Subscriber Richard Game writes, "Gizmo, I’ve come across some software that allows you to convert an old PC into a mass storage device by adding one or more additional hard drives. The software replaces the normal operating system so you don’t need Windows or Linux. It’s not free but I could not be bothered to figure out all the packages and configuration I would need to do this on a normal Linux box to compare the price. Using this software it took only 15 minutes to have an old 500Mhz Dell PC acting as a NAS server. Once the NAS server is attached to a Windows network each drive on the server is detected and labeled automatically within the Network Neighborhood. It doesn’t get any simpler than that – the best $30 I have spent in ages." Great find, Richard. It’s a good use for an old PC and the economics are really attractive. For example, four 250GB drives should cost you less than $280 and when you add the $30 cost of the server operating system you end up with a terabyte of storage for $310! That’s quite enough to rip most CD collections in uncompressed WAV format or store more than 120 DVD movies. And you can use any old Pentium PC as long as it’s got a fast network card and plenty of drive bays. Another attractive feature is that you are relieved of the normal operating system maintenance requirements for the server. For example, there’s no need for Windows updates. On the downside, you are limited in your security and disk management options compared to a server running a full operating system but for home users this is not a big issue. Of course, similar results could be achieved by using a series of external USB drives but then you have the additional cost of the drive enclosures plus the complexities of separate power supplies for each. Additionally, external drives will put more load on the host PC compared to using a separate server. Commercial software, various prices up to $29.95.
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