What It Is (And How to Set It Up on Your NAS)

When sharing a network drive with their computing setup, most NAS owners tend to use the SMB protocol. While it’s not a bad option by any means, there are times when you may want to switch to another method of transferring files to and from your NAS.

iSCSI is one such protocol, although its functionality and use cases are very different from SMB. So, I’ve put together a detailed guide covering everything you need to know about this high-speed protocol.

What is iSCSI?

When should you use it?

Technically, iSCSI, or Internet Small Computer System Interface, is a protocol that grants block-level access to storage devices over a network. A more advanced form of the SCSI standard, iSCSI converts SCSI commands into TCP/IP packets and sends them to a storage solution over Ethernet. This allows you to access the storage like a drive physically connected to your computer.

Simply put, iSCSI provides an easy way to set up a hard drive or SSD connected to a NAS/SAN server as a local drive on your system. Unlike a regular network sharing protocol like SMB, once you create a virtual drive for your computer using iSCSI, you cannot transfer data to that drive from another device (unless you set up a way for other systems to access the drives on said computer).

Aiffro K100 NAS installed on a computer

As such, iSCSI is not for those who want a simple way to share files between multiple devices connected to their home network. Instead, iSCSI is useful when you want to allocate more storage space to a specific device on your local network without compromising the read/write speeds of the storage drive.


I Tried Storing All My Steam Games On A NAS – Here's How It Went

The experience wasn't bad at all thanks to the amazing iSCSI protocol.

For example, I recently used iSCSI to transfer my Steam library to a NAS, as SMB wasn’t good enough for playing large games from the NAS. While the iSCSI hard drive had slightly longer load times in large open games, it mostly worked really well. In fact, assuming there aren’t any bandwidth bottlenecks on your Ethernet connection, an iSCSI drive can provide similar transfer speeds (in reality, slightly slower) than a local drive connected to your computer.

How to setup iSCSI drive on your NAS?

Once you've covered the basics, it's time to create an iSCSI share and connect it to your computer. We'll be using TrueNAS Scale in this tutorial, but the general procedure is the same for TrueNAS Core and the native operating systems you'll find on pre-built NAS.

Create (and optimize) a Zvol volume for iSCSI

Before you can enable iSCSI for a drive, you will need to create a Zvol block on it using the following steps:

  1. release TrueNAS Web User Interface Log in to your account.
  2. Assuming you have already configured a dataset on your NAS, head over to Datasets Click on the tab and press Add Zful button.
    Procedure to create a new Zvol block in TrueNAS Scale

  3. entrance Zful name And Block size.
    Procedure to set the name and size of Zvol in TrueNAS Scale

  4. hiring Synchronization Option for standard, pressure to The Z4And Remove duplication in ZFS to on.
    Setting ZFS sync, compression, and deduplication options in TrueNAS Scale

  5. With the Read only situation helpless And Snap Dave Set to Disappearedother than Mass size to 128 KB If you want maximum speed at the expense of efficiency.
    Procedure to set remaining Zvol values ​​in TrueNAS Scale

    Alternatively, you can reduce this value if speed is not your primary concern.

  6. Finally, click Memorizes To create your own Zvol block.
    Procedure to save Zvol settings in TrueNAS Scale

Configure iSCSI Service

Now that your Zvol storage block is ready, it's time to set up an iSCSI share on your NAS.

  1. Go to Involved Click on the tab and press sorcerer The button below iSCSI Sharing Objectives top of the page.
    Procedure to set up a new iSCSI share in TrueNAS Scale

  2. entrance name From iSCSI share before capture device As is the case Range type And choose Zvol block I created it earlier as device.
    Procedure to configure new iSCSI share settings in TrueNAS Scale

  3. He chooses Modern operating system As is the case Sharing platformLeave the Goal Setting up for New creation New creativityand press the next.
    Procedure to create a new iSCSI share in TrueNAS Scale

  4. If you are the only person who can access the NAS, select no one As is the case Discovery Authentication Method And leave Discovery Authentication Group as it is.
    Procedure to configure the gateway for iSCSI sharing in TrueNAS Scale

  5. Click on Add Next button IP address Before choosing From the drop down menu choose the next.
    Procedure to set the gateway IP address for an iSCSI share in TrueNAS Scale

  6. He presses Memorizes under initiator to divide.
    Procedure to save iSCSI share settings in TrueNAS Scale

  7. Back to Involved Tab, click Three points And specify Service operation.
    Procedure to enable iSCSI sharing in TrueNAS Scale

Configure iSCSI Drive on Windows

After starting the iSCSI service, you will need to set up the virtual disk on your computer before you can use the storage drive properly. First, you need to use the built-in iSCSI Initiator Properties tool to connect to the iSCSI target.

