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Current Recommendations For a Home File Server?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the must-hold-stuff-must-dish-stuff dept.

Data Storage 170

j.sanchez1 writes "The recent coverage of Shuttle's new KPC has gotten me thinking (again) about a small, low-cost headless file server for home. In the past, I have looked at the iPaq and considered using older computers I have lying around, but for various reasons I have never jumped in to do it. Do you guys have any suggestions on what to use for a home file server (hardware and software)? The server would be feeding files to Windows PCs and connected to the network through a Linksys WRT54GL running DD-WRT firmware." There are a host of good options these days; what has the best bang for the home-user's buck?

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a cheap PC and a free unix (1, Informative)

krog (25663) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989522)

did you really need to ask?

Re: home server question (2, Interesting)

singingjim1 (1070652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990356)

Maybe I don't understand the question, but I installed a 500GB drive as a slave in one of my numerous machines at home, partitioned it to appear as 2 250GB drives on the network, set them as shared on the network over my Netgear router, then mapped to the drives on the other machines - wireless and wired. Transferring files is very fast. I even signed up for free DNS and installed free FTP software on that machine to use one of the partitions as a password protected FTP site that our friends and family have access to. Very easy to share files and pictures that way. My Azureus downloads directly into the FTP partition so I have access to those files anywhere in the world I have internet access.

I'm not a computer genius by any stretch and this setup can be done by anyone who knows how to use Google to learn stuff. But like I said, given that I'm no genius, maybe I'm just missing the gist here. I've never tried to stream anything over the network and maybe that requires more advanced software, I don't know. My XBOX 360 takes care of my media access as I have it pointed to all the places I have stuff stored and it works like a charm over my THX stereo and HDTV.

Build new or reuse an old one (1)

mollog (841386) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991794)

I am looking at this same question. I investigated using a WRT54G or similar device for network attached storage, but eventually concluded that I could buy equipment on Newegg and build a low-power, high speed server for cheap, using an old case. The expensive part will be buying a new, efficient and quiet power supply.

I am looking at a 65w dual core processor on a mobo with a GB LAN interface built in. Lots of cheap memory. If you stay off the power curve, you can get processors, motherboards, system memory, and disk memory for cheap. Sometimes, you can use left-over stuff. I have a 1Gb memory stick that came out of a MAC. It's only worth about $25, but it's plenty for a good OS like Linux.

I could use an old HP Pavilion mobo, but it's power supply is noisy and I'd have to buy a GB NIC.

I'd recommend browsing the 'net for a cheap, low power mobo/processor that's using relatively current technology like SATA, GB LAN, and supports dual core processors. You can outfit it with a single core processor to save $40 and pick up a peppy multicore processor in the future. An AMD AM2 board with SATA and GB LAN can be found for $50, 45w processor for $40, 512 memory for $10, 160GB HDD for $50, and scrounge a case and power supply. That's $150 for a headless server that can be upgraded as component prices drop.

Re: home server question (1)

michrech (468134) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992056)

Well, I can't answer for everyone here (obviously), however, I can tell you why I had a home server at home (I took apart my old one -- will be creating something more energy efficient).

I, as you seem to imply about yourself, have several computers at home. I also had family that would bring a PC/laptop over occasionally. I also have a linux PC running Apache/Gallery/MySQL (it was in addition to the "server" I had for my Windows PC's). The linux PC is an old Blue and White G3 with a defective IDE controller (Apple sent out a bunch with a CMD chipset that had a defect, but it wasn't noticed until it was too late). I can use this machine for my file serving, but I want something a little more modern. I was looking at this [] for a while, but the reports I've read state the MySQL access is too slow for Gallery (though people *are* using it). I am also keeping an eye on that mainboard (it was either on digg, or here, or both) sold at ClubIT that is supposedly the same board as in that $199 PC at Wal*Mart. Of course, I like my Intel "Bad Axe 2" board I just picked up, and I could put a cheap Celeron in one (I like it's 8 SATA ports and the built in firewire, should I choose to use it). I'm sure I can find a similar AMD board and get an even cheaper Sempron to put in.. I'll have to sit down and make up my mind. :)

I told you all that, to tell you this: The reason I have the server on a separate machine is so that I don't have to leave any of my desktops on all the time (I do leave my "main" machine, which is a laptop, on all the time, but it's not always at my desk which would make accessing anything on its, or an external HDD, rather difficult). Once I put together a new server, it will take over the duties of the G3, and be a "storage dump".

I'm not the type of person that will go around and unplug every electric item in the house to cut down on every watt of power -- I don't care *that* much, but if the machine isn't doing something, it's generally off. Now, before you ask, no, I'm not going to do Folding@Home (or the varied others) on all my machines -- I don't need all my machines running 100% CPU, driving up my electric bill (I have enough problems with my waterbed -- I just discovered it's thermostat died and it was always on, full blast, all the time.. GAH!). So long as my electric bill stays reasonable, I'll continue with things as they are (save for purchasing a newer, better, water bed heater/thermostat).

I should know better than to type this stuff at work -- my mind is scattered everywhere. Hopefully this will at least give you more insight into the topic. :)

Maybe I don't understand the question, but I installed a 500GB drive as a slave in one of my numerous machines at home, partitioned it to appear as 2 250GB drives on the network, set them as shared on the network over my Netgear router, then mapped to the drives on the other machines - wireless and wired. Transferring files is very fast. I even signed up for free DNS and installed free FTP software on that machine to use one of the partitions as a password protected FTP site that our friends and family have access to. Very easy to share files and pictures that way. My Azureus downloads directly into the FTP partition so I have access to those files anywhere in the world I have internet access.

I'm not a computer genius by any stretch and this setup can be done by anyone who knows how to use Google to learn stuff. But like I said, given that I'm no genius, maybe I'm just missing the gist here. I've never tried to stream anything over the network and maybe that requires more advanced software, I don't know. My XBOX 360 takes care of my media access as I have it pointed to all the places I have stuff stored and it works like a charm over my THX stereo and HDTV.

Re:a cheap PC and a free unix (2, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990806)

Not quite. There are a lot of caveats.

Cheap PCs suck rotten eggs on cooling. Your drives will go very hot.

One good option is cheap PC and an ICY BOX SATA enclosure. They are 30-50£ for 3-5 drives fit in 2-3 standard 5" slots and keep drives within 5C above ambient with virtually no noise.

Another option are Antec Sonata cases. They have 4 very well cooled hard disk slots. If you chose the right 12cm fans it is once again totally quiet.

As far as the MB, etc they can indeed be as cheap as they get. I am building one right now out of an old P3. It is more than enough to saturate a 100MB NFS. A few important caveats I have noticed (It has been a while since I built a storage box).

1. While there are some very tempting offers for IDE cards on the market they are not real IDE. The market has gone in circle 100%. It used to be people selling IDE cards as RAID, now they sell RAID as IDE. So regardless of how nicely does an offer for classic IDE sound, skip it. You are up for trouble. Go SATA.

2. Same for SATA cards with extra IDE ports. These often do not support IDE drives. Same for some IDE ports on recent cheap motherboards.

