What is a good OS for a personal file system?

So I want to build a personal file server that acts as a NAS locally and as an upload/download FTP server over the web (for smaller work/school files) Which operating system should I use? I know some Linux distros work great, but I never used Linux so I would need help with that. Windows Server costs a bundle so that's out of the question, and I think I can salvage a Vista code and a 7 upgrade code from an old laptop of mine, so would those work? If so, what kind of security software will I have to have installed?

I'm planning to build the server using some parts from a previous build, of which non are server parts.

Use NAS4Free or FreeNAS they're both great options for file server types of builds. You will not need a raid card or anything for redundancy with them, as you can utilize ZFS (ZFS does however require a fair bit of RAM). They both have fairly easy to use web guis and are both really easy to install.

My friend is currently running FreeNAS on an old computer that he had lying about, it works quite well, and considering the fact that the OS is absolutely free, it is astonishingly full-featured.