I have a really old computer, not sure what the specifications even are. There is 640MB of RAM and about 80GB of disk space on two SATA HDDs. I wanted to know if I can turn it into something useful like a storage space to which my Windows and Linux machines can connect and store data there? A sort of like a storage space on the network.

How hard would it be to set up? How to set it up?

  • 2
    There's plenty of tutorials on how to implement this luckily, and it's not hard, google that. On linux you would set up a Samba share and on Windows you can do shares too. You can even use special distribution for Network Attached Storage servers like FreeNAS or NAS4Free which are really easy to configure (has a lot of tutorials on youtube even) – Ashtray Sep 3 '13 at 12:00

You can try FreeNAS.

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FreeNAS is a free and open-source software network-attached storage (NAS) system based on FreeBSD and the ZFS file system. It is licensed under the terms of the BSD License and runs on commodity 32 and 64-bit x86 hardware. FreeNAS supports Windows, OS X and Unix clients and various virtualization hosts such as XenServer and VMware using the CIFS, AFP, NFS, iSCSI, SSH, rsync and FTP/TFTP protocols.

FreeNAS is managed through a comprehensive web interface that is supplemented by a minimalistic shell console that handles essential administrative functions. The web interface supports storage array configuration, user management, sharing configuration and system maintenance.

As an embedded system appliance, FreeNAS boots from a 2GB image that typically resides on a USB Flash device. The FreeNAS operating system is fully independent of its storage arrays, allowing its configuration database and encryption keys to be backed up and restored to a fresh installation of the OS. This separation also allows for FreeNAS system upgrades to be performed though the web interface.

-- from Wikipedia

Important: The hardware requirements for the current version of FreeNAS (FreeNAS 8) can be a bit intensive ( up to 8GB depending on the filesytem used). The previous version is being currently developed under a different name (NAS4Free), and it can be used with even 192 MB of RAM!

  • 1
    Judging by their web site, FreeNAS seems to push ZFS pretty heavily. ZFS is a great file system especially if you want data integrity, but it has pretty high memory requirements: recommended is about 1 GB RAM per 1 TB of disk space, just for the file system itself. Also, it works much better on a 64-bit system than on 32-bit, which probably pretty much rules out any system of the OP's system's vintage. However, with 80 GB of storage it should fit nicely within a few hundred MB of RAM at most, including some room for the OS itself. – a CVn Sep 3 '13 at 13:55
  • @MichaelKjörling my last paragraph recommends NAS4Free in case of low hardware, ast its requirements are less intensive. – That Brazilian Guy Sep 3 '13 at 14:40

Like Alex pointed, there are dedicated distros for building NAS. check this site for a quick compare for the various distros.

Now you have to think if the energy wasted by one old PC is not too high. Older PC were made to be "fast" and power consumption were not a priority. Newer PCs are usually more green and you may even save money by buying a new "light" PC for it or a dedicate NAS hardware instead.

If you decide to use the old PC, remove everything you don't need (even the graphic card if your MB allow it)

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