I am looking to build a system primarily for storage purposes at my Home. I have a high end laptop for work, so won't use this much or at all for doing any processing intensive task. Here is what I want to do. A P4 (it will be cheap, and I don't need too much processing), with 1 GB RAM and 2 Hard Disks of 2 TB Each (Internal). The PC will be connected to Internet via Wi-Fi dongle and/or ethernet.

What I want to ask is, if there are any limitations to storage based on processing and RAM. And if yes, at max upto what?

Any Suggestions?

PS: This system will be Storing my Media Collection from my Laptop and other devices, and syncing some of it with online storage. The system is required to run 24x7.

3 Answers 3


Using a P4 for an always-on server would be very expensive in energy use (something like 150W to 200W peak) compared to an Intel Atom (15W to 40W) - each watt equates to about $1 to $1.50 in electricity per year, and a significant amount of CO2 emissions.

If you want to build a system, use a low-cost Atom motherboard - recent models support 64-bit and dual-core, and the motherboard comes with an Atom CPU, so the total cost should be less than $100 for motherboard and CPU (like this example). A modern system will also properly support Wake on LAN (WOL) - with care, the server can be in S3 Sleep mode (standby) most of the time, only waking up when you need to access it.

Using a pre-built NAS is a good idea - these typically use ARM processors which also have very low power consumption.

Even if you don't care about power consumption, every watt of power consumed must be dissipated by cooling fans on the CPU and in the case, so a P4 based server will be very noisy - as I experienced before I dumped a P4 based NAS build for an Atom build.

  • I guess if you really want to use the existing hardware it may be worth seeing if your bios will let you underclock the CPU, also make sure you strip out any extra un-needed hardware like graphics cards.
    – Col
    Aug 11, 2011 at 15:25

I recommend a cheap consumer NAS device. They are quite full-featured these days, and a lot simpler and cheaper than building a PC, especially when you consider energy to costs to keep them running.

If you persist with building a system, look for something that will do RAID 1 for data safety (the same advice applies to the NAS enclosure), and then make sure you also have a way to keep a real backup. Since this sounds like the kind of data that won't change often, it may just mean burning another pair of DVDs (one to keep handy at home and one to keep somewhere else) once a week or so with the new data, or it might mean something much more complicated.

Also, you'll definitely want to opt for a wired connection. Wireless works fine for simple web browsing and some other tasks, but you'll find the throughput lacking for large file transfers compared to wired, especially if you're sharing the airspace with the device on the other end of the transfer.

  • Will NAS be able to sync some of the files to Web on its own without help of any external system?
    – Ankit Aggarwal
    Jul 28, 2011 at 4:54
  • If the NAS supports rsync it would be able to sync with another linux server which could be running a webserver. What are you planning to do?
    – Aduljr
    Jul 28, 2011 at 4:57
  • I have around 400 GB High-Res Photographs which are right now stored in external HDD. Also, I work as a freelancer so have a lot of my clients stuff scattered here and there on DVDs. And lastly, lot of movies purchased on DVDs. I want to put all these things at one place, and sync the first two (Photos and Backups) with Backblaze for extra security.
    – Ankit Aggarwal
    Jul 28, 2011 at 5:04
  • Good point - many of the NAS-es are actually UN*X boxes inside, and often customizable (e.g. I have a Synology DS211j, and it has a built-in SSH access to Linux shell, ipkg-based package system etc.); it can be easily adapted to your needs. Aug 11, 2011 at 15:39

If you don't want the expense of a dedicated NAS box, you might want to look at FreeNAS. I installed this in a VM the other day to try it out, and the install was very smooth with these instructions. The only problem I had was that the newer version of FreeNAS needed a little more memory (512MB) than the older ones, which were happy with the default 256MB FreeBSD memory allocation.

The other option is to find a VM Appliance. There is a rather old VMware appliance for FreeNAS 6, but someone has done what I did but released the image for download. Assuming you already have VMware player or VirtualBox installed, within a few minutes of downloading one of these appliances, you could be trying out the software yourself, with minimal time investment.

Finally, if you want to keep power usage to a minimum, you could always under clock your Pentium IV. If it's a high clock rate chip, you could seriously reduce it's power draw by clocking it at say 1.5GHz, which should be more than enough for a NAS box. This will have the knock on effect that it will need less cooling and thus could be much quieter.

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