I'm building a DIY NAS with an old Pentium4, just wondering what OS should I use ? I'm not really a linux dude, i want something simple and the computer will not be used for anything other than a NAS.... Right now i am using Windows XP but i'm wondering if i should try Windows Home Server or something else ? What are the advantages ?
The advantages of Windows Home Server is that it is a little easier to setup for a Windows only environment. Downsides is it costs money. I've never really used it so I don't know of any other benefits.
*nix based systems are obviously free, and might be a bit harder to setup. However, they run better on older hardware and can easily be setup for a mixed OS environment.
I setup my file/backup server with Ubuntu Server 10.10 (upgraded to 11.04 just recently). My decision to use Ubuntu was based on the fact that I have limited linux experience and wanted something easy, with a large user base to ask questions. I also figured that I could use my server for other purposes. I used Webmin as my interface and while convenient it doesn't make configuring it that much easier. I've also heard of ebox which is supposed to simplify things, but doesn't give you as detailed control. Since I used a dedicated boot drive (8GB CF to IDE) I can easily swap out the OS to anything that supports ext4 and try those out. If I don't like it, then I just re-image my boot drive and everything is working again.
There are other NAS specific OSs to choose from too like OpenFiler and FreeNAS. OpenFiler is linux based and comes with everything you need for a NAS built in. It comes with a web interface for easy setup. Since it supports the ext4 filesystem, if you setup a Ubuntu based server with ext4 data drives you could switch to OpenFiler without having to do something with your data. web interface.
FreeNAS is BSD based and supports the ZFS file system. ZFS allows software raid and dynamically adding disks to the pool. It is a convenient file system for a NAS. It has a web interface built in, and comes with everything you need for a NAS. It is small so it'll fit on whatever you decide to use as a boot drive.
As for which to use, I'd just pick a *nix based system and try it out since there is nothing to lose except some time, but hopefully you'll learn something as you go. One big suggestion I have is that you should image your boot drive as soon as the OS is installed, since you'll probably screw up the settings beyond your own repair. Then you can just re-image the drive and everything is installed again and ready to tweak. I learned the hard way when I had to wait for Ubuntu to install a second time :-P
I didn't catch that you were currently using XP. I thought you hadn't set it up yet, so I was thinking benefits vs various linux servers. There are differences between Windows Home Server and Windows XP as a server. As the name implies it is a Server OS optimized for server use and has some additional server software. It makes adding new disks to a storage pool easier than XP, it probably allows more remote connections, and things like that. For the average home user that only uses 2-3 connections at a time it really doesn't make that much of a difference. If you already have the XP license there is really little reason to switch in my opinion.
Neither Windows or Linux fanboy, but ease of use is probably the only advantage Windows ever had (and DirectX for games). In term of speed, efficiency and customization, Linux has always been a step ahead.
My main OS has always been Windows because I like to know that if anything goes wrong I can have everything reinstalled and running is 1-2 hours, but always worked with Linux because I can actually make it do what I want to do, not just work around what it lets me do.
I am using Fedora 15 for the file server I am in the process of building. While I am capable of dealing with the lower level bits of Linux, I don't really have the time to. With everything I have going on outside of the computer, I don't want to spend my free time compiling and configuring stuff. With Fedora, I get the power of Linux but the warm fuzzy feeling knowing that pretty much anything I want to install has a prebuilt package for it that "just works" without any fuss.
FYI I am not a fanboy either way for Windows or Linux. I want software that works. I have Windows 7 on my desktop and laptop, but Linux on my server. I can use any of the three systems with equal ease. Honestly, they all can do the same things, but the mouse clicks may be different. Meh.
It makes adding new disks to a storage pool easier than XP
Really ? Does that means i can add new disks without having to individually enable sharing on Windows XP like i am doing right now ? I'd like to have some server where i can add disks and it will automatically be shared on my network with full read/write access.... I doubt i can do that with WinXP