For a file server, taking into account ease of use, I would look at Fedora or CentOS. They are very similar - Fedora is a community-level, community distro which is the test-bed for Red Hat; whereas CentOS is an enterprise-level, community distro which is based on the source code of Red Hat. Those two should be fairly easy to set up for a file server, and very reliable.
But really, any Linux distro is going to be reliable as long as you don't run a GUI full-time. (use one when you're setting up your system, turn it off when you don't need it).
Or were you planning to use it as a desktop as well? Fedora and CentOS will still work as a normal desktop computer, but you might find it more satisfying to use Ubuntu or Mepis.
I have an older Dell Dimension, It has a P4 1800 mhz, 256 MB RAM, 40 GB and unfortunately it is running Windows ME. This system has one very good thing going for it. Its case is huge by today?s standards. It has 3 5.25? bays and 2 3.5? bays. Along with I believe 2 hard drive slots inside. Also has several PCI slots on the mother board. I want to try to make this system into a file server. I know that I need to get windows me off of the system but do not really want to run XP on a system that only has 256 MB of RAM. My question is if I reformat the drive would you say I would be better off loading Windows 98 SE or trying a Linux based application like, Linspire, Xandros, or Novell? The reviews of these products sound great. And the cost is amazing! In fact it is so amazing that it almost sounds too good to be true. So I wanted to get some opinions.
So based on the factors of cost, ease of setup, and reliability, what operating system would you load on this machine?