Getting Started

From Unraid | Docs
< Articles
Revision as of 11:29, 26 February 2021 by Eschultz (talk | contribs)
Jump to: navigation, search

Official Documentation Contents List

Getting Started

In this guide, we will be covering how to prepare your flash device, boot the system, and configure your first array. The entire process should take less than 15 minutes.


Before we begin, you should have your server assembled, connected via power and Ethernet, and you should have a monitor and keyboard attached for the initial configuration (to be ready to alter configuration settings in your BIOS). Once the initial setup is complete, you can disconnect your monitor and keyboard to run Unraid in a “headless” state if you so desire. You will also need a quality USB flash device that is 1GB or larger. For full hardware requirements, visit our product page.

Preparing Your USB Flash Device

Please use a high-quality, name-brand USB Flash device with a minimum size of 1GB. Experience has shown that USB2 devices tend to be more reliable than USB3 ones, and since it runs from RAM after the initial load Unraid gains no performance advantage from using a USB3 device.

There are two methods to preparing your USB flash device:

  1. By default, everyone should use the USB flash creator for the easiest and most streamlined experience
  2. In the event this tool doesn't work for you, we have additionally documented a manual process by which you can also create your flash device.
Important: the Manual Method only works for devices 32GB and smaller.

Using the Flash Creator

Using this program, you can easily convert almost any USB flash device into an Unraid boot device. In addition, the flash creator will give you the option to toggle some advanced settings such as loading a beta release, renaming your server hostname, setting a static IP address for your server pre-boot, and even toggling support for UEFI booting.

  • Plug the USB flash device into your Mac or PC.
  • Go to the downloads page.
  • Download the USB Flash Creator to your Mac or PC and run it. This tool is an open source program digitally signed by Lime Technology, Inc.
  • Customize any options you desire and select the flash device you wish to use from the drop-down.
  • Click Write to create the bootable flash.

USB flash devices and the Flash Creator tool are discussed further in this New Users Blog.

Manual Method (Legacy)

  • Plug the USB flash device into your Mac or PC.
  • Format the device using the FAT (or FAT32) file system. It must not be ex-FAT.
  • Set the ‘volume label’ to UNRAID (case-sensitive, use all caps).
  • Go to the downloads page.
  • Choose a version and download it to a temporary location on your computer (e.g. a “downloads” folder).
  • Extract the contents of the newly downloaded ZIP file onto your USB flash device.
  • Browse to the USB flash device to see the newly extracted contents from your Mac or PC.
  • Run the make bootable script.
    • From Windows XP, just double-click the make_bootable file.
    • From Windows 7 or later, right-click the file and select 'Run as Administrator’.
    • From Mac devices, double-click the file make_bootable_mac and enter your admin password when prompted.
    • NOTE: during the process of running this script, the flash device may seem to disappear and reappear on your workstation a few times – this is expected behavior.
  • Link to guide with screenshots.

Backing Up the Flash Drive


BIOS and Booting Up


You’re now ready to remove the Flash from your PC or Mac, plug it into your server, and power up. Configuring your motherboard BIOS (as well as your storage controller) correctly is an important step to ensuring a solid experience using Unraid. The basic guidelines are as follows:

  • You must configure the USB flash device as the primary boot device (most motherboards support this).
  • Your storage controller should support AHCI and SATA connections and be configured in standard HBA mode (not RAID mode).
  • Enable any and all virtualization support in your BIOS if your hardware supports it / you wish to create virtual machines (Intel VT-x / AMD-V).
  • Enable IOMMU support in your BIOS if your hardware supports it / you wish to assign physical PCI devices (GPUs, media controllers, USB controllers, etc.) to virtual machines.
  • Avoid using front panel USB ports in favor of ports available directly on the motherboard I/O panel.

If after configuring your BIOS you cannot get Unraid to boot properly, try the following:

  • Set the boot order to as follows: Forced-FDD, USB-HDD, USB-ZIP
  • Try disabling USB 2.0/3.0 support (this will default to USB 1.1).
  • Try switching on or off any Fast Boot feature.
  • Try Switching on or off USB keyboard support.

If you still are unable to boot the OS, please post a message in our general support forum.

NOTE: Many motherboards support only up to 12 hard drives for purposes of boot selection. This is normally not an issue for Unraid® Server OS; however, if your Flash device is recognized by the bios as a hard drive, you may not be able to boot from the Flash after installing your 12th “real” hard drive. To avoid this, if possible set up your bios so that the Flash is treated as a removable device.

Boot Mode Selector (Syslinux)

After configuring your BIOS and booting from the Unraid flash drive, you will be prompted with the Unraid Server OS boot menu on a directly attached monitor (or via IPMI if your server supports that feature).

