FreeNAS vs TrueNAS

There are many platforms for network-attached storage, but FreeNAS is renowned for being free, open-source, secure, and scalable. It is incredibly versatile, allowing you to create media streaming servers, virtualization servers, and multi-site backup systems. However, is it different from TrueNAS? Should you use FreeNAS vs TrueNAS?

FreeNAS is a legacy NAS platform that has rebranded into TrueNAS CORE. TrueNAS CORE has faster OpenZFS performance, better security, and more developer support than FreeNAS, but their source code is still 95% similar. Businesses and hybrid cloud users also benefit from new features in TrueNAS Enterprise and TrueNAS SCALE.

What is FreeNAS?

synology NAS server with macbook

FreeNAS is an open-source network-attached storage platform initially developed by Olivier Cochard-Labbé in 2005. It is based on FreeBSD and features an OpenZFS file system, RAID controller, and volume manager. Home and office networks can also easily share files between Windows, Linux, and macOS!

With its plug-in architecture, you can stream all kinds of data from any connected device. For example, FreeNAS integrates with Plex to provide media streaming. There are many third-party plug-ins available to install, including:

  • Plex
  • GitLab
  • Bacula
  • Gamez
  • BTSync
  • BitTorrent
  • Couchpotato
  • HTPC-Manager
  • Marachino
  • Emby

As of October 2020, iXsystems has unified FreeNAS with the TrueNAS product line. It is now known as TrueNAS CORE, and it continually receives software updates.


OpenZFS File System

Developed by Sun Microsystems, OpenZFS is a scalable, open-source storage platform that combines a filesystem and volume manager. It features limitless SSD/HDD capacity, data corruption safeguards, fast data compression, RAID-Z support, remote replication, and automatic repair.

FreeNAS has access to all these features, including RAID 1+0 data redundancy via striping, mirroring, and striped mirroring.

Data Compression and Deduplication

FreeNAS automatically increases storage capacity and performance using block-level data compression and deduplication. Compression reduces file sizes, and deduplication removes identical data. However, pre-compressed data, such as video, are left safely untouched.


FreeNAS supports Self-Encrypting Drive (SED), providing password protection to storage devices. Unless unlocked, data remains unreadable and uncopyable when disks are removed or shut off. However, encryption does not extend to data in transit.

Snapshots and Replication

Snapshots preserve old versions of data for recovery, similar to Windows System Restore. If data or a filesystem version corrupts, they can return to a previously saved point. You can schedule, request, and manage snapshots via the FreeNAS Web interface.

Replication duplicates snapshots to other compatible ZFS file systems on a scheduled or ongoing basis. Data is still secure on a replicated snapshot from another disk if the primary storage disk fails, especially during disaster recovery.

What Can You Use FreeNAS For?

remote with tv

FreeNAS is mainly used as a free file storage solution for NAS devices. With its secure ZFS file system, you can build enterprise-grade storage with striped drives, mirrored drives, and two parity drives.

The FreeNAS operating system is so versatile that you can also use it for:

  • Media streaming server
  • Torrent server
  • Virtualization server
  • Backups
  • Home automation
  • Personal cloud storage
  • Adblocker
  • Video game library

What is TrueNAS?

data center servers

TrueNAS is a set of open-source NAS operating systems developed by iXsystems, such as TrueNAS CORE, TrueNAS Enterprise, and TrueNAS SCALE. All platforms are based on FreeBSD, Linux, and the OpenZFS file system. It features virtualization with various protocols, full-disk encryption, and a plug-in architecture.


TrueNAS CORE, formerly FreeNAS, is the world’s most popular storage OS. Users can safely store, share, and manage data across connected SSDs, HDDs, and servers – all for free. It even supports the latest hardware, such as high core-count AMD processors and NVMe SSDs.

CORE stands for community-supported, open-source, rapid development, and early availability. These principles guide future updates to main features, including encryption, RAID support, data recovery, data redundancy, and virtualization.

TrueNAS Enterprise

TrueNAS Enterprise is a storage solution for businesses with mission-critical uses. It provides 24/7 uptime, single or dual controllers for High Availability, support services, and core TrueNAS features.

Businesses can configure TrueNAS Enterprise with various storage systems, such as TrueNAS M-Series, X-Series, and R-Series appliances. With up to 10 GB/S of bandwidth and 10 petabytes of capacity, enterprise data needs can quickly scale.


TrueNAS SCALE is a Linux-based storage platform built on hyper-converged infrastructure, allowing storage and computing to scale independently. It adds Linux Containers, kernel-based virtual machines, and scale-out ZFS features for improved IT efficiency and scaling.

SCALE stands for scale-out, convergence, active-active, Linux, and easy. These goals optimize TrueNAS SCALE for hybrid cloud systems, combining virtual machines and container-based applications.

TrueNAS vs FreeNAS Differences

server hardware

FreeNAS has been considered legacy software since its final 11.3-U5 update. It has since transitioned into TrueNAS CORE, receiving software updates and new features. Both are free, but the latest TrueNAS is faster, more stable, and more flexible than the discontinued FreeNAS.

Enterprise Integration

FreeNAS was only community-supported, so businesses had to use TrueNAS for critical enterprise storage. After FreeNAS became TrueNAS CORE, users could access the enterprise platform within the same software with a license key.

Enterprise features include Fibre Channel, High Availability, KMIP, and Enclosure Management. It also comes with TrueNAS Enterprise quality assurance, testing, and support services.

