Convert Old PC To Network Attached Storage with FreeNas

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convert old pc to nasOne of the biggest problems still plaguing the environment today are the mass amounts of electronics being tossed out on a daily basis. This goes for everything from cell phones to televisions to your outdated stereo system. While stuff like cell phones and iPods can be easily sold, it’s the personal computer that still lacks consistent recycling.

The majority of both business and home PCs are typically either thrown out with the everyday trash, or turned over to one of the few electronics recycling warehouses in your area. These warehouses usually require some type of fee for disposal as well. Until we get some type of environmentally friendly method for computer recycling, I am going to recommend trying your own way. Such as adding that much needed storage to your home or work network. The simplest and cheapest method for doing this is using the open source FreeNAS. With this software you can convert old PC to NAS (Network Attached Storage).

FreeNas is an open source NAS (Network Attached Storage) operating system. FreeNAS does this with simply 32MB of data on a USB flash drive, hard drive or live boot CD. All of the configuration runs in a easy to use web interface and supports a wide range of protocols, including CIFS (samba), FTP, NFS, AFP, RSYNC and iSCSI. It supports both IDE and SATA drives. It also includes software based RAID (0,1,5), allowing you protection on failed drives.


After you have completed downloading the latest FreeNAS ISO image or LiveCD, you simply take your old, but still running PC and boot-up to install the image or simply run it from the Live CD, if that’s what you would prefer. Like I said before, you may also install this onto a compact flash or USB drive as well.

Once installed, you have a large plethora of options to choose from. Even including the ability for Active Directory integration into your Windows based business network.

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The FreeNAS project has been around for a little while, so they already have a pretty good base of users, who can help you out on a moment’s notice. Their website is very easy to navigate, and there is plenty of documentation, and even a wiki on Novell’s site.

So if you have an old PC laying around and you want to convert that PC to network storage, it can’t hurt to download and burn the LiveCD of FreeNAS. Once you get it up and running, your options are limitless. Use it as a multimedia storage device, an FTP server or even as an alternative backup location.

Have any of you used FreeNAS before? Do you have any other suggestions for free Network Attached Storage?

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Comments (37)
  • Ant1

    Re: Energy, I have to say that is top of mind. In Europe electricity prices have been tremendously volatile with a close to 60% increase a year ago in the UK for example.

    That said, it might be conceivable to do something like the following:
    – have down-times i.e. when you sleep and automate a shut-down script
    – then – to wake-up in the morning – one could use the BIOS wake-up with an auto-login script
    – then it could be put in hibernate with a wake-on-lan.
    – yet another idea is that if this is a laptop a timer could be put on the plug such that the battery charges and discharges effectively halving the electricity usage..
    – finally, if it were possible to have FREENAS run as a virtual machine on a machine that is actually doing something of use, it would get rid of the need for a redundant device

    Another solution might be to see if change requests could be put to the FREENAS team to develop power-management solutions at software level.

    Just thoughts. I will admit to not being as knowledgeable as many of you on this forum.

  • drevil

    I use freenas all the time. I put all my music and non-personal files on it. that way I don’t have to hook up a external harddrive or usb drive to other computers. It is very useful.

  • Core

    Its actually kinda odd that people are talking about power here… considering just about all of you are being cooled off or warmed up by a air condition that takes monstrous amounts of power compared to any computer that sombody has that wants to set up for this use >.<

  • Nathan Fiedler

    With FreeNAS 0.7 you get ZFS support, which provides a lot of advantages over standard RAID implementations. If you have two or more disks, you can set up a redundant pool of disks so the loss of one does not mean you lose any data. I’ve got four disks set up in a RAID-Z pool myself.

  • Alberta Hall

    TJ, let me ask this: Can two process monitors that are in differnt parts of the city write to my central office where I put one of these FreeNAS devices? Seems to me that, since this NAS device appears to be a web accessible device, I should be able to redirect the log files that now get written on the local hard drives at these two sites and have them show up on my office computer that has the NAS device on it? Comments anyone? Can this NAS be used to automatically receive data redirected from remote sites?

    • skydvr

      Alberta Hall – I’m not TJ, but…

      If the “process monitors” can access your “central office”‘s network, then there’s no reason why not. A NAS box is just storage that hangs off the network. When you mount it (IE: as a drive letter in Windows), the “process monitors” won’t know that it’s not a local drive.

      You use the term “web accessible”, which is different than being able to be mounted as storage, which a NAS is – a NAS doesn’t necessarily run a web server. The “process monitors” can write a log file as they normally do, but the drive will be located in your central office. You’d still have individual log files for each, as they’re still each writing their own log file.

      The main thing is that if the machines running the “process monitors” can’t access the “central office”‘s network, then a NAS won’t help – it’s just a device on the network – no more or less acessible than any other device on that network.


    • T.J. Mininday

      Exactly, as long as you have some type of connection between locations, it’s very possible. Let me know if you need specific instructions. Great question!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.