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FreeNAS vs Unraid: Which Is Best for Your Storage Needs?

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In these present times, it has become a major priority for people to save data, regardless of whether it is in their companies or at home. Therefore, there is a growing trend of using devices for storing large quantities of data.

There are brands constantly working towards developing devices with the potential of producing improved quality audio, videos, and images. This is the reason why medium and small enterprises have come up with the decision of using NAS servers for storing data in huge amounts.

The full form of NAS is Network Attached Storage, and these are devices carrying out the task of storing data in a way that the users of a network can easily assess them as and when required.

What is a NAS as Fast As Possible

These are highly scalable devices that can easily be expanded as the need might be when it comes to storing data in large amounts. NAS servers come with several plugins that can help users in managing their data.

These servers are generally faster in comparison to the other devices. They function in the form of a local cloud that can store the data of a company both securely and internally. The data stored is available only to the employees of the company. It is also important to note that NAS servers are quite affordable.

Now, that we are trying to understand NAS and its work procedure, it calls in to get a clear description of a couple of well-known and significant operating systems that work perfectly for NAS servers.

They are Unraid and FreeNAS. These are network-attached, storage operating systems supporting NFS, AFP, and SMB sharing protocols. They also support disk encryption, virtualization, and open source file systems.

Building NAS or Network Attached Storage means you do not just require hardware but even software. While almost any operating system can be used, there are specialized options available for NAS servers.

Unraid and FreeNAS come as two of the most popular options. However, the main problem is making the right choice between both these options.

The entire procedure can be very challenging, and several factors need to be considered for choosing the one that serves to be the best. But before delving deep into those factors, we will try and understand a bit more about Unraid and FreeNAS.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: A Detailed Comparision 👌

Both FreeNAS and Unraid come with their very own features, benefits, and drawbacks. Understanding the details of these systems is important even before knowing the differences between the two.


Coming to FreeNAS first, this is an open-source, robust, and trusted operating system for NAS or Network Attached Storage. iXsystems is the name behind the development of FreeNAS.

FreeNAS® 11.1 - What's New

The company has made its presence felt in the market ever since the inception of the internet. iXsystems is into delivering both software and hardware. Since FreeNAS is an open-source operating system, it is available for free.

The source code of the system can easily be found on developing platforms. Installing this operating system is a breeze. This operating system allows users to store almost any kind of data such as audio, images, videos, and files safely and quickly.

FreeNAS can be used for generating a local cloud stoppage. The best thing about this operating system is that it can easily be installed on almost any hardware podium for sharing data on the internet or network.

It comes as one of the simplest ways of creating centralized data and accessing the same in the easiest way possible. FreeNAS can be effectively used with ZFS for safeguarding, storing, and holding up all kinds of data.

It can be used almost anywhere for an enterprise, home, or small business. It is based on FreeBSD computer OS and is even available in the form of a paid service for users who are on the lookout for extra or other exclusive features.

The graphical interface of this system is both intuitive and friendly, helping users to navigate very easily. The hardware requirement for the system is a 64-bit processor.

It even requires 8 GB RAM and an 8 GB boot drive that can easily be expanded. The system also requires a minimum of one disk directly connected.


Coming to Unraid, it is a paid service available from the house of Lime Technology. This storage OS has been specifically designed for scaling with the hardware of a system.

The RAID design of the Unraid server OS 6 supports a blend of file systems, sharing policies and devices. The software operates with Unraid OS device and is available in three distinct levels.

The cost of level one is $59, while level two costs $89. The cost of level 3 is $129. The number of storage devices that the users can connect will completely depend on the chosen levels.

This storage operating system has the potential of storing digital media such as music, movies, photos, and videos. The best thing about this device is that users can easily build an assortment of hard disks into the device.

NAS & RAID Explained - Why I use unRAID

They can share data from the drives throughout local networks. The systems keep data on the hard disks safe and secure.

Another benefit of using Unraid is users have complete control over their storage, and they can even see all their drives while keeping the backups of the most important ones.

So, now that we have a clear understanding of the details of both Unraid and FreeNAS, it works to find the differences between both these storage operating systems. We will have a look at the differences below:

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Pricing

As is suggested by its name and its description, FreeNAS is free of cost. It is based on FreeBSD and is an open-source operating system that is freely available with its source code on GitHub.

If FreeNAS is being used for business and if the users have any doubts about the system, commercial assistance for the same is available through TrueNAS, the enterprise version of the projects.

On the contrary, dissimilar to FreeNAS, users need to pay for Unraid, which is a closed source code. This paid OS is available on three levels for the users. The cost of the first or basic level is $59, while the cost of the second or plus level is $89.

