NAS4Free under ESXi


One surprising thing I noticed when testing out NAS4Free is the lack of documentation with regards to installation on VMware. I can understand a viewpoint that a NAS is a NAS and not to be anything else, but what about working loads where that kind of raw performance is not required (granted the virtualization overhead these days should be within 5-10% of physical). In any case the below instructions are written with running ESXi 5.1 with NAS4Free, for ease of reading the directions are broken down into three sections.



Initial download and VM configuration


1)      Download the latest x64 release at

2)      Create a new custom Virtual Machine (Assume defaults unless otherwise specified)

a)      Guest Operating System – Other – FreeBSD 64-Bit

b)      Virtual sockets – 3  (you can use less but I was seeing a significant performance hit with less than 3)

c)      Memory: 4GB (not a hard requirement but in general the more the better)

d)     Network

i)        Number of NICs: 2

ii)      NIC 1 Adapter: e1000
(The e1000 will be used for management only as the default NAS4Free install does not correctly load the VMXNet3 driver)

iii)    NIC 2 Adapter: VMXNet3
(The VMXNet3 adapter will be used for Samba/NFS/iSCSI traffic)

e)      SCSI Controller: LSI Logic Parallel

f)       Disk: 4GB, can be thin provisioned

3)      Finish creating the VM

4)      Edit the VM

5)      Add  your additional hard disks and assign them starting at 1:0, 1:1, 1:2 (virtual RDM’s are an option as well). One VMDK per disk unless your really just feature evaluating the setup.

a)      Optionally if supported you could use Direct-Path to pass through your favorite SCSI controller

6)      Change your newly created SCSI Controller to: LSI Logic SAS
(Paravirtual does not function with the version of Vmware tools pre-bundled with the NAS distro)

7)      Select “OK” to complete the modifications



NAS4Free base install


1)      Boot the VM and start it off of the recently downloaded ISO

2)      Walk-through the normal installer screens selecting” Install ‘embedded’ OS on HDD/FLASH/USB”
(Full is extremely buggy at this point and only really used for NAS4Free developers)

3)  Install onto the 4GB volume

4)  After the install completes, reboot and disconnect the ISO volume

5)  Configure your mangement IP



Configuring your new VM


1)      Login to the web administration to the new VM

2)      Select System –> Advanced

3)      Select rc.conf

4)      We need to add some custom tuning for the VM

a)      Add – Name: vmguestd_enable – Value: Yes

b)      Add – Name: vmsetup_enable – Value: Yes

c)      Optionally (useful for debugging sometimes)

i)        Add – Name: dmesg_enable – Value: Yes

5)      Apply changes

6)      System –> Reboot


At this point the VM should be fully useable. If running into performance problems TOP within the VM and the vSphere performance graphs should be where to start looking. VM CPU usage and disk latency are generally the first points of issue.



Join the Conversation


  1. Hi,

    nice how_to

    I´m running NAS4Free on an ESXi to, but I have extream network performing issues.
    Writing speed is about 3-6 MB/s –_–
    Read from NAS is ok about 55 MB/s.

    I use 2x 2TB HDD in a ZFS-pool, VMXNet3 NIC, Jumboframes, and everything over a gigabit switched network.

    Do you have experience with those kid of issue ?



    1. Take a look at top within the FreeNAS VM. When I was seeing write performance like that it was due to the CPU getting maxed out. What level of compression are you running? I ended up running lzjb on most volumes as the g-zip options didn’t get much if any savings on the test LUNs I was running but had significantly higher CPU usage.

      1. Hi Patrick
        Thank you for your comment. I hardly believe that there is a resource issue. The error reported is:

        #PF Exception 14 in world 4304:vmx …

        following a lot of dump information. I have assigned 1GB of ram which should be enough. I have running NAS4Free with this amount on memeory without problems on a real (intel) hardware. Windows machines are running without problems in this environment.
        According VMWare the Exception 14 is a page Page Fault which may be caused by either a hardware or a software issue. Since the version installed is the free ESXi I cannot submit a support request as recommended by VMWare in this case.

  2. Hello
    I found this thread to be th only information about NAS4Free on ESXi 5.1.
    I could install NAS4Free without any problems. Besides this, I have several Windows based virtual machines running without problems.
    When accessing NAS4Free using CIFS, the whole ESXi platform stops working and enters debug mode. The only method to recover is a complete reboot of ESXi. ESXi is running on HP N40l microserver.
    Would appreciate any helpful comment about this.

  3. Try building the VM with an older VM hardware version or a different set of vm drivers. I’ve seen these issues in the past with driver issues. The purple screen does show a range of errors, what error are you seeing?

  4. hi

    i have Nas4Free on my ESXI server. Sadly, eachtime that i reboot the VM, i have to reinstall it! i have complete the installation, do the ip settings… go to my (nas) do some configuration on the GUI… and then when i need to reboot the VM, the VM can’t find the iso (datastore) to boot so i have to reconnected it to it, and then the menu comes out.. menu 9 install is the only way…

    what is the prob???


  5. Nadia, did you skip step 2f (4gb disk for the system)? It’ll use that to save the config.

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