4 Best Open Source NAS Software for DIY server in 2021

Are you planning to create your own NAS (Network Attached Storage) using some old hardware and drives? Then for that self-made DIY NAS server you definitely need some OS or software to work; obviously, because the operating system is the thing that will control the functions that your NAS server will provide later. However, still, there are only a few well-known Linux operating systems that dedicatedly meant to do this job. Yet, whatever out there are quite developed to provide Linux/FreeBSD based SAN (Storage Area Network) or NAS (Network Attached Storage) solutions to enterprises, small offices, or homes.

Top Open source Linux DIY NAS software 

Before listing Linux or FreeBSD distros for creating network Attached storage OS, I would like to say there is no “best operating system” either for NAS or computer. The choice of an operating system depends heavily on what you are going to do with the NAS server. In this guide, we focus on software that understands a NAS server primarily as a system for the provision of data in your office or home. With the operating systems we mention in this article, you can copy data back and forth, perform backups, along with some advanced tasks (such as establishing a VPN connection or installing a mail server) including plugins to extend OS capabilities.

Here we are about to list some best NAS solutions to help you if you are planning to data manage using open-source software in 2020.

1. FreeNAS OS

You might be already familiar with its name. It is one of the best FreeBSD based NAS software solutions that not only provide easy to use interface but also plugins to extend features such as for the Plex server. The operating system is designed to enable a self-built NAS system based on free software.

The company behind it actually deals in NAS hardware for enterprises, however, the OS is available free of cost for the general public.

The best thing is you don’t need to have a hard drive for FreeNAS installation, a simple USB drive would be enough, of course, to save data hard drives are needed those can be managed from its graphical user interface.

In addition, the operation of the FreeNAS is extremely simple. In terms of upgrades and updates, the manufacturer and their ​​product life cycles are released from time to time. It uses the OpenZFS file system which is highly reliable and can be configured from the admin web interface volume manager.

FreeNAS best linux OS for NAS

Key Features:

  • It provides easy to use graphical interface.
  • Supports all major protocols for file sharing such as CIFS/SMB (Windows), AFP (Apple), and NFS (Unix).
  • It makes it easy to stream and share your movies and music.
  • Backup and snapshots are possible.
  • Checksums ensure only error-free data gets written to disk
  • Self file repair file system.
  • It offers encryption on ZFS volumes.
  • It offers useful plugins such as Plex, Owncloud, Minecraft, and more to use NAS more than a storage device.
  • Docker and in-built virtualization support.

Download FreeNAS ISO

2. OpenMediaVault NAS software OS

OpenMediaVault (OMV) is another network-attached storage (NAS) software operating system and well-known for home or small office clouds. It is based on Debian Linux distribution, yes, the familiar one thus easy to install and manage without much system knowledge. This open-source Linux NAS software supports all major protocols such as SSH, (S) FTP, SMB / CIFS, and RSync and also can be expanded via plug-ins, for example, DAAP Media Server, Shairport – AirPlay/RAOP receiver, and more…

OpenMEdiaVault free NAS software

 Open Media vault Key Features:

  • It comes with a web-based user interface thus not a problem to backup and accessing the storage drives from anywhere.
  • Based on Debian, thus easy maintenance of updates using the apt command.
  • Web-based administration, User management, Scheduled jobs, Multilanguage support, Service announcement via DNS-SD, and Plugin system.
  • In terms of networking, it supports Link aggregation, Wake On Lan, and IPv6 support.
  • Openmediavault provides a wide range of options to manage the storage volumes such as GPT partitions, RAID JBOD/0/1/5/6/, Quota feature to restrict user, SHare Management,  EXT3/EXT4/XFS/JFS filesystem support, and more…
  • It is faster and lighter weight and one best NAS OS even some people prefer it over FreeNAS.

Download OpenMediaVault ISO



3. XigmaNAS (formerly NAS4Free)

XigmaNAS was earlier known as NAS4Free. If you want to create your own DIY NAS box, it provides an easy-to-manage file server to provide data storage and smaller server tasks such as media services with little effort.

It also based on FreeBSD just like FreeNAS, actually, it had been developed using the code of FreeNAS, and later in 2018, NAS4Free was renamed XigmaNAS. It can be used with USB sticks, memory cards, or hard drives and SSDs as boot media. It is also possible to boot it from a live CD or a live USB stick.

XigmaNAS has extensive documentation directly on its own website, thus installation and handling would not be a big pain.