3. Some cheap SATA cards do funny things with spin-up, spin-down and flush commands. Either go for well tested stuff like Silicon Image or go for a real hardware RAID like 3ware (this is no longer cheap though).

Re:a cheap PC and a free unix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21991842)

WTB: Quiet drive and fan that are both still quiet 6+ months later.

I always like when I build a new computer, put ear up to case and you don't hear anything. 6 months later it is faintly audible from my desk. 1 Year later and you can hear it from across the room. 18+ months later and you can hear it from across the house. The drive component will hopefully be fixed soon enough with SSDs, but fans and power supplies need more work.

Re:a cheap PC and a free unix (1)

brainlessbob (973044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992342)

He did have a need to ask. Easy to use 6-Step guide: 1. Get a PC* 2. Get some hard drives (More/Bigger is better) 3. Install the hard drives to the PC mentioned before 4. Install operating system (As cheap as possible) 5. ???? 6. PROFIT! *One that supports a lot of hard drives, a case is not needed

Good suggestion (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21989534)

Your mother is the best bang for my buck, most definitely.

Cheapest, best way is to build it (4, Informative)

ajs (35943) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989544)

I went to newegg and just built the system from scratch. I got 5 SATAII 250GB disks (the sweet-spot at the time for price per MB) in a tower with a run-of-the-mill motherboard, CPU and RAM. I didn't go headless entirely from the gate, but once I installed Linux, I never connected the monitor again. Simple software raid is enough for my purposes, and I didn't bother mirroring the root disk (which I can always just replace and re-install).

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989632)

Ok, but how cheap can you make your file server and still get good performance out of it? Software RAID costs cycles. How beefy of a CPU do you actually need though? Does 64 bit help, or is an old Athlon XP plenty? 1 core or 2? How much ram is necessary? Are there certain chipsets that are better than others at maxing out your SATA bandwidth? There are a lot of things to take into consideration when building a PC file server.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (4, Informative)

Yosho (135835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989880)

Software RAID costs cycles.

Only a very small amount -- if you're using this computer simply for file storage, especially with 100 Mbit ethernet as your primary means of connection, you will never even notice the tiny slowdown caused by software RAID. An old Athlon XP with 256 MB of RAM are just fine, although if you want to do something like turn that file server into a web & e-mail server, you might want to bump it up to 512 MB. None of those things are computationally intensive at all, unless your server gets a ton of traffic; even then, you'll probably be limited more by your I/O speed than your CPU. A 64-bit processor won't help you at all if you're not doing any sort of scientific computing and you don't need to use more than 4 GB of RAM.

Heck, for years I ran a personal server on an old 450 MHz K6-III with 512 MB of RAM and three hard drives in a RAID 5. The only time I noticed any lag at all was when doing SSL negotation or when it was running a certain PHP-based webmail program on it. I upgraded it just this last year to an Athlon XP 2200+ with 1 GB of RAM, and I never even come close to making the CPU max out, and I'm also running a VPN server and spam filter on it.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991474)

I've got a P-III 800MHz/768Meg and an AMD Athlon64 2800+/2Gig... Both run OpenBSD, a plethora of services (actually they do exactly the same thing in different locations) and in "felt performance" is the same. For a small home server, anything beyond 800MHz is overkill.

I also have a 800MHz/512Meg Duron that plays database server and runs SQL Ledger. That's it. Anytime I ask uptime, I get 0.0 usages. It essentially doesn't do shit.

My old servers were P-I 166MHz class machines. Those did choke on IMAP. But that's about it. (Never ran a database on them though)

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992452)

Karma: Terrifying (mostly affected by atrocities you've committed)
Thanks! It's been years since I saw a "Karma:" sig that actually made me laugh.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

GenP (686381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989922)

My old Athlon XP 2000 could saturate 100mbit Ethernet from a four-drive software RAID5 array without breaking a sweat. Not sure what my current P4 system can do since the gigabit Ethernet (Realtek r8169) I have can't seem to break ~200-300mbit outbound due to a driver(?) problem.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990260)

This is a home server, though. Data viability should be the main requisite, then space, then speed, all tempered by cost.

Honestly, I'd probably just go with a home NAS. That way you don't even have to screw with it beyond a web config.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991486)

NAS boxes are not all that they are made out to be. Keep in mind one thing: they are made to be cheap. This means relatviely low-end processors in them. You are also stuck with whatever protocols that they happen to have.

I hope to soon gather enough junk hardware to build a FreeNAS box. This is based on BSD, and one of the totally cool thing is that it is also an rsync server. I have not seen an out-of-the-box NAS that supports rsync.

Very often, these NAS boxes are also small, which means small fans that have to run at high (noisy) speed in order to cool the thing.

I am not saying that all NAS boxes are bad. I actually have one and use it. I am just saying that a commercial NAS box is not a slam-dunk. The better ones might do everything you want, but the better ones are also more expensive, and probably more expensive than building one yourself, especially if you have some junk lying around.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992806)

What about noise and power comsumption? For me, these are the most important things for a computer that will be on 24/7.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990738)

Ok, but how cheap can you make your file server and still get good performance out of it?

With modern motherboards (which means PCIe with the SATA ports not running through the old PCI controller), Software RAID is perfectly viable for saturating a 1Gbit NIC. And probably with enough disks, capable of saturating 2 or 3 gigabit NICs.

Basically, take a motherboard like Asus M2N-E (with 6+ SATA plugs), the $75 Athlon64 X2 chip, and 2GB of RAM and you'll have pretty much an overkill system for not a whole lot of cash. Something like the 45W X2s with that motherboard will cost around $225 in a bundle from some place like MWave.

If, under heavy disk / network load, you manage to hit 10% on the CPU meters, I would be surprised.

So basically $225 for the CPU/MB/RAM, $100 for the case and PSU, and as many hard drives as you can manage to cram inside a case. You can go cheaper, but going too cheap is counter-productive (failed PSUs, cases with inadequate ventilation, etc. can shorten component life).

Nforce chip set (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991150)

I would get a nforce 570 SLI / Ultra board with dual gig-e ports with teaming and tcp/ip off load. []
this costs less then the one you picked []

Also alot of the upcoming am2+ nforce board will have tcp/ip off load as well.

you still need a load end video card even a low end pci one will work + you have open pci-e slots for pci-e raid cards if you need one.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

yoblin (692322) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990874)

Take a look at ZFS and raid-z. Looks to me like a really good option for a cheaper server, you run either freeBSD or x86 Solaris and get better performance than software raid without the cost and troubles of hardware raid.

when they implement dynamic array resizing into raid-z, hopefully soonish, then I'm jumping onto the bandwagon.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21993594)

Software RAID costs cycles.
*chuckle* If you have a 386SX or better, don't worry about it. Your CPU is a fucking monster compared to the fastest disks on the planet.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

Hey_bob (6104) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990316)

I've been considering going this route, but using one of the VIA C7 mobo's New Egg has listed. I don't need much power for serving up files and the occasional ssh access. I can tell myself that I'll be conserving power.. tho I'm sure having 6 disks spinning may negate some of that. :-)

Would probably have to use a sata card with one of those boards, but I'm doing that now with an old P2 currently. So no big loss there.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990472)

Ok, here's another question. What case would you use? Biggest concern, lots of hard drive bays and the ability to keep them all cool. Is it worth while to go for a server case?