FreeNAS vs Unraid

Level 3 or the pro level costs $129. However, there is one way of acquiring Unraid free of cost, and that is by going for a 30-day free trial. The system makes a way for secure storage of huge quantities of data. The graphical interface of this operating system is easier than that of FreeNAS.

Unraid is Linux compatible and even works with a 64-bit processor. The amount you pay for Unraid will completely depend on the hardware you are using.

Unraid’s basic version supports a total of six storage devices while there are twelve attached devices for storage supported by the Plus version. The Pro version of the system supports unlimited storage devices. 

Many times, users do not find free operating systems reliable, but this is not the case with FreeNAS as has been around for a very long time. That being said, even FreeNAS comes in a premium paid version along with customer service.

For the ones who desire, there is the option of buying hardware provided by iXsystems backed with the company’s popular white-glove assistance. Base configurations of the FreeNAS Mini are available at the minimum price of $999.

This NAS device is sufficiently powerful to support medium and small businesses. There are even server blades available for running large sites.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Licensing

Both these operating systems come as great options for storing data quickly and securely. They can prove to be highly beneficial for companies dealing in huge amounts of data regularly.

They both have their characteristics, but as far as pricing is concerned, FreeNAS might be better as it is available for free. FreeNAS does not have price tags attached and even comes without any caveats.

There are no restrictions as far as CPU cores and storage devices are concerned. It can be installed even on ordinary hardware.

On the other hand, Unraid is not available with duly licensed hardware, which makes driver support and reliability causes concern for the users. Therefore, one point is earned by FreeNAS for showcasing flexible licensing and better technology at zero cost.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Features

In the words of the FreeNAS project itself, file sharing is what it does best. For the ones who are in the lookout of storing music, photos, files, and videos in large amounts, FreeNAS would be the perfect solution. The software can even be used for various other things, such as a Plex server.

Nevertheless, this functionality of the system is secondary to its main objective. One of the most exclusive features of the system includes in-built cloud backup along with support for Backblaze B2, Google Cloud, and Amazon S3.

The system also features easy integration with different services such as Hipchat and Slack for notifying the users about system events and email alerts.

When compared to FreeNAS, Unraid seems to be more wide-ranging. It can be used in the form of storage and even in the form of a virtualization host or application server. there is no need for the users to have separate systems for these use cases.

FreeNAS vs. Unraid: GRUDGE MATCH!

Just a single Unraid-driven device, and it will efficiently operate in the form of an app server, virtualization host, and NAS. Ease of use is also one of the most important features of Unraid.

For instance, dissimilar to the conventional RAID setting, users get the flexibility of adding drives of almost any size without worrying about finding the right match.

The focus of this system is on the flexible use of the users, and therefore it can rightly be said that Unraid is user-friendly. Both Unraid and FreeNAS feature in-built support for rsync, SSH, and FTP protocols, encryption, and remote graphic control panels.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Hardware Requirements

The hardware requirements of FreeNAS are steeper in comparison to those of Unraid. The very first thing to note about the hardware requirements of FreeNAS is that the users require 64-bit hardware since 32-bit is not supported in any circumstances.

Apart from this, for a minuscule NAS, the boot drive requirement is a minimum 8 GB along with 8 GB RAM. An Ethernet connection is also needed along with a minimum of one storage disk.

Boot drive necessities to use FreeNAS for domestic media servers are 16 GB along with 16 GB RAM. With more storage being added, the users will need more RAM if they do not want the performance to suffer.

Quite similar to FreeNAS, Unraid needs a 64-bit CPU while the references for conventional NAS are quite indulgent. Home users can easily do with 2 GB RAM, and 4 GB ECC RAM is a must for the business users.

Additionally, the Ethernet connection is required even for Unraid along with one or even more storage disks. If Unraid is being used in the form of an application server such as the Minecraft server or Plex server, hardware requirements still do not go very high.

As per recommendations from Lime Technology, an i3 or even higher CPU featuring two cores along with RAM ranging between 4 GB and 8 GB can work.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Ease of Operation

Speaking of ease of operation, users generally recommended going for Unraid as it is easier to use than FreeNAS.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Which Is Best for Your Storage Needs?

If there is an extra drive that needs to be added, users simply need to power the server off; add the drive, and turn the server back on.

This will have Unraid showing up the new disk under the option that says Unassigned Devices. The next step is running Preclear- the plugin for preparing the drives for usage and for formatting them.

FreeNAS vs Unraid

Using FreeNAS is not as easy as Unraid. With FreeNAS, users need to outspread the disk pool physically. The ones who have an understanding of the procedure will not find this step complicated, but it is not as easy as the method used for Unraid.

