PC (personal Computer) Into a Sort of Thin Client.

Introduction: PC (personal Computer) Into a Sort of Thin Client.

About: computoman.blogspot.com Bytesize articles instead of a trilogy in one post.
I had an old machine that had some problems with the ide (legacy hard disk) controller. Thought most machines now use what is called "sata". I did not want to throw it away. Actually this is a great idea for small offices, schools. and even families. Instead of having to buy all new computers, you can purchase one machine as a server and then just reuse the existing machines as thin clients.  A tremendous money saving move. That is what we did and saved a fortune. If you go completely open source, you do not have to worry paying for software licenses either. It saved us ten thousand dollars to dump proprietary software in addition not having to buy new hardware. So really it saved us much more than ten thousand dollars. Also you are helping to save the environment not to have the old machines go to a landfill.

Happen to be talking with an MSWindows admin about disaster recovery. He was talking about how it was a challenge to do recovery. I made a bet that I could have network of computers running in no time and not even use a single hard drive. I would need one cdrom though. Of course I was told it could not be done. You can guess what happened next with the wallets.

Anyway, we went around and made sure that all the machines would pxeboot except the system with the cdrom drive. I booted a Knoppix linux cdrom which has a built in terminal server. Once the machine was up, I made a few quick settings for the terminal server. We started booting all the machines. low and behold after a bit all the other machines were up and you could use all the software.

To make a long story short, the admin was dumbfounded and became an instant new devotee of linux.

See how you can at: https://www.instructables.com/id/No-hard-drive-network/ or https://www.instructables.com/id/Another-almost-free-computers-thin-client-set-up/ .

To convert a Rasperry Pi to an LTSP thin client see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Raspberry-Pi-Jack-of-all-trades/#step7

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Step 1: What's Needed.

An old pc that has a built in network card that supports pxe (pre execution environment) boot.
Network for the sort of thin client to connect to the server.
Server that supports pxeboot to push an os such as LTSP, DRBD, Redhat, or maybe MSXP Embedded remote boot.

Screwdriver for removing parts.

Certain old pc's where the bios does not support pxe boot can be made to emulate pxe with software via a boot disk using standard nics.  (www.etherboot.org and www.rom-o-matic.org )

Free terminal server software.
www.ubuntu.org (Edubuntu)
linux terminal server

Update: I have even used old Apple Mac g3's via netboot as thin clients for LTSP 4.x.  Weird seeing old ppc based macs boot from and Intel based machine. Of course you are loading Apple software and not Intel software into the Apple based thin client. There is even software to use the old Sun (now Oracle) thin clients with LTSP, but I never tried it.

Step 2: Surgery.

With the computer not plugged in (i.e. no cables attached what so ever) or turned on, you will want to open the case.

Now you can remove any floppy drives (if you plan to use etherboot, you will want to leave the floppy attached), hard drives and or cd-rom drives. Remove any cables attached to those units also. You can set them aside as spare units for other computers.

Now close the case. A bit lighter yes? (Hopefully less cost for electricity).

Step 3: Adjusting the Bios.

You need to now plug in the power, keyboard, mouse, network cable,  and monitor.
Turn on the computer and press the key to go into the bios. (see you manual for details. ( could be F1, F2, F10, DEL, or others.

Now you will want to go and disable the ide and floppy drives So your system will not complain there are units missing.

The set the system to pxeboot.  This will vary from system to system. See you manual for sure.

Exit while saving the settings and you are done

Step 4: Starting Over.

Now you will need to set up some users logins for the clients if you have not already done so.
You should see the machine try to boot from the network. Once it does boot, it will look like a normal start up.  This will vary for one server os to another.

With no hard drive and etc, the system will be quieter and you should save on power costs also.  Good luck.

Setting up the terminal server will be another instructable.

Step 5: Converting Standard Nics Into (g/i)pxe Bootable Nics.

Supposedly, you can use old "AT" bios roms as bootroms for nics with dip sockets.
Recycling old BIOS chips for NIC boot roms

Step 6:

Just some other pxebootable devices. Even used an old pentium 1. Forgot to take a picture of it booted via a floppy disk but the results are the same. Even remove 128 meg of ram from the 256 on the pentium on and it still booted. Macs can be thin clients also, but the server must support netboot and the Apple clients.

Also pictured is the server.

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    2 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    nice, few people will think of this, usually using a terminal program over their existing windows session. One more thing, not all Motherboards support PXE loading, maybe adding other methods?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the comment. Not sure, but I thought I did.

    Certain old pc's where the bios does not support pxe boot can be made to emulate pxe with software via a boot disk using standard nics. (www.etherboot.org and www.rom-o-matic.org)"