Introduction: Turn an Old Mac Into a Home File Server!

Picture of Turn an Old Mac Into a Home File Server!

If you're a devoted Mac user like me, chances are, you'll have an old Mac sitting around somewhere, collecting dust. Don't give it away or send it off to be killed, repurpose it for use as a home file server! With simple configuration, you will be able to access its files wirelessly, from anywhere within your wireless network. Stream music, movies, and videos! Save files without wasting valuable hard drive space on your primary computer! The possibilities are (almost) endless! All you need is a Mac running OS X with an internet connection, so let's start!

Step 1: The Computer

Picture of The Computer

To get your file server up and running, you only need two things: a Mac running OS X and an Ethernet Jack or AirPort card. Because the original AirPort card was releases in 1999, computers produced before then (like the Power Macintosh G3 I am using) will not support wireless internet connection. To remedy this, you will need an Ethernet jack somewhere in your house, and a cable to connect it to your spare computer.
Update 3-29: The "Ye olde I-don't-know-what" port is actually an ADB port.

Step 2: Configuring Your File Server

Picture of Configuring Your File Server

Apple made it extremely easy to configure your computer for file sharing in OS X. Just open System Preferences and click "Sharing." Under the "Services" tab, find "Personal File Sharing" and check it off. A few seconds later, Personal File Sharing will become active. Look near the bottom of the window and notice the text ("Other Macintosh users..."); Keep it in mind as we go on. You are done configuring your server!

Step 3: Accessing Files

Picture of Accessing Files

Now you can go onto another Mac computer within your network and start accessing files from your server! Click "Go" from the menu bar and select "Connect to Server." As you can see, this can also be done by pressing command-K on your keyboard. In the "Connect to Server" window, type in the address provided to you by your Mac server. As your computer connects to the server, a window will open. After "Connect as:" select "Registered User." Type in your username and password in the boxes. Note: these are the username and password of the server computer, not the computer you are currently using! After entering the proper information, click "Connect." After doing so, another window will pop up, asking you what volumes you would like to mount. To access things like your desktop and user files, select the user name. To access more system-related files, select the hard drive's name. After clicking "OK," your server computer will appear in your Finder. Now you can add, subtract, manage, and view files wirelessly! Note: In order to access your file server, it must be awake. You may have to change Energy Saver settings in System Preferences to do so. Once you are done using your server, just eject it by right click > eject or by dragging it into the trash. Horray! you just made a home file server for free! Please comment, rate, and vote!


PDunn2020 (author)2017-09-26

1) how can I share an external hard drive through the mac? (Plug in an external drive and share its files through the mac network)

2) can I make it hard wired instead of wireless connection? (When somebody connects to the network they have either the option of plugging in thru Ethernet or connecting wirelessly)

PDunn2020 (author)2017-09-26

how do I use this method but through an external hard drive? (How do I share the xternal drive through this mac server method)

RudyR31 (author)2017-01-15

I like this because i have a powermac G5 running 10.5 that just sits there. this finally repurposed it.

chrisNova777 (author)2015-04-19

the power consumption of the g3 b&w is around 62 watts - more ore less depending on how many drives + peripherals u have installed

chrisNova777 (author)2015-04-19

@moov re; power consumption

check my post here

MooV (author)2015-03-14

Although the hardware is free and the setup could be entertaining has anyone looked into the power consumption of one of the old G3 or G4 Mac towers?

dylanm312 (author)2012-01-23

Is there a way to host the ftp server on a Mac BUT access it from BOTH a Windows computer and a Mac computer?

Callum Snowden (author)2011-09-25

Do any of you know how the old G3 connects to a monitor as when I had a look at one at a car boot sale, it had no apparent VGA / DVI connector?

Zephyr Wind (author)2010-12-06

The 3g was the coolest thing back then... Good times

kuhnkat (author)2010-10-03

Use 1394 to daisy chain modern SATA drives to your G3!! I have an old dual 450mhz G4 and the FarWar works great!! I use the internal 128GB IDE's for the OS's. Trey booted to 10.4.11, 10.5.6, and 10.4 Server for fun!! Getting 10.5 on it required a ROM hack I found on the web to fool the install into thinking it was OK. The duals make it OK for most things and great as a file server!!

