Linux Mac Windows

Convert Old PC To Network Attached Storage with FreeNas

T.J. Mininday 28-01-2009

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 This goes for everything from cell phones to televisions to your outdated stereo system.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 How to Safely and Profitably Sell Used Gadgets on Craigslist Selling used gadgets on Craigslist can be a scary proposition, both for your safety and your money-making prospects, but these tips will help you make the most of it. Read More , 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 Mount CD or DVD Image Files Virtually Using A Portable App Read More image or LiveCD Put your Linux Distro on a Live CD Recently, Live DVDs and Live USB have cropped up as well. These live systems are full versions of the operating system that run completely from the given medium. Read More , 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.

Convert Old PC To Network Attached Storage with FreeNas freenas2


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.

Convert Old PC To Network Attached Storage with FreeNas freenas3

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?

Related topics: Computer Networks, Ethernet, Hard Drive, Recycling.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Ant1
    August 13, 2009 at 8:33 am

    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.

  2. drevil
    August 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    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.

  3. Core
    July 28, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    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 >.<

  4. Nathan Fiedler
    March 7, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    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.

  5. Alberta Hall
    February 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    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
      February 5, 2009 at 4:10 pm

      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
        February 5, 2009 at 4:47 pm

        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!

  6. Jay Ray
    February 5, 2009 at 6:49 am

    The real question is how much extra energy an old pc based NAS uses compared to a standard NAS device. I'd like to see some kill-a-watt data of a DIY PC based nas with only essential devices turned on compared with a market NAS. I bet they are not much different and the wake on lan feature would even make the energy consumption even less of an issue. Anyone care to test and post your results?

  7. Nikon
    January 30, 2009 at 8:49 am

    If you care about environment, did u think about the energy consumption of all this devices? Is that not a waist?

    • Jed
      January 30, 2009 at 9:06 pm

      Nikon, Take a look at the previous comments. There is a lot of discussion on the power use already.

  8. Larry
    January 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I haven't used this particular software (yet) but I do have a home server. Recycling old hardware is awesome but I don't like running a PC all the time especially an old one.
    I have several laptops though that are ancient and will not be useful for anything any more, some won't even boot from or use an internal HDD anymore. These are the types of devices that can boot from USB and be used for very little cost per day as great servers for the home user.

  9. Tanner
    January 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

    There are many unix scripts which can watch the NAS server for activity breaks, at which time it can halt the OS to save power usage. I'm willing to bet many others have wanted the same solution so there is probably scripts available on the freeNAS forums for this.

    To Earl:
    Ricardo is correct in his statement. If your computer is wake on lan compatible then your router can send special packets with instructions to come back from hibernation. Since your computer goes in and out of hibernation it does not use power during it's downtime

    • halo
      January 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

      Every hibernation takes some energy. There must be a process listening to a wake-up-call. Perhaps this small process takes a very little bit of energy, but how could it be living on 'no power'?
      Little drops fill a bathtub, given enough time (and when dripping 24x7, that could much faster than you think)

  10. Perry
    January 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

    The idea of FreeNAS is especially helpful to those of us who don't live in or near a large municipality that offers a recycling program for old pc's. Additionally, since it is for my personal use, I can determine when the NAS needs to be online and when the pc can be powered off. Great product.

  11. Steve
    January 29, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I'm wondering if this would work with a 'Wake-On-LAN' capable NIC, so that the old PC running FreeNAS would only wake-up when needed and not burn energy 7x24? Has anyone tried this?

    I agree with not liking the idea of the PC sitting there using energy 7x24 when it is only needed for brief periods. I do like the idea, though, of having the network storage that would be accessible from any machine on the network.

    • Steve
      January 29, 2009 at 9:47 am

      Oops sorry. Guess I should have refreshed the page before posting my comment.

      Thanks for the suggestion Ricardo and Phil.

  12. Ricardo
    January 29, 2009 at 8:04 am

    You know, almost every computer can be waked using a magik packet sent over the network. This way you can turn it on and off, even if you are not in site. This allows you to save energy just using it on demand.

