How to Install TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS Drive – Step By Step Guide
Most new or relatively inexperienced NAS users can be separated into two clear categories. There are those that want to get their hands dirty, spend sensibly on a DiY system in order to take advantage of community built platforms such as TrueNAS Core, and then there are those that are happy to pay extra for the system to arrive prebuilt, but also know that the software that it comes with can be a little more restrictive. However, it is NOT impossible to have the best of both! Today, I want to show you how to turn the remarkably affordable NAS solutions from Terramaster (easily the best Value NAS in the market right now, even when the 2022 range is pretty well hardware equipped with NVMe, 2.5G, Embedded Graphics CPUs and more) into a TrueNAS Core ZFS Powered NAS system. It is considerably easier than you might think, is very easy to reverse and allows you to have the full customization and freedom of TrueNAS Core, a prebuilt 24×7 designed server system and all whilst still getting exceptional value for money for the hardware. Cool right? Let’s begin the step-by-step guide.
Note – a FULL 30 Minute Installation Guide for TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS is available HERE on the NASCompares YouTube Channel
TrueNAS Core Software on Terramaster NAS Hardware – What You Need?
It is worth highlighting that having just a Terramaster NAS is not quite enough and in order to get TrueNAS Core up and running on a Terramaster NAS requires a few extra checks and use of a few items you might have already in the home/office, or a quick $10 shop online at most. In order to upgrade your system to TrueNAS Core, you will need to consider/have the following:
- A Terramaster NAS Drive with (minimum) an Intel 64bit x86 CPU and a minimum 2GB of Memory (recommended 8GB+)
- Download the latest stable release of TrueNAS Core here as a system image (you will be converting this to USB later on) – DOWNLOAD
- Any Data that is currently on the Terramaster NAS RAID that is mission critical to be backed up or moved (as it will be completely formatted)
- A USB drive no bigger than 9mm x 17mm x 20mm ( I STRONGLY recommend THIS ONE here from Sandisk, as it is low price and incredibly small, even at 32GB)
- I recommend not using a USB larger than 32GB, due to the constraints of 1st party software to format larger than this in FAT32. Don’t be tempted to spend like $2 more for a 64GB, as the TrueNAS Core installation will occupy the full USB space (as you will create a system-image-USB) and space is utterly irrelevant when the TrueNAS Core installation is so small
- A Disk Image to USB conversion too. I recommend ‘Rufus’, currently in ver 3.19 and can be run in a portable .exe form that doesn’t require installation – DOWNLOAD
- A basic USB Keyboard (example HERE but really, any will do) and an HDMI Monitor (or simply any device that has an HDMI input – NOT output) such as a TV or Capture card
- Hard Drive and/or SSD media (you should already have these, but just in case) for your storage
- Optional – Download Advanced IP Scanner HERE, as it is a really useful tool for analyzing your network and finding your new TrueNAS Core NAS for remote access
That is about it. Most of these (maybe not the USB drive at that physical size) you will almost certainly already have to hand.
Can I Reverse the TrueNAS Core Installation and go back to Terramaster TOS?
Almost certainly YES! I say ‘almost certainly’, as there is one small caveat. When you make the change from Terramster TOS to TrueNAS Core on the NAS hardware, the drives (HDD and/or SSD) inside are formatted to ZFS and used in the new system software. This works both ways if you want to revert back to TOS on the NAS too. So, although the act of reinitializing the NAS to its original software is very easy (simply needing you to replace the internal USB and rebooting), it will mean that any data that resides on the disks inside will be formatted. So, if you are choosing to make a change from one NAS OS to another, make sure you have your data appropriately backed up elsewhere. So, let’s begin the installation of TrueNAS Core on the Terramaster NAS.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 1, Download TrueNAS Core
Head to the TrueNAS Core website HERE and download the latest stable release of the software to your local PC, Linux or Mac system. Make sure to remember where you downloaded it.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 2, Download Rufus USB Image Tool
Head to the Rufus website and download the latest version of that tool – I recommend downloading the standalone executable file here, as then it will immediately run when you double click the file, without installation etc. It may redirect you to Github, but it will be the same executable file. Once again, remember where you downloaded it.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 3, Preparing the USB
Connect the small form factor USB Drive to your system (again, this is the one I used from Sandisk) and after a few seconds, it should appear as an available USB Drive. The drive MAY need formatting (you will be prompted to do so), if that is the case, then you can format it via the system prompts and by default, it will format it to FAT32 (as long as your USB is less than 32GB). If you are not presented with a system prompt to format your USB, then you can head into My PC, or My Computer via a windows computer and right-click the drive, select ‘format’ and format it that way.
