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I'm looking for a free operating system to run a data center / file server, where all my devices & computers can connect to it via wifi (WLAN) & over the internet to access files.

I will most likely be streaming media (audio & video) to multiple computers at once, therefore I want something that can manage my home network & something I can access from the outside as well, without any gross security holes..

I'm not very familiar with Linux, but if someone suggest Linux, that's cool, I'm always willing to learn! I don't want to go through hard coding in a root/cmd prompt to get a server to do something, I need software that will help me setup the server / home network.. I want to share my printer & internet from this machine as well, it's going to be a simple small Celeron dual core computer with 1 GB of RAM & 2 TB of Hard Drives (in RAID)..

Is there such an OS out there like this?

asked Feb 24 '11 at 22:20

_GTech's gravatar image


Since your choice is the best free home server operating system -- with an emphasis on free, then the top three, which are all Linux derivatives, that I can suggest order of preference are:

FreeNAS: The FreeNAS server - http://freenas.org/
FreeNAS is an extremely minimal distribution of FreeBSD. Designed to be an absolutely skeletal operating system to maximize the resources devoted to storage FreeNAS is great for when you want a simple operating system that leaves every hard drive bay and disk platter wide open for file storage goodness.

Ubuntu Server Edition - http://www.ubuntu.com/server
While configuring Ubuntu isn't going to be as easy as grabbing a pre-configured Windows Home Server off the shelf at your local Best Buy and plugging it in, there are a wealth of applications to help you integrate your Linux based home server with the rest of your network. It won't be as straight forward as using Windows Home Server or a Time Machine backup, but Ubuntu is more than powerful and capable enough to handle all your media streaming, remote back up, and file serving needs.

Debian - http://www.debian.org/
Like Ubuntu, with Debian you can configure this flexible operating system to do nearly anything you can imagine, from serving media and remote backups to running your own web server (learning curve of course). Debian can be used to run a low-power and headless server when run without a GUI and using remote administration. Along with FreeNAS, Debian is a prime candidate for turning an aging computer into a quiet, tucked-in-the-basement server.

The only other option is Windows Home Server:

Which you can try it out for free:

To buy Windows Home Server, it would cost you about $100

answered Feb 24 '11 at 23:50

Greg%20De%20Santis's gravatar image

Greg De Santis

edited Feb 24 '11 at 23:51

FreeNAS is free, tiny, easy to install, and honestly, very easy to set up via the web GUI. It's worth spending an afternoon tinkering with it.

(Feb 24 '11 at 23:52) KnightZero KnightZero's gravatar image

TYVM Mate!

(Feb 24 '11 at 23:56) _GTech _GTech's gravatar image

You can have an OS that is:

  • Free
  • Easy to set up
  • Easy to use

Pick any two.

answered Feb 24 '11 at 23:05

tsilb's gravatar image


I agree with the first guy. Windows servers are going to be the best for what you need because in order to set up a linux server it's going to take tons of reading and tons of cmd line config just to get samba and everything you need to work right. I woulnd't go that way unless you wanted to spend a lot of time reading and learning linux. I'm not going to say anything else about that but windows servers " cost MOST people money if you get my drift. " You could also look into a router with NAS built in and use a hardware NAS. If i were you i would look into NAS since you have limited xp on setting up servers. Windows server 08 is the best way you could go server wise, small biz server or windows server 2003 could also be an option for you, you could even run those on vmware or virtualbox to get the hang of them if you don't have an extra box hanging around. If i were you though i would put it on a dual core, with at least 2 gigs of ram. You can do it on a 32 bit and 1 gig but it's not going to perform good.

answered Feb 24 '11 at 23:16

in3t's gravatar image


  1. FreeNAS - http://freenas.org/ - based on FreeBSD
  2. Zentyal - http://www.zentyal.org/ - based on Ubuntu
  3. WHS - Windows Home Server - based on Windows

All have web GUI for configuring and accessing.

answered Apr 16 '11 at 03:36

Vaidotas's gravatar image


edited Apr 16 '11 at 03:42

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Asked: Feb 24 '11 at 22:20

Seen: 63,684 times

Last updated: Apr 16 '11 at 03:42