Picture of Make a Server Out Of An Old PC
Using an old Dell XPS, abandoned in my step-mom's office, I made a local server to host files for public worldwide access.

All you need is an old PC, high-speed internet, a router or switch for multiple computers, and PATIENCE.

Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Get the computer!

Picture of Get the computer!
First of all, you need an old, or maybe new, PC to convert to Linux. Look around your house, find a friend who will give one up, or search for one online or at a flea market or something. Something like the one pictured below.

I found mine in my step-mom's office.

Step 2: Install Linux

Picture of Install Linux
Find a good Linux distribution, like Ubuntu or Debian. Burn the distribution onto CD or maybe if you don't own a CD burner, order one from the site. I used Ubuntu 6.10 burned onto LiveCD to try before I install. If you love it, install, and go to the next step.

With Ubuntu Feisty Fawn, if you use a PC made in 1999, the motherboard year checksum might fail. Anything made before 1999 might need to run 6.10 or lower.

Step 3: Install the Server Software

Now it's time to install the server software. I installed XAMPP for Linux, AKA LAMPP. It's easy to set up, and comes with Apache, MySQL, PHP, and Perl. To download, go to XAMPP's home page.

Now download the file to your computer (duh)!

To install, go to a Linux shell (Terminal) and login as the system administrator root:
(If you don't know the root password, or if one isn't set, you quite obviously have administrator rights, so you can change the root password from your account. If you need to, go to Settings>Users and look for the user "root". Double-Click on it and change the password.)

Then extract the archive to /opt:
tar xvfz xampp-linux-1.6.3a.tar.gz -C /opt

That's it!

(The extract command didn't work for me, so I just extracted the files with the default archive manager in Ubuntu straight to /opt)
1-40 of 71Next »
nerd74731 year ago

Cool I love Linux and I have a old PC laying around

As an OS I can recommend Lubuntu. It is much faster in old pc's. I have tried. Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Linux mint,Pardus.. Lubuntu has the pros of an ubuntu and performance of ... well much stronger pc..

Tanobi2 years ago
Probably the easiest way to install Ubuntu Server on your old PC is by
Here are a few steps to install Ubuntu Server on your old PC.
First, make sure the old PC works, are you using it currently? does it have any issues, if you solve them now it'll rule out anything Ubuntu-related later.

Does the target PC operate on a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture? If it looks like the one pictured in the article chances are it will be the older 32-bit. Either way you'd want to make absolutely sure by either Googling the computer model or if its' currently operational and running windows by right clicking on my computer, going to properties, and read what it says about the system type. if it has (x86) or 32-bit, its a 32-bit machine, if it says 64-bit its 64-bit.

Download the Ubuntu Server .iso from the official Linux homepage ( Make sure to select the appropiate version (either 32-bit or 64-bit)

The file size is ~695MB. If you want to install Ubuntu via a live disc. All you have to do is find an appropriately sized CD-R or CD-RW disc (700 MB is fine) pop it into the tray, and burn the entire unextracted file to the disc. If your using windows 7 all you have to do, with the disc inserted into the bay, right click the file, select "Create live image" or something like that, follow the instructions (select a slower write speed to minimize errors) and you're done.

I prefer using the Live USB method because its easier and has a faster installation time. All you'll need is a nifty little program called Linux Live USB creator (download it here and an empty USB drive (reformat it if you have to) a 2GB drive is fine, but if you want to use a bigger one go ahead.
Start the Linux Live USB creator (LiLi for short.) At this point LiLi will ask you for the location of the ISO image you're trying to use, find it select it, go through all the steps, hit start or burn, wait for it to finish, and there you have a live USB stick ready to go.

To go ahead and install the system on the PC, you need to connect your target pc to the network it's going to be on, start up the computer, open the CD tray and pop the live disc in or stick in the USB and go to the boot first menu just as the monitor displays the BIOS screen. It should tell you which key to press for boot options during this brief display. If you miss it, just restart the computer again. Select either the usb drive or the disc drive to boot up from first. If everything is correct, the ubuntu start up logo will be shown followed by a menu consisting of several options. Install Ubuntu Server being the first. scroll to that selection and hit enter. (At this point you should know everything is monitor and keyboard only, no mouse) follow the key board setup steps, if your in the united states, just hit do it manually and select United States, United States, if your in some other country with different keyboard layout you can either select it manually or play a little game where you press the keys that the computer tells you too if you have them.
go ahead and follow the instructions. At this point it'll ask you to create a username and password that can have root access, whether you want to use up the whole disk or just a partition (if you have another OS installed)( I would recommend using the whole drive) If you want to encrypt the hard drive (if your planning to store sensitive information I would def. choose this option) and it will ask for a host name for the server, which is basically like the domain name. (if its a private network you can call it anything). It will also ask you if you want to install specific server packages right away like a LAMP server, Samba, or Tomcat Java Server.At this point you should have an idea of what you want your server to do, but if you have no idea and this is your first test server or something, just go with LAMP. Bear in mind that you can install any of these later using the sudo apt-get install command. or the Aptitude UI.
Also you should really write down the passwords you chose for the first user and encryption passphrase if you chose to encypt. because you will be f***ed later if you ever have to shutdown your server , because itll ask you for the passphrase and the hard drive is practicallly locked until you enter it, and if you dont remember it, you're screwed, You can't ssh into it, or view webpages or anything.

After all of this the actual installation will start , which make take a while, depending on whether you chose a USB or CD to install. I've never actually installed with the live CD but the USB one is around 10 minutes or less for me.

