Netgear ReadyNAS RN526X Initial Experiments

Now that we know a bit more about the Netgear ReadyNAS RN526X, I want to try some initial experiments before we really start heading into the weeds. That is to say, can I get an alternative OS running with minimal effort and hard work and exploration?

At this point, I’ve learned this device boots from a USB flash. However, I was wrong about the size of the flash. It’s 2 gigabits of flash, not 2 gigabytes. This comes out to about 256 MB of flash, so the flash it boots from is very small, and possibly too small to try to load my own thing on there. Also, Netgear does some things to hide the flash away from the running environment so I can’t just go in and muck with it.

But it’s capable of booting from USB flash. What I don’t know is how the BIOS is configured to select that storage.

There’s a way to tell it to boot from the front USB port. This port is, normally, for automatic USB backup stuff. But a button sequence is required to make this happen.

I hope to use Unraid for this as it’s specifically designed to boot from USB and use all of your attached drives for your shared storage. Anyone who knows Unraid will note that 4 GB of RAM is the minimum requirement and that it’s designed to run entirely from RAM, so having 4 GB of RAM for 18 TB of raw storage is asking for trouble. Fear not, I’ve actually upgraded the RAM successfully to 32 GB.

So there’s some questions I will set out to answer:

  1. Will the USB recovery boot sequence boot just any USB connected drive?
  2. If the internal USB flash is missing, will it automatically boot some other device?
  3. Will Unraid work on this machine?

So, the answers?

The USB recovery boot doesn’t seem to work, or at least allow just any bootable USB to run. I suspect what’s actually happening is the kernel on the internal USB flash is still booting, but capturing the button input, modifying its boot behavior. It’s not actually attempting to load a kernel from the front USB drive. So telling it to boot without modification to an Unraid USB drive fails.

But what if the internal USB flash is missing? It appears that it goes to the next bootable device. I suspect it’s not expecting it to not be Netgear software and just boots whatever bootloader is on it. Why do I suspect this? because not only does this answer question #2, it also answers question #3 as Unraid booted!


I’m really glad that I tried this before getting to much further. I was fully prepared to need to get outputs going, and all that. I was preparing myself to need to do some hard work and possibly purchase some things to make this happen.

Granted, to get some other platform working, that might still be required. Unraid is designed to work from USB flash so there’s no real “installation” to worry about.

Before I fully commit to Unraid, though, I want to see what other options exist that allows running from USB/memory with minimal installation process, similar to Unraid.

In a later post, I’ll go over the actual process of doing this, including the hardware change required. In the meantime, I will now start the process of shipping my data to Wasabi for temporary offsite storage.