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.
- 1 Prerequisites
- 2 Quick Install Guide
- 3 Initial Setup
- 4 Setting a Root Password
- 5 Utilizing My Servers
- 6 Assigning Devices to the Array and Pool(s)
- 7 Starting the Array and Formatting Your Devices
- 8 Stopping Array, Shutting Down, and Rebooting
- 9 Important Considerations
- 10 Manual Install Method
- 11 Advanced BIOS Configuration Guide
- 12 Boot Mode Selector (Syslinux)
- 13 Privacy
- 14 F.A.Q.
Before we begin:
- You should have your server assembled and connected via power and Ethernet.
- You should have a monitor and keyboard attached for the initial configuration and to be ready to alter configuration settings in your BIOS.
- You will also need a high-quality, name brand USB flash device that is 2GB or larger that must contain a unique GUID (Globally Unique Identifier).
- Your system must be capable of booting from a USB device.
For full hardware requirements, visit our product page.
Quick Install Guide
- Insert a quality USB flash device into your Mac or PC.
- Download the USB Flash Creator and use it to install Unraid OS onto your USB flash device, or use the Manual Install method.
- Remove the flash device from your PC and plug it into your server.
- Boot into your server's BIOS settings and make the following changes:
- Configure the system to boot from the USB flash device.
- Enable virtualization-specific features (including IOMMU).
- Save your BIOS configuration changes and exit to boot Unraid OS.
Once Unraid OS has booted, you can now bring up the browser-based Management Utility, a.k.a., the webGui, and complete the process of configuring your system.
Connecting to the Unraid webGui
There are two methods to connect to the webGui in Unraid:
- Boot Unraid in GUI mode and login (username is
root, no password by default); or
- Open a web browser from your Mac or PC and navigate to
http://tower.localNote: if you configured a different host name in the USB Flash Creator, use that name instead of
Setting a Root Password
Once you are connected to the webGui, you will immediately be prompted to set a strong root password (as of version 6.10):
Strong passwords are unique (not reused), have at least 8 characters (the more the better), are a combination of alphabetic, numeric, and special characters, and are not common dictionary words. Better yet, use a password manager.
If you happen to forget your root password, the steps to reset it can be found here.
Registering and Installing Your Key
Once a root password is set, you will be logged into the webGui. Now you need to sign in to Unraid.net and obtain a key.
- Sign in or Sign up under the Get Started section in the top-right of the webGui.
- Upon signing in, a registration key will be downloaded and installed to your system automatically.
The purpose of the sign-in is to provide a way for you to manage your registration keys for Unraid OS (obtain a Trial key, purchase a paid key, recover a lost key, replace your key with a new flash device, or upgrade a key from one edition to another).
When signing up we highly recommend you enable 2FA for your Unraid.net Account. Click here for how to set this up.
Note: On versions 6.9 and earlier, registering for a Trial, installing a key, or purchasing a key is done from the webGui Tools > Registration page.
Utilizing My Servers
Once you have an Unraid.net account and a server signed in using that account, you can access the My Servers page from our website to manage your server and registration key. You can also opt to install the full My Servers experience. See the My Servers documentation page for more information.
Assigning Devices to the Array and Pool(s)
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 data 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 pool as 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 a cache pool is still presented through your user shares, making use of this function completely transparent. You control at the User Share level which shares should use a pool for cache purposes and which pool that should be.
- Creating a multi-device pool adds protection for cached data. If you only assign one device to the cache pool, 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 pool, creating what is typically called a cache-pool. Cache pools can be expanded on demand, similar to the array.
- SSD-based pools 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 pool for the ultimate combination of functionality, performance, and protection.
NOTE: Your array will not start if you have attached more storage 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 performed 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.
Once you've completed your initial setup, there are a few more things you should know how to do on your server.
Backing Up the Flash Drive
It is a good idea to have your Unraid flash device backed up any time you make a significant configuration change. Regular flash backups are highly recommended:
- On the Main tab, click on your Flash and Click Flash Backup. Please make sure to store your backups off of your Unraid array so it is easily accessible even if the array is not operational.
- If you are running Unraid 6.9.2 (or later) install the MyServers plugin which provides for automated backups of the flash drive to LimeTech cloud-based servers.
Using the built-in help
Unraid has extensive help text for all major settings built into the webGui. 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.
