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Current Recommendations For a Home File Server? 170

j.sanchez1 writes "The recent coverage of Shuttle's new KPC has gotten me thinking (again) about a small, low-cost headless file server for home. In the past, I have looked at the iPaq and considered using older computers I have lying around, but for various reasons I have never jumped in to do it. Do you guys have any suggestions on what to use for a home file server (hardware and software)? The server would be feeding files to Windows PCs and connected to the network through a Linksys WRT54GL running DD-WRT firmware." There are a host of good options these days; what has the best bang for the home-user's buck?
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Current Recommendations For a Home File Server?

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  • by krog ( 25663 )
    did you really need to ask?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )
      Not quite. There are a lot of caveats.

      Cheap PCs suck rotten eggs on cooling. Your drives will go very hot.

      One good option is cheap PC and an ICY BOX SATA enclosure. They are 30-50£ for 3-5 drives fit in 2-3 standard 5" slots and keep drives within 5C above ambient with virtually no noise.

      Another option are Antec Sonata cases. They have 4 very well cooled hard disk slots. If you chose the right 12cm fans it is once again totally quiet.

      As far as the MB, etc they can indeed be as cheap as they get. I am
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:28PM (#21989544) Homepage Journal
    I went to newegg and just built the system from scratch. I got 5 SATAII 250GB disks (the sweet-spot at the time for price per MB) in a tower with a run-of-the-mill motherboard, CPU and RAM. I didn't go headless entirely from the gate, but once I installed Linux, I never connected the monitor again. Simple software raid is enough for my purposes, and I didn't bother mirroring the root disk (which I can always just replace and re-install).

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      Ok, but how cheap can you make your file server and still get good performance out of it? Software RAID costs cycles. How beefy of a CPU do you actually need though? Does 64 bit help, or is an old Athlon XP plenty? 1 core or 2? How much ram is necessary? Are there certain chipsets that are better than others at maxing out your SATA bandwidth? There are a lot of things to take into consideration when building a PC file server.
      • by Yosho ( 135835 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:46PM (#21989880)
        Software RAID costs cycles.

        Only a very small amount -- if you're using this computer simply for file storage, especially with 100 Mbit ethernet as your primary means of connection, you will never even notice the tiny slowdown caused by software RAID. An old Athlon XP with 256 MB of RAM are just fine, although if you want to do something like turn that file server into a web & e-mail server, you might want to bump it up to 512 MB. None of those things are computationally intensive at all, unless your server gets a ton of traffic; even then, you'll probably be limited more by your I/O speed than your CPU. A 64-bit processor won't help you at all if you're not doing any sort of scientific computing and you don't need to use more than 4 GB of RAM.

        Heck, for years I ran a personal server on an old 450 MHz K6-III with 512 MB of RAM and three hard drives in a RAID 5. The only time I noticed any lag at all was when doing SSL negotation or when it was running a certain PHP-based webmail program on it. I upgraded it just this last year to an Athlon XP 2200+ with 1 GB of RAM, and I never even come close to making the CPU max out, and I'm also running a VPN server and spam filter on it.
        • by ajs ( 35943 )

          Software RAID costs cycles.

          Only a very small amount

          This is true. It's also true that many solutions that claim to be "hardware raid" are actually software raid with minimal hardware support. If you're cranking vast amounts of data through the system that's either locally generated or that's coming in over multiple 100MB or single GigE, then you might get a performance win out of hardware XOR calculation, but with a large L2 cache, you won't notice the difference until you start pushing much more data.

          It's also true that using the CPU for such calculations

      • by Bandman ( 86149 )
        This is a home server, though. Data viability should be the main requisite, then space, then speed, all tempered by cost.

        Honestly, I'd probably just go with a home NAS. That way you don't even have to screw with it beyond a web config.
        • by harrkev ( 623093 )
          NAS boxes are not all that they are made out to be. Keep in mind one thing: they are made to be cheap. This means relatviely low-end processors in them. You are also stuck with whatever protocols that they happen to have.

          I hope to soon gather enough junk hardware to build a FreeNAS box. This is based on BSD, and one of the totally cool thing is that it is also an rsync server. I have not seen an out-of-the-box NAS that supports rsync.

          Very often, these NAS boxes are also small, which means small fans th
          • by Bandman ( 86149 )
            Trust me, I'm definitely not a huge fan of NAS. I've got a Snap server or two that I would *LOVE* to throw into the street and run over. I'm just at the point with computers that I don't want to have to screw with it.

            An rsync server would be cool. All I really want is NFS that doesn't f*ck up the permissions.
        • What about noise and power comsumption? For me, these are the most important things for a computer that will be on 24/7.
      • Ok, but how cheap can you make your file server and still get good performance out of it?

