technology and zen of life

“A heisenbug (named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) is a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it.”

Using an old computer as a Network storage

I have been thinking of writing this article for some time now. I am currently planning to do a series of articles describing various ways you can convert an old PC into a useful device. Some of the areas I want to cover are converting the PC into –

  • Movie / MP3 player
  • Network storage device
  • Network hub / monitor / dhcp server

In this article I want to look at converting your computer into a network storage.  First lets look at the basic requirements your system must meet to be able to be used as a network storage

Requirements:

Ethernet card / Wifi
Pentium 3 or higher
512 MB ram
Ample storage (seeing that you want to use it as a storage device!!)

Depending on how you want to use your computer along with using it as a Network storage you can choose either Windows (XP) or Linux as the operating system.

The first step is to have your computer up and running with minimum addons or visualizations. On a windows computer you should disable all visual effects (My computer right click -> properties -> advanced -> Performance settings -> chose for best performance) . After than run the msconfig tool (Run -> msconfig) and disable all unnecessary startup programs and services. On a linux computer if only using as a network storage server I would recommend to boot it up in non graphical interface only (runlevel 3) this can be set up by editing in the file /etc/inittab and making the default run level 3 there.

After you have set your computer to run with minimum addons and it is hooked up to your local network. Next step is to define sharing on the computer to enable remote access to the files. On windows I would recommend turning on advanced sharing, this can be done by going to the windows explorer (shortcut Win + E) and then tools -> folder options and in the view tab under the advanced you will find a tab called “Use simple file sharing” disabling this would enable advanced file sharing. On linux you should start the samba server if it is not already running and then on either of the platforms share the drives/ partitions/folders you want to use for network storage.

If you want ftp access to your files you can also install Filezilla server on your windows machine while on linux enable the default ftp daemon.

Now your basic network storage server should be up and running. If you want to also use it as a remote backup server you can install unison (cross platform). Plus you can always use the full functionalities of the installed operating systems to do additional tasks such as download files from the internet, use raid etc. etc.

A few additional tips:

  1. It is a good idea to give your server a fixed IP
  2. If allowed by your internet provider you can also enable the ftp server to be accessible remotely from the internet.
  3. Install an antivirus software software and enable auto scheduling for virus scans
  4. Keep your storage disks separate to the ones running your operating system
  5. Schedule occasional hard disk checks to ensure their proper workings.

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