    • Earl
      January 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

      Ricardo: That makes no sense. If the computer is "off" how it is supposed to respond to an "on" message? If it is not "off" it's wasting energy. I don't believe in leaving a computer that is not doing anything "on" in any way.

  13. Thrawn
    January 29, 2009 at 8:52 am

    FreeNAS allows you to get rid of M$oft OS which reduces the attack surface of your file resources. No Outlook viruses here...
    Primary Use? Check out This allows you to stream all of your home content (videos, music, pictures) to any location you are at... even your iPhone, or Windows mobile device.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

      Nice call. I've been hearing rave reviews about Orb lately. Here's a great set of instructions on how to set it up:

      [Broken Link Removed]

  14. david
    January 29, 2009 at 2:41 am

    Holy Jebus! What's wrong with everyone? Relax.

    The author of this post was simply recommending a great piece of software in case you needed it. If you don't, calm down, and click on a different link. Please.

    • Womble
      January 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

      Maybe your interpretation is wrong? people are simply relaying their own opinion nothing wrong with that at as long as the conversation remains civil which it has.

  15. BadMan
    January 28, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    There are plenty of ways to recycle old PCs and peripherals. Namely finding a local community organization, that accepts old equipment for re-distribution locally or abroad.
    There are even spots that if the PC is REALLY old (i.e. pre-Pentium, old dot-matrix printers, etc), they will take it off your hands free of charge and recover any base materials inside the case.
    I just recently found a PC recycling center near me and cleaned out the garage of about 8 old towers that were just gather dust. I held on to them for the exact same reason, didn't want to chuck them into a land fill.

    I do see the use of FreeNAS for current applications deployments however, nice find.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 29, 2009 at 12:03 am

      Yeah, it really depends on your neighborhood. I think I'm just irritated more then anything with recycling of metals and hazardous material.

      I think it should be a top priority.

  16. Womble
    January 28, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I thought about this for a while once but couldn't come up with one good reason apart from the geek factor to use NAT in the home, I too believe it's a waste of valuable energy.

    I don't throw my computers away either, there's always a child in my family or friends that is grateful for my old ones.

    • skydvr
      January 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

      There are plenty of good reasons to use NAT in a home network, but more on point, there are also good reasons to use NAS. I set up a NAS box for digital photo/music storage so that a) it's RAIDed and I won't lose it all if 1 drive dies b) my wife and I can both view the pictures from our laptops without me having to worry about whether the desktop is powered on and the "share" is active c) access music from any PC.

      I set it up as an Ubuntu box with samba and RAID though - I don't recall why I decided against FreeNAS - I just did. I think because it allowed me to use the box for other purposes as well - I was originally planning to set up a MythTV server, and that box was going to serve double duty. I haven't done that yet, though.

      Anyway, my point being, NAS in the home can be useful, for more than "geek cred".

  17. imoDOTcom
    January 28, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I LIKE this idea of FreeNAS.

    In a business I am involved in, we have to upgrade every 3 years, and I end up with many 'obsolete' PCs. At the moment I have 8-10, which I cannot seem to let go - I don't know why.

    Reusing these PCs for some good use is a great idea. Worth Looking Into.

    And the Old PC doesn't have to be ON all the time, it seems. So, no need to worry about waste of energy it seems (?). - imoDOTcom -

    • DS
      January 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

      I need a PC for a project at home, do you have one of those 'obsolete' pcs that is still pretty reasonable hardware that you would sell?

    • VD
      March 8, 2009 at 12:42 am

      I need old PC for tweaking I would love to go for the old PCs which you have.

  18. Henry Ho
    January 28, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    RECYCLE it! Check with your local municipality...

  19. Henry Ho
    January 28, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I think it is also a waste of energy to run old and inefficient PC's 24/7 to do not very useful things.

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

      Another comment I don't disagree with, but I'd still rather burn the small amount of energy they use instead of throwing it away.

  20. Ajay
    January 28, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Wouldn't this be more complicated than just attaching the drive to the computer?

    • T.J. Mininday
      January 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm

      I wouldn't disagree it's more complicated, but it provides a heck of a lot more options then your standard file sharing.

    • F. Wagner
      January 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

      but if you have more than one Computer u can use for all of them.. :)