Small Office Fileserver with Rockstor

In a small office or home office like environment, a centralized storage server is needed to store documents, photos, videos and other files including backups and virtual machines and access them from other computers on the network. Here are some simple but important uses of such a server.

  1. Backup data from workstations, laptops and other computers
  2. Share data easily with other users and from any computer.
  3. Create and organize a central repository of all data.

There are more complex usecases which are covered in their own separate documents. In this document, We’ll describe how to setup Rockstor as your centralized storage server, also called a Fileserver or NAS.

Server requirements and suggestions

The first step in building the Rockstor Fileserver is to procure hardware. Since Rockstor is a Free software product based on Linux, there is a lot of flexibility. You can purchase hardware that fits your budget and performance requirements. See Minimum system requirements for general guidance. You can easily convert an old PC into a Fileserver with Rockstor as long as it meets these requirements. You can also purchase small office servers from various places like newegg, ebay and Dell.

In our community, Rockstor is humming on different hardware. Here are some examples:

Disclaimer: Rockstor is a software only product. We don’t recommend or certify any particular hardware. These are mere suggestions based on known deployments in our community

  • HP Proliant Microserver is chosen for its small form factor, 4 easily accessible hard drive slots, and eSata capability to expand storage. This is ideal for a simple setup with a small footprint that meets most file storage needs of a small or home office.
  • Dell Poweredge T300 is a powerful server tower with Intel Xeon processor that can have upto 24GB Memory and 4 hard drives. This model is officially discontinued by Dell and newer more powerful options are available in it’s place.
  • IBM System x3400 is a powerful server tower similar to the Dell mentioned above. It can have upto 32GB Memory and 8 hard drives.

Hard disk drives

Disk drives are critical in a fileserver. While Rockstor offers slick management and access to your data, all of it is ultimately stored inside the Hard disk drives of the system. Most servers including the ones mentioned in Server requirements and suggestions are compatible with standard SATA HDDs. Once you choose the right server based on your needs, choose appropriate HDDs for that server.

Note about hardware raid: Rockstor provides BTRFS based software RAID capabilities. However, advanced servers offer hardware RAID functionality providing additional redundancy. Evaluate your risks and choose appropriately.

Rockstor needs one entire HDD for the operating system. So at least two HDDs are required in the system. Alternatively, you can put the operating system on a USB disk and use all of the system’s HDDs for data. See Rockstor on USB flash drive for more information about this approach.

Server Memory

At least 2 GB of RAM is required for Rockstor to function reasonably. This should deliver decent performance for about 1 TB of data. If your capacity needs are larger, a simple rule of thumb is to add 1 GB RAM per 1 TB of extra capacity.

Pre-install checklist

Here’s what you need before proceeding with installation

  1. Right server for your needs. See Server requirements and suggestions for help.
  2. At least two HDDs installed in the system. See Hard disk drives for more details.
  3. At least 2 GB of RAM. See Server Memory for more information.
  4. (Optional) 8 GB USB drive if you choose to run Rockstor entirely from a USB flash drive. See Rockstor on USB flash drive for more information.
  5. Network cable to connect the server to your router. Rockstor install needs connection to the internet.
  6. CD/DVD ROM drive. If your server does not have an internal CD/DVD ROM, an external usb based one should work.
  7. (Optional) 1 GB USB drive if you choose to install from the USB instead of CD/DVD ROM.
  8. The Rockstor ISO file, downloadable from
  9. A blank CD-R/RW to burn the ISO file to. This is not necessary if installing from a USB flash drive as mentioned in step 7.
  10. A monitor, keyboard and a mouse to drive the install process.

Install Rockstor from CD/DVD drive

Skip this section and go to Install Rockstor from USB flash drive instead, if you plan to install Rockstor from a USB flash drive.

Installing Rockstor from a CD-R/RW is straight forward on most system that come with a CD/DVD drive and if there is no built in drive then Rockstor should also install just fine using an external USB CD/DVD drive.

