Repurposing Old Hardware For Linux Server

Hi Everybody
I am new to Linux and want to re-purpose an old rig for use as a storage/plex server. I’m working with a Core 2 duo, an ASUS p5q pro motherboard, 4 gigs of GSkill memory, two WD black drives (matching models), and an NVIDIA 650. I also have a couple 2.5 hard drives I can use for OS.

I’m making this a project for my son and I and would like to use CentOS for stability reasons. I’ve watched videos on the virtues of ZFS, but from what I’ve read, it doesn’t come natively with CentOS. Would it be a problem to use ZFS with CentOS 7, or should I stick with the native file system? Also, if anybody can see hardware conflicts, a heads up would be great.

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If that is what you have than I say go for it. Possibly since your new just use the existing filesystem. If you want to try Ubuntu 18.04 than it is super easy to get zfs going on it.
What size are the drives?

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Hardware should be quite happy with Linux

Booting Live ISO USB to install should show everything working

Debian can do ZFS too

You would need to install Debian or Ubuntu
(keep it simple and start with ext4 first)
then install packages for ZFS on the 2 WD drives later

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I say go for it too. I have a Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM with Ubuntu running some network shares.
Now, in the file system realm, before you go slapping ZFS on everything that’s connected to a network, read this. You can try to do it, but just don’t get too upset if stuff’s not going great. Anyway, have fun :smile:.

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Yeah, hardware should be fine for a small home server.

I’d say skip ZFS. ZFS Needs RAM. And in this context lots of it. It is recommended to start with 4G and add another Gig per TB of Storage. Plus ECC is recommended.

If you just want to see how ZFS works, go for it. Use Ubuntu Server and it’ll be up and running in no time. If you actually want to use it somewhat productively, your hardware might not provide the Performance needed for any decent throughput in ZFS.

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you have a good rig to work with
the thing with linux it is easy to install and configure, but can be daunting to long time windows user due to the different naming schemes.
centos is a good choice and you can install it with the default choices of file system or you can choose different formats during partitioning.
using different choices of format than the default will harden the installation ( and is recommended if the server will be holding sensitive information).
typically the server files will be remotely accessed by the client computers using programs like ngenx,
sms linux is a simple server distro that is easy to install but has no gui. or desktop. and must also be accessed remotely.
linux servers are more secure and dependable.
windows based servers have a desktop interface but due to the fact that it uses an ntfs and fat based file format systems they are vulnerable to attacks regardless of the encryption schemes.
centos is a good choice and can be customized to suit your needs.
be aware there are a lot of different server types to choose from.

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I wondered about memory. Thank you for the input.

I hadn’t thought of using the live feature for hardware compatibility testing. Thank you for the tip.

This was my concern with using it instead of the file system that comes natively. The reason I decided to go with CentOS is because of stability. I don’t want to have to troubleshoot every time I add a new device to the network.

They are 640gig WD black 7200rpm.

As others have said ZFS does like RAM but with those two in a mirror I believe you would be fine. Performance may suffer but I don’t think it will be that bad. Plex server wise won’t be much space for many videos. So use this system to learn and familiarize yourself with Linux and maybe try and get some bigger drives or look for another system to build a new server to get some more performance and longevity out of it.

I plan to get some larger drives in the near future. This is a learning project I’m doing with my teenage son. I figured it could be beneficial for both of us.


These are the best.

ZFS can be a bit RAM hungry because it caches data in RAM. I still think there is a lot to learn from this though, and if performance becomes a concern later, you can always add more RAM. After you max out your RAM (I repeat, after you max out your RAM) you can even extend this cache by adding SSDs as L2ARC.

This guide seems to be good for explaining the ZFS terminology as well as installation steps on Centos 7


For me, this is how I learn. Pick something that interests you and take the dive into the deep end of the pool.

Once you figure out the core concepts, none of this is too hard to learn, even if it seems thay way at first. Im sure you will succeed with your project.

ZFS is great for mass storage. I have heard of some issues trying to boot from ZFS. Maybe some others can elaborate here. I boot from another drive, and use my raidz1 pool for media and storage.

Since you have two drives to use, a mirror setup would be best IMHO, as you will not be able to do raidz1 or raidz2 without more drives.

Experiment and see what fits your needs.

Yeah, last I checked you have to do something with live cds and chroots. Not worth it for me. ZFS on Root works perfectly out of the box on FreeBSD though. Have it running on a 1 core (with hyperthreading) atom laptop with 1 gb of ram. Slow as frozen molasses, but I blame the hardware

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Very good to know. I appreciate the info.

ZFS’s thirst for memory can be a bit overstated at times; I’d say 4Gb is a bit short for a workstation running ZFS (but I’ve done it on a Sun Ultra 10 back in the day), but for a storage server it’s fine.

As far as I’m concerned ECC is always recommended :slight_smile:

ECC and an upgraded hardware set will come later. So far, this is just a learning project for my son and myself. It’s a chance for us both to learn a new environment and for him to work on some things, such as penmanship. I am having him write commands he uses into a notebook until he can memorize them. My son is home schooled and I want him to have functional skills for earning a living outside of any area he may study in the future.

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