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Hey guys, so I just found an OLD p2, 256 mb ram and 20 gb harddrive (i have a 80 gig on me also).

so I was wondering to load up either WinXP, win server 2000, or some small linux distribution. I have some experience with linux and not a complete noob. My goal is to create a small file server for my roommates (3 of them) to just store their files and music on it.

my other goal is to create a SVN server on it. I am starting a small application for Win 7 mobile coming out in a few days and me and a buddy are working on it. He dosn't live with me so he might need to connect over the internet. I have cable internet but I dont mind giving him the dynamic ip everytime it changes.

so if anyone has a step by step tutorial to accomplish some of these tasks, let me know. I think my main problems are going to be with the networking. Note that the fileserver can be made locally (but it would be awesome if we can connect to it through the internet).

My apologies if this was meant for superuser and not serverfault.

edit: this is mostly for learning purposes. Data corruption, harddrive failure, and machine catching on fire is not a big issue. I understand there is data on it, but my roommates know better to store there assignmnet on it thats due the day after.


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migrated from Nov 7 '10 at 11:25

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

You would probably learn more faster by just installing virtual box or something on your desktop and running things in a VM. – Zoredache Nov 6 '10 at 20:36
Windows won't really work with only 256 of RAM... Amazon Web Services has a free tier, 5GB of storage and a micro linux instance. – Clint Nov 7 '10 at 5:48
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The best advice I can give you. Stop what you are doing.

If you move on with this hardware you will only create a huge Single-Point-of-Failure. Using the old harddrives in unknown quality states might cause unforseeable dataloss if there are undiscovered errors.

Putting a SVN Repository with production data is absolutely inadvisible due to the missing redundancy.

Cheap solution:

  • Get a mainboard,CPU,RAM,optical drive
    Double Check the mainboard has RAID support.
    I would suggest some Intel Atom Board for your setup.

  • Get two 2 TB Harddrives (160€, 220 USD) and set up RAID Mirroring

Then we should talk about putting a system on it. From this point you might investigate Ubuntu Server as an Open Source Server Operating System. More stability might even be achieved with a BSD of your choice (Could anyone comment on this as I have no hands-on experience with the current generation of BSDs).


Instead of setting up an SVN repository you might want to setup a free github repo at or a free SVN repo at Google Code. If you need privacy for your data you might iterate investigating 7$/Month for a paid github account.

Edit 2: Back to the pure specs

OK let's get back to the pure specs. Running a linux distro in textmode will work fine for almost every distribution. There should be no problems sticking with the Linux suggestions.

If you would like to stick with windows, you should prefer Windows XP over Windows 2000 because it scales better on small amounts of RAM as my own tests have shown (OK I admit these results might be around 7 years old).

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hey thanks, but this is mostly for learning purposes. Data corruption, harddrive failure, and machine catching on fire is not a big issue. I understand there is data on it, but my roommates know better to store there assignmnet on it thats due the day after. – masfenix Nov 6 '10 at 20:27
It's just that your music and your roommates music would be more save if they stay on their current location. The probability that one of the computers fails is the same but you will minimize dataloss. – pacey Nov 6 '10 at 20:32

Install the latest version of Ubuntu Server (as I write this, it is version 10.10, a.k.a. "Maverick Meerkat"). You will need to get the 32-bit version to run on a P2.

The Ubuntu Server Guide is a great place to start learning about Linux and server configuration. The Server Guide includes chapters on

  • Installation
  • Package Management
  • Windows networking (Samba)
  • Version Control Systems (including Subversion)
  • Networking and Network Configuration
  • Security (user management, firewall)
  • ... and much, much more.

I have found this documentation to be exceptionally clear and well written, which is (unfortunately) all too rare for a free/open-source project. A large part of the well-deserved popularity of Ubuntu must be attributed to the availability of high quality documentation such as this.

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Everyone else is right: don't use this for your "real work", especially your code development. But for a learning experience, I say go for it. Download CentOS and install it in text mode. Then, go looking for how to do the specific things you want to accomplish. It's not particularly hard. Come back when you get really stuck.

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install Debian: Howto -Ubuntu is crippled Debian

subversion Howto

samba howto

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Running MS Windows on a machine like this is going to be horrendously slow. But its quite capable of running Linux (which you'll find in a lot of NAS boxes).

The only caveat is that using old hardware you're likely have components failing on you - you should definitely replace the disks (and for preference replace them with a fault-tolerant RAID solution).

The internet is full of tutorials on setting up Linux systems - try Google for a start. (If you're not very familiar with stuff other than Microsoft Windows - you'll need Samba to provide network file sharing to MSWindows clients)

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seriously, this server is perfectly fine for running windows - the windows ot is's time. Maybe you do not know, but windows was there a LONT time before this machine came out. Just dont run modern windows on it. But then you have problems running a lot of modern stuff on it. – TomTom Nov 7 '10 at 10:12

Some other people here have made some excellent points. You've stated that you want to make this thing a learning machine and based on the specs, its about right with the hardware inside most of today's low-end routers and what not. It'd be a good albeit slow machine to cut your teeth on and really learn some Linux. Have some fun, see what you can do. You don't always need the latest and greatest! It's the best way to learn, and if you get stuck, just understand you're probably missing some fundamentals. Go back and learn about the OSI model and about how Linux actually works, you'll come a long way in a short amount of time.

Best of luck,


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Ubuntu Server, Slack, or any Linux distro without a GUI will work fine. I have several P2 fileservers running. One has been in production for 8 years now. The old Slot1 CPUs really held up well.

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