How to convert your old PC into a network file server
It's a fact: many homes one or more computers--not to mention game consoles and entertainment devices--connected a centralized home network. In addition to providing access to the Internet, the home network can offer additional options for storing increasingly large amounts of digital data. And while backups can be facilitated by external hard drives or DVD burners, those aren't the easiest way to share data with multiple PCs on your network. We'll show you how to turn an old PC into a NAS device where you can easily and conveniently store copies of everything from your financial records to music, video, and image files.
Step 1: Prepare the PC.
Start by locating a suitable PC. You can choose to go with Mac or Windows, and advanced users may even want to try installing Linux options such as the Server Elements
package. No matter which you choose, however, you'll want a machine with an ample hard disk (at least 100GB) and an active connection to your home network (preferably wired rather than wireless). In this example, we're using a PC running Windows XP that's plugged directly into a home networking router.
Step 2: Run Network Setup Wizard.
Once the computer is up and running and connected to the network, click Windows XP's Start button, select Control Panel, then double-click Network Setup Wizard. Click Next on the Wizard's first two screens. Now, select the "This computer connects to the Internet through a residential gateway or through another computer on my network" option, and click Next. On the resulting screen, enter a computer description and click Next. On this screen, leave the Workgroup Name set as MSHOME unless the other computers on your network are using a different Workgroup Name, then click Next. Select the "Turn on file and printer sharing" option and click Next. Click Next again and wait for the wizard to finish. Now select "Just finish the Wizard" and click Next. Click Finish to close the Wizard.
Repeat this process on any PC for which you want to enable access to your DIY network attached storage device, making sure all PCs have the same Workgroup Name, such as MSHOME.
Step 3: Create a shared folder.
Right-click your old PC's desktop, select New, then click Folder. Type a name for your new folder and click Enter. Right-click the new folder, and select Sharing And Security. Check "Share this folder on the network," check "Allow network users to change my files," and click OK to save the changes. Also, remember that the "server" computer will need to remain powered on whenever you want to access the files on it.
Step 4: Map the network drive.
On each computer for which you want to enable access to your DIY NAS device, click Windows XP's Start button, right-click My Computer, then click Map Network Drive. In the Drive box, select a drive letter. Now click Browse. From the list, select the shared network folder that you previously created on your DIY NAS device, click OK, then click Finish to conclude the process.
Step 5: Access your new network folders.
To access your DIY NAS device from a configured computer, simply click Start, select My Computer, then double-click the shared folder. Copy files from your local computer's C: drive to the NAS device by dragging and dropping. You can even save files to your new repository directly from applications such as Microsoft Word or use a backup application to automate regularly scheduled file archival. Additional products, such as network media players, the Xbox 360, and digital audio devices may also make use of your network folders but will probably require additional software installations on the server, such as Microsoft's Windows Media Connect application.