Old PC to server service

I have an old PC that has an Intel I-7 2600k and only 16G of ram that i would like to set up as a NAS, Plex Media Server, and torrent client. What would you recommend i use for software? Should I set up vms for each service?should I use a basic linux install like debian server? or arch? Should I use free NAS? There are so many options, I can’t seem to nail down what I want. I have been leaning toward a base debian install for a lean distro with better performance. But vm’s would be fun to set up. I would love to hear some opinions.

One thing that’s very important is knowing the manufacturer of your network card on that board, because that may limit you. Another limitation can sometimes be RAID. I’ll explain.

For the NIC, I find that *BSD generally seems to work better with those produced by Intel. Some Intel boards have non-Intel NICs. If the NIC isn’t a BSD-friendly card, then either you can’t use a BSD-based solution (like TrueNAS) unless you add an Intel network card.

TrueNAS wants direct access to the drives, in most cases. If you have a hardware RAID card between TrueNAS and the drives, that doesn’t work out so well. But if the OS is able to get direct access to the hard drives, then this part shouldn’t be an issue.

Generally, with TrueNAS, you want ECC RAM.

With all that in mind, in order to better answer your question, you have to think in terms of what you want in the future. If you only ever plan to have one server, then having everything as a VM is probably the only thing that you can do. If you eventually want to “spread out” onto other pieces of hardware, then start with a NAS and add a VM later. I’m a big fan of having a minimum of three servers, one for the router/firewall, one for the NAS, and the other for a CVM server.

You may want to think about Open Media Vault for the NAS component if you don’t have ECC RAM or an Intel network card.

If I know more about your budget and future plans, that may help me narrow it down a bit more for you.

My NIC is an intel 82579v. After about 10-15 seconds of google searching I cant see whether or not it plays nice with BSD. But this is an old gaming pc and definitely doesn’t have ecc ram so I’m thinking freeNAS is out. after looking into OMV I see it’s pretty much debian but with a friendly web GUI that makes setting up samba shares exponentially faster. I like the looks of it but lacks the snapshots of FreeNAS.

So, all that being said my future plans are to, in this order 1) set up a pfsense router 2) build a vm server (my toy box) 3) replace my old gaming pc with a dedicated NAS/plex with hot swappable drive bays. For right now I’m not looking to spend anything to upgrade this pc right now because I plan to replace it. I currently only have a budget of about $1000CAD which is roughly around $30 USD but it’s always growing. I have no idea what to expect to spend on a decent vm machine. I was thinking $1500 or so. Is this reasonable? I would love to hear recommendations for router hardware.

TrueNAS (the new name for FreeNAS) isn’t totally out, but without ECC, you are losing some of its appeal. Go with OMV.

$1500 (assuming USD) is INSANE for someone starting out. You can buy a powerful gaming laptop for that! I would lower your budget on a VM server. Consider buying a T7600 or better yet a T7610 used.

For example:

But honestly, that’s way too expensive too. Before the pandemic, those were a lot cheaper. The pandemic seems to have brought the prices up. I think you should be able to get something reasonable for $200 USD honestly. I would go for that price range for the VM server. Max $300 USD, but that’s overkill to me.

Lol. The only hardware I’ve ever purchased has been for gaming. I just assumed a home server would be way more expensive. I’ll watch for something cheap. So what would you recommend for router hardware?

This is what I’m currently using. It works great.


Hey just a little update. I got the Qotom box that you advised and I got it set up and running with pfSense. What a little beast of a machine. It’s so good. I had some growing pains setting it up but now I’ve got it working just like my old router. I’ve since learned I need to get a managed switch for VLANs, but then I can begin working on separating out my individual networks. I just wanted to thank you for the advice on this hardware. I was going to buy a new server next for proxmox but now I’m thinking I need a new book. Just wondering where I should buy Mastering Ubuntu Server 3rd edition? More specifically where will you get the most kickback. I’m looking @ amazon.ca, but if I can put more money in your pocket I would feel a lot better about the purchase. Thanks for all the wonderful information!

Thank you, I appreciate that. I think you should be safe to get it from Amazon. If you’d be willing to write a review, I might be able to get you a discount. I’m not sure how that impacts my earnings (if it does) and I probably won’t have any sales numbers until March, as they do everything on a quarterly basis.

I appreciate the support!

Finally got your book about a week ago. I’m almost finished reading through it. I will give you a review as soon as I’m finished. So far loving it.

Thank you so much! Glad you’re enjoying it so far. Apologies for the late response.

Jay’s book is good. I’ve got the second edition as an e-book. I’t’s on my Amazon Fire HD though I have been investigating how to transfer it to the POP OS box. One of the other things I did was install Joplin and created a notebook for Ubuntu with different subject notes in the manner that works with my brain. Then as I come across something that I have not already added I can look it up, add it with an explanation for next time. Not only does that help with remembering but if you have not used something for a while it acts as a reminder.

I use old hardware for my personal Linux, some ten years old, and in the past have used old desktops with AMD processors for XEN Server and NAS, Back in around 2006 where I was an admin we had a Windows server motherboard go down. It was not heavily loaded but essential. We grabbed a motherboard from a desktop and dropped it into the server case to get it up and running quickly. (This was basically a large free standing server case with a rack mount kit.) The idea was to replace the motherboard but it never happened and five years later it was still running. Though there are benefits for having dedicated server hardware for home labs, or small SMEs, you can often get away with less high quality, dedicated, expensive kit as long as you realise the implications. BTW we also had blade servers, NAS/SAN, and dedicated 2U rack mount servers. Of course another solution is to purchase pre-owned server hardware though the running/operational costs can be much higher with older hardware.

For the record I set up my old pc just using ubuntu server and a 3rd edition book. The book made it really easy to set up. It is way more reliable that the windows 10 set up I had on it before. I like that I don’t have to worry about microsoft dropping more unwanted programs on my server. I’ll have to look at joplin. I’m still pretty new to linux in general and I love checking out new apps that I might find helpful, so thank you for mentioning that.

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I‘ve been looking at older hardware lately too, thinking about redoing a few things. Haven’t pulled the trigger yet, though.