Windows: FreeNAS Embedded Installation

FreeNAS is available for download in two forms .ISO and .IMG. If all you want to do is try FreeNAS and possibly install then you should download the ISO. The .IMG is intended for embedded installs like the kind of install you do in USB flash drive or compact flash card.

The thing about the embedded install is that unlike the .ISO the .IMG file includes no installer. Instead the user is expected to make use of third party tools to complete the installation.

Before we can start the tutorial you will need the following:

  • FreeNAS .IMG (61MB file)
  • USB Flash drive or Compact Flash card larger than the .IMG file
  • physdiskwrite (3rd party tool), this is what will write the image

Nix* users have DD to write images, in the case of Windows the closest tool available is physdiskwrite. With physdiskwrite we can write the raw image to the storage media. Physdiskwrite is a command line tool, I will try my best to guide you trugh the commands.

At the time of this tutorial the latest release for i386 is FreeNAS-i386-embedded-

I will break the tutorial in to two parts:

  1. We will use Diskpart a windows tools that in this case will help us clean the storage media. Not performing this steps may perform in errors
  2. Write the image with the help of Physdiskwrite

Working With Diskpart

I recommend following the Diskpart steps below to avoid errors that may come up when writing the image. The steps below will clear the drive you intend to use for the installation.

Open a command line window and type: Diskpart

Now list of all available drives: list disk

The USB drive intend to use for the installation is listed as disk 3, select it: select disk 3

And clean it by typing: clean

Once the process is complete type: exit

Write The Image With Physdiskwrite

For the sake of simplicity I recommend placing both Physdiskwrite.exe and FreeNAS-i386-embedded-x.x.x.xxxx.img in the same folder.

Open the command line and CD(move) to the location where the Physdiskwrite and the .img file are located. Type the command below to find the drive:

C:UsersLuisDocumentsIMG>physdiskwrite.exe -u FreeNAS-i386-embedded-

physdiskwrite v0.5.2 by Manuel Kasper 

Searching for physical drives...

Information for .PhysicalDrive0:
   Windows:       cyl: 77825
                  tpc: 255
                  spt: 63
   C/H/S:         16383/16/63
   Model:         WDC WD6401AALS-00J7B1
   Serial number:      WD-WMATV3658664
   Firmware rev.: 05.00K05

Information for .PhysicalDrive1:
   Windows:       cyl: 121601
                  tpc: 255
                  spt: 63
   C/H/S:         16383/16/63
   Model:         WDC WD10EALS-00Z8A0
   Serial number:      WD-WCATR0751123
   Firmware rev.: 05.01D05

Information for .PhysicalDrive2:
   Windows:       cyl: 60801
                  tpc: 255
                  spt: 63
   C/H/S:         16383/16/63
   Model:         WDC WD5001AALS-00L3B2
   Serial number:      WD-WMASZ0056513
   Firmware rev.: 01.03B01

Information for .PhysicalDrive3:
   Windows:       cyl: 62
                  tpc: 255
                  spt: 63

The output above tells us that PhysicalDrive3 is the removable drive. Which is why we select drive number 3 to write the image to.

Which disk do you want to write? (0..3) 3

Confirm you want to overwrite by typing Y.

About to overwrite the contents of disk 3 with new data. Proceed? (y/n) y
Found compressed image file
75350016/75350016 bytes written in total

Once the process is done close the terminal window. The image is now in the Flash drive.

Other Steps

Keep in mind that in order to boot from a Flash drive you need to set the BIOS to boot from removable media.



  • NASx

    Awesome tut man. Got it on my first try using FreeNas 8.0. only thing is you forgot to mention the login/password which is admin/freenas. Now I need to figure out how to install it to my nas ssd…

  • rasiel

    excelente tutorial sigue asi animo a webooooo


  • carlos

    very good good Aplus

    es hora del duelooo !


  • matt

    This worked for me. I used the GUI, but it must be started it in “Administrator” mode. Also, I selected the 2GB option, not sure what that was about.