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Making use of the old Computer to something more productive

The article below is published with the permission of our regular guest author via the Facebook group: African IT Professionals(AITP): Mr. Albert Ninyeh.

Title: MAKING USE OF THE OLD COMPUTER TO SOMETHING MORE PRODUCTIVE. E.g. Networked Backup, Streaming, or Torrenting Machine with FreeNAS. author: ALBERT NINYEH, email: eaglesecurity0 [at] Gmail [dot] com



If you are someone who uses the computer for any reason in one way or the other, then there is a need for you to backup your data. Data loss can happen in many ways. One of the most common causes is physical failure of the media the data is stored on. You probably have everything saved on your PCs hard drive. That hard drive will not live forever, eventually they will die. It might happen gradually, by more and more bad clusters accumulating until most of the drive is unusable. Or it might happen suddenly, the hard drive just dies without warning.

Another possible cause for data loss is power failure or spikes. It can result in loss of the document you are currently working on because you did not save it before the power failed and your PC shut down, or in loss of your entire hard drive because a power surge burnet your motherboard and destroyed the file allocation table of your hard drive.


You might think that you probably don’t really have anything worth backing up, nothing important, ok cool. Let’s go through just a few items to jog your memory a little bit.

Let’s start with your favorite places on the Internet and that long list of bookmarks. Do you want to lose all those? How about the e-mail addresses from all your friends? That would take a long time to accumulate those again. What about that to-do list you wrote? Or about that nice picture somebody e-mailed you and that you saved? How about that family history you collected over the years and put into a database? Maybe you have a document for work, like a presentation or a spreadsheet that you created at home and don’t have a copy on your work PC?, what about those favorite track to complied together as collections, Think about that saved game of your favorite game where it took you weeks or months to get to that level. These are just the most common examples, and I know that after thinking about it for a while you will realize that there is a lot of information you don’t want to lose. That’s why you should back up your data.

The reason for this paper is to is to enlighten you to know the need for data backup and the effective way to backup your data using your old computer lying at the store room and an open source software to help build the backup system up absolutely with little budget. I want us to learn something about NAS (Network Attached Storage). Now you might ask, What basically is NAS and why do I need a NAS Server?; Basically a NAS Server is a perfect solution for backing up your data, streaming media across your home network, or even torrenting files to a central server. If you have an aging computer lying around, you can turn it into a NAS for free with the open-source FreeNAS operating system. Yawning for more right..? Read on.

First, we'll take a closer look at what exactly a NAS is, and what it does, then we will hop into how to set it up and running. If you want to skip the first part, you can skip straight to the setup section.


Network attached storage is a unit or a computer system on your network specifically designed to backup files. Any computer on the network can access files on a NAS server, which makes it’s a great solution for bigger households, and they're also nice, when you don't want to have a bunch of external drives on your desk. Unlike regular file servers, NAS units are usually built for a specific purpose, like backing up your data or streaming media to other machines. They're also usually quite low power and low cost, and they don't require a monitor, mouse or keyboard once you've installed the software, you can configure every aspect of your NAS from a web browser on your laptop or other computers. You can find pre-made NAS units for some few cedis and they usually come with their own software. However, if you have an old computer lying around, then I don’t really think there is a need to purchase a pre-made NAS unit, but if you still insisted for a personal reason that’s fine, but right about now we are going to put life into the old computer at the store room or the computer your company wants to recycle you can actually turn it into a NAS for free with the aptly-named FreeNAS software.


FreeNAS: is a free network-attached storage server, supporting numerous of protocols ranging from: CIFS (Samba), FTP, NFS, rsync, AFP protocols, iSCSI, S.M.A.R.T., local user authentication, and software RAID (0, 1, 5), with a web-based configuration interface. FreeNAS has some great features, below are a list of the features FreeNAS has got to offer.

Features: (protocols highlighted)

