unraid/FreeNAS with VMs (linux/windows) or Linux with VMs or other?

Hi all,

Just came across this website, what a GEM!


Inspired by https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXuqSBlHAE6Xw-yeJA0Tunw

To turn my Xeon workstation (z820), into a more reliable system with data redundancy given my non-consistent disk use, run linux primarily, and run windows as a VM.

Should I use unraid to manage the file systems, and then run linux/windows as VMs, or run linux, and have windows as a VM? or some other option?

Happy to add some funds into the mix for something creative. (it might become a hardware discussion then)

Edit: I use my xeon as a workstation, i.e. using it directly. If you’d suggest that I should use this machine via my LAN, i.e. using my laptop to launch the VM on my server – is that a better option?
I also saw proxmox might be handy? I also read about pfSense and thought that’s really cool.

Also, I have maxed out my Z820 native 3.5" storage as I have added a 2x 3.5" drive bay + a 6x 2.5" pay. I have since read about your DAS builds - I do have spare cases and spare PSUs around!
So that’s an option if you’d advise ‘shucking’ (new to me!) my external drives (1x 4tb 1x 3tb) drives.

Open to experienced ideas!

edit 2:
I do have a Wyse Zx0 from 10/2015 which I don’t use atm. It was doing SMB filesharing on my network off one of my ext drives previously, but then I moved it over to the dead-screen-laptop.

I’m kinda tired of issues with Windows, and given that most things are a lot more cloud based i.e. web browser I’m looking for advice.

Currently: My ‘workstation’ is a hp z820, dual xeon (e5-2680v2) , 32gb ram, and:

internal drive (3.5")2x 1tb HDD2x 2tb1x 4tb

1x 1tb nvme1x 256gb ssd2 x 128gb ssd

A GTX 1050 (I have older Quadro cards and other graphics cards also).

I run a 4k monitor.

This workstation gets used for data analysis, crunching and optimisation of data sets, and for web, illustrative design and creative use, movies sometimes.

I also have a secondary laptop (dell e7250) no.2 that Im using as my home movie box, which has a broken screen (8gb ram) + 1x 4tb drive and 1x 3tb drives + 256 NFF sata nvme (or something)

And then I also have laptop no.3 which I take with me when I need it for work/travel etc. (12gb ram + 256gb NFF sata nvme).

I also enjoy taking my portable 15" touch monitor + BT keyboard and just using that to plug in my phone and use DEX, which actually works awesome.

Investigation: So, my thoughts, for my workstation, Initially, running some ubuntu flavour, run some software raid, then run WINE or a windows VM if I needed something specific.

Then, I came across using unraid or freeNAS to manage the drives, storage, network use etc, then to run a VM of Linux when I need to use my machine, and then to launch WINE, or the windows VM from there when required. This was from videos from Limus tech.

Alternatively, I could use some sort of virtual KVM and switch to my windows laptop instead of using a windows VM.

Also, I could consider repurposing the broken laptops, see what/how/if i can move some of my excess storage drives to that (i.e. more USB 3.0 ports, internal adaptors potentially) and run FreeNAS / unraid on that as the network store, and run a VM if required.

Happy to spend a bit of money if needed.


  1. reduce windows use
  2. consider power consumption

Options: Workstation:

  1. Unraid + linux VM + wine + windows (or Mac OS) VM if required
  2. FreeNAS + linux VM + wine + windows (or Mac OS) VM if required
  3. linux + wine + windows VM if required

Broken screen laptop:a) keep as is.b) Unraid + some VM if requiredc) FreeNAS + some VM if required

Requirements: Essential:

  • data redundancy with my random bunch of disks (some raid OS or using mdadm)
  • smart management with SSDs + nvme (i.e. recent/frequent files on cache)

Other thoughts…I currently use:

  • Resilio Sync
  • Google drive sync
  • Onedrive sync (seldom but used for work)

· With a Windows machine, I can use this to replicate changes to/from my onedrive to my other machines via Resilio, so that’s not such a big issue.

One other thing, regarding VMs and cache drives, does the whole VM file sit in the cache drive, or does it break the VM file down into its file system, moving things on the cache drive or the HDD drives?

Looking forward to hearing from you with your ideas and experience!