        With modern motherboards (which means PCIe with the SATA ports not running through the old PCI controller), Software RAID is perfectly viable for saturating a 1Gbit NIC. And probably with enough disks, capable of saturating 2 or 3 gigabit NICs.

        Basically, take a motherboard like Asus M2N-E (with 6+ SATA plugs), the $75 Athlon64 X2 chip, and 2GB of RAM and you'll have pretty much an overkill system for not a whole l
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      Ok, here's another question. What case would you use? Biggest concern, lots of hard drive bays and the ability to keep them all cool. Is it worth while to go for a server case?
    • My preference for home servers of the fire-and-forget variety is to do RAID1 across 3 disks. That means RAID'ing all partitions (including the swap partition).

      Why 3 disks? Because home setups tend to get looked at maybe once a month, and a lot of folks forget to turn on mdadm array monitoring or to setup the box as a postfix null server so that it can e-mail out reports. With the 3rd disk, you have a much larger window during which to discover a drive failure before you lose everything.

      (And if you're
  • deja vu (Score:5, Informative)

    by CodeMunch ( 95290 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:28PM (#21989548) Homepage
    You could always refer to the recent Ask Slashdot [] on this very topic.

    The Linksys NSLU2 [] is a little slow & not very intuitive but I just replaced my home file server (Athlong 1.4Ghz, 512MB, yaddahaddah) with one of these. There is a big fanbase for this little device and 3rd party firmware [].

    • by harrkev ( 623093 )
      The last I heard, the NSLU2 will NEVER spin down the hard drives. This may accelerate the wear on the bearings, and cause premature failure. Drives also consume more power while spinning.

      It has been a couple of years since I have checked up on this, though. Perhaps a firmware upgrade has fixed this problem.
      • Re:deja vu (Score:5, Interesting)

        by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @08:03PM (#21992976) Homepage Journal

        The last I heard, the NSLU2 will NEVER spin down the hard drives. This may accelerate the wear on the bearings, and cause premature failure. Drives also consume more power while spinning.

        Actually, what I learned a long time ago (in a technology-land far, far away) is "never shut down your equipment." The only times hard drives and other computer hardware experience physical wear is startup, shutdown, and under G force loads.

        A spinning platter running on new bearings essentially maintains bearing-on-lubricant-on-bushing contact the entire time it is on, and has zero wear. But when the platter is spun down, the bearings will of course stop. At that time the bearings "poke through" the lubrication layer, causing metal-on-metal contact. Over time the weight of the platters on the bearings will cause microscopic deformations to be created on the surfaces of the bearings. These no-longer-round bearings then have high spots that also poke through the lubrication layer, causing metal-on-metal contact while the drive is spinning. This becomes a source of vibration, which leads to more metal-on-metal contact, causing wear.

        There are other physical reasons to not shut down your computer, too.

        Surge currents are a problem. They occur in a hard drive because a stopped motor takes much more torque to spin up than a running motor. That means that a component which is spec'd to carry the running current of the motor, say 80ma, has to temporarily provide startup current of perhaps 200ma. Most components can handle that much extra current for a very small amount of time, but a marginal component may fail under the extra stress. Avoiding power surges maximizes the life of those components

        There is another source of wear that people often ignore, and that is thermal stress. Powering equipment up causes it to heat up, expanding the materials it's made of. And all materials have different coefficients of expansion -- aluminum expands quite a bit more per degree than steel, and both expand much more rapidly than ceramics and fiberglass. When a computer is powered off and cools down, everything shrinks at its own rate -- traces on the circuit boards, soldered joints, the case, the screws holding the heat sink to the motherboard, the gold wires connecting the chip package to the die, everything. That's the only mechanical wear these otherwise solid state components will ever have. The more heating/cooling cycles, the more often they will tug at each other, causing wear.

        However, many things have changed since I learned this stuff. The technology of hard drives is vastly different than it was when I learned this; especially the properties of the lubricants that are now used. Also, cheap hard drives may have poor bearings to start with, and may already be vibrating when you purchase them (sound is a good way to detect this -- a good drive is a silent drive.) Hardware designers who are building quality equipment specify components with the capacity to handle the thermal and electrical stresses. And energy efficiency is of concern to everyone. But unless it's really crap gear, I'd suggest that powering down to attempt to preserve the longevity of your equipment might not be the appropriate answer.

      • In addition to the points made by the other posts above, I want to point out that for many applications you probably want to use a solid state drive anyway. My NSLU2 has a 16 Gb flash drive as its storage ($150), and that's big enough to hold my whole music collection in mp3 format. The flash drive is more compact than a spinning platter, and uses less power.
    • by shani ( 1674 )
      I second this recommendation. I put Debian [] on mine and now it's totally intuitive. :)
    • My NSLU2 is running Debian Etch, serving music to Roku Soundbridges and iTunes clients 24x7 with Firefly Media Server / mt-daapd. I administer it via ssh (passwordless with keyed access), and since it's on 24x7, I'm thinking about implementing local (in the house) DNS ('cause I'm tired of dicking around with hosts files on six machines).

