NAS for parents on a budget of zero from spare parts

I have an old core2 sff dell and a single 8tb external drive. They are down with paying for backblaze b2 for a backup but don’t want to buy any more hardware. This will be used for family photos mainly and accessed via their windows laptops over wifi so it doesn’t need to be speedy. I wanted to get nextcloud working but it kept breaking with generic web errors on reboot, something I’m doing wrong probably. Should I just set up a samba share for them? I already have duplicity setup in a docker container working with a test external drive. The 8tb drive is at my parents place right now with pictures already on it, probably formatted NTFS or fat32, whatever wd formatted it to.

Spec of the PC:

  • E8400
  • 8gb ddr3
  • 500gig SSD
  • debian 11, gnome

Also, is there a way to automate updates? I don’t want to have to manage the system every couple weeks but I can check up on maybe each quarter. I would have to walk them through using ssh each time.


You can use the unattended-updates package. Install it, change the configuration file to set up which upgrades should take place and you’re good.

Just for file synching you can use syncthing. It’s much easier to set up and works very well.

If they’re gonna work with Windows PCs that’s the best option in my opinion. And it’s gonna appear like any other disk in Files so there won’t be much confusion about where to find it.

Since the drive it’s already formatted you might wanna make sure to give it all the need permission when you hook it up to the new NAS machine, else it’s gonna go nuts when trying to do anything on it through SMB especially.

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Just run Syncthing but if you’re going to use ancient hardware just pay Google/Apple/insert other provider here a few $$$ per month as its going to be much cheaper from day 1.


They are your parents, buy whatever hardware would give this a better result. You don’t have to tell them you spent money, just say it’s built from old junk because that’s what they mean to you :wink:

I’d use two drives in a mirror raid just to be safe. You can get an old RAID card cheap or us MDADM.

You could use pre-made server or NAS distro such as ClearOS or TrueNAS or OpenMediaVault. Or use Debian and stick Webmin on it.

ClearOS runs automated updates. It has a NextCloud plugin that integrates very tightly but it’s not free.

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Thanks for all of your tips, got auto updates setup. I need to use that tool on my various rpis…
Got rsync setup to update onto a second usb hdd every 4h.
Got duplicati setup to backup to backblaze each night.
Got samba setup for access from windows and dropped any thought about using nextcloud.
If my parents use it a lot I’ll get them a synology nas or something nicer that will work as an nvr as well.

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I would advice for cloud service. Least amount of trouble.

If I had to buy a NAS for my parents, I’d build a fully-fledged low-power TrueNAS with locks to make sure my Dad doesn’t touch anything and then setup SMB/AFP for them and get my SSH keys,etc. going to have a remote replication and access for myself.

Anything in between isn’t worth risking my mental health. But some parents are different than others, so YMMV :wink:



Starting out with 15 year old hardware and nerd software for parents is setting yourself up for pain.

I would think about buying something newer. Maybe something in the area like Odroid HC1, HC2 if you find them somewhere… Or HC4, Armbian and OpenMediaVault on board and you have a small NAS. :wink:

But if the electricity bill and noise are not a problem then put OpenMediaVault 6 based on Debian 11 there, load the usual “apt update and apt upgrade -y” into the crontab and forget about the box. Optionally, set an email notification when something goes wrong. :wink:


I’ll buy a synology or something like that if my parents prove to actually use the thing, if they don’t I’ll let them go back to what they were doing

First thing find how much is stored on it and make a copy, probably isn’t much, guessing a 2TB harddrive in a USB holder. You don’t want to have to be dealing with upset family members after pictures lost by single drive failure, or even if accidental. It won’t go over well, if it’s small enough an SSD instead of an HD. A backup is never a waste of money. If the data is missing some members of the family will demand the data recovered even though they most likely not put up any of money, usually many hundreds of dollars, when the backup drive would of cost less than $100

They’re saving multiples of data to different services and hard drives, it’s in their last post about it.

Personally I’d do the same as you said, it’s the sensible thing to do.

To chime in, check the health of the current drive, I had bad experiences with failing desktop drives I used as storage.

I would chose something reliable. The worst combination you can have is ancient, remote location, not easily replaceable, untrained user.

If you use something ancient:
The best thing is that you have plenty of spare you can use a drop-in replacement.
I suggest an easy setup, maybe a drop-in replacement with an identical configuration as standby. For example I can yank my NAS drives from my machine, put them in a similar configured PC or connect them with USB adapters or whatever and it will boot up fine. I did something similar at my parents home. My father uses a HTPC I build for music and video playback, it’s based on a Atom SFF PC with Nvidia nforce chipset and runs LibreELEC which is Linux with Kodi Frontend. I yoinked 5 of these, when my employer was phasing them out. Last year the PC at my fathers house stopped working. I reimaged a new one and send it to him, he kept the usb hdd with the data, replaced the PC and was back up and running.