If you have used the USB for other things previously, there is a chance that the drive has existing partitions in place. For that, the quickest way to completely remove any partitions is to open up the bottom-left windows system menu as normal, and then just type diskpart and open the command-line GUI tool. From there, use the command list disk to show the available drives that are connected, you will see your USB (normally disk 1 or 2, but can differ depending on your system layout and can be spotted by the storage amount). From there, type select disk # (where # is the drive number that your USB is shown as) and then type clean, which which will then remove any index structure for the drive (i.e the partitions and existing format) and then you can go back to the My Computer/My PC page and format the drive to FAT 32 as normal.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 4, Creating a USB Installer Image of TrueNAS Core
Open the Rufus application and from there you will see the USB Drive (listed as NO NAME, or ‘UNTITLED’, ETC) at the top. From there, look to the select image/find image option (depending on the ver. of Rufus or your USB Image Creator tool of choice) and find the TrueNAS Core disk image you downloaded earlier). If the drive is not listed, it may have downloaded as a compressed/archive file. If that is the case, head to the location of where you downloaded TrueNAS Core (in your file explorer, not in Rufus) and right-click the file you downloaded. If the option to ‘extract‘ is visible, then you can extract it (i.e unpack it to the original form) in that same download directory. From there, head back into RUFUS and then the TrueNAS Core system image should be visible. Select it, then run the Rufus System image creator tool and create your USB bootable TrueNAS Core disk image.
REMEMBER! This will completely format your USB drive and any files that are on that USB will be destroyed. The system image creator tool will turn the USB into a pure boot image tool – the USB will not be usable for traditional storage again unless you completely format it again.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 5, REMOVE THE USB FROM YOUR PC!!!!!!!!!
Really, really important and sometimes overlooked. Once the USB creation is completed, you need to remove the USB (using the eject hardware safely option at the bottom right of your windows machine taskbar as normal). DO NOT accidentally leave the USB in your USB Ports for any longer than necessary. If you leave it in and your system reboots at any point (eg in a normal ‘end of day shut down, go home, reboot tomorrow’ scenario), then the system might boot directly into the TrueNAS Core installation and although it is easy to exit from, it can change your system default boot preferences, maybe even remove your primary boot drive as the OS drive – requiring a little messing with a windows installation disk to change it back. The odds of this are very small, but not zero, so make sure to safely remove your USB drive when the TrueNAS Core system image creator tool is completed.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 6, Opening up your Terramaster NAS
This next step is going to differ depending on the Terramaster NAS Drive you are choosing to use. For this guide, I am using a 2022 generation F4-423 4-Bay NAS, but the general steps are the same for any Terramaster NAS (though the location of the USB will differ). With the Terramaster NAS disconnected from the network and from any power source. From there you will need to remove the external casing. In the case of most Terramaster NAS, the chassis is held by 4-6 screws on the rear of the casing that, when removed, allow you to remove the rear pannel+fans and slide the internal framework out the front of the casing (be sure to check the fans are not disconnected accidentally in this process). IMPORTANT – Remove any HDD/SSD Media during the dismantling of the Terramaster NAS chassis, as it would be so, SO easy to harm these with accidentally dropping/motion damage. No need to remember the order of the drives when you re-install them, as they are going to be formatted during the TrueNAS Core installation.
Now, if you take a closer look at the main controller board of the Terramaster NAS (the one with network/USB ports attached, not the one that the HDD/SSD bays are on), you will spot a VERY small USB module in a tiny USB port. It should look something like this:
Now, THIS is where the default Terramaster TOS NAS software installation is kept. This is NOT where the OS actually runs from, but this is where the system checks in it’s BIOS when booting to find installation media (IF the system does not already have an active OS on the drives). Very delicately (as it IS a small USB and likely tucked in next to some other delicate components) remove the USB there is there, put it somewhere safe (as you will need this if you ever want to return the Terramster back to a TOS software system) and then replace it with the USB from earlier that has the TrueNAS Core system image you created in Rufus. THIS is why you needed a very small USB, as otherwise there is simply no way you would fit a traditional USB flash stick in the space provided.