There are a number of standard options available for you to select:

  • Unraid OS (Headless)
The standard boot mode for Unraid Server OS, headless mode utilizes less memory than desktop mode but relies on the use of another device capable of running a web browser to access the webGui for management.
If a monitor is attached then a console login will be displayed that can be used to access the Linux command line on the server.
  • Unraid OS GUI Mode
Loads a lightweight desktop interface on a directly attached monitor with a quick-launch menu for accessing the webGui, product documentation, and useful Linux utilities including a bash shell, midnight commander, and htop. This mode may be helpful for users trying to diagnose network connectivity problems or for users that don't have a separate device to use for connecting to the webGui.
The management interface presented in this mode is the same one that is displayed when running the system in headless mode and accessing the server remotely using a web browser.
  • Unraid OS Safe Mode (no plugins, no GUI)
In this mode, Unraid suppresses loading any plugins that the user may have installed. Use this boot mode to diagnose if plugins are causing stability issues on your system.
  • Unraid OS GUI Safe Mode (no plugins)
In this mode, Unraid suppresses loading any plugins that the user may have installed. Use this boot mode to diagnose if plugins are causing stability issues on your system.
  • Memtest86+
If you suspect faulty RAM on your system, you can use Memtest86+ to test it. Please post in the general support forum for assistance in using this tool.
The memtest86+ tool supplied with Unraid will only work correctly if you are booting in non-UEFI (legacy) mode. If you want a version that can be run when booting in UEFI mode then you need to download your own copy from the memtest86+ web site.
Note: If you use EEC RAM in your Unraid server then memtest86+ will not normally detect faulty RAM modules unless you have disabled the EEC feature in the BIOS (since the EEC feature automatically corrects any RAM error it detects).

The user can change the boot menu to add additional options or amend existing ones by editing the syslinux/syslinux.cfg file on the flash drive or by clicking on the flash drive on the Main tab within the Management interface and using the Syslinux Configuration section on the resulting dialog.

Preparing your browser (ad-blocker settings)

Unraid's management interface (the webGUI) is incompatible with most ad-blocker solutions. It is for this reason that we strongly suggest that users leveraging an ad-blocker in their browser first add the Unraid server to the ad-blocker whitelist to ensure the ad-blocker doesn't affect the webGUI.

Failure to do so is likely to result in parts of the webGUI not displaying correctly.

Connecting to the Unraid webGui

There are two methods to connect to the webGUI in Unraid:

  1. Boot Unraid in GUI mode and login (username is root, no password by default); or
  2. Open a web browser from your Mac or PC and navigate to http://tower (or http://tower.local if using a Mac)
    • If for any reason your PC/Mac cannot resolve the name of the server then you can try using the IP address instead.
    • You can change the name used for your Unraid server from the webGUI by going to Settings->System Settings->Identification.

Registering and Installing Your Key

Upon connecting to the Unraid webGUI for the first time, you should be taken to the Registration page. From here, you can register and install either a trial or paid license key.

The key file is installed into the config folder on the flash drive.

Assigning Devices to the Array and Cache


After installing a registration key, you are ready to begin assigning devices for Unraid to manage. Click on the Main tab from the Unraid webGUI and follow these guidelines when assigning disks:

  • Always pick the largest storage device available to act as your parity device(s). When expanding your array in the future (adding more devices to data disk slots), you cannot assign a data disk that is larger than your parity device(s). For this reason, it is highly recommended to purchase the largest HDD available for use as your initial parity device, so future expansions aren’t limited to small device sizes. If assigning dual parity disks, your two parity disks can vary in size, but the same rule holds true that no disk in the array can be larger than your smallest parity device.
  • SSD support in the array is experimental. Some SSDs may not be ideal for use in the array due to how TRIM/Discard may be implemented. Using SSDs as data/parity devices may have unexpected/undesirable results. This does NOT apply to the cache / cache pool.
  • Using a cache will improve array performance. It does this by redirecting write operations to a dedicated disk (or pool of disks in Unraid 6) and moves that data to the array on a schedule that you define (by default, once per day at 3:40AM). Data written to the cache is still presented through your user shares, making use of this function completely transparent.
  • Creating a cache-pool adds protection for cached data. If you only assign one cache device to the system, data residing there before being moved to the array on a schedule is not protected from data loss. To ensure data remains protected at all times (both on data and cache disks), you must assign more than one device to the cache function, creating what is called a cache-pool. Cache pools can be expanded on demand, similar to the array.
  • SSD-based cache devices are ideal for applications and virtual machines. Apps and VMs benefit from SSDs as they can leverage their raw IO potential to perform faster when interacting with them. Use SSDs in a cache pool for the ultimate combination of functionality, performance, and protection.

NOTE: Your array will not start if you assign or attach more devices than your license key allows.

Starting the Array and Formatting Your Devices

Once you have all your devices assigned, you can click the Start button under Array Operation. This will mount your devices and start the array. New devices added to disk or cache device slots will appear as 'Unformatted' and will be unusable for storing files until you format them. Unraid 6 defaults to using the XFS filesystem for all devices, but if you define a cache pool then BTRFS will automatically be used for those devices (you can change the default file system under Settings->System Settings->Disk Settings).

To format your devices for use, you must click the check box under ‘Array Operation’ that says Format, acknowledge the resulting prompt (read it carefully), and then click the Format button.

Even before the devices are formatted, a parity sync will be performing in the background to initialize the protection of the array. Until the sync is completed, the array will operate but in an unprotected state. It is recommended to wait until the initial parity sync completes before adding data to the array.

Stopping Array, Shutting Down, and Rebooting

In order to perform one of these operations, visit the Main tab and scroll down to the section titled Array Operation and click on the button appropriate to the operation you wish to carry out.

Using the built-in help

UnRAID has extensive help text for all major settings built into the GUI. When enabled the Help text will be displayed under the relevant setting.

The help text can be toggled on/off at the global level by clicking the ? Icon at the top right of the Unraid GUI. It can be switched on/off at the individual field level by clicking on the name of the field.

It is strongly recommended that you make use of this feature as the information available via that route is likely to be more extensive and up-to-date than any documentation.