Category Archives: Intel Hardware

Installing FreeNAS on an Intel SS4200

The Intel SS4200 is capable of serving quite nicely as a home NAS. It’s compact design, low-power consumption and quietness make it ideal for the home user. Now add FreeNAS to the mix and you’ve got yourself a robust home NAS solution. I must stress the word “home”, as its use in a commercial environment would be severely constrained by the SS4200’s 2GB memory limit, especially if you plan on using ZFS. Note that the 2GB memory limit is a hardware constraint – there is nothing you can do to overcome it. In order to use 4GB, a second memory slot would have to exist on the motherboard, and no such slot exists (probably a cost saving measure). Installing a 4GB memory stick into the one and only slot causes the unit to fail to boot, so the best you can do is install a 2GB DIMM in the one slot. The CPU, on the other hand, can be upgraded to at least an Intel Core2 Duo 4400 running at 2.00GHz. The unit is also capable of handling four 4TB drives, yielding up to 16TB of storage (assuming no redundancy).

The SS4200-E (and the re-branded Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server) contain an IDE slot with a DOM (Disk On Module) that, with a little money and effort, can be used to install FreeNAS rather than the default EMC NAS software that ships with the unit. Note that the SS4200-EHW does not contain a DOM, but it does have an empty IDE slot in which a DOM can be installed. So these instructions apply equally well to all models.

The first thing you will need to do is get yourself a new DOM, as the unit ships with a 256MB DOM which is not big enough for FreeNAS. For FreeNAS versions earlier than 9.3, a 2GB DOM will suffice. For FreeNAS versions 9.3 and greater, you will need a minimum of a 4GB DOM, though 8GB is recommended. You should be able to pick one of these up on ebay for around $25. If you shop around, you will find 4GB, 8GB and 16GB DOM’s for roughly the same price, so you might as well go for an 8GB (or greater) unit. Be careful to order a 40 pin version, as 44 pins will not fit. You will probably also want a vertical model, as a horizontal one may not fit in the case.

What you read here is basically a rehash of information I have found on the net, particularly from the pbworks site at and the FreeNAS site ( You will find detailed information for most everything you read here on those sites. I have just consolidated what I have learned from them, along with my experiences, here.

Once you have the proper size DOM, you will also need a USB flash drive of at least the same size as the DOM and a copy of the FreeNAS software you wish to install. You will also need a computer with a USB port and a free IDE slot. I highly recommend you have console access to the SS4200, either via the serial port or a video card. In fact, I’m not sure you can proceed without it as my experiences have shown that the SS4200 defaults to booting from the SATA drives by default which is not what we want. So you need to be able to enter the BIOS and change the default boot device from SATA to the DOM. Even if your BIOS is currently set to boot from the DOM, I have seen it default back to SATA after an install. Instructions for using the serial port or video card can be found on the pbworks site mentioned above. Note that the installation process I describe here is for Linux, though any operating system that can run FreeNAS should work, assuming you can find comparable tools (basically, a dd substitute).

Now that the prerequisites are out of the way, install FreeNAS to the USB stick as described in the FreeNAS instructions. For example, here is how to install FreeNAS to a USB drive attached to /dev/sdc. CAUTION: do not use /dev/sdc unless that is truly your USB device – this is just an example. Using dd in this way will destroy all data on the specified device, so be sure to use the correct device. There are several ways to determine your USB device, such as watching the output of dmesg when you plug in your USB drive. If you are unsure of your device, search the web for information on how to do this for your operating system. Note that you will probably need to be root to execute this command.

For an image file, use this command:

xzcat FreeNAS- | dd of=/dev/sdc bs=64k

For an iso, use this command:

dd if=FreeNAS- of=/dev/sdc bs=64k

If all goes well, FreeNAS is now installed on your USB drive. Unmount the USB drive, power off your system and install the DOM in an empty IDE slot. When finished, power on your machine and boot from the FreeNAS USB drive. Note that you may have to tell your BIOS to boot from the USB device rather than your system disk.

If done correctly, your machine should boot into FreeNAS and present you with an installation menu. Go ahead and select the Install option, and then select the DOM device as the target. Be sure to remember the name of this device (it should be something along the lines of /dev/da4). CAUTION: once again, you need to be sure to select the correct device, the DOM, as the target and not one of your system disks, else data loss will occur. If unsure, do not proceed – cancel the installation and consult the FreeNAS documentation. If all else fails, a nearly foolproof way to proceed is to power off your system and disconnect all storage devices. That way, when you boot into FreeNAS the only storage devices shown will be the DOM and the USB drive you booted from. And if you accidentally choose the USB device, no real harm is done (though you will need to re-install FreeNAS to the USB drive and restart this procedure).

Installation from the USB drive to the DOM will take some time, as the DOM isn’t the fastest device on the planet. Plan on it taking at least 20 minutes. Once done. do NOT reboot the system – instead, choose shell from the menu. As described on the pbworks site, the SS4200 will not boot from the DOM without modifying some parameters in the FreeNAS /boot/device.hints file. So we will modify that file now. If you somehow already rebooted the machine, you can always enter the shell from the installation menu.

From the shell, you will need to mount the root partition of the DOM. If you recall, I asked you to remember the DOM device above. In this example, that device is /dev/da4. If you’ve forgotten the device, all is not lost, but you will need to do a little investigation to find the device – doing an ls in /dev should help. Once you know the device, you will need to find the root partition to mount. For the installations I have done, the root partition has been s1a, though I can’t say this will always be true. If s1a is not your root partition, you will have to do some digging by mounting and unmounting partitions until you find the root partition. Once you find a partition with /boot, you’re in the right place. You can mount the partition with the following command:

mount /dev/da4s1a /mnt

With the root partition mounted, edit the /boot/device.hints file:

vi /mnt/boot/device.hints

And add the following lines to the end:”isa”

As described on pbworks, these lines allow FreeNAS to recognize the DOM. Without them, FreeNAS fails to find a boot device and so can’t continue the boot process.

After editing device.hints, save the file and unmount the partition:

umount /mnt

At this point, you now have FreeNAS installed on the DOM with a modified device.hints file that will allow you to boot from the DOM. Exit the installation, power off your system and remove the DOM. We are now through with this system, so you can put it back to its regular use.

Next, install the DOM into the SS4200 and power it on. Hopefully, you have video or serial console access to your SS4200 and can watch it boot. If so, you should see the boot sequence proceed normally and eventually seem to hang at this line:

Waiting up to 5 seconds for ixdiagnose to finish... done.

At this point, it seems the system is hung, but if you wait 5 or 10 minutes, it will eventually free itself and continue booting. All I can figure is FreeNAS is configuring itself for first-time use and needs a bit of time to do so. If you hit the web address assigned to FreeNAS from your browser (you can get this address by scrolling through the output of the boot process), when the installation is finished the FreeNAS GUI will start and prompt you to enter a root password for the system.

If your system fails to boot at all, be sure to check the BIOS and ensure that it’s booting from the DOM device and not the SATA drives. If it partially boots but drops you to a mountroot> prompt with an error similar to:

Mounting from ufs:/dev/ada0s1a failed with error 19

Your edits to device.hints may be incorrect. If so, you will need to mount the root partition of the DOM and try again. You can do this by putting the DOM back into your Linux box, booting from USB drive and selecting the shell option from the menu. Of course, you could also mount the partition directly from Linux if everything is setup correctly, but since you have to reboot the machine anyway to insert the DOM, booting FreeNAS is just as easy.

If all goes well, you should now have FreeNAS running from a DOM on your SS4200!