OpenZFS Performance

TrueNAS uses the multi-OS version of OpenZFS 2.0, replacing the FreeBSD version. OpenZFS 2.0 exclusively offers Fusion Pools and special VDEVs, while improving overall performance and virtualization. Larger TrueNAS configurations, such as the TrueNAS M60, can gain up to a 30% performance boost!


Since FreeNAS is no longer supported, it is vulnerable to security weaknesses. With the adoption of FreeBSD 12.1 and SAMBA 4.12, TrueNAS patches old exploits and adds KMIP, ZFS dataset-level encryption, and OpenVPN integrations.

You can protect your data and IT infrastructure by staying updated with the latest TrueNAS security vulnerabilities.

Cloud Management

With Cloud Sync Tasks, TrueNAS can send, receive, and synchronize data with third-party cloud storage providers, such as Amazon S3 or Google Cloud. TrueCommand Cloud also makes it convenient to back up and manage data between multiple sites.

To view all TrueNAS-supported cloud storage vendors, navigate to System, select Cloud Credentials, and open the Provider dropdown menu. Whichever provider you choose, TrueCommand 2.0 will collect comprehensive statistics to improve cloud management practices.

How to Upgrade FreeNAS to TrueNAS

server ethernet connection

To upgrade FreeNAS to TrueNAS, follow these simple steps:

  1. Download the latest update file to the computer, not a virtual machine. The filename should end with manual-update.tar.
  2. Use a web browser and connect to FreeNAS.
  3. Navigate to System > Update and click Install Manual Update File. Save a copy of the current configuration for backup if the update fails.
  4. Select Browse and choose the downloaded update file.
  5. Set Reboot After Update and click Apply Update. After the computer restarts, FreeNAS will update to TrueNAS!

How to Install TrueNAS

unifi port switch

Before installing TrueNAS, you need to burn the installer to a USB flash drive or CD. Remote installation is only possible if the system can create a virtual media CD-ROM with a .iso file and IPMI is available.

Install with Windows 10

To install TrueNAS in Windows 10, follow these easy instructions:

  1. Burn the installer .iso file to a CD using a burning software, such as CDBurnerXP. Or, write the .iso file to a USB flash drive using Rufus or Etcher and select dd mode.
  2. Insert the CD or flash drive and reboot the system.
  3. Access the motherboard UEFI/BIOS and set the first boot option to USB boot. This way, the system will boot into the USB installer first.
  4. Select Install/Upgrade in the setup screen.
  5. Navigate to the desired boot drive and press the Space key, or press the Space key on every drive for multiple boot drives.
  6. Select Yes to proceed with the installation.
  7. Enter a password for the root account to later login into the web interface.
  8. Once installed, reboot the system and remove the CD or flash drive.

Install with Linux

To install TrueNAS in Linux, follow these easy instructions:

  1. Burn the installer .iso file to a CD using CDBurnerXP. To write the installer to a flash drive, plug in the USB drive and open the terminal console. Next, enter sudo dd if=filename.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=1m in the terminal, replacing filename.iso with the correct update filename and X with the letter of the USB device. Entering the incorrect disk name will result in data loss, so burn with a CD if you are unsure.
  2. Insert the CD or flash drive and reboot the system.
  3. Access the motherboard UEFI/BIOS, and set the first boot option to USB boot. This way, the system will boot into the USB installer first.
  4. Select Install/Upgrade in the setup screen.
  5. Navigate to the desired boot drive and press the Space key. If you want more than one boot drive, select them all by pressing the Space key on each drive.
  6. Select Yes to proceed with the installation.
  7. Enter a password for the root account to log in to the web interface.
  8. Once installed, reboot the system and remove the install media.

Frequently Asked Questions

server cables

Is FreeNAS now TrueNAS?

FreeNAS rebranded to TrueNAS CORE on October 20, 2020, remaining open-source and gaining new features. The FreeNAS brand has been left behind since version 11.3 but still shares over 95% of the same source code with TrueNAS CORE 12.0.

Why Did FreeNAS Change to TrueNAS?

Many businesses believed that the “free” of the FreeNAS name failed to meet the standards for critical infrastructure and data security. As a result, FreeNAS changed to TrueNAS to unify iXsystems products under a single enterprise brand and software project.

Who Can Use TrueNAS?

Photographers, IT professionals, video editors, developers, and anyone who needs to store and share data securely can use TrueNAS. Businesses can also quickly scale mission-critical storage needs with TrueNAS – benefitting from support services, constant uptime, and High Availability.

Does TrueNAS Support Hot Swap?

TrueNAS supports hot-swap on SATA or SAS disks and drives that work with a RAID configuration (e.g., RAID 1, RAID 5, or RAID 6). So, hot-swapping allows you to remove and replace disks without disruption.

Does TrueNAS Support WIFI?

TrueNAS does not support WIFI, as it mainly uses a wired Ethernet connection.


hard disk drive

TrueNAS improves in security, performance, features, and support upon FreeNAS, but they still share similar core functionality. Other TrueNAS platforms, such as TrueNAS Enterprise and TrueNAS SCALE, offer unique features that better benefit business and hybrid cloud users. Nevertheless, TrueNAS CORE remains free, open-source, and easy to install across most operating systems.

If you enjoyed this guide on FreeNAS vs TrueNAS, you could learn the differences between AHCI vs RAID for more data redundancy measures!

Liam Weissman

A lover of MacBook Air and the Dell XPS line of laptops, Liam has been researching and writing as a guest blogger for numerous websites for over 10 years. Now, he blogs about tech trends, PCs, laptops, gadgets, and other emerging gadgets on

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