      When it spins down the Maxtor One Touch, it's using 2 watts. When it's running full out, disk and Slug are using 6 watts. I have the whole thing on a closet shelf next to m

    • I have an NSLU2, and am very happy with it. Some reasons to prefer it over something like the KPC: it's less than half the price, it only draws 4 watts, and it's the size of a paperback book. I think it's important to understand what "slow" means in the parent post. It doesn't mean that it's slow as a file server, it means that it's got a slow cpu. Serving up files is not a cpu-intensive job, so the slow cpu has no impact of file-serving performance. I'm using it as a music server, and decoding an mp3 only
  • by AP2k ( 991160 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:29PM (#21989556)
    Boy, do I have a site you need to check out! []
  • There's a story right [] after this on on the KPC [] which is $200. You could swap out the HDD for a half terabyte $100 cheapy from Microcenter or rebated somewhere. I believe the motherboard has gigabit ethernet []. Although I can't say for sure. I think this is as cheap as you can go without a used/DIY idea and on top of that, it will take up hardly any space.

    If you're concerned about heat around the HDD, I would simply suggest a DIY project that moves the HDD to its own enclosure with heat sinks and fans
  • by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:32PM (#21989598)
    Drag that old PII out of the closet and install Linux and Samba on it, maybe upgrading the HDD a bit first. I also use my primary home server a firewall, caching DNS server, transparent web proxy (Squid), voice-over-ip/ultra-advanced answering machine (Asterisk), and for experimenting with various web projects.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ivan256 ( 17499 )
      I'm as much... Scratch that... I'm more of a hardware pack-rat than most people judging by the hundreds of pounds of obsolete rack-mount equipment in my basement, and I'm all for re-purposing obsolete hardware. However a home server is the wrong place to do it, especially if saving money is your primary goal. A well-selected modern machine, especially an underclocked machine, with a new energy efficient power supply will pay for itself in energy savings against an old Pentium [123] in less than a year. And
    • by Jim Hall ( 2985 )

      Certainly re-using an old PC workstation as a file server (especially after adding storage) running some distro of Linux is a good suggestion. If the original poster doesn't mind setting up the environment (I think he's ok with it) then this is a very cheap, effective solution. But the original poster also said he considered re-using older hardware and had decided not to.

      What I did in my house was buy a low-end MacMini ($600) with extra external storage ($180) and enable SSH. I have a home network with wi

  • Buffalo Linkstation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:35PM (#21989670) Homepage Journal
    I've considered a Buffalo Linkstation with a custom Linux distro. []
    • That's what I use -- a little 250GB LinkStation Pro with a DriveStation (250GB external USB hard disk) as a backup drive for the file server. It works wonderfully.
      • by bjpirt ( 251795 )
        Me too (but without the drivestation), and you can install the full debian arm distro on it without having to take it apart. It's quiet, low powered and so far has been very reliable.

        Highly recommended.
        • by bjpirt ( 251795 )
          Oops - meant to link to the information about hacking the device. Here you go []
        • I also have a Compaq Proliant 2500 with Mandrake 8.2 on it playing fileserver, but three 18GB disks just don't go very far these days. :-) Besides, the LinkStation was great -- just plug it in, plug in the network cable, turn it on, and use a browser on some other machine to bring up the web-based control interface. It's really easy.
    • by eap ( 91469 )
      The LinkStation is a convenient choice because it allows you to connect another USB hard disk, and do automatic backups from the internal disk to the USB disk. If you can get by with daily backups instead of RAID, this is a great choice due to its simplicity.

      As mentioned, the Linksys NSLU2 is also worth checking out. At $89, the price is good, but you will have to buy a USB hard drive for it. If you want automatic backups, you'll need two hard drives.

      I have both, and I prefer the LinkStation. The proces
  • Windows Home Server (Score:3, Informative)

    by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:35PM (#21989676)
    Say what you like about Microsoft, but they appear to have finally made a decent product here. You can buy an OEM copy through Newegg for $169. Then slap it on any machine you like. It's got built in support for automatically backing up all of your files. If you have multiple HDD's in your server you can specify at the folder level which folders should be copied onto multiple drives (for redundancy should one of your HD's fail). It's also got nifty support for managing it from outside your home and streaming music, videos and photos to other machines inside / outside of your home. Take a look at it - []
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Applekid ( 993327 )

      Say what you like about Microsoft, but they appear to have finally made a decent product here.
      You must be new here. ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pogopogo ( 464296 )
      It's perfect if you don't mind a little data corruption [] in your backups.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 )
        RTFA. I've researched this issue a lot as an owner of a WHS box. From Microsoft's KB -

        You can still use the Windows Home Server home computer backup to back up and restore files from and to your home computers.

