Big storage on a budget
December 7, 2013 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Can I use my old PC as external storage for my Mac? What do I need to do?

I've been working with a lot of audio and video files recently. Storage-wise, I need to have a rethink as I'm using a bunch of 2.5" USB drives without proper backups.

I'm thinking of purchasing a stack of 2GB drives and sticking them into one of those fancy NAS things but I'll need an interim solution until the necessary funds become available. Is it possible to configure a PC so it behaves like an NAS drive? I have a PC that's become redundant to my needs. It has gigabit Ethernet, two SATA drives and a connection for a couple of IDE drives. Can I configure the SATA drives so one 'mirrors' the other?

How would the performance compare to an external USB drive? (I'd have the two computers connected directly.) The PC currently has Windows 7 installed. Would a Linux installation be any better?
posted by popcassady to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes and yes to your questions. You can convert your old computer to storage and later transition to a freestanding NAS (I would recommend Synology). You can use Windows with standard file shares, windows server, or something like Freenas or Unraid. The simplest solution would be to just share the drives as network drives on whatever installation you currently have. I would not recommend RAID (mirroring) on your computer without a dedicated card, but you can use backup software to ensure the files are a 1:1 copy on both drives. Computers or higher end NAS via gigabit will be faster than an external USB 2.0 drive, but you might as well do the cheaper solution for you right now. Using them as USB drives would save on electricity if you have enclosures.
posted by palionex at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2013

Can you do this? Yes.

Should you do this? I can't think of any compelling reason unless you already own 100% of the hardware you need. You can get a brand new 2TB dedicated NAS that plugs straight into your router for like $110. Given the three main criteria for storage solutions--performance, capacity, and price--I'd be surprised if you could even approximate two of them using 2GB drives.
posted by valkyryn at 11:17 AM on December 7, 2013

Unless you are incredibly short on funds, this is more headache than it's worth. Get a Synology.
posted by dmd at 11:25 AM on December 7, 2013

Not only a headache, but your PC will use quite a bit more electricity than other solutions, costing you and the environment. Sort of like driving a giant truck to go buy milk, the PC is much more than you need.
posted by ssg at 12:59 PM on December 7, 2013

FreeNAS is a good option
posted by rhizome at 2:18 PM on December 7, 2013

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