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I've often heard of people starting up server rooms from spare computers on their own. How would one do this? Is it possible to take a normal router and a few computers and create a server? If so, how?

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closed as too localized by Mark Henderson Dec 15 '11 at 1:01

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If you have enough computers and some unenclosed space, you can disassemble them and then bend the cases into any shape wall or ceiling you need. Since the cases will define the room, save the innards for use as the servers. Sandpapering where the cases meet and welding is better than using hooks -- but sometimes you have to use whats available. For internet you can use a pringles can with a dipole in the back, as someone always has an open wifi nearby. –  Paul Feb 25 '10 at 15:28
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This thread might interest you, too: serverfault.com/questions/63515/… –  Matt Simmons Feb 25 '10 at 17:32

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A server is more of a subjective term. A computer running Windows XP and IIS serving up web pages is just as much a server as is a $6,000 Dell server.

The real question here is, what is yuor goal for your server(s)? Serving up media to your tv or xbox? Hosting websites? VPN access to your home network? The setup of your home server and network really depends on your goals.

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You can recycle an old computer into a server as follows:

  1. For your "server room", set up networking and/or internet first. I don't know what you want or what you have already. With residential internet providers there may be bandwidth caps or server restrictions. In my area, cable modem for residential is good. Run your network through a D-Link or other home networking box. The server should attach to the D-Link with an actual ethernet cable -- try not to use wireless for the server if you can avoid it. Wireless computers like laptops can still access the server via wireless through the D-Link box. You don't necessarily need to get internet service if this is for an internal network at a small business -- a D-Link is sufficient to create a non-internet network for a small business -- but then you won't have updates, external email, access to external websites or access for external visitors, etc. But I can imagine worksites where this would be a good thing... If you are cheap the trick with the pringles can (or a small yagi or dish -- use good coax like LMR400 not the crap they distribute with most wifi verticles) really does work, but then you need your server to also be your network router and that's a trickier setup, beyond the scope that I'd advise for a beginner.
  2. Either buy a new hard drive or look through the old hard drive for stuff to save. We will be erasing the hard drive.
  3. Download an Ubuntu .ISO file from www.ubuntu.com and create a CD from that. Although Ubuntu server editions has what you need for a web server, file server, etc... you can also start with desktop edition and add the server programs to it. If you can't follow the directions for making the CD from the ISO file, that is not a good sign because servers are complicated. But if you want help getting past this step, you can buy the CD for less than $10 from cheapbytes.com or any of a number of advertisers found by visiting distrowatch.com
  4. If you have problems running the booted install disk, and have some really ancient computers, you can go back to linux as it existed 10 years ago. And I bet someone would still sell you a CD for less than $10 with the old linux on it. Or you can find old linux books with CDs on eBay. Unless you are trying to create a museum, though, you'd be better off replacing anything more than ~6-8 years old.
  5. Once you have the install disk booted and running, choose the defaults and let it erase the hard disk and install everyting.
  6. When it asks about networking, assign each server a static IP address starting with something like 192.168.0.2 -- and is compatible with your home network box. It may also ask for netmask, which is 255.255.255.0, gateway -- likely 192.168.0.1, and bcast, likely 192.168.0.255.
  7. If you want an internal or practice server, you are mostly done.
  8. To attach your server to the outside world, go to the home networking D-Link or similar box. Most have a web interface. Change the settings for Port Forwarding to forward web (port 80) or other traffic to the server at 192.168.0.2 (or other). Your server will have two addresses. 192.168.0.2 is the internal address. The WAN address on the D-Link box is assigned by your ISP. That's your external address... the one people would use to access the server from outside your local network.
  9. The server may tell you about updates that can be installed. Always install the updates, they are important for security.
  10. Go get some books so you can learn more about what you are doing. Paying for O'Reilley Safari book service is one way to get access to lots of books.

Good luck!

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Keep in mind that running several old computers at the same time will generate heat and can really run up your electric bill. –  Paul Feb 25 '10 at 16:13

You don't really need a dedicated room to setup a sever in your house/apt. In the past, I just used some spare hardware from old desktops and stuck it in a case under my desk. From there I just connected it to my local network and accessed/admin'ed it remotely from my main computer. I used it for file sharing and as computer to learn Linux on when in college. One thing I really think you should come up with is a goal for having a server at home. Is it to learn or do you have a specific reason for wanting one setup? What OS do you plan on using? I believe that if you have the server fit a function, it is going to make the whole process of getting it setup more rewarding in the end.

In short, yes, you can create a server out of any computer. You can plug it into your home router and forward any needed ports if you want to access it from the outside world. If I was personally going to set up a server at home, I would get an Intel Atom based computer with power energy-efficient PSU and install Gentoo Linux on it and configure it to act as a NAS for my entertainment center.

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gentoo linux is hard for a beginner. All that compiling. I'd suggest Ubuntu. An old electricity-guzzling computer may or may not be faster than a new atom-based one, but atom sacrifices performance to get that energy efficiency. –  Paul Feb 25 '10 at 15:41
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That is why I said "If I was personally going to set up a server at home". Yes, it is harder but if you truly want to learn Linux in and out, installing Gentoo is going to net you greater amounts of knowledge than just letting Ubuntu do the job for you. I learned the most back in the day installing/breaking Gentoo than with any other distro out at the time. I will note that the Gentoo forums and documentation are great for those who want to learn Linux and are self starters. –  jdoss Mar 2 '10 at 20:55