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I am trying to build an always-on router + file server system that will serve as a (wired) router and as a file server that I will access from my two Windows (7/XP) machines. I am not worried about power consumption or the ambient noise resulting from this build. My main criteria are budget (under $150) and to protect my data in case my cheap-o components bite the dust. Also, in this project, I am roughly following advice here.

In fact, I think I will be running the Smoothwall software that he uses. In case it is relevant, I am situated in a University LAN and I believe we get assigned static IPs by the DHCP server.

The main components of this build will be the following:

  1. Chip: Some of the feedback for this product says that it is possible to unlock another core on some motherboards - will this be possible on the motherboard that I intend to use below? Is it advisable for the purposes of this build?

    AMD Sempron 145 Sargas 2.8GHz Socket AM3 45W Single-Core Desktop Processor

    Price: $40

  2. MoBo: My main concern for the motherboard is whether it will be able to handle some sort of RAID configuration (I know nothing about RAID, or backups). The other idea that I have is to have a second HDD which is periodically backed up with cron jobs.

    BIOSTAR N68S3+ AM3 NVIDIA MCP68S Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

    Price: $45

  3. Memory: 2gb of memory should be enough, I think. Is this the right memory for this motherboard?

    Kingston HyperX Blu 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory

    Price: $14

  4. Case: This is a micro-ATX case and comes with 400W PSU.

    iMicro ATX Micro Tower Case

    Price: $23

  5. HDD: I have a 5400rpm 120gb IDE HDD refurbished HDD that I bought off newegg for $18. I could get another one in case I need to for a backup.

  6. NIC+sundry: Rosewill RC-402 LAN Card 10/ 100Mbps PCI for $7, throw in some ethernet cables and a Netgear metal switch for $10.

This brings the build cost up to about $160.

My concern now is that all the components are compatible with each other and will fit into the case that I have chosen (I don't have a lot of experience building PCs). Also, any advice about the best strategy for having a continuous backup of my file server which is easily restorable will be greatly appreciated.

So I did some additional googling and I was hoping that the Smoothwall Linux distro would allow me to have Samba to run my file server, but some advice seems to suggest otherwise.

So, I am throwing in the question of what distro will allow me to run a router AND a file server together.

share|improve this question

closed as too localized by Journeyman Geek, slhck, ChrisF, Sathya May 20 '12 at 9:12

This question is unlikely to help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet. For help making this question more broadly applicable, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Sorry about the way I have included URLs; I wasn't allowed to include more than two URLs. – tchakravarty May 18 '12 at 6:29
Most of your hardware looks fine to me, though, i'd really not like to rely on refurbished IDE drives running anything close to critical. Sata Drives, though not nearly as cheap would be somewhat more trustworthy. It sort of distracts from what seems to be the real question to me, to do with running a router and a fileserver – Journeyman Geek May 18 '12 at 8:36
I did insert your links, but essentially, this is nothing but a shopping recommendation question, which are off topic on our site for various reasons, one being that this is too localized to your situation and won't help future visitors at all, sorry. I think we have enough questions on about which RAM will fit which MB. Plus, you're asking a lot of questions at one. Backup strategies, the software you want to run, et cetera. It'd be more constructive to break this apart into separate questions (as long as they comply to our FAQ). – slhck May 18 '12 at 8:46
Well, the shopping list gives context to my two main queries - what components are needed for a backup setup which is very relevant for building a file server, and the part about the linux distro since the router and file server need work concurrently. Thanks for prettify-ing my post. :) – tchakravarty May 18 '12 at 8:50
The components bit is sort of detracting from the other part i think. It'll all work, unless something is broken ;p – Journeyman Geek May 18 '12 at 8:55
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Pretty much any distro will do what you want to do, its just a matter of setting up the right packages. There's a pretty comprehensive guide on debian's webpage on one such setup and another simpler one here.You should be able to do this on any other distro, with equivalent packages.

Basically you're setting up your network interfaces to do what they need to do (talk to wan, talk to lan, get an ip address off wan, broadcast the fact that its a server on lan) dnsmasq to handle dhcp and dns stuff, then set up file sharing as per normal.

Run your favoured flavour of filesharing on top of that (such as samba), and it'll likely be a lot easier than trying to run it off a router centric distro.

In this particular case i'd probably suggest keeping the OS and data seperate (In this case, maybe running the OS off a usb key for example), and running periodic backups over rsync.

I'd also recommend looking at file system overlays that do replication - grayhole is a rather interesting option that allows dissimilar hard disks to be used. You could then rsync files for periodic backups offsite.

share|improve this answer
Ok, so this is some great advice. I guess the Smoothwall things was mainly to keep the system light and problem-free. I could use some stripped down Linux distro. This greyhole thing sounds superb - so I throw in a bunch of HDDs into my server and it uses the free space on all of them to keep spare copies? And if one of the HDDs fails, the algorithm is such that the entire data is always recoverable? – tchakravarty May 18 '12 at 8:56
yup.Greyhole pretty much that, and it works on top of whatever file systems those drives have. Router distros are nice for embedded, uber low end hardware, but if you're willing to put in the effort, a full linux distro probably will be easier in terms of hardware requirements and software setup. The main thing you give up with debian vs a router distro is a web ui – Journeyman Geek May 18 '12 at 10:45

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