Why would anyone need a personal server?
I keep reading about people using their old computers as servers. What do people need personal servers for? I have an old Pentium 4 3.0Ghz computer that I don't know what to do with. Could I make this a server? And, more importantly, do I want to?
Well, currently i have 6 computers running at home...
Gaming machine - play games on and generally net surfing
Fileserver - running on Server 2003 64bit contains my RAID controller for all my storage (3.18TB, ISOs, music, tv, movies etc.), also serves as a torrent downloader, WSUS box
Domain Controller - Running on Server 2003 32bit, runs DNS, DHCP, Exchange and DC.
SCCM box - Running Server 2008 32bit, running my SCCM environment (System Centre Configuration Manager) and will soon be used for VM's
The other 2 are simple HTPC's one for lougne and other for bedroom.
I know this is a fair bit and most will never use that kind of thing. I use this environment at the moment to train/self learn to hopefully pass some Microsoft certifications to get a better job (more money). If i wasnt doing that i would probably get away with 3 machines and just have a HTPC, Gaming and the fileserver. If you dont have to store alot of files and your not interested in learning environments its probably not worth having a server at all for personal use.
EDIT: Unless you have a dedicated task to do in everyday life your more than likely wont need anything.
I have a filesever at home that can download all the things I can't get here at the University. That way, I can use an encrypted VPN to send files here, and they don't know what the files are. That server also allows me (and my family) to share files.
I also have two other machines that are webservers and web backup machines.
Personal servers are awesome. I use mine for file storage and vent, it's hooked up to my HD TV so I use it for netflix and a DVR as well. I'm always screwing with my main machine. (reformats, various raid and virtual machine setups and hardware upgrades.) it's nice to have the 1 PC in the house I can count on to work.
I keep my server in my home office closet. I use it for FTP, hosting games when I play with friends, I have ventrilo and TeamSpeak on it just for the heck of it. I also use it as a print server, and most importantly to back up my NAS that I have in raid-1. Since I'm a digital pack rat I figured why not back up the back up.
There are many types of server and all have their uses. From a webserver (not so useful these days with the capabilities of the better routers) to a full on domain server (imagine having all your PCs route your user files, settings, internet history etc. to one centralised point) to a media server (for videos and music to be available to all machines, streaming to non-PC devices [XBox360 etc.]) or even just a backup server to keep backups of other machines on.
To decide if you want/need a server, we'd need to know how many PCs etc. you have, and what they're all used for.
I run a Debian linux box as my home server:
1. LAMP (linux, apache2, mysql, php) web development server to speed my web design work. Also hosts my personal domains that are low traffic.
2. Media storage - all my films on there safely for streaming to my PC, the kids rooms etc. Ditto for the mp3s. For the kids its great - saves clutter and scratched DVDs
3. Connectivity - secure SSH tunnels for VNC, shell sessions and FTP so I can get at my work away from home.
4. Print server
5. Bittorrent client w/remote web access so I can add new files & check progress from out of the house
6. Mail server (w/anti spam & anti-virus)
7. Counterstrike: Source server
8. Virtual server test mule - I've been experimenting with VMWare for work and have a couple of Windows Server 2003 r2 virtual machines running on it.
9. Back in the day when I was an Everquest addict, it took the data from my traders log, parsed it and posted it into MySQL so I could see real-time sales stats over the web - how sad is that!
Knew I'd forgotten something
I always wonder why everyone has such massive hard drives on their desktops - I'm quite happy with 250gb or less - then I realise without my server I'd need a multi-tb setup on each of the PCs in the house...
It's an AMD dual core (low power 2.3ghz cores I think from memory) with 4GB ram and a multi-TB RAID 5 array for storage + RAID 0 small array for the O/S running Debian 64bit. Everything I've listed here runs extremely well, the only time it is really tested is if I fill the CS:S server with 30 bots. When CS:S goes multi-core for bot AI I might upgrade to a phenom, but for now I don't need any better.
Thanks for the replies.
I do download stuff. But I'm not short on space or have an HDTV. If I wanted to have a server to download torrents and connect multiple computers to one printer, what would I need? I have a friend that works at Microsoft that can get me Server 2003 cheap. I also have a Pentium 3 with 384mb, and a Pentium 4 3Ghz with 1gb. Would either of these work or should I just scrap to whole idea?
To download torrents - utorrent is fast and very lean, supposedly runs on 486 and up.
For printer sharing, a P3 is certainly enough.
For your server Operating System, the P3/384M can really bog you down. It's sufficient to run Windows 2000 SP4, but depending on how old that computer is, you may have a headache with hard drive size limits and interface, even under NTFS.
The only reason I'm staying away from the P4 @ 3 GHz is it's a power hog, especially for a 24/7 system. Otherwise it's more than capable of Server 2003 and you'd only need to pay attention to hard disk interfaces.