        It doesn't corrupt your backups. Those are fine. The issue only occurs when the machine is under a high load and you save a file to a shared folder on the WHS using one of a handful of applications. It's easy to avoid and they're working on a fix - []

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LMacG ( 118321 )
      That would be the Windows Home Server that corrupts files []?
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      I admire your bravery, sir.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
      Personally I prefer a home server absent of some one else's DRM, when it comes to digital rights, I'd prefer my home server to be looking after and securing mine, so that particular product would not even get a look in.
    • by pla ( 258480 )
      You can buy an OEM copy through Newegg for $169.

      Alternatively, you could flip Billy G the finger, run Linux, and spend cash on another 750GB.

      XP has its place - But "headless home file server" does not match that description. And $169? Why the hell would you pay more for a stripped-down version?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ajehals ( 947354 )
      The minimum system requirements are a 1Ghz or better x86 processor and 512Mb RAM, so whilst they should be easy to meet they are higher than the absolute minimum you could make do with (and obviously you are going to need a x86 box, no using a nice little ARM box or an old PPC Mac). Having said that is apparently runs very well at close to the minimum system requirements. There also seems to be a requirement for a DVD drive and a monitor, which I assume is for the install, so you can probably get rid of b
    • by barzok ( 26681 )
      "Any machine you like" may yield a much hotter, higher power draw device than buying a WHS box off the shelf. []
  • by angus_rg ( 1063280 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:38PM (#21989740)
    Unless you are really hell bent on speed or aren't mirroring, avoid hardware raids. While hardware may be faster, if the raid controller blows up, you probably have to find the same one to replace it since there is no standard on how the data is written.

    If you rebuild your system, reloading the same software for the raid should be cake.
    • A little program called "QueTek File Scavenger" is capable of retrieving files from a broken raid array, given access to the disks and the raid settings (mode (0,1,5,10), stripe size (0,5,10 only), plus parity ordering if raid 5). There are other programs available (e.g raid reconstructor) that can figure out the raid settings given access to the disks, in case you don't know and can't figure it out through trial and error.

      I used both recently to retrieve data from a broken raid-5 array (dead SiI3114 contro
  • For software. (Score:3, Informative)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:40PM (#21989782) Homepage Journal
    For super simple. offers will do the trick.
    Want to get fancy? will do anything you could want.
    For hardware. Well if you have a spare case with a good power supply sitting around you could go with this. []
    It will be low power and is pretty cheap. Just buy some DDR-2 ram and what hard drives you want and your good to go.
    This board does have two slots free so you do have some expansion options for more drives or even a raid if you want.
    If you don't want to build a system then you could get the $199 Walmart Linux PC which uses this motherboard. If you are going to put a lot of drives on it I would still upgrade the power supply.
    You could also pick this up at []
    Or if you want just use what any old PC you have.

    It all depends on what you want to do. There are some nice small NAS systems that you can just plug in as well.
  • I'd read Microsoft's Brainwashing Children's Book: Mommy, Where Do Servers Come From? [] on Reddit yesterday, saw this headline and counted on more witless conspiracy theories about M$ here. Instead, it's a reasonably useful topic for discussion! I'd think my DNS was screwed up and I'd come to the wrong site if Timothy hadn't oddly followed it up with a semi-dupe on the smae subject.
  • Windows Home Server (Score:2, Informative)

    by willith ( 218835 )
    I've had fantastic luck with Windows Home Server [] since about October of last year. I've got 1.5TB in it (three 500GB Western Digital HDDs) and it serves files via CIFS/SMB over gigabit ethernet. My three Windows PCs, my Leopard iMac, and my Xbox360 can all watch movies, play music, and look at pictures hosted on the server (and access non-multimedia files as well, of course). Further, the client backup/restore offered by WHS is awesome (though Windows-only). Nightly backups of my three PCs, with data de
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I have to agree - Windows Home Server rocks, even with the known (rare) corruption issue out there that is fully documented in the KB someone already mentioned. With the new Power Pack 1 and several new free add-ins, its becoming a really great product, for very little money. Oh, and there is NO DRM :)

      A great site to check out (non MS) is []

  • Low Power (Score:4, Informative)

    by SlashdotOgre ( 739181 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @04:51PM (#21989962) Journal
    I leave my "file server" always on at home, so I wanted to pick up something with low power. I went with the VIA CPU/Mobo/VGA combo from newegg for about $60 a couple years ago. The Via 2000+ C3 is basically like a P3 800MHz, but it's power consumption is ultra low (we're talking half the wattage of its celeron equivalent). I picked up a small form factor shuttle like case from Fry's with a built in PSU (200W I believe), 512MB of PC2100, and have two 250GB HDD's in there. The system is now running Fedora Core 7 (would have preferred Gentoo, but it's kinda pointless to use the binary version of that in my opinion).