If everything goes well, at which this point everything should, Ubuntu Server will be installed, the PC will restart, you'll have to enter your passphrase if you chose to encrypt. Then your user login and password, and then wallah, you have your server.

Ok, so you shouldn't have had to enter a single shell command to install ubuntu. Most if not all of the typing should have

It would be nice at this point to be able to acess your computer remotely. For this you'll need the OpenSSH server. You can do this by typing in the command
line :
sudo apt-get install openssh-server
types yes or y to confirm, and the SSH server should be installed.

Download the best (IMO) SSH client:

How To login with SSH:
click Quick Connect, on the pop-window, enter your server's IP address
enter your user name,.
make sure port number 22 is used.
hit connect.
if SSH connects to the server it'll then ask for your password.
if the password is correct SSH connects and you start at /home/username/

At this point it's up to you to decide what to do with your new server. If you want to serve webpages then I suggest reading up on apache and cgi scripting languages. if you want to create databases then look up the existing database servers. all in all, its your call now. consult your buddies, or just google through it all =].
darthbindy3 years ago
i got the same one, found it in the trash, iv been fixing it for a week now, and iv gotten it to the ubuntu boot screen were it asks if you want to try or install, but whenever i i select one then it just script screens........
The last version of Ubuntu is a dud for older PCs, due to the new GUI it tries to use. Same thing happened when I tried to install it. The latest version of Debian with Gnome GUI works very well on the same PC, even better than older versions of Ubuntu ever did. Try that or, if you really want it, a version of Ubuntu before Oct 2011.
harry5994 years ago
whaen you have to insert your local ip, is that the computers ip or the routers ip, because i dont have a static ip on my router so how would i get by that? Thanks Harry
______ harry5993 years ago
type in http://localhost/ to see your site.
tar xvfz xampp-linux-1.6.3a.tar.gz -C /opt

it may be a typo and you did it right, but it's supposed to be:

tar -xvfz xampp-linux-1.6.3a.tar.gz -C /opt
I used to do this all the time, except I did it in a much simpler way. i just downloaded Apache webserver (to host web pages) and filezilla (for FTP transactions) build my site, set the permissions, changed my port fowarding settings in my router/modem, set up a free DNS resolution (a .TK name) and started spamming my link across the web, I eventually got a sponsor, and was making an extra hundred a month. Once I get up a hundred bucks or so, i plan to buy an old dell desktop with a P4, and a wireless card, and I'll be able to manage my whole site through a remote desktop connection, telnet, or SSH. it's an easy, fun way to earn an extra bit of cash, and learn computers while you're at it!
you just made me want to do that just for the extra cash, cause you can never get enough especially if you're 15 and without a job but from who did you get the domain name?
tmccar schimmi4 years ago
How do you earn cash from this (get a sponsor and all that) as per Bleachworthy?
wtf? my site name has been taken!
So is WWW.THEBURN8.TK WWW.THEBURN9.TK WWW.THEBURN.TK WWW.THABURN.TK all are crummy and stupid, and the list goes on
parked sites
i guess i have to go with
Derin theburn76 years ago
try .net
REA theburn76 years ago
probably parked websites. is taken :(
This sounds like the sort of thing that would make an excellent instructable, and I'd love to learn more about it.
Who's the sponsor?
Seski (author)  bleachworthy7 years ago
I manage my server remotely, too. I'm using a Samba server, connecting to every computer in my house. Also did the same with the DNS, set up a free domain.
So much has changed since this instructable was one. though you could still basically use it.
Derin6 years ago
will try this on an old compaq i bought from the ebay ps will 2.5 gb enough
mage Derin5 years ago
4GB storage is the minimum for Ubuntu unless you meant ram in which in that case you have more then enough
I have used debian with as little as 100 megs of ram and a 10 gig hard drive as a web server with room to spare.
it should
I have run a minimal web serrver on a 2 gig drive with debian.But it took some fine tuning to do it. You can get a compact flash to ide adapter and compact flash pretty cheap now..You could also use the 2 gig drive as a boot drive ( if you can not usb boot) and connect a usb drive for extra storage. Usb drives are dirt cheap also compared to what they used to be. Some but not all cheap thin clients can easily be. be made into servers. Even some nas's can used be also. I used my nslu2 as a debian based web file server for a long time. .Freenas software is a another good starting point for older equpment..
um...I really bad at this so this might be a bad question but please answer me. Are we installing the Ubuntu Server Edition or the Ubuntu PC Edition?
 This really depends on your competence with unix and linux systems. If you have used ubuntu server before or you are master of the bash prompt then use ubuntu server. If you are somewhat new to ubuntu or are stumbling into the terminal for the first time then choose ubuntu desktop edition. As a side note, ubuntu server takes computational power to run because it only runs a bash prompt, no gui.
Just set it up with GUI then Turn it off, even a n00b can do that
Really good Question!!! 
mattronix5 years ago
hi i need help not tech i can install this on mattronix server2 but................ im crap with text interface i need GUI HELP!!!!
reederda5 years ago
What do you do if the computer won't install ubuntu?
(removed by author or community request)
or you can Just download to a flash if you know what a USB port is in the back of most CPU I seen
true if the machine is new enough to support usb. The latest version of debian no longer supports the floppy boot, but you can i9nstall the old version and then upgrade for free. I have done that on some old machines.
djr67896 years ago
please tell me what is thew point of this?
mage djr67895 years ago
for teh lulz
mage5 years ago
would this werk on a laptop?
N1CK4ND06 years ago
This is EXACTLY what I'm doing!!! Ubuntu is coming in the mail and I'm gonna be hosting files so me and my clan can transfer information fast.
I like it. Great instructable!
1-40 of 71Next »