Getting Started with Unraid

My Build.

This project initially came about because I became very interested in “digital ownership,” and self hosting. This was actually spurred by the lack of Garth Brooks on Apple music – riveting stuff, I know. Self-hosting grants you unparalleled freedom to customize your digital environment. You can choose the software and services that align with your needs and preferences.  The build I chose for this project was very simple (although a pretty powerful machine) –

  • Intel NUC 11 – 4 core i7 | 4.7 Ghz

  • 64 GB DDR4

  • 2 TB M.2 Drive

  • 2 TB SSD

  • Tobisha 18 TB (Two of these)

For my purposes, I had 2 choices of operating systems TrueNAS and UnRaid, I ended up using UnRaid because you can mix and match drives in your array. Whatever the case both of these operating systems utilize docker containers to run applications. UnRaid operate just like any other distro of linux as far as navigation, but I really only used this during the initial set up of this server. Once i had the configurations to my liking, I primarily accessed the server through it’s IP address in my browser. Without being overly specific on my full set up here are some of the Docker containers I installed (some through the package manager, some by hand)-

  • iCloudpd 

  • Plex

  • NextCloud

  • PiHole

  • Several Automation Services 

Setting up an UnRaid server honestly was daunting, however there are so many resources for this project, it was very easy to find the solutions to problems I ran into. UnRaid’s user-friendly interface and powerful features make it a great choice for both beginners and experienced users. This has become one of my more manageable and rewarding projects I’ve started in the last year. I highly recommend. 

Setting Up Your Own!

In this post, we will discuss what it takes to get your own UnRaid server off the ground.

What is Unraid?

Before we dive into the setup process, let’s get a clear picture of what Unraid is and why it’s gaining popularity in the world of server enthusiasts.

Unraid is an operating system that brings together the best of both worlds – the flexibility of software-based RAID and the simplicity of a graphical user interface (GUI). It allows you to combine hard drives of different sizes and brands into a single, unified storage pool. This means you can start small and expand your server’s storage capacity as needed without much hassle.

Here are some key benefits of Unraid:

  • Data Protection: Unraid employs a unique data protection scheme that ensures your data remains safe even if a drive fails. It uses a parity drive to rebuild data on a new drive in the event of a failure.

  • Docker and VM Support: Unraid supports Docker containers and virtual machines, making it incredibly versatile. You can run applications in isolated environments, enhancing security and performance.

  • User-Friendly Web Interface: You can configure and monitor your Unraid server using a web-based GUI. This means you don’t need to be a Linux guru to set it up and manage it effectively.

  • Expandability: Unraid allows you to add or upgrade hard drives on-the-fly, making it easy to scale your storage capacity.

Setting Up Your Unraid Server

Now that you have a good grasp of what Unraid is, let’s dive into the setup process:

Hardware Requirements

Before you start, gather the necessary hardware:

  1. Server Hardware: You’ll need a computer or server with compatible hardware. Unraid runs on a wide range of hardware, so check their official compatibility list for guidance.

  2. USB Flash Drive: A high-quality USB flash drive (at least 2GB) with a unique GUID is required to install Unraid.

  3. Hard Drives: Gather the hard drives you want to use in your server. These can be of different sizes and brands.

Installing Unraid

  1. Prepare the USB Flash Drive: Download the Unraid OS and use the USB Flash Creator tool (available for Windows and macOS) to create a bootable Unraid USB drive.

  2. Hardware Setup: Assemble your server, connect it to power, Ethernet, and attach a monitor and keyboard for initial setup.

  3. BIOS Configuration: Access your server’s BIOS settings and configure it to boot from the USB flash drive. If your hardware supports it, enable virtualization features like IOMMU for better compatibility with VMs.

  4. Boot into Unraid: Save your BIOS changes and boot your server using the Unraid USB drive.

Initial Configuration

  1. Access the WebGUI: Once Unraid is booted up, you can access its web-based interface by entering http://tower.local in your web browser. If you used a different hostname during setup, use that instead.

  2. Set a Root Password: You’ll be prompted to set a strong root password for added security.

  3. Register and Install Your Key: Sign in to your account from the webGUI to obtain your registration key. This key will enable additional features and support.

Building Your Array

  1. Adding Hard Drives: Now comes the exciting part! Add your hard drives to create your storage array. Unraid uses a unique data protection scheme that allows you to mix and match drives of different sizes.

  2. Parity Drive: Consider adding a parity drive to protect your data. The parity drive acts as a safety net, allowing you to recover data in case of a drive failure.

  3. Cache Drives: Speed up your system by using SSDs as cache drives. This is particularly useful for applications and virtual machines.

Exploring Docker and VMs

Unraid’s flexibility shines when you start experimenting with Docker containers and virtual machines. You can run a wide range of applications and operating systems in isolated environments, making your server a versatile tool for various tasks.

Backup and Security

Don’t forget to set up regular backups of your Unraid flash drive to avoid data loss. Additionally, review Unraid’s built-in security features and best practices to keep your server safe from potential threats.


Setting up an Unraid server may seem like a daunting task at first, but with its user-friendly interface and versatile features, it’s well worth the effort. Whether you’re a home media enthusiast, a data hoarder, or a small business owner, Unraid can help you centralize and manage your data efficiently.

So, go ahead, dive into the world of Unraid, and unlock the potential of your hardware. With Unraid’s data protection, expandability, and versatility, you’ll have a powerful server at your fingertips, ready to tackle a wide range of tasks. Start your Unraid journey today!


What type of project(s) are you interested in?
Where can I reach you?
What would you like to discuss?