Like FreeNAS, XigmaNAS server functionalities can also be expanded using its extension based system. For example, you can save data related to BitTorrent directly on the NAS hard drives. Conversion of NAS server into a media server is also possible using the Plex media server extension that allows to manage media data in a visually appealing manner and to stream it to other devices. Or you can install an interface that also makes access from smartphones in a more convenient way.

XigmaNAS (formerly NAS4Free)

Key Features of XigmaNAS:

  • Complete management via a web interface
  • Software raid (0,1,5) and optional file encryption
  • File systems: ZFS v5000 (Feature Flag), UFS, Ext2 / 3, FAT, NTFS
    MBR and GPT partitions
  • Disk encryption with support for cryptographic hardware acceleration,
  • Numerous network protocols such as CIFS / SMB (Samba v4.x), FTP, NFS, TFTP, AFP, RSYNC, Unison, SCP (SSH), iSCSI (initiator and target), HAST (Highly Available Storage), CARP (Common Address Redundancy Protocol ), Bridge, UPnP and BitTorrent
    Services such as UPNP server, iTunes server, iTunes / DAAP server, web server, torrent client, etc.
  • Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)
  • Monitoring with email alarm
  • Monitoring of hard disk drives and solid-state drives (SSDs) via SMART

Get XigmaNAS


4. Rockstor – Centos based Linux NAS solution

This Linux NAS software is slightly different and has a more stable base that is CentOS. The biggest difference between FreeNAS and Rockstor is it uses the Btrfs file system, which is very similar to ZFS used by FreeNAS. Btrfs is a so-called CoW (Copy-On-Write) file system and developed by Oracle to provide high read and write performance and to handle fault tolerance, repair, and easy administration.

Rockstor supports the protocols/features AFP, Active Directory, LDAP, NIS, NTP, NUT-UPS, SFTP, and SNMP. Shares can be made available via NFS and Samba (Smb / CIFS). The SMART function for hard drives has also recently been supported.

It only supports 64-bit modern systems with at least 2Gb RAM and for best out of it, 4 to 8Gb is recommended depending on the number of data hard drives used.

Rockstor offers the possibility to integrate plugins via Docker. The plugins are available as containers, which Docker virtualizes on the host system.

Apart from the traditional NAS system, it can be also used as Personal Cloud Server and SMB Cloud Server, which we can set as per the requirement and data availability.

Rockstor – Centos based Linux NAS solution

Key Features of Rockstor:

  • Linux, BTRFS based open source storage OS with Bitrot protection, checksums, compression and other advanced filesystem features
  • Copy-on-write Snapshots
  • File sharing is possible across all major systems such as Linux, Mac, Windows, and Mobile devices.
  • GUI installer
  • Customizable Dashboard
  • Rockstor supports file backup with Rsync, Apple Time Machine, and Windows Backup.
  • Resource monitoring with SNMP.
  • Add-ons for media streaming, backups, cloud storage, and more.
  • And more…

Download Rockstor ISO

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5 thoughts on “4 Best Open Source NAS Software for DIY server in 2021”

  1. FreeNas/TrueNas doesn’t support Docker, you need to run it within a segregated VM.

  2. I’m about to upgrade a 2-drive Synology box to a 4 or 5 drive one – but I’m concerned about being able to repair the hardware if something goes wrong – so I’m looking at upgrading to (or just adding) something built with off-the-shelf hardware.
    I was thinking I’d have to install a distro, then setup NAS-like functionality on top of that (guess I’ve been living under a rock DIY NAS-wise).
    I’m using BSD (pfSense) as a firewall, but I find BSD (and pfilter) a bit opaque – and I want to run HomeAssistant on it, so BSD’s out.
    I’m also using CentOS for a PBX (PIAF) and it’s been bulletproof, so I’m leaning towards RockStor.
    I’m leaning towards a 4-or-more hot-swap case (I see these on AliExpress for well under $100. I’d add a link, but that’d make this post look like spam), and I’m not super worried about the case, disk carriers, or SATA backplane failing.
    Everything else is off-the-shelf (ITX or mITX mboard, 1U power supply, fans) so I can get it quick when something inevitably fails.
    About the only issue I see is the lack of motherboards with 8+ SATA ports. Any recommendations? I set up a CentOS server with hardware RAID for a previous employer – but the RAID board was over $1000. Do I need one of those – and if so, which of these distros work with hardware RAIDs?
    Thanks for reading! Thanks even more if you’ve got answers!

  3. OpenMediaVault (OMV) runs docker and allows GUI interfaces to control it. It also fully supports ZFS and is incredibly feature-rich. Community Support very good. I don’t use all the features and I haven’t read about people complaining of missing features. OMV6.0 released at the end of 2021 and improved the interface on an already excellent system.


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