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990622)

My preference for home servers of the fire-and-forget variety is to do RAID1 across 3 disks. That means RAID'ing all partitions (including the swap partition).

Why 3 disks? Because home setups tend to get looked at maybe once a month, and a lot of folks forget to turn on mdadm array monitoring or to setup the box as a postfix null server so that it can e-mail out reports. With the 3rd disk, you have a much larger window during which to discover a drive failure before you lose everything.

(And if you're going to put 3 disks in, instead of doing 2 plus a hot spare, why not put that disk to work?)

RAID5 may be nice for having more net space, but again, home servers typically are skimpy on backups and the rebuild time for RAID5 is not nice. So keep it simple and go with RAID1, where you can pull data easily off of any of the 2 or 3 disks in the array.

Re:Cheapest, best way is to build it (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991534)

home servers typically are skimpy on backups
Why? There is no reason. I have a cron job which mounts a external USB harddisk and which backup up every night. Results are sent to email. It isn't that hard, and not that costly.

deja vu (5, Informative)

CodeMunch (95290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989548)

You could always refer to the recent Ask Slashdot [] on this very topic.

The Linksys NSLU2 [] is a little slow & not very intuitive but I just replaced my home file server (Athlong 1.4Ghz, 512MB, yaddahaddah) with one of these. There is a big fanbase for this little device and 3rd party firmware [] .

Re:deja vu (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991540)

The last I heard, the NSLU2 will NEVER spin down the hard drives. This may accelerate the wear on the bearings, and cause premature failure. Drives also consume more power while spinning.

It has been a couple of years since I have checked up on this, though. Perhaps a firmware upgrade has fixed this problem.

Re:deja vu (4, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992976)

The last I heard, the NSLU2 will NEVER spin down the hard drives. This may accelerate the wear on the bearings, and cause premature failure. Drives also consume more power while spinning.

Actually, what I learned a long time ago (in a technology-land far, far away) is "never shut down your equipment." The only times hard drives and other computer hardware experience physical wear is startup, shutdown, and under G force loads.

A spinning platter running on new bearings essentially maintains bearing-on-lubricant-on-bushing contact the entire time it is on, and has zero wear. But when the platter is spun down, the bearings will of course stop. At that time the bearings "poke through" the lubrication layer, causing metal-on-metal contact. Over time the weight of the platters on the bearings will cause microscopic deformations to be created on the surfaces of the bearings. These no-longer-round bearings then have high spots that also poke through the lubrication layer, causing metal-on-metal contact while the drive is spinning. This becomes a source of vibration, which leads to more metal-on-metal contact, causing wear.

There are other physical reasons to not shut down your computer, too.

Surge currents are a problem. They occur in a hard drive because a stopped motor takes much more torque to spin up than a running motor. That means that a component which is spec'd to carry the running current of the motor, say 80ma, has to temporarily provide startup current of perhaps 200ma. Most components can handle that much extra current for a very small amount of time, but a marginal component may fail under the extra stress. Avoiding power surges maximizes the life of those components

There is another source of wear that people often ignore, and that is thermal stress. Powering equipment up causes it to heat up, expanding the materials it's made of. And all materials have different coefficients of expansion -- aluminum expands quite a bit more per degree than steel, and both expand much more rapidly than ceramics and fiberglass. When a computer is powered off and cools down, everything shrinks at its own rate -- traces on the circuit boards, soldered joints, the case, the screws holding the heat sink to the motherboard, the gold wires connecting the chip package to the die, everything. That's the only mechanical wear these otherwise solid state components will ever have. The more heating/cooling cycles, the more often they will tug at each other, causing wear.

However, many things have changed since I learned this stuff. The technology of hard drives is vastly different than it was when I learned this; especially the properties of the lubricants that are now used. Also, cheap hard drives may have poor bearings to start with, and may already be vibrating when you purchase them (sound is a good way to detect this -- a good drive is a silent drive.) Hardware designers who are building quality equipment specify components with the capacity to handle the thermal and electrical stresses. And energy efficiency is of concern to everyone. But unless it's really crap gear, I'd suggest that powering down to attempt to preserve the longevity of your equipment might not be the appropriate answer.

Re:deja vu (1)

shani (1674) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992822)

I second this recommendation. I put Debian [] on mine and now it's totally intuitive. :)

You need a home server do you? (5, Funny)

AP2k (991160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989556)

Boy, do I have a site you need to check out! []

Re:You need a home server do you? (1, Funny)

Atti K. (1169503) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989838)

OMFG, this is a joke, right? Please, tell me it's a joke. Please.

"When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the daddy wants to give the mommy a very special gift. So he buys a stay-at-home server."


Re:You need a home server do you? (1)

Atti K. (1169503) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990010)

-1, Redundant??? Where was this posted before?

I'm -1, Sad :(.

Re:You need a home server do you? (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21993592)

I'm not sure it is wholly satirical, in fact it appears to be a clever piece of marketing on the part of Microsoft, there are certainly satirical elements (the America's talking thing for one and the author is also a fake) but the various adverts seem to be fairly legitimate and link to the relevant Microsoft pages are real. The Microsoft page linked in turn has references to the marketing/satirical site in question.

Oh and in case you are interested, the Windows logo'd second page of the 'book' reads;

Just so that you know, Tom O'Connor does not actually have a Ph.D. He is also not
actually a person. ant the entire premise of this book is fictional. But on the bright
side, a Windows Home Server is a real product. Perhaps you'd like to buy one.

You can find out more about Windows Home Server at and at
As for technical information about the site that may give a clue, the (partial) whois data is;

  Domains by Proxy, Inc.
  (***) ***-**** Phone*
  (***) ***-**** Fax*
  Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
  United States

Domains By Proxy, Inc is just what it claims to be, one of those (in my opinion) rather dispicable organisations that allows people to hide behind a third party when registering domains.

*I've removed the phone numbers and half the address, if anyone wants that info they can do their own whis lookup, not sure why, just felt better after doing it.

As for the server itself, its an IIS box (as expected) version 6, so all that tells us is that its Windows 2K or better, (although not a pre-release of 2008 Server), and the ASP version looks about right to be current;

Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
X-AspNet-Version: 2.0.50727
Cache-Control: private
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: 6827

Two potentially interesting things to note in the source are;

1) A comment attached to some js

        -- Microsoft Internal Tracking Tool //-->

2) The apparent use of Google Analytics

        -- Google Analytics //-->

So there you go. Is it Microsoft Marketing at work? Probably, is that provable, Probably not.

Re:You need a home server do you? (1)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990352)

Slashdotted. I think. Or lazy.

