free hard drive bays you could get a new case or get some adapters to convert some of the optical drive bays into hard drive bays. This would be a nice little NAS box if you only wanted to use 4 drives and already had a mini-ITX motherboard.
You’ll want a good quality power supply that has enough power connectors for all of your drives.
Gigabit ethernet is the optimal way to hook up your FreeNAS server. Unless you have no other choice stay away from wireless.
A motherboard that supports your CPU, RAM, can boot from USB thumb drives, and has enough ports for all your drives.
If you want a small system that already has most of the above you could buy something like an HP Microserver and then add your own RAM and drives.
Keyboard, Mouse, and Monitor
Only necessary when initially installing FreeNAS. After installation you can remove them.