That is pretty much it. This only other thing to factor in here is IF your Terramaster NAS does NOT have an external HDMI port. Most Terramsater NAS released in 2020-2022 have an HDMI port on the rear that although largely useless in TOS, is still accessible (something you will need for TrueNAS Core initialization. However, some Terramaster NAS with Intel Processors have the HDMI Port located INSIDE the main chassis. So, IF your NAS has an inside HDMI port, you are going to need to connect an HDMI monitor to it and run the initial installation (covering in a bit) with the chassis in this open state. After installation is complete, you can close the Terramaster NAS chassis up. Otherwise, if your NAS already has an external HDMI port, you can go ahead and reconstruct the NAS chassis.
NOTE – If you plan on upgrading the memory of your NAS to 8GB-16GB (in order to use ALL of the features of TrueNAS Core to their fullest extent), I would recommend doing so at this point before rebuilding the physical chassis again, as many Terramaser NAS have the 2nd SODIMM memory slot in really tight locations.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 7, Accessing the HDMI Port and Keyboard Control
Next, you need to start getting the system ready for Initialization and Setup. I would strongly recommend running the first-time installation via a direct interface with the Terramaster NAS. You will need to connect an HDMI Monitor/TV/Capture Card to the HDMI port of the NAS, a Keyboard (and/or mouse) to an available USB port) and then connect the power/network connections to the NAS and boot the device up.
After a few minutes, the TrueNAS Core GUI/Command will appear on your monitor and all you need to do is navigate the config choices to set up your TrueNAS Core NAS the first time.
Important – TrueNAS Core runs at its best when it is run on a separate drive from your storage. Much like an Operating System, you can install TrueNAS Core on an available SSD in a SATA or NVMe SSD slot in the Terramaster NAS, then (after initialization) you can go into the TrueNAS Core > Storage area and create a pool of storage using the available storage media bays,
It is NOT recommended that you install it on a USB drive, for reasons of speed and power-connections.
After you have completed the setup and are back at the initial TrueNAS Core boot menu, select the ‘SHUTDOWN‘ option (not reboot/restart, for reasons I will explain in a moment).
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 8, Remove the Boot USB Drive
Once your Terramaster NAS has fully powered down, you need to disconnect the storage, power and any other cables, then open up the Terramaster NAS again (if it was re-constructed from earlier) and then remove the USB drive you installed earlier with TrueNAS Core boot loader on it. You need to do this as otherwise, when you reboot the Terramaster NAS, it will reboot into the bootloader again. You can skip past this and/or it will not action a reinitialization without your input, but better to remove the USB and therefore allow the system to always immediately boot into the TrueNAS Core system. After you have reconstructed the terramaster NAS, you can go ahead and connect all the cables and power on the device.
Note – Do NOT replace the USB with the original Terramaster USB Drive that it arrived with, or the system will auto boot into the Terramaster TOS Installation setup.
TrueNAS Core on a Terramaster NAS – Step 9, Reboot the NAS
Upon rebooting the Terramaster into TrueNAS Core (can take up to 5 mins, but usually much quicker). You have two options with how to access the configuration and controls. You can use the HDMI+Keyboard if you choose for console/command level access. Alternatively (much more recommended), use a program such as Advanced IP Scanner, which is free and VERY useful anyway, or even network command prompt) to scan your local area network and find where the Terramaster with TrueNAS Core is located (i.e it’s IP). This IP (eg 192.168.1.111) is what you put into the URL bar ofay web browser and it will load into the login GUI for TrueNAS Core. From here you will need to use the username ‘root’ in combination with the password that you created during initialization.
And that is about it. You now have TrueNAS Core installed as the default OS of your Terramaster NAS. From here you can do anything and everything that his highly regarded ZFS powered server software offers. Head into the Storage area and start creating pools, as well as areas for caching and lots more features.
TrueNAS was recently updated to ver.13 in a stable release of the FreeBSD format, as well as new improvements in the Linux-based version ‘TrueNAS Scale’. The first thing you are going to need to do when setting up your TrueNAS Core > Terramaster NAS server is set up your storage. Do this by heading into the storage tab and following the handy steps on screen. After that, you can pretty much do anything on your new ZFS NAS!
You can find out more about TrueNAS in my full review below that covers everything I like and dislike about the platform:
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