Shuttle's KPC? (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989582)

There's a story right [] after this on on the KPC [] which is $200. You could swap out the HDD for a half terabyte $100 cheapy from Microcenter or rebated somewhere. I believe the motherboard has gigabit ethernet [] . Although I can't say for sure. I think this is as cheap as you can go without a used/DIY idea and on top of that, it will take up hardly any space.

If you're concerned about heat around the HDD, I would simply suggest a DIY project that moves the HDD to its own enclosure with heat sinks and fans. But one of those would look cute underneath your router or even in your living room.

Going to go out on limb and recommend... Linux. (2, Informative)

XorNand (517466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989598)

Drag that old PII out of the closet and install Linux and Samba on it, maybe upgrading the HDD a bit first. I also use my primary home server a firewall, caching DNS server, transparent web proxy (Squid), voice-over-ip/ultra-advanced answering machine (Asterisk), and for experimenting with various web projects.

Re:Going to go out on limb and recommend... Linux. (2, Interesting)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990960)

I'm as much... Scratch that... I'm more of a hardware pack-rat than most people judging by the hundreds of pounds of obsolete rack-mount equipment in my basement, and I'm all for re-purposing obsolete hardware. However a home server is the wrong place to do it, especially if saving money is your primary goal. A well-selected modern machine, especially an underclocked machine, with a new energy efficient power supply will pay for itself in energy savings against an old Pentium [123] in less than a year. And as a bonus, it'll perform better too.

Re:Going to go out on limb and recommend... Linux. (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991778)

Certainly re-using an old PC workstation as a file server (especially after adding storage) running some distro of Linux is a good suggestion. If the original poster doesn't mind setting up the environment (I think he's ok with it) then this is a very cheap, effective solution. But the original poster also said he considered re-using older hardware and had decided not to.

What I did in my house was buy a low-end MacMini ($600) with extra external storage ($180) and enable SSH. I have a home network with wireless + wired, and the Mac is on a wired port. I use the Mac as a backup server for the Linux boxen in our house. The neat thing is that the Mac can boot itself each morning, and shut itself off each night, saving on power when I'm not likely to be using it. I have it boot at 6AM and shut down at 10PM. Also, when the system isn't being used, it goes into a low-power mode.

It's a decent solution. Works great for rsync/SSH backups, or to save off some files that don't need to be on my laptop. I also mapped a connection to it via GNOME if I want to browse for a particular file.

And yes, the MacMini can run headless just fine. Although when I later bought an HDTV, I plugged it into that via the VGA port, so now I have a 40" 1920×1080 display when I want it! :-)

Buffalo Linkstation (3, Interesting)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989670)

I've considered a Buffalo Linkstation with a custom Linux distro. []

Re:Buffalo Linkstation (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991580)

That's what I use -- a little 250GB LinkStation Pro with a DriveStation (250GB external USB hard disk) as a backup drive for the file server. It works wonderfully.

Windows Home Server (3, Informative)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989676)

Say what you like about Microsoft, but they appear to have finally made a decent product here. You can buy an OEM copy through Newegg for $169. Then slap it on any machine you like. It's got built in support for automatically backing up all of your files. If you have multiple HDD's in your server you can specify at the folder level which folders should be copied onto multiple drives (for redundancy should one of your HD's fail). It's also got nifty support for managing it from outside your home and streaming music, videos and photos to other machines inside / outside of your home. Take a look at it - []

Re:Windows Home Server (1, Redundant)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989890)

Say what you like about Microsoft, but they appear to have finally made a decent product here.
You must be new here. ;)

Re:Windows Home Server (3, Informative)

pogopogo (464296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990086)

It's perfect if you don't mind a little data corruption [] in your backups.

Re:Windows Home Server (1, Troll)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991726)

RTFA. I've researched this issue a lot as an owner of a WHS box. From Microsoft's KB -

You can still use the Windows Home Server home computer backup to back up and restore files from and to your home computers.
It doesn't corrupt your backups. Those are fine. The issue only occurs when the machine is under a high load and you save a file to a shared folder on the WHS using one of a handful of applications. It's easy to avoid and they're working on a fix - [] .

But you know, feel free to ignore the facts and resume your mindless fear mongering. You should run for President!

Re:Windows Home Server (2, Informative)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990110)

That would be the Windows Home Server that corrupts files [] ?

Re:Windows Home Server (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21990348)

It's got built in support for automatically corrupting all of your files.

There, fixed that for you. :-)

Re:Windows Home Server (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990974)

I admire your bravery, sir.

Re:Windows Home Server (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991784)

Personally I prefer a home server absent of some one else's DRM, when it comes to digital rights, I'd prefer my home server to be looking after and securing mine, so that particular product would not even get a look in.

Re:Windows Home Server (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992026)

You can buy an OEM copy through Newegg for $169.

Alternatively, you could flip Billy G the finger, run Linux, and spend cash on another 750GB.

XP has its place - But "headless home file server" does not match that description. And $169? Why the hell would you pay more for a stripped-down version?

Re:Windows Home Server (0, Troll)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21993318)

Ugh. Windows Home Server is basically Windows Server 2003... not XP.

Re:Windows Home Server (2, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#21993814)

The minimum system requirements are a 1Ghz or better x86 processor and 512Mb RAM, so whilst they should be easy to meet they are higher than the absolute minimum you could make do with (and obviously you are going to need a x86 box, no using a nice little ARM box or an old PPC Mac). Having said that is apparently runs very well at close to the minimum system requirements. There also seems to be a requirement for a DVD drive and a monitor, which I assume is for the install, so you can probably get rid of both once your 'server' is up and running.

However according to the FAQ's on MS's own website;

*Why aren't you releasing the software standalone to consumers?

We want to help ensure customers have a simplified, quality experience with Windows Home Server. The best way to do this is to deliver Windows Home Server on integrated hardware/software solutions through OEMs and system builders that are tested and meet system requirements.
So buying it and installing it is apparently not what you are supposed to be able to do. (not saying you can't, obviously, if you can get hold of the software legitimately). That presumably means that anyone *buying* a Windows Home Server as a package, is going to end up with hardware of a higher specification that absolutely necessary, and probably pay a higher price.

Personally I would say that if you are running (or planning to run) Vista *and* have a requirement for the features provided *and* are not too interested in flexibility *and* have the budget for it, then this is probably a nice and simple approach. For anyone else there are lots and lots of options that (with various degrees of work) will do the same or more for less.

Depends but Software is better then Hardware Raids (3, Informative)

angus_rg (1063280) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989740)

Unless you are really hell bent on speed or aren't mirroring, avoid hardware raids. While hardware may be faster, if the raid controller blows up, you probably have to find the same one to replace it since there is no standard on how the data is written.

If you rebuild your system, reloading the same software for the raid should be cake.

Re:Depends but Software is better then Hardware Ra (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992432)

A little program called "QueTek File Scavenger" is capable of retrieving files from a broken raid array, given access to the disks and the raid settings (mode (0,1,5,10), stripe size (0,5,10 only), plus parity ordering if raid 5). There are other programs available (e.g raid reconstructor) that can figure out the raid settings given access to the disks, in case you don't know and can't figure it out through trial and error.

