Front-page article: Building your own file server

There was a recent article on the front page about building your own file server. There were lots of comments/questions about the article and I thought that the Forums would be a better place to handle the discussion rather than the article talkback.

I built a file server out of older parts in a very similar fashion to the author. Almost all of the parts were gotten from computers that were being thrown out at a local computer shop:

CPU: Intel Pentium III 1.0B "Coppermine" Socket 370
Motherboard: Shuttle Spacewalker MV25N micro-ATX (VIA PLE133 chipset)
RAM: 2x128 MB unbuffered, non-ECC PC100 SDRAM (this board does support ECC memory, though.)
Heatsink: Antec New Solution Socket 370/A 60 mm heatsink (purchased for $13)
Case: Some butt-ugly ASUS red and black mid-tower ATX case with 6 3.5" HDD bays
Fans: 2x Enermax Enlobal 80 mm intake fans (purchased, $7 each)
Power supply: 300 W Lite-On ATX12V
SATA controller: SYBA 4-port SiI 3114 SATA-150 PCI card (purchased, $30)
Ethernet: Generic Realtek R8169-based PCI GbE card (purchased, $10)
OS HDD: Seagate Momentus 5400.3 2.5" SATA notebook drive scavenged from a dead laptop
Data HDDs: 3x WD Caviar SE16 250 GB SATA desktop drives from an older build
OS: Debian Linux 5.0, i686 version.

The unit doesn't have ECC memory as I simply used what the unit had in it. Everything is also 32-bit 33 MHz PCI-based as this unit was free and a unit with PCI-X or PCI Express slots would have cost money. Nor does it have multiple CPUs as it would have cost money to find a dual-CPU or dual-core motherboard. I have a similar OS-based RAID as the author does to set the three 250 GB units up in RAID5. The performance is not stellar but I can get about 30 MB/sec reads and 18 MB/sec writes to the array as the cheap little SATA controller card bottlenecks the system on writes (not the CPU) and the cheap R8169 gigabit card bottlenecks the system on reads (not the CPU.) However, the unit cost all of $67 and works well enough for backup purposes that I am not going to complain one bit.

I have built much nicer file servers for others with much better components, so if anybody has any questions about how to do so, please feel free to ask here.
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  1. Sounds reasonable, but you are doing both network and I/O on the PCI bus. So that means both have to wait for eachother (shared access) which explains your lower scores. But nevertheless a nice system for little money.

    Unfortunately, old hardware may consume more power than newer hardware. This is primarily because all the power optimizations are only present in the newer hardware, and old power supplies can be very inefficient. For example, i built a low power client which draws only 35W when idling, but when connecting it to a no-name 300W PSU i had been lying around, the idle draw increased to 65W!
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