NAS for Clunkers: How to turn that old PC into a high tech Network Storage, Web Server, and Torrent Server
Life for your old PC
What to do with that old PC. What to do – what to do – what to do? How about using it for a NAS device?
NAS is “Network Attached Storage”. Better to use that PC for NAS than throwing it in the trash. NAS requires only the most minimal PC resources to serve up Terabytes of storage and provide a huge number of other services across a network.
And what could be better than “free”?
The goal of this posting is simply to get you to look at some free software. The software is called FreeNAS and it can do some amazing things – for Free, and on a PC headed for the trash.
Bottom line on NAS is that it’s storage on the network. It’s storage on the network that can be made available in a multiplicity of ways to just about any operating system (Mac, Windows, UNIX)
What do you need to set this up?
Here is the great part, there is an option of FreeNAS that does not require you to install any software at all. FreeNAS can boot off of a Live-CD. Configuration can be stored on a USB stick. No software to install at all.
Doesn’t need keyboard, mouse, or monitor
Does it get better than this? Yes, once you set up FreeNAS, the PC on which FreeNAS runs does not need a keyboard, monitor, or a mouse. You administer FreeNAS over the network using a standard web browser.
Web Server, Bit Torrent Server, iTunes, and Network Services too
Not only can FeeNAS be network storage, it can also be a web server and handle Bit Torrent for Peer-to-Peer file sharing. It can also do a large number of network services on your network including distribute common iTunes media to any number of PC’s on your home network.
Headed for the trash was a PC with 128MB of RAM and 20GB hard drive. Unfortunately, FreeNAS did not support the network card in this PC. So, fist lesson, if FreeNAS does not have built-in support for the network card in your PC – you are out of luck for instant installation.
The second PC that was on the path to the trash was an e-machines PC with 512MB RAM and a 40GB hard drive. Booting FreeNAS from the live-CD recognized the LAN card – I was in luck.
Without reading too much doc, I was able to get FreeNAS up and running in about 20 minutes. My first pass got me 40GB of NAS storage available via SMB (Windows file share) and FTP. It also got me a web server and a P2P torrent machine
My final configuration is now this old PC running in the basement booting freeNAS from a live-CD, configuration on a USB stick, and 40GB of network storage plus web server plus P2P file sharing via it buil-in Torrent capability.
If you are a P2P Torrent person then you will appreciate this. That PC hums along in the basement (where other servants of the household live) getting my long running Torrents endlessly and unattended. The Torrents go to a a folder that I have shared via Windows file shares on FreeNAS. From the web interface to FreeNAS I can check on progress, pick up the files, and start new Torrents remotely. What a world!
My next project is to get iTunes/DAAP working so I can share my repository of multi-media throughout my home network.
Sometimes tiny changes in language make all the difference in the world. At one company I met a woman that made a slight change in a commonly used term. Instead of “To do” lists she made “GO do” lists. I now use this term. “Go do” is proactive. “To do” is something destined for an uncertain time in an uncertain unplanned future – something that may never get done in a time that may never arrive.
So the message here is “Go do”. Give FreeNAS a try.
Gallery of my setup
I took screen shots during the 20 min it took me to set this up. Your mileage may vary.