    While it's fairly weak compared to modern systems, it has more then enough power for serving files, so I have it set up as my web & email server as well. I also have a UPnP server running to share music/video's to my Xbox 360 & SlimServer for listening to my music collection remotely.

    For a while I ran MythTV on it with a Hauppage 150 card, and it ran fine (could even transcode on the fly to watch live TV in horrible quality on my Motorola Q). I also picked up a battery backup from APC which I configured with nut for when we have rolling blackouts.

    One thing I'd recommend doing is sticking with NFS for file sharing if you have a choice. All major platforms now support it (well I can't speak for Vista, but XP works so I presume it would as well). If you need to share to Windows XP, you need to download the (now free) Services for Unix 3.5 from MS to get their NFS client. I'm not a Mac person, but I know you can mount NFS on those out of the box (at least from the CLI). I use amd (Auto Mount Daemon) for my other Linux systems to auto mount. The performance of NFS blows Samba out of the water, I can stream Xvid on 802.11B with NFS with virtually no issues (can't do that with Samba).

    I should probably note I'm a Unix sys admin at work, so I'm fairly competent in Linux, but with that said I think even a novice could set this all up (exceptions being the email server and MythTV) without too many headaches. I let yum take care of all my system updates and am quite happy with my investment in this system (under $350 total).
    • by nxtw ( 866177 )

      One thing I'd recommend doing is sticking with NFS for file sharing if you have a choice. All major platforms now support it (well I can't speak for Vista, but XP works so I presume it would as well). If you need to share to Windows XP, you need to download the (now free) Services for Unix 3.5 from MS to get their NFS client. I'm not a Mac person, but I know you can mount NFS on those out of the box (at least from the CLI). I use amd (Auto Mount Daemon) for my other Linux systems to auto mount. The performa

      • 480 mbit over gigabit ethernet? That's awful. I regularly see ~110 mbytes/s (= ~880 mbit) through HTTP via gigabit ethernet. I'd post the wget output, but the lameness filter doesn't seem to like that.

  • In the past, I have looked at the iPaq and considered using older computers I have lying around, but for various reasons I have never jumped in to do it. Do you guys have any suggestions on what to use for a home file server (hardware and software)? The server would be feeding files to Windows PCs and connected to the network through a Linksys WRT54GL running DD-WRT firmware."

    It's hard to supply advice without knowing what your requirements are and what the "various reasons" were that prevented you from employing the old PCs you mention. However...

    In my basement, I have an Athlon 800 MHz, with 256 MB of RAM that houses a DVD drive, plus 3 IDE hard drives. A 15GB for the OS and such, and a 500GB and 200GB that are made available on my home network via NFS and Samba. The 200 gig is a "public" drive for people in the house to use. The 500 gig was a media drive until I built a myth box over Christmas, now it's a backup drive. I'm not doing RAID or anything. The machine runs Slackware 11, and is connected to the network on a 100 Mbit LAN.

    Performance is fine. The most taxing I got was when I played my ripped movies from the file server in the basement to my Mac up in the family room. No stuttering or any other issues unless I saturated the link (ie. it couldn't serve two movies at once).

    If you've got old PCs around - I see no reason not to use them. Otherwise, I'd probably just use an inexpensive NAS unless you want more out of the machine. I got Grandpa Otter a NAS for Christmas as he wanted centralized file storage on his LAN, but is not a hobbyist, and didn't want to muck with PC innards.

    Knowing your requirements would produce better suggestions for hardware and software...but for file serving a home LAN - I'm thinking old hardware and any Linux distro will be most economical and get the job done.

  • Why not get a NAS? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cylcyl ( 144755 )
    There are a number of NAS's out there with good file server features. Netgear's new servers sound interesting. Synology also has lots. They come with web server, file streamer. Some even have bittorrent and USB hub for print servers.

    It's not ultracheap (~$500-$600 + HDD cost) but have low power usage compare to any full PCs
  • Synology (Score:2, Informative)

    by Spalti ( 210617 )
    Well, from my own experience, I would recommend one of the Synology [] NAS systems. I'm using a DS207+ [] myself, and while it's probably not the cheapest option, the device is well build, running linux, there is a ssh package available from the manufacturer and it comes with preinstalled mysql+php support. It also supports smb+afp, iTunes Sharing and offers a bunch of other services...
    The only downside at the moment is that the UDMA service is not compatible with my PS3, so no direct streaming right now.
  • Infrant ReadyNAS NV (Score:3, Informative)

    by iiii ( 541004 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:10PM (#21990290) Homepage

    I got an Infrant ReadyNAS NV [], before the company was bought up by NetGear. It's pretty awesome, though not perfect. Real hot-swappable RAID, dynamic reconfiguration, and lots of other good management tools. Looks pretty sweet, fairly quiet. Using it as a print server has always been problematic, tho.

