Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/190835/how-to-turn-an-old-pc-into-a-home-file-server/
Do you have an old desktop PC sitting in a closet somewhere? Put it to use by installing FreeNAS. FreeNAS is a free, open-source operating system that will convert old PCs into network-attached storage devices.
To be honest....I'd rather run a nice twin bay QNAP or Synology NAS rather than some old junker running and humming at 200W+ all day on an old SATA1 setup with a 100Mb Ethernet connection.
By all means try it to get some experience/fun but only really use it if you need the horsepower using a more modern and robust machine for business.You can pick up Dell Quad core Xeon workstations (T5400 type) with 8GB of ECC ram for not a lot these days. But by the time you've finished a Prosumer NAS will probably work better and cheaper in the long run.
Or get a proper server from a corporate clear out reseller.
I'm already running Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and have a retired WHS v1 I was interested in NAS and was considering it before I decided to get my first server but now it just seems to be redundant. I had wanted to go to one server but WS2012R2E has an issue with my MediaSonic ProBox enclosures so I was forced to go back to WHS2011 for all my file storage. Now I have a server with a 4th generation Core i7 and 16 GB of RAM doing backups and nothing else.
(Remember, you’ll want at least 8 GB of RAM if you’re using ZFS or 2 GB if you’re using UFS, so choose UFS if you’re using an older PC with less RAM.)
Um... most PCs with 2 GB RAM or more can have Windows 7 installed with no problems, and can function as awesome everyday PCs...
Yes, a NAS is entirely redundant. There's basically nothing in a NAS box that can't also be found on a proper PC.
I think the attraction is the simplicity and the size: a NAS box needn't be much larger than the hard drives it encloses, and you can usually just turn it on and let it run; there's little to no system maintenance to worry about.
Personally, I've gone both ways - setting up dedicated servers and running standalone NAS boxes. I prefer to use a system built for the task. Repurposing an old PC seems like an attractive option, but if all your'e going to use it for is file sharing, you may as well just get a USB drive enclosure and leave your primary desktop running.
I'm guessing some of you don't pay the power bills.
I set up a NAS running Ubuntu 12.04. It serves as a file server and a media server (Plex).
I agree that power bills are a concern, but so is the cost of a good quality NAS. Wouldn't it still be cheaper and more flexible to use an old case with new components - focused fully on low power consumption and no more power than is needed - to power this "NAS"?
Not worth installing some shit like that.
Be warned that since FreeNAS is (specialized) FreeBSD, it doesn't support other file systems than its own ones. Well, if you don't count high probability to corrupt entire file system in the case of ext* and less so with FAT or NTFS as not supported.
That depends on whether you're in the habit of keeping one PC around the house on all the time anyway. If you do typically leave one computer on, the least expensive way to go is just to add more hard drives to that computer, either internally or via USB.
If you have mixed network of Windows and Apple PC's does FreeNAS handle both file types and allow you to backup all the PC's to it? Can you use Apple's backup with FreeNAS? If not, can anyone suggest an inexpensive operating system that will handle both types of PC's?
If you have both tpes of computers at home, you already know that your Mac can talk to your Windows boxes. Windows uses a protocol known as SMB, and Apple has supported this protocol for years, so anything that can natively serve Windows PC's can serve a Mac.
Ok, but can I back up the Mac to the same NAS as the Windows machines using the Mac's Time Machine software?
That I'm not 100% sure about. Time Machine can back up to USB drives, so I can't see why it wouldn't back up to SMB-shared drives. The way to know is to try backing up to a shared folder on a PC. If you can back up to Windows, there's no reason you can't back up to any NAS system that uses SMB sharing.
Having said that... I don't really see dedicating a PC to FreeNAS as a practical or desirable thing. Your existing PC's can do anything FreeNAS can do, so there doesn't seem to be much of a point. If you just want backup and file sharing, just hang the drives off your Mac and share them to the network.
OK, not really relevant but, can you turn the old pc with FreeNAS to a Web Server?
Is this possible
You can use Time Machine to back up both your PC and Mac devices. You just have to partition part of the drive to FAT. I had the same concerns when I was chatting with a Mac representative the other day.
Do any of you utilize a system like this?
If so how do you keep an off-site copy, will Carbonite or another similar option work?
I have a Windows 8.1 tower with 8 TB thinking of using this as the homeserver and then backing up with Carbonite...suggestions?
Don't use Carbonite.
Carbonite is the devil. It skips files, as the makers of Carbonite see fit, and it's virtually impossible to actually get Carbonite to do what they advertise, which is to actually back up all your files.
So, moving on: let's assume you're using an actual PC to host your files, not a NAS box. (NAS boxes don't have a keyboard or monitor, and they usually run a proprietary operating system.)
For straight-up backup, my favorite service is Crashplan. From what I'm reading, there is a FreeNAS plugin and a Linux version. It runs in Windows, too, so no matter what OS you're running on your server, you're set.
Just a note on that topic: uploading many gigabytes of data takes a long time, especially since cloud services tend to throttle your upload speed. It usually takes me several weeks to get my backup service completely populated with my current "important" files set, which is around 250GB.
Here is something for you to read and learn from. Your knowledge as regards FreeNAs and probably NAS4free is out dated as to the current state of the art.
FreeNAS feature set:
I highly recommend trying an install of either. The learning done through a hands on approach far outweighs any Youtube video walk through. As to being difficult, meh, no,it is less than running any other Linux or BSD box due to the web interface. The option, highly recommended by BOTH distros, to install onto either USB flash or CF, makes the thing highly portable and can be easily run from any PC in the past 10 years. Adding in more drives for more storage is easy and with a bit of practice, almost fool proof. Running a media server, sharing drives or folders, running a bit torrent client or just plain old back ups becomes less a burden and more like an easy task. Once automated, and properly configured the OSes are quite stable and reliable. My current uptime on my home box is approximately 45 days, since the last update and new release (prior to that it was 10 months again same reason).
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