I have a old desktop computer that I want to make a home server for file sharing purposes. It has 512 MB RAM and few GB of hard drive. Which operating system should be reasonable for this kind of slow system.

4 Answers 4


FreeNAS or OpenFiler Both are designed for sharing files and both are free.

I use FreeNAS, it is easy for me and I like the features. I say give them both a try.

  • I can give it a try. My other 3 laptops have Windows 7 and Win XP installed. They will be accessing the old machine server for files and stuff.
    – user13997
    Jan 12, 2010 at 15:20
  • My Windows machines have no problem with FreeNAS. After configuring your drive(s), you need to enable the CIFS service, then next to the CIFS settings tab is a Shares tab. That is where you share the drive(s). Their webpage has some good walkthroughs (freenas.org/documentation:setup_and_user_guide:cifs). What I like is you can have a recycle bin on the shares, and you don't need to do updates and AV as much as another Windows box. Just turn it on and it works. Hope this helps. Jan 12, 2010 at 16:48
  • @ScottMcClenning I think Ubuntu would be a good option too. Especially with a 512 ram limit.
    – Colyn1337
    Apr 29, 2014 at 19:23

Only a few Gigs?

A linux distro would work I guess but adding even a 40 gig in there would greatly expand your options.

  • I will double check on gigs but the hard drive space might be okay.
    – user13997
    Jan 12, 2010 at 3:38
  • 2
    It's easy enough to pop in a "new" old harddrive to increase the OS disc space. Jan 12, 2010 at 3:41
  • probably best to look for a "server" version instead of a typical "desktop" version of whatever distro looks good (ie, Ubuntu server instead of normal Ubuntu) Jan 12, 2010 at 4:44

I run a web/file server on a PIII 450 with 640mb of ram. For a 'pure' fileserver, freenas is nice, else going for a cli only install of ubuntu works well. Hardwarewise, you'd need at least one network port, naturally, and you could set up the box headless, doing admin tasks via openssh. I'm using less than 100 mb of ram right now with a file/web server based off ubuntu so... yeah, it would probably work


An OS such as Minix would fit, but it's not clear if you can do any more than learn about OS internals.

This is what Minix was designed for.

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