  • Protocols: CIFS (via Samba), TFTP, FTP, NFS, SSH, rsync, AFP, UPnP, BitTorrent and iTunes.
  • Extensions (plug-ins) for: SlimServer, Xbox Media Stream Protocol.
  • rsync server, client and local sync.
  • Unison support. (only in legacy versions)
  • ISCSI targets feature to create virtual disks.
  • ISCSI initiator.
  • Dynamic DNS client for: DynDNS, ZoneEdit, No-Ip, and
  • File systems: ZFS, UFS and ext2/ext3 are fully supported, NTFS read/write and FAT32 read/write supported.
  • Hard drive: P-ATA/S-ATA, SCSI, iSCSI, USB and FireWire.
  • GPT/EFI partitioning for hard drives larger than 2 Terabytes.
  • Network cards: All wired and wireless cards supported by FreeBSD 7.2.
  • Boot from HDD, USB key, Compact Flash, CD-ROM + floppy disk, or USB flash.
  • Hardware RAID cards: All those supported by FreeBSD 7.2.
  • Software RAID levels: 0, 1, 5, JBOD, 5+0, 5+1, 0+1, 1+0, etc. (using GEOM and g_raid5). Also RAID-Z and RAID-Z2 (as part of ZFS).
  • 4KB sector formatting support for hard drives using advanced formats such as Western Digital WD10EARS, WD15EARS, WD20EARS, and WD30EZRS.
  • Disk encryption with geli. (only in legacy versions) Management of groups and users (Local User authentication or Microsoft Domains).
  • S.M.A.R.T. support. Remote syslogd forwarding.
  • SNMP monitoring (Netgraph and MibII).
  • Email log and reporting notification.
  • VLAN support
  • Link aggregation and link failover interface
  • UPS (Uninterruptible power supply) support
  • Apple Time Machine support.

It doesn't need much in terms or resources, any old computer will probably do. Alternatively, you can buy a PogoPlug unit and install FreeNAS on it. The bottom line is, there's no need to go out and buy a pre-built NAS when you can make one yourself with great, free, open source software and hardware you already have lying around. But, if you've got the money, you're better off spending on it on an extra hard drive than you are an entirely new machine.

Here, I'll show you how to set up FreeNAS on the computer of your choice, connect it to your other computers as if it were directly attached to them, and show you a few simple examples of how you could use it for backup, iTunes music streaming, or video streaming on your home theater PC.

Note: FreeNAS recently released a new version (version 8.0.3), but we don't think it's quite ready for prime time yet. It's still missing a lot of the features that make FreeNAS great, so we're going to use the now-legacy version 7 of FreeNAS. (NB: It’s not really cool to use freshly released software on a production systems since they might have bugs in them)


You can install FreeNAS on a ton of different systems using a number of different methods, but here are the things you'll need for his method:

A PC with a minimum of 192MB RAM to act as your NAS. It will also need an Ethernet connection and a bootable CD drive in it from which we can install FreeNAS onto one of its hard drives.

The FreeNAS ISO image, the 32bits of FreeNAS is available here, whiles the 64bits is also available here . A network with DHCP reservations or static IP addresses. This isn't required, but it's definitely preferred. If you don't have DHCP in place, managing your NAS can get very annoying, since its IP address will change whenever you reboot it or shutdown due to power surge (as well you’re other computers').

FreeNAS is actually designed to run on a flash drive or compact flash card rather than one of the drives in your computer, but since many computers (especially older ones, like the one you might recycle into a NAS) don't support booting from USB, But there is a possible way you can boot from a flash driven even if you r motherboard does not support booting from flash drives, but that’s out of the scope of this article for now. Meanwhile we're going to install FreeNAS to the hard drive for simplicity. If your computer supports booting from USB, you can actually use the live CD to install FreeNAS to a 2GB flash drive and run FreeNAS from that flash drive instead, keeping it plugged into your NAS at all times.


To install FreeNAS, you'll need the FreeNAS live CD. Head to this page and click on the latest stable build of FreeNAS 7. Download the live CD image that applies to your system architecture, if your NAS has a 64-bit capable processor in it, grab the amd64 version. If not (or if you aren't sure), grab the i386 version. Burn it to disc using something like IMGBurn or Daemon Tool for Windows or Burn for Mac, and stick it into the computer you want to use as your NAS servers.

This will be the end of this article for now, but stay tuned for the configuration aspect since it’s the most important thing we want to do and it will also come in a video form so thing will be easy for everyone.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a thing.


0 #5 Albert N 2012-07-11 14:13
Sorry all, I mistakenly forgot to add the Reference to the Original Article. Please find the reference below.

0 #4 Albert N 2012-07-11 14:05
@Thecops, I understand what this may cause, but i had them referenced in the Original txt i complied before posting it on here, I will take it off to avoid feature misunderstandin gs. I take no credit for this.Sorry

0 #3 webmaster 2012-07-10 21:02
your comments are noted and received with thanks. Please note, the post was by a guest author - name above post. We are not aware of any misconduct / relationship with the article you referred to as at when the post was published. We will get back to the author for a redress.
0 #2 Thecops 2012-06-30 23:18
Did you just copy and paste the Lifehacker article, change a few words and mix it up, and then pawn this off as your own?
0 #1 Albert N 2012-02-22 19:45
Great Article there and thanks for posting.Keep it up

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