I was forced recently to join the 21st century 13 years late and create a home network. Of sorts anyway. My previous computer went belly up, although the hard drive was OK. Got me a brand-spankin' shiny new Windows 8 machine. All was going well until I couldn't get my scanner to work -- no drivers for Win8. So I went through my options: Get a new scanner or find another solution. Being a basic cheapskate I came up with another solution. I loaded a minimalist version of XP on an old Dell Latitude laptop (at least a dozen years old and referenced here).
A very long story short (too late!), I created an ersatz file and print server out of that machine by hooking up my (non-wireless) printer, my scanner, and a couple old hard drives for storage. Now, there's not a lot of horsepower under the hood. 800 Mhz, 256 Mb RAM, and I used my smallest hard drive (20 gig) for the OS install saving the larger ones for storage. Basically, the internal hard drive is the "partition" for the OS and the external drives are "partitions" for file storage and backup.
XP install was pretty basic: installed everything through SP3 from disks, got IE8 installed, then got all 100-something updates from MS Update. Went back and "uninstalled" unneeded stuff -- games, Messenger, Outlook Express, and more. In the end I used only about 4 gigs of hard drive for OS. Installed drivers for PCMCIA wireless card (remember those?), scanner and printer. And that's where I'd like to leave it; a lean, mean servin' machine. Except for the following:
1) Any more tweaks I can do to the OS? The idea is to not use the internal hard drive for anything more than the OS, drivers, temporary storage for scans, and anything related. Storage will be on external drives or new computer. Remember this is XP Home -- I know, not the best solution but I had it laying around...
2) Anti-virus. I can't seem to find a small footprint anti-virus app anywhere. My favorite, Avira, quit working on XP back around December/January. I tried AVG and that was a disaster, the old girl was wheezing trying to run it. Anyone got a non-bloatware anti-virus they like?
3) Related to 2. If nothing is available in anti-virus, will it be enough to just be behind my router's firewall (and Windows Firewall)? Other than getting MS updates I'm not going to be downloading anything with the old Dell, or even getting on the web. The only "traffic" will be printing, backing up files from new comp. to the external drives, and grabbing scans off of the Dell with my new computer over my "network". It is, however, "connected" 24/7.
Another primary goal has been to keep my new laptop as cord-free as possible. The only cord I ever really want to plug in is the power cord to recharge the battery. Everything else -- printing, backups, file movements, etc. -- should be wireless. In other words, I want no suggestions on TB+ drives, online storage, etc. I already have a GoogleDrive account, and I don't need a TB worth of storage for what I have. This is all about using my old computer (and other existing hardware) as a "server" and get the most out of it.
Lastly, this hasn't cost me a cent so far (other than a new computer) and I'd like to keep it that way. I already had all the hard drives, cards, cables, software, USB hub, adapters, etc. I'm not gonna buy more memory, I'm not gonna get some crazy server software (unless it's free ) and learn it. This is all personal use and a learning experience. I'm also not serving movies to my TV or anything like that. It's just internet and between computers/printer/etc.