    Also, they seem to have gone up in price [] *quite* a bit. This site says the no-disk one is $1049. I think mine was around $600. I got one with no disks, and found a good deal on two 500GB disks (which were on their approved h/w list) and still ended up under $1200, and that was two or three years ago. But mine didn't have gigabit ethernet. I guess that explains some of the cost increase.

    I set mine up with 500GB of storage, mirrored, and two open bays. I started offloading pix and video and backing up everything else, and a couple years later have not yet had to fill the other bays. But I like knowing I can expand to 1.5TB in RAID5 when I need the space.

    • Buy it without disks, and then start cheap. You can always buy another large set and swap them all out, as long as you select their special raid mode (basically like raid5). Likely you picked up a low-memory one as well (256MB up to 1GB expandable).

      The Infrant rocks, and their support forum is awesome.

      I finally have it streaming to my PS3, which is pretty cool.

      It also supports almost every file share mechanism you want. (NFS, SMB, FTP, WWW, AFP).

      My personal favorite feature is just plugging in my USB flash
    • I'll add briefly to the other reply.

      I don't have one of these ReadyNAS units myself, but I have a friend with an earlier revision. They look very nice.

      Their proprietary X-RAID is quite handy, since you can add drives later on and have the volume dynamically scale up. And being an appliance, it will use less power and be less hassle than a PC. Slightly less flexible, but it supports so many protocols already that it likely does everything you'd need as a file server.

      I personally just use an old Pentium II
      • by pyite ( 140350 )
        Their proprietary X-RAID is quite handy

        And this is exactly why I bought one. It's good enough. I had a power supply fail, but they replaced it under warranty no problem (I fell in a range of bad serial numbers). Coincidentally, the reason I originally bought one is the reason I'm going to get rid of it. The "proprietary" notion of X-RAID bothers me. I'm going to move to a small server with several drives in RAID-Z on OpenSolaris.

        • Yeah, but anytime you use hardware RAID, your disks and data are usually tied to that specific RAID controller anyhow. So I'm not sure if it matters whether you use RAID5 or X-RAID.

          Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris are definitely interesting options for file servers nowadays though, if you do wish to go with the software route.
          • by pyite ( 140350 )
            Yeah, but anytime you use hardware RAID, your disks and data are usually tied to that specific RAID controller anyhow. So I'm not sure if it matters whether you use RAID5 or X-RAID.

            And this is why I will never use hardware RAID unless it's from a trusted vendor, e.g. EMC.
  • Seriously; cheap, runs out of the box, bare bones and as big as you want it to be. Usually runs some form or Unix and samba. Since it is bare bones it has a small vulnerability foot print.
    • I have had 2 (admittedly cheap-assed) NAS enclosures that died within 6 months of 24-hour operation (the ide drives were fine, just the control card packed in) and a Netgear NAS that got noisy after a couple of months but is still whining away (although it needs power cycling every couple of months). The PII-350 desktop machine, which was old even before it got pressed into service as a server, worked for over 4 years till the psu went pop. The PC could support more simultaneous connections than the NAS en
  • DLINK DNS-323 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lust ( 14189 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @05:22PM (#21990502) Homepage
    A friend just pointed me to this set-up and I'm fairly happy for home:

    DLINK DNS-323
    Two SATA bays. Can slide in the drives w/o tools.
    Print server (USB)
    Can run in RAID0, RAID1, or JBOD (I chose RAID1).
    web interface for config.

    I bought two 512Gb WD drives which were on sale for $119 each.

    Some peculiar behavior if you really want a secure system: passwords couldn't include non-alpha chars!? And it didn't allow spaces in the WORKGROUP name for the samba mount, which isn't an MS requirement.

    But for home use where you're already considered secure and not so worried about multiple users, I find it great having one giant /Storage that the whole network can access.

    The reviews on Amazon are love/hate, I think for the above reasons. Probably not be the best set-up for an office or in The Wild.

