First post here and my goal is to build a small, C H E A P, server for my home that would connect and serve as a file back-up and LAN for three computers throughout my household.
What would be the best way to go about this? I read the DIY rack mount server article recently posted but that seems a bit much for what I need, I already have an old 15" monitor and a friend of mine has a copy of windows server 2003 that he said I could use.
We are currently connecting at 40 Kbps on our dial-up so connection sharing isn't a priority but I would like to have it easly upgradable to a broadband router solution once BB is avaiable at my house.
What I am looking for is a list of very cheap components that would suffice. IE. case, MB, dvd-rom, and processor.
For a home file server you really dont need much. If you can scrounge an old PIII computer and a big case that will be enough. If you feel you need more power just go for a dual PIII server, that would be more than enough.
The new Hitachis are probably more reliable than the old deskstars but I still dont trust the much. If you want serious reliability I'd go with Seagate. I've only seen one dead seagate in my entire life, I recieved it with a pcb board that looked like it was stabbed with a screw driver. It was definatly done by the retailer and not seagate. Amazingly the drive still powered up, the computer just didn't see it.
What you're looking to do could be easily handled by an old Pentium 233 MMX system. So rather than build, I'd buy something cheap. Most PIII systems support drives as large as 128GB natively, and larger drives if you add a cheap interface card.
My last system doing that type of work was a Gateway PIII system with a PIII 700 upgrade processor, 384MB SDRAM, and 3 network cards. It worked spectacularly.
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For fileserving you could try installing Slackware (the fastest Linux distro) on an old P3 or Athlon system.
For a new build you can't beat a Athlon Sempron+loads of DDR RAM (its cheap these days). I've got Router build round an Athlon XP 2000+. Its overkill but what the hell :-).
Slackware, i.e. GNU/Linux (2.6 kernel), has many advantages over Windows 2003 Server. For example you won't get Windows 2003 Server running on the older system the other guys are suggesting here... no way!! Windows 2003 Server needs the same hardware specification as Windows XP (they are practically the same OS).
GNU/Linux allows you to run from a light shell-only setup (for a low memory system) or a very light windowing system.
Setup a Samba server on the Linux box and you're setup!! Linux has buildin firewalling tools in the Kernel. Later on when you get broadband (dial-up - poor you :-)... You can add bandwidth shaping QOS on the Linux box (I run this on mine)... Great for sharing a low-end BB connection if someone decides to run P2P software 24/7 :-)
As for harddisks I only use Hitachi for PATA disks... For PATA drives they can't be beaten for performance (they are the fastest period). I've never had one die on me either and I have them running 24/7 (well except for the time I tried reversing the +12 and +5v lines - the RMA was painless though - NB that will kill even the best U320 SCSI drives :-).
So in summary:
* GNU/Linux not Windows (Windows is for the desktop NOT for servers - I have a copy of Windows 2003 Server and its only Windows XP Pro with a few rather poorly written bolt-ons)
* Athlon Sempron+512Mbyte DDR (RAM) minimum - new build (better disk buffering with more RAM)
OR AMD K6/P3 (minimum) - 2nd hand
* Hitachi Deskstar PATA are the fastest parallel ATA disks out there - active cooling is v. important for server harddisks (especially Hitachi they run hot and will die very soon without active air or water cooling :-)