So, for the skilled and knowledgeable users, FreeNAS might be a good option while the ones who are not technically sound might find Unraid easier to use.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Storage Stack

As has already been pointed out, FreeNAS is based on FreeBSD and has close connections with the OpenZFS assignment. The software provides reliable and time-tested storage solutions.

Almost everything starting from NVMe, SSDs, and 20 drive assortments to the greatest and latest Intel Optane, FreeNAS in coordination with the OpenZFS community constantly supports a plethora of storage devices and even offers great scalability.

Users get the flexibility of setting up storage drives in RAID 0, RAID-Z2, and RAID-Z1 and even RAID-Z3by making use of FreeNAS. But this is not the case with Unraid that provides just RAID 0 along with dual parity.

Unraid makes use of default file mechanisms, which again makes it a questionable choice mainly because FreeNAS is supported very well on the Linux systems. It is also important to note that Unraid’s support for the SSD arrays is quite experimental.

This is again a doubtful storage stack feature for Unraid because SSDs have significant uses in reading and writing cache in varied storage servers. Therefore, it can rightly be said that as far as storage stack is concerned, Unraid scores poorly in this section.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Directory and File Sharing Services

Both FreeNAS and Unraid provide BFS shares, AFP for iOS and MAC OSX, and SMB for Windows. In addition to this, FreeNAS provides iSCSI solutions not available with Unraid.

On the same line, Active Directory, Kerberos and LDAP are services offered by FreeNAS while Unraid does not offer any of these services.

It is also worth noting that FreeNAS features in-built compression, snapshots, DEduplication, remote replication, and encryption while there is only disk encryption offered by Unraid.

In the same way, FreeNAS offers coordination for cloud hold-up along with support for solutions such as Backblaze, Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS. But, when it comes to Unraid, it lags in this field and quite significantly as well.

Yet another important point of differentiation between Unraid and FreeNAS is monitoring. While FreeNAS offers users real-time graphics of the use of system resources in its Web User Interface, Unraid simply provides alerts on its Graphic User Interface and even on the registered emails of the users.

In the case of FreeNAS, it is also worth noting that the system offers alerts on Slack, PagerDuty, and various other clients.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Secondary Usage

Keeping the NAS use case aside, if you consider other secondary uses of both FreeNAS and Unraid, you will find that Unraid has the upper hand here.

Secondary use cases for the systems include running third-party applications like Plex, Torrent clients, and various other forms of virtual machines.

As far as Unraid is concerned, it uses Docker containers for running different applications such as NextCloud, Plex media server, and Torrent clients. Unraid also supports KVM offering users the flexibility of installing arbitrary operating systems ranging from Linux to Windows 10 only if the users know how to use KVM. It is the Linux heritage that offers Unraid a benefit in this category.

Coming to the secondary use cases of FreeNAS, the system features its very own containerization mechanism or technology, which is known as Jails.

The technology comes from FreeBSD. FreeNAS also uses its very own virtualization technology known as Bhyve. Both these technologies are easy to use and quite mature at the same time. In addition to this, FreeNAS even has the potential of running Docker.

FreeNAS vs Unraid: Difference in Documentation

For the ones who do not have any idea about servers and storage, there is the option of going through specific sections in the FreeBSD handbook to get started instantly and without taking much time.

The FreeNAS assignment is quite versatile, and it holds strong opinions regarding everything it recommends and the reason why things are done in a specific way.

Video tutorials and user guides encourage IT, experts, to get a clear understanding of everything that is taking place with the FreeNAS project. There are no hidden secrets or information with the overall ethos encouraging proper learning amongst the users.

On the other hand, the Unraid website is in no way appealing. The site does not provide useful details regarding the most important parts of the software. So, FreeNAS wins in this section as well.

Making the Right Choice between Unraid and FreeNAS

Unraid offers extra benefits. Users can easily access and maintain data with this software. They can even add extra storage without causing any disturbance to the data that is already stored. Unraid is thus the perfect choice for large companies with massive data.

FreeNAS helps users in storing data by generating cloud backup. Thus, the software is perfect for enterprise and home usage. For the ones who are in the lookout of storing data without putting in any money, FreeNAS would be the right solution.


Now that you have finished comparing Unraid and FreeNAS, you will rightly conclude that both these systems offer several advantages. But, in the end, you will have to consider the features, pricing, and ease of use to come up with the right choice.

If you have money 🤑 and you can spend the same for an easy setup, then Unraid is for you. Nevertheless, FreeNAS would help you save a lot of money, but then you would have to handle the setup on your own.

One thing you should always factor in is that if you are making use of modest hardware, then Unraid would be a better option for you. If trends are taken into account, FreeNAS is still ruling the market. Though, Unraid has full chances of coming up in the form of a very strong competitor. Well, for now, sticking to FreeNAS would be a wise decision.