    Random review here: []
    • by GRW ( 63655 )
      I just bought one and put two 500Gb drives in it. It also acts as a daap media server, so it is a great place to store all of your mp3 files. Make sure you have the latest firmware before you put anything on it. The older firmware had problems with the ext3 file system. The latest version went back to ext2.
  • Easy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wiseman1024 ( 993899 )
    Anything you can scavenge, with as much RAM as possible (for the system cache), running Linux without GUI and needless stuff (saved RAM goes for the system cache), and the best storage drive you can afford having the size you require. Of course, your priorities as far as storage goes should be:

    1. RAM (make all of it fit in RAM; most expensive; ridiculously fast; will probably require a 64 bit machine). Hint: Google uses pulls the critical stuff off RAM, not hard drives.
    2. Flash storage (excellent for concur
  • Use ZFS if you don't want bit-rot.
    Bad thing is you need to have a 64bit machine and 1Gb min (>= 2Gb recommended) to run it and most file servers are the underpowered machines we keep around when we buy a new machine.
    • I don't think you have to use a 64 bit box for ZFS. It may help performance, but its not a requirement (unless its changed very recently). I have ran Solaris with ZFS in VMware on a 32 bit box before.
      • You are right. I have never ran it because of some bug which preventing it from booting on non SSE machines. But it is not recommended on a 32-bit machine.
  • These are three little things that I learned the hard way from my own home server experiences.

    1. Ventilation - You don't want your hard drives getting hot and crispy. Hard drives tend to break more often when you leave them cooking themselves for a couple of months.
    2. CPU - Software RAID (especially writing to RAID 5) is very CPU intensive. Ideally you'd have a hardware RAID controller, but they're too expensive. Your better off getting a decent CPU that can handle all of the RAID goodness and everythin
    • by pyite ( 140350 )
      CPU - Software RAID (especially writing to RAID 5) is very CPU intensive.

      What in the world? Do you know what CPU function is being used for RAID 5? XOR. It's not CPU intensive at all. It's four NAND gates for goodness' sakes. For most uses, unless you have dedicated storage appliances, like a Clariion or DMX array from EMC, software RAID should be used. If your RAID card fries, you can't be certain that you will be able to replace it with an identical model. You can always load the right version of Linux or
  • Sweet Setup (Score:3, Informative)

    by mathimus1863 ( 1120437 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:18PM (#21991526)
    I've been doing this for quite a while. Put Ubuntu 6.06 and a 300GB HDD into a PII, 400 MHz desktop that's about 8 years old. It works beautifully!

    I use sshfs to mount the server's harddrives on my local computer with full access to samba directories. Then I configured samba to provide a "publicShare" directory, readable and writeable by any computer. Another directory called "fileServe" which is read-only from any computer. I even set up apache on a separate folder and port-forwarding so it doubles as webserver as well.

    Anytime I find anything interesting at all--videos, documents, images, software--I post them to my fileServe directory for everyone else to use. And they typically backup all their stuff and share things with each other on the publicShare since it's publicly-writable.

    I've been running this setup flawlessly for 1.5 years. It's a lot better than paying $15-$30 to have the hardware recycled.
  • Shuttle SD11G5 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Misch ( 158807 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:22PM (#21991592) Homepage
    I know it's a little limiting because it only has 2 internal 3.5" drive bays, but I think the Shuttle SD11G5 could be a good choice. It is a mostly-quiet Intel Pentium-M driven solution with on-board graphics and an external power supply (sort of how a laptop operates.) Power supply is rated at 220 watts, but running pretty barebones, the draw is far less than that.

    I run one with Mandriva on it and do some file sharing on my home network and use it as a print server.
  • by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:32PM (#21991736)
    .. or 'miser' as other people put it, I hate to throw away working computers. Instead, I use them as file servers in the cellar (where i can't hear the fans whirring).
    Even the humble PII has better performance and more simultaneous connections than a NAS enclosure ( or at least the cheap NAS enclosures I have bought ) and lasts a lot longer too.

    My formula for home fileserving : cram an old PC with whatever IDE drives you have to hand and run FreeNAS on it, it will be plenty fast enough for 100megabit lan (which is fast enough for me). Whenever a drive fails, throw it away and put in whatever other (usually much bigger) hard drive is kicking around. When the motherboard fails, rescue the disks and build them into another fileserver.

    RAID? why bother? Build another fileserver and keep your copies on that.

    But what about the noise? Mine are in the cellar, only the spiders and woodworm can hear them.

    Ah, but what about the power consumption? Pah! The heat slightly warms the house, reducing the energy used by the (admittedly more efficient) heating system, and is utterly dwarfed by the power consumption of other crap in the house. Also, a headless PII box uses much less power than you might think. Measure it.

    Anyhoo, _my_ fileservers cost nothing but electicity, hold over a Terabyte and have uptimes of several months, so there :P
  • Older systems have pci bus limits that make useing raid + network slow and they are limited in how much ram they use.

    Build a system get a nforce 570 sli board with dual gig-e port with teaming and tcp/ip offload and amd x2 cpu. DDR2 is cheap now days You also need a low end video card.

    You will need a good PSU if you want to run a lot of disks.
  • For years I used old hardware an cobbled together bits to run my home file server. In the end I felt my time was worth more than the constant restarts due to kernel panics (I suspected the motherboard was going) and the constant forced fsck due to a dodgy hard drive.