I used both recently to retrieve data from a broken raid-5 array (dead SiI3114 controller). I retrieved all hundreds of gigabytes of data, over the course of a couple of days.

I've used file scavenger in the past to completely recover all files from a single ntfs drive that had been quick-formatted, and a raid-5 set where one disk was completely dead (it happily reconstructed the disk from the raid-5 parity info).

The raid-5 capable version is fairly expensive, but not as expensive as having a professional data recovery company recover the data.

lots of options (1)

garinh (124389) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989746)

I'm now using a QNAP TS-109 ( [] ) and love it. It's silent (no fans), low-power-consumption (about 14 watts max draw), has lots of built-in functionality managed through a web interface (including DLNA for media streaming to a PS3 or similar), and runs Linux...

NAS (1)

aphxtwn (702841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989772)

1. linux+raid5+lvm but the only problem is with more hdd's the more power, then you'll need to upgrade the psu, etc. 2. another option is something like promise tech's smartstor 4300 (4xSATA drive NAS enclosure that supports RAID). 3. there's drobo which is a RAID usb drive which can take 4xSATA drives, but it doesn't have a network connection. 4. dedicated windows machine with file shares also, another consideration is noise & placement. For noise, pc's are more flexible.

Re:NAS (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990480)

1. linux+raid5+lvm but the only problem is with more hdd's the more power, then you'll need to upgrade the psu, etc.

If you have more than 4 or so drives, you're better off getting some sort of backplane / externally powered enclosure instead of dealing with PC power supplies (many of which are designed to support overclocked CPUs and dual video cards instead of hard drives). External SATA enclosures often implement staggered spinup and support hotplugging, whereas a typical PC power supply might have difficulties. Plus, it makes things much more manageable.

I use 5-drive eSATA enclosures ($46/drive + 1 controller port per 5 drives), and I may use 12-drive SATA over InfiniBand enclosures in the future ($48.33/drive + either 3 SATA over InfiniBand ports, 12 SATA ports, or 3 port multipliers and 3 SATA ports).

For software. (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989782)

For super simple. offers will do the trick.
Want to get fancy? will do anything you could want.
For hardware. Well if you have a spare case with a good power supply sitting around you could go with this. []
It will be low power and is pretty cheap. Just buy some DDR-2 ram and what hard drives you want and your good to go.
This board does have two slots free so you do have some expansion options for more drives or even a raid if you want.
If you don't want to build a system then you could get the $199 Walmart Linux PC which uses this motherboard. If you are going to put a lot of drives on it I would still upgrade the power supply.
You could also pick this up at []
Or if you want just use what any old PC you have.

It all depends on what you want to do. There are some nice small NAS systems that you can just plug in as well.

Ubuntu (1)

kextyn (961845) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989784)

When I upgraded to a new gaming system my old one turned into my file server. The only reason I used that particular system is because of the motherboard and case though. I have 10 hard drives installed with just over 3TB total (well, not nearly 3TB after using RAID5 and formatting disks.) The system is running Ubuntu Feisty and has been running great for quite a while. It's sitting in my laundry room hooked up to an UPS so I pretty much don't have to touch it for anything. I know this isn't exactly a small, cheap, home server. But you don't have to use a high end motherboard or fill up the case with hard drives to achieve the same results.

Sweet new invention (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989806)

If you use a computer you have to worry about it being on and that's a lot of wasted power. There's a new Linksys router out there that lets you plus USB flash drives or any external USB drive into it. So get one of those killer 1 terabyte externals off newegg and plug in into the router and as long as your network is up, the storage is there. I always wanted to get one but they're like $200. That's still awfully cheap.

Editors are slacking! (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989912)

I'd read Microsoft's Brainwashing Children's Book: Mommy, Where Do Servers Come From? [] on Reddit yesterday, saw this headline and counted on more witless conspiracy theories about M$ here. Instead, it's a reasonably useful topic for discussion! I'd think my DNS was screwed up and I'd come to the wrong site if Timothy hadn't oddly followed it up with a semi-dupe on the smae subject.

Windows Home Server (2, Informative)

willith (218835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989956)

I've had fantastic luck with Windows Home Server [] since about October of last year. I've got 1.5TB in it (three 500GB Western Digital HDDs) and it serves files via CIFS/SMB over gigabit ethernet. My three Windows PCs, my Leopard iMac, and my Xbox360 can all watch movies, play music, and look at pictures hosted on the server (and access non-multimedia files as well, of course). Further, the client backup/restore offered by WHS is awesome (though Windows-only). Nightly backups of my three PCs, with data de-duplication, and it keeps a few months' worth of data. Backups can be accessed from any client through Windows Explorer or through the WHS console.

The crown jewel, though, is full PC restores. I swapped the hard drive out on one of my PCs for a bigger one, and instead of re-installing Windows onto the new drive and then laboriously copying my user files back, I just restored its image from WHS onto the new hard drive. The fact that the new drive was a different size didn't affect the restore at all--I popped in the restore CD, hit the "GO" button, and about an hour later my PC was exactly as it was before, but with a bigger hard drive.

I have no complaints about WHS. It handles as much hard drive space as you can throw on it, it will automatically duplicate shared data to multiple physical drives to mitigate the loss caused by drive failure, it functions as a web-facing RDC gateway for your clients if you'd like, and you can access your shares from the Internet if you'd like. It's great.

Re:Windows Home Server (2, Informative)

kevinroyalty (756450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991964)

I have to agree - Windows Home Server rocks, even with the known (rare) corruption issue out there that is fully documented in the KB someone already mentioned. With the new Power Pack 1 and several new free add-ins, its becoming a really great product, for very little money. Oh, and there is NO DRM :)

A great site to check out (non MS) is []


Low Power (3, Informative)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21989962)

I leave my "file server" always on at home, so I wanted to pick up something with low power. I went with the VIA CPU/Mobo/VGA combo from newegg for about $60 a couple years ago. The Via 2000+ C3 is basically like a P3 800MHz, but it's power consumption is ultra low (we're talking half the wattage of its celeron equivalent). I picked up a small form factor shuttle like case from Fry's with a built in PSU (200W I believe), 512MB of PC2100, and have two 250GB HDD's in there. The system is now running Fedora Core 7 (would have preferred Gentoo, but it's kinda pointless to use the binary version of that in my opinion).

While it's fairly weak compared to modern systems, it has more then enough power for serving files, so I have it set up as my web & email server as well. I also have a UPnP server running to share music/video's to my Xbox 360 & SlimServer for listening to my music collection remotely.

For a while I ran MythTV on it with a Hauppage 150 card, and it ran fine (could even transcode on the fly to watch live TV in horrible quality on my Motorola Q). I also picked up a battery backup from APC which I configured with nut for when we have rolling blackouts.

One thing I'd recommend doing is sticking with NFS for file sharing if you have a choice. All major platforms now support it (well I can't speak for Vista, but XP works so I presume it would as well). If you need to share to Windows XP, you need to download the (now free) Services for Unix 3.5 from MS to get their NFS client. I'm not a Mac person, but I know you can mount NFS on those out of the box (at least from the CLI). I use amd (Auto Mount Daemon) for my other Linux systems to auto mount. The performance of NFS blows Samba out of the water, I can stream Xvid on 802.11B with NFS with virtually no issues (can't do that with Samba).

