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In this guide, I’m going to show you how to set up Unraid. We’ll go over what Unraid is, what hardware we can use. We’ll also go over the installation process and the initial configuration.

So what is Unraid?

Unraid is an operating system that you can set up on almost any computer and turn it into a robust network-attached storage server. It also has support for Docker container and virtualization. Allowing you to set up different applications or operating systems like Home Assistant Plex, Ubuntu, and all from 1 single machine.

For the Network-attached storage, you can set up multiple drives in an array, and the drive can vary in speed and size. You can also add more drives to the array at any time without having to reconfigure everything and rebalance your existing data. It also has Parity protection. Allowing to use 1 or 2 drives as parity that can rebuild the data of a failed drive onto a replacement drive.

What hardware can we use with Unraid?

That will pretty much depend on what you are going to use the Unraid server for. If you are going to use it as a NAS server, then the requirements are minimum. You would concentrate more on the number of drives that you want to use for storage. To use it to run applications in Docker containers or virtual machines, you would need to concentrate on the hardware’s performance. The machine would need to support virtualization, have a CPU with 4 or more cores and at least 4 to 8 Gigs of RAM.

How much is Unraid?

Yes, Unraid is not free. It requires purchasing a license that varies in price depending on the number of drives attached to the server. The basic license, for example, supports up to 6 storage devices and costs $59. However, you can install the Full Unraid OS for free and try it out for 30 days so you can check if it’s right for you.


To install the Unraid OS, you must install it on a USB flash drive with a unique GUID. A Globally Unique Identifier. Unraid uses the flash drive’s GUID to link it to the license that you get. Premium flash drives from brands like Samsung, for example, will have a Globally Unique Identifier. For my Unraid server, I’m using the Samsung Fit Plus, which is small and easy to keep hidden on the back of my server.

Set up the USB Flash Drive

To set up the Unraid OS on a flash drive, download the USB Flash Creator from the Unraid website. Then, insert the USB Flash drive into the computer and launch the Unraid USB Flash Creator.

There are 3 steps to follow. On the first one, you can select what version of the Unraid OS you want to install. You want to download the stable release and also the latest version. Before moving to step two, you can click on Customize and set up a server name. The server should have an assigned IP address when it connects to your home network. You can set it up here if you would like or assign the IP to the server on your router settings.

For step two, the creator automatically selects the USB flash drive that you inserted. If not, you can choose it from the dropdown. Lastly, for step three, click on Write, and on the pop up that comes up, click on Erase and Write. When the process completes, inject the flash drive from the computer and connect it to the machine where you are setting up the Unraid server.

Configure BIOS, start Unraid, and access the web interface

For the first part of the installation, you need to have a monitor and a keyboard connected to the server. Once that initial setup is completed, the server can be headless, and you can access the Unraid web interface from any computer.

On the first boot, you want to access your BIOS settings and set the boot priority to boot from the flash drive. If you are going to set up virtual machines, you also want to enable virtualization in the BIOS. Save the changes, and when the machine boots, it will start loading the Unraid OS automatically.

When the OS is loaded, it will show you the IP address that you can use to access the web interface from any computer. If you set up a name for the server on the USB Flash Creator, you can also access the web interface using that name that was set up.

Start a free trial or purchase a license

When you access Unraid from a browser for the first time, you are directed to the registration page. In there, you can purchase a license or click on Get a Trial Key and start a 30 days free trial, so you can check if it’s right for you. After the registration, you are redirected to the main page to start adding all your drives to the array.

Configuring the array

The machine I’m using for Unraid, I’m going to be running Docker containers, virtual machines, and a NAS. So, I have 2 4TB hard drives, which I will use one of them for parity. If something happens to the other drive, I can rebuild the data on another replacement drive with no problem. I also added a 1 250 GB Solid-state drive that would be used as a cache drive.

Because SSDs are faster than mechanical drives, you can set it to run the Docker container and the virtual machine from the cache drive. You can also set it that when transferring data from other devices to the NAS, the data is downloaded first to the cache drive. Later on, in off-hours, a script called the mover will automatically transfer the data to the drives in the array.

Adding Parity and Data drives

When adding a parity drive, the hard drive must be the same size or bigger than any other data drive in your array. You can add up to 2 parity drives. If you have more than 6 data drives connected, I would recommend having 2 parity drives set up. Like that, if 2 drives happen to fail, you have those 2 parity drives to rebuild the data on replacement drives. Reducing the chances of losing data.

After adding the parity drives, add the data drives, and if you are setting up a cache drive, set it up below as well.

Add cache drive

For cache, you can set up several drives. For example, if you set up 2 SSDs of 250 GB each, Unraid by default sets the cache to RAID1, which means that one of the drives would mirror the other one. So, if one of the cache drives fails before the data was transfer to the data drives, the data is still saved on the other drive. Also, the cache’s overall size would just be 250 GB instead of a total of 500 GB. You could change that and set it to RAID0, which means that the second drive would be an extension, and the overall size of the cache would then be 500 GB.