    I few years ago I finally bit the bullet and spent AUD 2K on an Asus TS-300 [] pedestal server and have never looked back. In Australia they come with a 3y advance replacement warranty but I'm sure that Asus would offer that in other parts of the w
  • mini-itx and openbsd (Score:3, Informative)

    by capsteve ( 4595 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:48PM (#21992784) Homepage Journal
    IMHO the most important aspects of a file server is uptime and network connectivity. my most recent home server has ftp, nfs, http, ssh, rsync, smb and afp running... on top of openbsd.

    i chose the mini-itx because of the small form factor and low power usage, on-board network/video/sound, without totally sacrificing cpu power. since i use it purely for file storage and retrieval, nothing else, so an 800mhz cpu is fast enough.

    YMMV, but i've run a home fileserver in one form or another for the last 10 years, and i've had better reliability and uptime in the last 6 years with openbsd than any distro of linux(or qnx, solaris, or mac os). i attribute the stability mainly to the source code audits that are performed to discover security bugs. in the course of eliminating security bugs, the secondary effect is more stable builds.
  • An old PC full of hard drives looks cheap, but it will cost you in watts. An old PC server can easily pull 250-400 watts continuously. And don't forget this summer, when you will have to pay twice for the waste heat.

    A better solution is a VIA PC1 board, plus a couple of new drives.

    The "$60 PC 1" [] will only pull 20 watts at max. Combine this with 2 "$250 terabyte drives" [] mirrored, and a small low wattage "$35 case" [] and the "(Free) Linux" [] of your choice,

    You will have a reliable Terabyte server for l
    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Dude a fully loaded gaming rig is going to have trouble pulling 400 Watts! An older CPU with some idling HDD's even with a crappy PSU is probably only going to pull 30-50W. That's still more than an appliance but it's hardly the horror you describe.
  • Xbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monsuco ( 998964 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @09:21PM (#21993810) Homepage
    Ever think of using an origional Xbox. It is fairly easy to hack an Xbox, and deep down an Xbox is just a regular PC with a 700-ish mhz cross between a P3 and Celeron, a hard disk that is either 8 or 10 GB, a Nvidia Graphics card (though 3-D isn't fully supported on Linux), and 64 MB of RAM. For a small file server it works well enough. Most hacked dashes have an FTP server, but you can install Linux (my fave is X-DSL) easily. Some of the distros are rather old though.

    If you don't mind the old hardware, you can usually find an old used Xbox for about $50 at a used game shop. Versions of 007, Mech Assault, or Splinter Cell are usually required to softmod the box, and you can pick those up on ebay for nearly nothing.

  • The CPU and I/O loads on the typical home network server are minimal. Since most servers are a geek's second or third string computer, the typical horsepower for an affordable home server is something like a three or four year old althon. Within a year or two, or if you can afford it now, a Core 2 Duo is perfectly affordable. This opens up the possibility of using its virtualization support for segmentation. Here's my recommendation:
    • RAID-1 2-disk mirroring for user files, music collection, photo collecti
  • I've had an ancient PC running home server stuff for years. For the operating system, it's SME Server, []. A Linux distro that does email (and webmail), SMB for file and print, firewall and DNS cache, web and ftp if you're into that.

    I think the current machine is a Pentium 166 MMX with 128MB of RAM, the hard drive is too small to hold media, but that could be easily fixed. When routers became cheap, I stopped using it as a firewall and NAT.

    That said, I'm planning to replace the box
  • Airport Extreme router: $179
    LaCie 1TB BigDisk Extreme: $369.95
    Boom, file server for under $600.

    The extreme shares files from the drive over SMB and AFP simultaneously and can allow WAN access. Passworded or open access.

  • Home server. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mac1235 ( 962716 )
    My current one is a 150Mhz. I will be upgrading in a few months though. I'm thinking of a refurbished laptop for low power.
  • I used to have a rack-mount AMD server running Fedora but it was way too noisy and I wasn't doing anything useful with it. When the Intel Mac Minis came out I scored a PowerPC model for £199 from my local PCWorld, and finally managed to repurpose it over Christmas by installing Debian 4 (about the only Linux that is distributed and supported for PowerPC at the moment). I added a 250Gb external Seagate drive for my music and video, built Firefly media server for music (supports daapd for iTunes), and V
  • All those people who bought base-configured Asus Eee PCs have so little money invested that I would expect quite a number to upgrade when the larger-screen version comes out. So what will happen to those old machines? I love my Eee but I can't help thinking that by the end of the year, I'll have a different one and this one will be sitting somewhere with an ethernet cable connecting it to my network and 3 USB-connected hard drives hanging off the sides. Sure, performance through the USB connections means
  • Thanks for all the responses! I learned a lot and also heard some things I never thought of.

    Based on [] these [] comments [], I decided to go with this [].

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.