  1. Right click on Begins button and choose Being.
  2. He writes ISC CPL Inside the Opens Tape and pressure Yes.
    Procedure to open iSCSI Initiator Properties tool on Windows

  3. Go to Discovery Tab and click on Discovery Gate.
    Procedure to discover a gateway in the iSCSI Creator Properties tool on Windows

  4. entrance IP address From your NAS device and press Yes.
    Procedure to add an IP address to your NAS device in the iSCSI Initiator Properties tool on Windows

    You can use a network scanner app like Fing to reveal the IP address of your NAS.

  5. Go to Objectives Tab, click communicate button, press Yes In the pop-up window.
    Procedure to connect an iSCSI drive using the iSCSI Initiator Properties tool on Windows

Once you have paired the iSCSI target with your computer, you can add the block volume as a local disk using the Disk Management tool:

  1. Right click on Begins button and select Disk Management.
  2. With the GPT Selected as the partition style, then press Yes To prepare the new drive.
    Procedure to format an iSCSI volume using Disk Management tool on Windows

  3. Once you have located iSCSI protocolLeadsRight click on it and select New simple folder.
    Procedure to create a new volume using Disk Management tool on Windows

  4. He hits the next On the welcome screen, enter Simple size size.
    Procedure to allocate disk storage space in Disk Management tool on Windows

    Make sure to hit the next After every step.

  5. Next, set Delivering the message To iSCSI storage.
    Assign a drive letter to a drive via Disk Management

  6. Select the option to appearance drive and leave the rest of the settings at their default values.
    Procedure to format a drive using Disk Management tool on Windows

  7. He presses Ends After double checking all options.
    Procedure to set up an iSCSI volume using Disk Management tool on Windows

If you followed all the steps correctly, the drive should appear in the file manager, and you can start storing all your files in it.

How to expand iSCSI drive?

Sometimes, you may need more storage space than what was initially allocated to the iSCSI drive. The only problem is that if you try to expand the drive space without following the proper procedure, you may end up damaging the storage unit, and in the worst case scenario, you may lose some or all of your stored data.

So, the first step is to power down the computer that is paired with the iSCSI storage. This is because leaving the system running while you mess with the Zvol settings can cause problems later on. So, you will have to switch to another system, or even a smartphone, for this section.

  1. inside TrueNAS Scale Web UIopen the Involved Tab, click Triple pointsand chose Service Suspension.
    Procedure to stop the iSCSI service

  2. Switch to Datasets Tab and click on Modify Zvol.
    Procedure to edit Zvol settings in TrueNAS Scale

  3. Enter the new Size of the spool And click Memorizes.
    Procedure to resize Zvol in TrueNAS Scale

  4. Back to Involved Tab and Start iSCSI service.
  5. Restart the other computer connected to the iSCSI drive and open Leadership Management Feasibility.
  6. Right click on Main Section From leadership and choice Expand size…
    Procedure to extend iSCSI volume using Disk Management tool on Windows

  7. Make sure the amount of space you want to add to the drive appears below. The determinant Division and multiplication the next.
    Procedure to add more space to an existing iSCSI volume using Disk Management tool on Windows

  8. Click the “Finish” button to save the changes you made to the storage unit.

Meet all your local storage requirements with iSCSI

Despite being accessible over the network, the iSCSI drive delivers surprisingly strong performance. When I ran games from both the temporary NAS HDD and the Aiffro K100, I didn’t experience any lag or input delays due to the iSCSI protocol. Sure, boot times weren’t the best, especially in open-world games. But in the past, I could have shortened the time it took to load assets if I installed 10GbE network cards on both the NAS and my PC.


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There are many use cases for this high-speed protocol besides gaming. If you’re a fan of shooting high-definition video and have already filled all your internal drives with footage, iSCSI is worth a try as long as you’re not limited by Ethernet bandwidth. Likewise, you should consider trying this protocol if you want to set up block storage for all of your virtual machines and containers on your Proxmox home server.

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