Start the array and format drives

To start the array, click on Start, and on the pop-up, click on Proceed. Because it’s the first time starting the array and installed a parity drive, the system will begin building the parity. That process usually takes a while to complete, and the time frame depends on the size of the parity drive. In my case, I installed 1 4TB drive, so it took around 6 hours for the process to complete.

At the first startup, the data drive and the cache drive both would show as Unmountable. That’s because they both need to be formatted for an empty file system to be created. To format the drives, check the option, “Yes I want to do this”. On the warning pop-up that comes up, click on OK and then click on the Format button. Give it a minute for the process to finish, and the drives would then be ready to use.

Set up a password for the web interface

When you access the web interface for the first time, there was no login screen. When you first boot Unraid, there was no option to create a password. So, right now, the web interface can easily be accessed by anyone inside your home network. You want to change that and create a strong password to protect the Unraid server.

To do that, go to the Users tab, click on the root user, and enter a new password. Click on Change, and the web interface will now require you to sign in using the root user credentials.

Backup Flash drive and change share settings

There are 2 things that you want to do with the USB flash drive. One, if you notice, there is a warning icon next to the flash drive. The reason for that is because the share settings on the drive are set to Public, allowing anyone in the network to access the boot drive’s content. You want to change that and disable the sharing settings to avoid the flash drive from being exposed to the network. The other thing you want to do is backup the USB flash drive, so if something ever happens to it, you can easily restore the backup on a replacement USB flash drive.

Change Flash drive share settings

To change the share settings, click on the Flash drive and then under SMB Security Settings, change the Export to No and the Security to Private. Click on Apply, and if you go back to the main tab, the warning sign would now be gone, and the flash drive won’t be accessible via the network anymore.

Backup USB Flash Drive

To back up the flash drive, click on Flash again to access the settings. Then, click on the Flash backup button, so a new backup is created and downloaded to your computer. You want to keep that backup in a safe place so you can use it to restore the settings on a replacement drive in the future. You also want to make a new backup anytime you make significant changes to your Unraid server.

Create shared folders and user profiles

The next thing that I’m going to show you is how to set up shared folders so you can access them from any device in your network. We will also create user profiles, so only users with credentials can access the shared folders.

Create a shared folder

To create a new shared folder, go to the Shares tab and click on, Add share. We’ll create a simple share, so set up a name for the shared folder, and for the Allocation method, leave it as High-water. There are 3 different options that you can set. If you have 1 data drive installed, you can leave it with the default option. However, if you have more than 1 data drive, you can set up the allocation method to the available options. If you click on the title itself, it will provide you with details on how each method works.

If you set up a cache drive in your Unraid server, you can save the transfer data to the cache drive first. Unraid would then transfer the data to the array at a later time. Because the cache drive is a solid-state drive, the data transfer would be faster than when saving directly to the array’s mechanical drives.

Click on the Add share button, and the shared folder would now be created and accessible in the network. Under SMB Security settings, the security is set to public by default. Allowing anyone in the network to access the shared folder. You can change this and create user profiles that can securely access the shared folder. So first, change the security to Secure or Private and then click on Apply.

Create a user profile

To create a new user profile to access the shared folder, go to the User tab and click on Add User. Then, enter a username, password, and you can also add a user image if you would like. Lastly, click on the Add button to set the new user profile.

After that, go back to the shares tab and click on the shared folder to access the settings, and under SMB User access, you can set the permissions for any user you create. If you set up the shared folder to Private, you will have 3 types of permissions to set up. Read/Write, Read-only, and No access. If you set up the shared folder to Secure, you will only have 2 options. Read/Write and Red-only.

Map shared folder in Windows

After you have the shared folder created, you can then map it to any computer and access it with the credentials for the user profile you created. To map a drive in Windows, open the File Explorer, right-click This PC or Network and then click on Map network drive. In the pop up that comes up, type in the folder field \\, the name of the server or the IP address, and then \ and the name of the folder. Click on Finish, and then a pop up comes up asking to enter credentials for the user profile you created.

Set up a parity check schedule

What the parity check does is that it reads the data disks and the parity disk, comparing computed parity with stored parity. If errors are found, they are reported allowing you to replace any failing drives. To set up a parity schedule, go to the Settings tab and click on Scheduler. The parity check is a process that takes a long time. For my 4TB drives, it took around 7 hours. My suggestion is to set the parity check to run once a month and to start the process overnight if possible.

In the scheduler, you can also change the default schedule for the mover if you would like. I highly suggest leaving it set to run daily. However, you can change the time when you want the mover to run. When you are done with the configuration, click on Apply to set the changes.

Enable array autostart

To enable the array to start automatically when the server is rebooted, go to the settings tab and click on Disk Settings. Then, where it says Enable auto start, change it to Yes, and then click on Apply. Now, anytime the server is rebooted, you won’t have to enable the array manually. It will be done automatically. Any Docker container and virtual machines will also start automatically after the array starts.

There are a lot more things that I would like to go over, like setting up virtual machines, docker containers, configure notifications in Unraid, setting up Home Assistant in a VM, and a lot more. However, I’m going to go over those things in separate videos, so definitely stay tuned.

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