I also got an old external TV box for it that works well. No HD though. I use it to record from Cable/Satellite/Digital Box/DVD/LD. There are a number of PCI WiFi adapters that work with Mac and PC also and it makes it quite convenient to place the box out of the way. With the Mac remote access software you don't even need local monitor, keyboard, or mouse unless you are having problems or installing the OS. Then there are the Unix/Linux remote management/access tools...

sidthecat (author)2010-06-05

I forgot to add that I'm also connected up to a Belkin Router so I can run it with or without wires. Long story - I'm thinking that I can just connect the G4 to the router, but that seems somehow too easy. Does the Collective Mind have any advice?

sidthecat (author)2010-06-05

I have a G4 and I want to repurpose it as an FTP server. The rest of my system runs on Win 7 and I have a copy of Ubuntu server. Am I overthinking this, or is there a simpler way to get them to play nicely together?

urbanracer34 (author)2009-03-29

The "ye-old i don't know what" is a ADB port
more info

Thanks! I'll change that soon...

You say it was top of the line ins 1998, but the G3 B&W didnt came out till 1999. WTF TIME PARADOX

Ooh spooky!  Ah, well I got the info off the back of the computer so it's possible (actually, probable) that they made it in '98, but released it in '99.  Case closed :P

 You nailed it! Besides why would Apple employees wait a year to use the "new" Mac? ;)

Icedvovo (author)2010-03-11

 A standard off-the-shelf Wireless Access Point or an Airport Base Station will allow just about any Mac with an Ethernet port  to connect wirelessly to an existing network. 

In most cases this is a lot easier, cheaper and more compatible than an opting for an internal Airport card. This solution will work with some REALLY ancient Macs.

danton721 (author)2010-03-11

copy the mac OS X CDs for me???
I had downloaded,but,it impossible to burn they!

broken_to_fix (author)2010-03-07

 nice dude!

tompaige (author)2009-11-23

the adb portis an Ethernet port ok

The ADB port is used to connect things such as Apple keyboards and mice, and the Ethernet is used to connect to the internet, LAN, etc.

MACKattacksnipe (author)2009-09-25

i got 5 free 1TB hdd im going to custom build this but with windows ill make an instructable for the windows version

zacatewo (author)2009-09-17

I have a g4 800mhz as the oldmummy, I there any way to connect and watch tv form this machine (without a tv card, of course), Is there a way to connect the some device that I can build? thanks

Server_Rack_Guy (author)2009-04-21

So I have an Apple II and I want to make a server out of it because it is so powerful, what do I do? LOL The Blue and Whites were great in their day weren't they? The Apple computers keep running because they used premium parts in those days; my 8600 is still cranking...SCSI hard drives were the way to go if you could afford them.

haha. Yeah. I was recently watching the keynote when Jobs introduced the PowerMac G3s. Back in '98, they were amazing. A whole 16MB of VRAM! Up to 100GB storage!

and in todays times they can reach the lofty height of 3 128GB drives (128GB is the IDE hard drive limit till about 2003)

fwjs28 (author)Radioactive_Legos2009-04-30, macs are some pretty powerful beasts....

Douglass (author)2009-08-08

Can the serve be used to log in with a vista laptop ?

Kasm279 (author)Douglass2009-08-30

yes, if you turn on Windows File Sharing, but you can add apf (apple file protocol) to windows

Kasm279 (author)2009-07-29

What is the clock speed?

Kasm279 (author)Kasm2792009-07-29

also, what OS?

thepaul93 (author)2009-05-27

this is great, but to run a server to only have 12gb of space, it will be cheaper in the long run to get an external hard drive.

7xsevenx7 (author)2009-05-26

I have only a mac g3 can i do this with a pc?

dombeef (author)2009-05-01

YAY!!!! A "Devoted" Mac user!!!!I have like 8 old computers

About This Instructable




Bio: A Bay Area native interested in electronics, mechanics, and robotics, and automobiles. Formerly the electronics captain of Team 100 in the FIRST Robotics Competition, I ... More »
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