Burn the downloaded Rockstor ISO file onto a blank CD or DVD disk as a bootable image. On Linux, you can use programs like K3b. On Windows, you can use Windows Disc Image Burner(Windows 7 only) or an open source program like Infra Recorder. On Mac, use the Disk Utility program.

Once the disk is ready to be booted, insert it in your soon to be Rockstor Fileserver and power cycle the machine. Please see Boot order changes to boot the install media.

Install Rockstor from USB flash drive

Skip this section and go to Install Rockstor from CD/DVD drive instead, if you plan to install Rockstor from a CD-R/RW

A USB flash drive of at least 1 GB in size is required. All data on the USB drive will be erased. So backup your data as needed before proceeding further.

On Windows or Fedora operating systems, Liveusb-creator program can be used to prepare your USB flash drive with the Rockstor ISO file. If you are using the Windows operating system then liveusb-creator can be download from liveusb-creator. and install it. On Fedora, run the following command:

# yum install liveusb-creator

On Mac or any Linux operating system, use the dd program to prepare the USB flash drive by running the following command:

# dd if=path_to_rockstor_iso of=/dev/<usb_flash_drive>

Plug the USB flash drive into your soon to be Rockstor Fileserver and power cycle the machine. Please see Boot order changes to boot the install media.

Boot order changes

When installing Rockstor from a USB boot disk or a CD-R/DVD it may well be necessary to change the system’s device boot order so that the install disk is booted first. Often this can be accomplished by pressing the F12 key shortly after system power on (note the on screen instructions). If this option is not available or doesn’t work then try changing the boot options within the systems BIOS settings. Take careful note of what you change though so that the original setting can be restored if need be. Also note that some systems require the USB key to be inserted prior to power on before offering it as an option within the BIOS boot section screens.

To get to a systems BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) take note of early on screen messages during system power on. Many systems use the F2 key or the Del key and some Compaqs use the F10 key. Note that changes in the system BIOS may have to be un-done post install to prevent accidental booting of future install media on subsequent reboots.

Installation and Setup

If you wish to install Rockstor on to one of the Hard Drives / SSD’s or mSATA devices in the system see our Quick start guide and specifically the Installation section. But if you want to install it on to a USB flash drive, just plug in a USB flash drive with at least 8 GB capacity and select it as the installation destination as described in Quick start. For the pros and cons of this approach see Rockstor on USB flash drive

Note: This USB flash drive is separate and not to be confused with the one mentioned earlier in the document. The earlier one can be as little as 1 GB and contains the Rockstor installer. After the installation, you’ll unplug it and use it again only for another install. This separate drive needs to be at least 8 GB and will hold the Rockstor operating system and must stay plugged permanently.

Note: All data will be completely erased from this USB flash drive. So backup your data as needed before proceeding further.

Rockstor on USB flash drive

The Rockstor operating system requires a whole Hard disk drive for itself. However, it only needs about 8 GB of space to function. This is terribly inefficient since the drive capacity is usually in hundreds of gigabytes. So, we made it possible to run Rockstor completely off a USB flash drive as an alternate approach. But as with anything else, there are trade-offs.

Here are some advantages of running Rockstor completely off a USB flash drive.

  1. You save a whole Hard disk drive for data, that would otherwise be claimed exclusively by the operating system.
  2. This is especially beneficial in small servers with 2-4 bays.

Here are some disadvantages of this approach

  1. HDDs are more reliable and faster than USB flash drives.
  2. The USB drive must be permanently plugged in and must not be disturbed.
  3. More advanced servers support hardware raid and the operating system can live on a raid mirror ensuring high availability. This is not possible with USB flash drives.

Using Rockstor

After the installation and initial setup proceses are complete as described in Quick start and Setup, Rockstor is ready to be used for all your Fileserver needs.

In order to start storing and accessing your data see Accessing Shares from Clients

For any questions about installation and other matters, or to get commercial support, see Support for more information.