Security Best Practices
Your Unraid server is likely to end up containing data that is valuable to you so it can be a good idea to review the Security Good Practices part of the documentation to ensure you are not doing something that may leave your system open to attack while leaving your valuable data at risk.
Manual Install Method
If for some reason the USB Flash Creator tool cannot be used, or your USB flash device is not detected, it is possible to manually format and prepare a bootable USB flash device. Note: this method only works for devices 32GB and smaller.
- Plug the USB flash device into your Mac or PC.
- Format the device using the FAT32 file system. It must not be ex-FAT or NTFS. If your dtive is larger than 32GB then you need to use a 3rd party tool (e.g. Rufus) to format it to FAT32 as Windows will not give this as an option on drives larger than 32GB.
- Set the ‘volume label’ to
UNRAID(case-sensitive, use all caps).
- Go to the downloads page. to get the zip file for the release you want to use.
- 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.
- If you need to enable UEFI boot, rename the
- Run the make bootable script appropriate to the OS you are using:
- Windows XP
- double-click the make_bootable file.
- Windows 7 or later
- right-click the make_bootable file and select Run as Administrator.
- double-click the file make_bootable_mac file and enter your admin password when prompted.
- copy make_bootable_linux file to hard drive
- unmount (not eject) USB drive
- run the following command from wherever you unpacked it to on your Linux system:
- sudo bash ./make_bootable_linux
- Windows XP
- 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.
Advanced BIOS Configuration Guide
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 or you wish to create virtual machines (Intel VT-x / AMD-V).
- Enable IOMMU support in your BIOS if your hardware supports it or 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® 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.
- 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.
Signing in with your Unraid.net account from the webGui sends the following information using a secure connection to our cloud servers:
- Your email address and password used to sign in to Unraid.net.
- The GUID of your flash device.
- The key file on your flash device if present.
- The server's hostname and description.
- The server's LAN IP address.
- The version number of Unraid OS you are running.
I'm unable to get the USB Flash Creator to install Unraid to my flash device. What do I do?
In the event the flash creator doesn't see or can't install Unraid to the device, it could be for one of many reasons. The simplest solution would be to try an alternate device, but if that is not an option for you, you can try installing Unraid using the legacy manual method documented here.
I can't seem to connect to the webGui using http://tower or http://tower.local. What do I do?
Sometimes your local DNS server won't resolve by hostname and if that is the case here, you can try connecting to the server by IP address. You can discover the IP address of the server in multiple ways (by manually setting it during the creation of the flash device, reviewing your router/switch DHCP address pool, or by connecting a monitor to the server).
How do I change the hostname of my server?
You can change the name used for your Unraid server from the webGui by going to Settings->System Settings->Identification
My flash drive is reporting an invalid GUID. What do I do?
The USB Flash device must be one that has a unique hardware GUID (serial number) built into it. Some manufacturers re-use the same GUID on the drives they manufacture, use a GUID that is all zeroes, or use an obviously made-up number. These drives are not able to be used as an Unraid boot device. Although it is difficult to generalize, drives from most major manufacturers do satisfy the requirement of having a unique GUID.
Note: SSDs, USB card readers, SD card readers, or other devices cannot be used to boot Unraid at this time.
The USB flash creator tool isn't detecting my flash drive. What do I do?
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. As an FYI, the manual method only works for devices 32GB and smaller.
USB flash devices and the Flash Creator tool are discussed further in this New Users Blog.
I need to configure my system to boot using UEFI. How do I do this?
UEFI boot mode can be configured in 3 ways. When creating the flash device using the flash creator, there is an option to enable UEFI boot mode. After booting in legacy mode, you can change to UEFI boot from the Flash Device Settings page. And lastly, you can always rename the folder on the flash drive called efi~ to efi (i.e. removing the trailing ~ character).
I'm having issues using my web browser with the Unraid webGui. What can I do?
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.
How Do I Extend My Unraid Trial?
Did you know that you can extend the 30 day free trial of Unraid? Hardware can be ill-suited. Things break. Life happens. We get it. To try out Unraid a little longer, once your original trial shows "expired" in the upper left of the header, Stop the array.
Next, go to the Registration page, and now a button shows up where you can click for a 15 day extension. You can do this a total of two times before you must decide if you would like to purchase Unraid or not.
Note: You cannot change the USB flash device for Unraid Trials if you wish to continue where you left off.