I should probably note I'm a Unix sys admin at work, so I'm fairly competent in Linux, but with that said I think even a novice could set this all up (exceptions being the email server and MythTV) without too many headaches. I let yum take care of all my system updates and am quite happy with my investment in this system (under $350 total).

Re:Low Power (1)

HydraSwitch (184123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990034)

I do not recommend NFS for windows clients.
SFU 3.5 stops at 2 Gig files.
Have you tried to backup one of your windows boxes?
One with > 2 G of data on it? It won't work.
It didn't the last time I tried anyways... samba does work.

Re:Low Power (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990574)

One thing I'd recommend doing is sticking with NFS for file sharing if you have a choice. All major platforms now support it (well I can't speak for Vista, but XP works so I presume it would as well). If you need to share to Windows XP, you need to download the (now free) Services for Unix 3.5 from MS to get their NFS client. I'm not a Mac person, but I know you can mount NFS on those out of the box (at least from the CLI). I use amd (Auto Mount Daemon) for my other Linux systems to auto mount. The performance of NFS blows Samba out of the water, I can stream Xvid on 802.11B with NFS with virtually no issues (can't do that with Samba).

If NFS is faster than SMB on Windows, something is seriously wrong. I regularly reach the peak expected speeds (~25mbit/sec on 802.11g, ~480mbit/sec on 1000BaseT) using Samba as a server on Linux and Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X as clients.

What I've Used for a Home LAN (2, Informative)

Otter Escaping North (945051) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990044)

In the past, I have looked at the iPaq and considered using older computers I have lying around, but for various reasons I have never jumped in to do it. Do you guys have any suggestions on what to use for a home file server (hardware and software)? The server would be feeding files to Windows PCs and connected to the network through a Linksys WRT54GL running DD-WRT firmware."

It's hard to supply advice without knowing what your requirements are and what the "various reasons" were that prevented you from employing the old PCs you mention. However...

In my basement, I have an Athlon 800 MHz, with 256 MB of RAM that houses a DVD drive, plus 3 IDE hard drives. A 15GB for the OS and such, and a 500GB and 200GB that are made available on my home network via NFS and Samba. The 200 gig is a "public" drive for people in the house to use. The 500 gig was a media drive until I built a myth box over Christmas, now it's a backup drive. I'm not doing RAID or anything. The machine runs Slackware 11, and is connected to the network on a 100 Mbit LAN.

Performance is fine. The most taxing I got was when I played my ripped movies from the file server in the basement to my Mac up in the family room. No stuttering or any other issues unless I saturated the link (ie. it couldn't serve two movies at once).

If you've got old PCs around - I see no reason not to use them. Otherwise, I'd probably just use an inexpensive NAS unless you want more out of the machine. I got Grandpa Otter a NAS for Christmas as he wanted centralized file storage on his LAN, but is not a hobbyist, and didn't want to muck with PC innards.

Knowing your requirements would produce better suggestions for hardware and software...but for file serving a home LAN - I'm thinking old hardware and any Linux distro will be most economical and get the job done.

Try out a Via C7-based machine (1)

HesAnIndieRocker (911018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990062)

I have one of these in my kitchen (long story) that has been happily chugging away without any downtime for about a year now.

These processors/computers are certainly now the highest-performance machines in the world, but they handle most home tasks wonderfully and consume almost no power when idle. For 24/7 operation this becomes very important. Also, most varieties of C7 can operate with passive cooling, meaning your power supply fan will be the only noise it generates.

If you can afford it (I put mine together with a gig of memory, 500gb disk, and DVD for about $350 a year ago), this is a better approach than "throw slackware on an old Pentium 3" because you can get the same or better performance without the ongoing electricity cost and loud operation.

don't skimp (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990066)

under-performing fileservers can kill you fps on HD go with the best available. []

Re:don't skimp (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990596)

This is a file server, not a streaming media server or gaming machine. FPS are mostly (if not entirely) irrelevant.

Re:don't skimp (1)

AllNicksTaken (528293) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991664)

I think it's a joke making fun of the killer nic. []

Why not get a NAS? (2, Insightful)

cylcyl (144755) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990090)

There are a number of NAS's out there with good file server features. Netgear's new servers sound interesting. Synology also has lots. They come with web server, file streamer. Some even have bittorrent and USB hub for print servers.

It's not ultracheap (~$500-$600 + HDD cost) but have low power usage compare to any full PCs

Synology (2, Informative)

Spalti (210617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990182)

Well, from my own experience, I would recommend one of the Synology [] NAS systems. I'm using a DS207+ [] myself, and while it's probably not the cheapest option, the device is well build, running linux, there is a ssh package available from the manufacturer and it comes with preinstalled mysql+php support. It also supports smb+afp, iTunes Sharing and offers a bunch of other services...
The only downside at the moment is that the UDMA service is not compatible with my PS3, so no direct streaming right now.

Re:Synology (1)

Spalti (210617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990320)

d'oh, of course the UPnP service is not compatible with my PS3 - I don't know how UDMA got in there...
BTW, they have already announced to fix this problem with a firmware update later on.

Infrant ReadyNAS NV (2, Informative)

iiii (541004) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990290)

I got an Infrant ReadyNAS NV [] , before the company was bought up by NetGear. It's pretty awesome, though not perfect. Real hot-swappable RAID, dynamic reconfiguration, and lots of other good management tools. Looks pretty sweet, fairly quiet. Using it as a print server has always been problematic, tho.

Also, they seem to have gone up in price [] *quite* a bit. This site says the no-disk one is $1049. I think mine was around $600. I got one with no disks, and found a good deal on two 500GB disks (which were on their approved h/w list) and still ended up under $1200, and that was two or three years ago. But mine didn't have gigabit ethernet. I guess that explains some of the cost increase.

I set mine up with 500GB of storage, mirrored, and two open bays. I started offloading pix and video and backing up everything else, and a couple years later have not yet had to fill the other bays. But I like knowing I can expand to 1.5TB in RAID5 when I need the space.

Seconded (1)

unsigned integer (721338) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991432)

Buy it without disks, and then start cheap. You can always buy another large set and swap them all out, as long as you select their special raid mode (basically like raid5). Likely you picked up a low-memory one as well (256MB up to 1GB expandable).

The Infrant rocks, and their support forum is awesome.

I finally have it streaming to my PS3, which is pretty cool.

It also supports almost every file share mechanism you want. (NFS, SMB, FTP, WWW, AFP).

My personal favorite feature is just plugging in my USB flash stick, which the Infrant takes an automatic backup of. Great for snapping a quick backup of data with zero-effort.

Re:Infrant ReadyNAS NV (1)

codemachine (245871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992178)

I'll add briefly to the other reply.

I don't have one of these ReadyNAS units myself, but I have a friend with an earlier revision. They look very nice.

