May 19, 2012, 7:25 AM — Your old desktop PC gave you years of reliable service, but eventually it couldn't keep up with modern tasks and applications; so you went out and bought something newer and faster. Now you need to decide what to do with the old clunker.
You could e-recycle it--hand it off to a responsible company that will dismantle it and recycle the parts--but what do you gain from that aside from feeling good about being environmentally responsible? Allow us to suggest another solution: Repurpose the old hulk as a local server. You can use it as a repository for automatic PC backups, or set it up as a file server that you and your employees can access while you're on the road. Those are just two of the roles that an older PC can perform that are of far more benefit to your business than having the machine collect dust or head for the dump.
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Best of all, the software--FreeNAS--that will power this machine is exactly what its name describes: a free operating system for network-attached storage. And side from being free, FreeNAS is easy to install, configure, and run. You'll find everything you need to know in this guide.
Before you begin your FreeNAS installation, obtain a USB thumb drive with a capacity of at least 2GB. You'll install FreeNAS to this drive and boot from it, because you can't run the OS on the same drive that you're using to share files from. Alternatively, you can buy a very small solid-state drive, install FreeNAS on that, and boot the server from it; but investing in such an SSD is an unnecessary expense (unless you're worried that someone might remove the USB drive without realizing the consequences).
Once you have the necessary thumb drive, download the latest version of FreeNAS from the operating system's official site, taking care to choose the right disc image (that is, .iso file): x86 if your machine is equipped with a 32-bit CPU, or x64 if it has a 64-bit processor. After downloading the .iso file, burn it to a blank CD and drop it into your server-to-be's optical drive.