Their proprietary X-RAID is quite handy, since you can add drives later on and have the volume dynamically scale up. And being an appliance, it will use less power and be less hassle than a PC. Slightly less flexible, but it supports so many protocols already that it likely does everything you'd need as a file server.

I personally just use an old Pentium II system with some large drives. Originally it was NetBSD on an Pentium 133 with only 24MB of RAM, and this ran great for us. Might want a bit more power if you're using RAIDFrame for software RAID though.

Eventually we switched to Linux, because we added a PCI-ATA card that NetBSD didn't support at the time. Linux was painful to install and set up in that limited RAM/CPU environment, but ran fine once it was installed. However, we eventually upgraded to a mighty P2 450 with 256MB of RAM, which is a lot more comfortable.

So if you want to build and customize it yourself, Solaris, any BSD, or any Linux should work fine. I found the BSDs to be very lightweight and efficient as a file server. Linux has journaling file systems, which may be a consideration for it over the BSDs. Not sure what Solaris 10 hardware support is like, but perhaps ZFS would be nice for your needs.

If you just want to plug it in and have it work (and use less power to boot), something like the ReadyNAS is the way to go. Despite being very much able to set up routers, file servers, etc, I find myself recommending these low-hassle appliances over PCs.

What's wrong with a NAS? (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990318)

Seriously; cheap, runs out of the box, bare bones and as big as you want it to be. Usually runs some form or Unix and samba. Since it is bare bones it has a small vulnerability foot print.

Re:What's wrong with a NAS? (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991060)

I have had 2 (admittedly cheap-assed) NAS enclosures that died within 6 months of 24-hour operation (the ide drives were fine, just the control card packed in) and a Netgear NAS that got noisy after a couple of months but is still whining away (although it needs power cycling every couple of months). The PII-350 desktop machine, which was old even before it got pressed into service as a server, worked for over 4 years till the psu went pop. The PC could support more simultaneous connections than the NAS enclosures, and faster too. For me today: Freenas FTW.

SME Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21990426)

I'm testing SME Server v7.2. It's based on CentOS and configures as easy as a router or NAS box. File access is much faster than my NAS and plays nice with both Windows and Linux (Ubuntu anyway). YMMV

DLINK DNS-323 (2, Insightful)

Lust (14189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990502)

A friend just pointed me to this set-up and I'm fairly happy for home:

Two SATA bays. Can slide in the drives w/o tools.
Print server (USB)
Can run in RAID0, RAID1, or JBOD (I chose RAID1).
web interface for config.

I bought two 512Gb WD drives which were on sale for $119 each.

Some peculiar behavior if you really want a secure system: passwords couldn't include non-alpha chars!? And it didn't allow spaces in the WORKGROUP name for the samba mount, which isn't an MS requirement.

But for home use where you're already considered secure and not so worried about multiple users, I find it great having one giant /Storage that the whole network can access.

The reviews on Amazon are love/hate, I think for the above reasons. Probably not be the best set-up for an office or in The Wild.

Random review here: []

Thecus N2100 NAS (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990618)

I just got a Thecus N2100 NAS for our office, and it rocks. It runs linux, so you can do whatever you want with it if you know how, but even if you don't (like me), it is still really easy to use. It holds 2 HDDs and i've mirrored them for safety, set up all the computers in the office to connect to it (on 2 different wired networks... it has 2 network ports, and can even be modded for wireless), and even set up FTP access for when i'm at home. It also functions as a USB print server that has some quirks but should be great for normal use, acts as an iTunes sharing device (shows up in the itunes shared computers sections), supports UPnP, and pretty much anything else you can throw at it. It was $275 or so without drives, and i love it! Oh, and it's also super silent. -Taylor here's the URL: []

Easy (2, Insightful)

Wiseman1024 (993899) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990640)

Anything you can scavenge, with as much RAM as possible (for the system cache), running Linux without GUI and needless stuff (saved RAM goes for the system cache), and the best storage drive you can afford having the size you require. Of course, your priorities as far as storage goes should be:

1. RAM (make all of it fit in RAM; most expensive; ridiculously fast; will probably require a 64 bit machine). Hint: Google uses pulls the critical stuff off RAM, not hard drives.
2. Flash storage (excellent for concurrency; fragmentation and parallel operations don't degrade performance; lots of other advantages such as durability, power, noise, size, weight, can be turned off anytime, etc.).
3. Hard disk drive. Disregard the bus, the hard disk is usually slower anyways. Especially skip SCSI unless you have a very good reason for it; prefer SATA.

And there you go.


Shadyman (939863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990644)

The WRTSL has a USB port, and you can rig it with a samba server.

NSLU-2 or ASUS WL-500gP (1)

yermej (985079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990736)

Somebody already mentioned the NSLU-2 with one of the non-Linksys firmwares. I had one and, until the lightening killed it, it worked really well and uses very little power. I'm now replacing my router (a WRT54GS) and the NSLU-2 with an ASUS WL-500gP. I haven't heard anything good about the stock ASUS firmware, but OpenWRT (and probably others) work well. The ASUS has two USB 2.0 ports for attaching storage (or other hardware) and you could even use a powered hub to add even more drives. I don't have it all set up yet, but it should work well as router and file server while remaining quiet, cool, and using little power.

ZFS (1)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990830)

Use ZFS if you don't want bit-rot.
Bad thing is you need to have a 64bit machine and 1Gb min (>= 2Gb recommended) to run it and most file servers are the underpowered machines we keep around when we buy a new machine.

Re:ZFS (1)

imemyself (757318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991484)

I don't think you have to use a 64 bit box for ZFS. It may help performance, but its not a requirement (unless its changed very recently). I have ran Solaris with ZFS in VMware on a 32 bit box before.

Learn from my mistakes - Keep your data safe (2, Insightful)

tripmine (1160123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21990876)

These are three little things that I learned the hard way from my own home server experiences.

1. Ventilation - You don't want your hard drives getting hot and crispy. Hard drives tend to break more often when you leave them cooking themselves for a couple of months.
2. CPU - Software RAID (especially writing to RAID 5) is very CPU intensive. Ideally you'd have a hardware RAID controller, but they're too expensive. Your better off getting a decent CPU that can handle all of the RAID goodness and everything else the server does. I'd recommend either a dual core or hyper threading.
3. Logs - Make sure whatever setup you have emails you, beeps at you, or does something to let you know if one of your drives fails. A 4 disk RAID 5 is worthless if more than one drive fails. If you're really serious about keeping your data, don't limp on with a missing drive on your array.

WRT350N and a USB drive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21991020)

how about a WRT350N with a USB drive?? there is a usb port on the router, and admin pages on the router to make shares and assign permissions (AFAIK, it won't integrate with LDAP). even act as an FTP server. lower power consumption than even a VIA. []

QNAP NAS Servers (1)

ckeck (762017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991190)

Look into the QNAP TS-109/Pro or 209/Pro...I have a TS-209 Pro and it works great!

Sweet Setup (3, Informative)

mathimus1863 (1120437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991526)

I've been doing this for quite a while. Put Ubuntu 6.06 and a 300GB HDD into a PII, 400 MHz desktop that's about 8 years old. It works beautifully!

I use sshfs to mount the server's harddrives on my local computer with full access to samba directories. Then I configured samba to provide a "publicShare" directory, readable and writeable by any computer. Another directory called "fileServe" which is read-only from any computer. I even set up apache on a separate folder and port-forwarding so it doubles as webserver as well.

Anytime I find anything interesting at all--videos, documents, images, software--I post them to my fileServe directory for everyone else to use. And they typically backup all their stuff and share things with each other on the publicShare since it's publicly-writable.

I've been running this setup flawlessly for 1.5 years. It's a lot better than paying $15-$30 to have the hardware recycled.

Shuttle SD11G5 (2, Informative)

Misch (158807) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991592)

I know it's a little limiting because it only has 2 internal 3.5" drive bays, but I think the Shuttle SD11G5 could be a good choice. It is a mostly-quiet Intel Pentium-M driven solution with on-board graphics and an external power supply (sort of how a laptop operates.) Power supply is rated at 220 watts, but running pretty barebones, the draw is far less than that.

I run one with Mandriva on it and do some file sharing on my home network and use it as a print server.

Any Pentium III 700MHz computer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21991734)

With a SATA II PCI card and however large of a hard drive you'd like. Combine that with Damn Small Linux, booted from a USB pen drive and running from RAM (dsl toram), you're not going to find a faster, easier to use setup without spending more money than you really need to.

If you want to buy a new system for use with Damn Small Linux as file server, I would suggest building a system with a Celeron 400 series processor (Core 2 based, single processor core) as it will be more than enough to serve files with the benifit of it being very low power. Spend more on a large hard drive than anything else. Onboard video is all you need (heck, my $14,000 Proliant server has onboard video - and three redundant power supplies). Focus on what is important. A battery backup might be a good idea if you are in an unstable power grid area.

As a 'generosity-challenged individual'.. (4, Informative)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21991736)

.. or 'miser' as other people put it, I hate to throw away working computers. Instead, I use them as file servers in the cellar (where i can't hear the fans whirring).
Even the humble PII has better performance and more simultaneous connections than a NAS enclosure ( or at least the cheap NAS enclosures I have bought ) and lasts a lot longer too.

My formula for home fileserving : cram an old PC with whatever IDE drives you have to hand and run FreeNAS on it, it will be plenty fast enough for 100megabit lan (which is fast enough for me). Whenever a drive fails, throw it away and put in whatever other (usually much bigger) hard drive is kicking around. When the motherboard fails, rescue the disks and build them into another fileserver.

RAID? why bother? Build another fileserver and keep your copies on that.

But what about the noise? Mine are in the cellar, only the spiders and woodworm can hear them.

Ah, but what about the power consumption? Pah! The heat slightly warms the house, reducing the energy used by the (admittedly more efficient) heating system, and is utterly dwarfed by the power consumption of other crap in the house. Also, a headless PII box uses much less power than you might think. Measure it.

Anyhoo, _my_ fileservers cost nothing but electicity, hold over a Terabyte and have uptimes of several months, so there :P

Older systems have pci bus limts that make useing. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992028)

Older systems have pci bus limits that make useing raid + network slow and they are limited in how much ram they use.

Build a system get a nforce 570 sli board with dual gig-e port with teaming and tcp/ip offload and amd x2 cpu. DDR2 is cheap now days You also need a low end video card.

You will need a good PSU if you want to run a lot of disks.

A bit pricy but worth it (1)

_Hellfire_ (170113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992566)

For years I used old hardware an cobbled together bits to run my home file server. In the end I felt my time was worth more than the constant restarts due to kernel panics (I suspected the motherboard was going) and the constant forced fsck due to a dodgy hard drive.

I few years ago I finally bit the bullet and spent AUD 2K on an Asus TS-300 [] pedestal server and have never looked back. In Australia they come with a 3y advance replacement warranty but I'm sure that Asus would offer that in other parts of the world. I tweaked my setup a little hardware-wise but the base model is less expensive now at about $1700.

I installed Debian Etch, with software RAID, Apache, Postfix/Dovecot/Ilohamail, Samba, SSH and Jabber. I fine tuned it for about 2 weeks, and then left it alone. I never hear a peep out of that box and it runs everything I need flawlessly.

Industrial strength software on rock solid hardware means no downtime for me (and no more late nights troubleshooting failed hardware). I have sworn that I will never go back to using cobbled bits again unless I'm just playing with it.

mini-itx and openbsd (2, Informative)

capsteve (4595) | more than 6 years ago | (#21992784)

IMHO the most important aspects of a file server is uptime and network connectivity. my most recent home server has ftp, nfs, http, ssh, rsync, smb and afp running... on top of openbsd.

i chose the mini-itx because of the small form factor and low power usage, on-board network/video/sound, without totally sacrificing cpu power. since i use it purely for file storage and retrieval, nothing else, so an 800mhz cpu is fast enough.

YMMV, but i've run a home fileserver in one form or another for the last 10 years, and i've had better reliability and uptime in the last 6 years with openbsd than any distro of linux(or qnx, solaris, or mac os). i attribute the stability mainly to the source code audits that are performed to discover security bugs. in the course of eliminating security bugs, the secondary effect is more stable builds.

Why not use SME Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21993134)

I can strongly recommend using SME Server from [] - It is fast, stable & secure and works well with almost any hardware, especially older machines. I have been using it in its various incantations for about 7 years and it is really great. It is a snap to set up and has full RAID support, automatically setting up various RAID configurations, depending on how many disks you install. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed. It will also double as a web and email server and has great community support. Best of all - its totally free - currently based on CentOs

Fast Cheap and Green. (2, Informative)

Linux_Bastard (220710) | more than 6 years ago | (#21993724)

An old PC full of hard drives looks cheap, but it will cost you in watts. An old PC server can easily pull 250-400 watts continuously. And don't forget this summer, when you will have to pay twice for the waste heat.

A better solution is a VIA PC1 board, plus a couple of new drives.

The "$60 PC 1" [] will only pull 20 watts at max. Combine this with 2 "$250 terabyte drives" [] mirrored, and a small low wattage "$35 case" [] and the "(Free) Linux" [] of your choice,

You will have a reliable Terabyte server for less than $700, that only pulls as much power as a small appliance bulb.

Xbox (3, Interesting)

Monsuco (998964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21993810)

Ever think of using an origional Xbox. It is fairly easy to hack an Xbox, and deep down an Xbox is just a regular PC with a 700-ish mhz cross between a P3 and Celeron, a hard disk that is either 8 or 10 GB, a Nvidia Graphics card (though 3-D isn't fully supported on Linux), and 64 MB of RAM. For a small file server it works well enough. Most hacked dashes have an FTP server, but you can install Linux (my fave is X-DSL) easily. Some of the distros are rather old though.

If you don't mind the old hardware, you can usually find an old used Xbox for about $50 at a used game shop. Versions of 007, Mech Assault, or Splinter Cell are usually required to softmod the box, and you can pick those up on ebay for nearly nothing.

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