What OS for a old PII box as a File/Print Server


Established Member
As some of you may know, I'm planning on setting up a small network at both my apartment and my in-laws house.

I want each to have a file and print server.

The boxes will be Pentium II 400s with 256MB of RAM.

I'm almost sure I'm going to setup a mostly wireless network.

Most of the time only 1 person will be accessing the files or printing at once.

Sharing a dialup net connection would be a major plus too.

Here's what the client boxes will be:

My place: A couple Win2K laptops and a possible older laptop running Linux (discussed here). 1 Laser Printer.

In-Laws place: an XP box, a 2K box, and possibly an older box running either Linux or 98. 1 Laser Printer and a Inkjet.

The 2K laptops may also be "visiting" the other network as well.

I've never dealt with Linux before, but it sounds interesting.

I've also never set up a network before, but want to learn.

So anyway, what OS should I put on each of the server boxes?

Linux running Samba?

Win2K Pro?

Win2k Server?


Of course, I want a decent balance of performance and ease of use.

edit: BTW, I might just use the server for my place as a part time emu/divx box
Well I would use Win2K on it. If it's gonna be an exlusively file/print server and the connection to the net, use Win2K server and setup a home network from it. You can then assing actual usernames and passwords to people and allow their settings to move with them across boxes (more or less).

Linux would be alright for file sharing but I'm not sure how good it's printer support in the sharing would be.


Established Member
Originally posted by gameboy900@May 22, 2003 @ 10:42 PM

Linux would be alright for file sharing but I'm not sure how good it's printer support in the sharing would be.

Yeah I've kinda heard bad things about that, but didn't know many details.

Would Linux offer a noticeable performance difference for simple server things over 2K?

Is there a way to make 2K Pro "simplified" for light server use instead of as a normal workstation?
Not really the performance would be similar for both.

Well Win2K would be simplified enough if you just didn't install the extra componenets that come with it. The rest is pretty much required anyway.


Established Member
Originally posted by gameboy900@May 23, 2003 @ 12:00 AM

Well Win2K would be simplified enough if you just didn't install the extra componenets that come with it. The rest is pretty much required anyway.

like what, for example?


Mid Boss
I personally use Win2K for my file share/ print server. It runs very well on my simple Pentium Pro 200 mHz machine with 256 mb of Ram.
*beats head against wall*

just enable netbeui and tcp/ip and turn on internet connection sharing on your 2k machine and set it so other ppl can turn it on and so on and so forth its what i did at home cept the xp box is the gateway. standard networking doesn't really need a file server cuz you plop the original on diff comp's in the shared documents folder on each comp. thats simple home style but i guess there is a use for having one file universally accessible. i feel dumb now... but just don't install IIS when you install 2k and the rest will work like a charm.

Oh and i used to run 2k Pro on a 166 with 64mb of ram
now dat had moments of insane slowness.


Established Member
Will I be able to share a net connection from the XP box and one of the laptops instead of the servers?

Will it work with NetZero even though you to connect through their software?

I want a separate file server so only that one has to be on for everyone to access the file and so I don't have to upgrade the HD on the other machines.
2k = 5.0, XP = 5.1 and it will work on Xp if it is Pro or server not home. and yes it will work with the netzero software cuz it has to use the dial up system in windows. and there fore should have a connection under that tab. i could give you the walkthrough if you like i'd have to make it though. and as long as you share the hd's on the other pc's everyone will have access to everyone else. also make sure they all belong to same workgroup, eg. i use stable for the name of mine.


Staff member
On that hardware, and with the demand likely in a household environment, you're not going to run into substantial performance differences among any "serious" operating systems (Linux/WinNT2K/BSD/QNX/blahblahblah).

If by "ease of use" you mean "ease of initial setup", you might want to skip the following. If not...

Personally, I'd implement this with OpenBSD, Samba, and CUPS but whether or not that's the right choice for you could very well depend on other factors, like what hardware (network hardware and printer in particular) you have and how much effort you're willing to put into learning how to set up pf (OpenBSD's packet management system) and CUPS. OpenBSD has an excellent security and stability record and offers extremely flexible firewalling and NAT (connection sharing) options, but you'll pay for it with the learning curve unless you're already well-versed in network administration. Samba isn't actually as bad to set up as it seems at first glance, however - if you've ever edited .ini files, Samba's configuration is similarly formatted and it comes with a heavily-commented sample config file that deals with the more opaque settings. This combination has the advantage of not needing a monitor/keyboard/mouse hooked up to the machine to check logs or alter the configuration (for Samba and CUPS, this can even be done with a web browser interface; sadly pf does not have a similar frontend available to my knowledge); assuming adequate ventilation and a conveniently located power source, you could stick the box in a closet, under a bed, etc.

As for getting onto NetZero and similar ISPs without their software, I'm told that this may be facilitated by a program called RASSpy. I don't know much beyond that, unfortunately.
Is "OpenBSD" able to multilink, that is; use 2 external modems for dialup?

If so, could multilink be handled through a browser, and not the actual box?

If not,

what version of Windows, or other OS, do you recommend for ICS and multilink? Win 2K pro? or server? or 98SE? ME?
Have to disagree w/ EX on this one ..

While yes, ANY form of recently ( 3 yrs ) Unix is more secure than any Microsoft product ever written, you'll learn ( as EX was correct to point out ) the learning curve is a steep one. Something you can easily do in IIS is turn on and set up FTP. In Red Hat 9, you have to enable VSFTPD, enable and allow/restrict users, yada yada yada. Most of this is done thru conf files and requires you to do the proper reading on the subject at hand. It's not like you are re-inventing the wheel; this can be done. Just requires you to soak in the knowledge... IIS give you everything in in a nice (evil msoft ) GUI... Samba is pretty easy to set up and use, but again, requires you to dig into MAN files and read thru the conf files.

2K's file/print service would fit you like a glove. File Services uses little system overhead, while Print uses more, but still nothing that should bog a P2 200 down to a crawl. As always though, the more the better... You're not running a public server, and sticking w/ the Windows platform will make life easier in the long run ...

Oh and i used to run 2k Pro on a 166 with 64mb of ram now dat had moments of insane slowness

Wanna hurt a PC, try running Solaris 9x86 on a 1.7gh w/ 512 ram ... It's called SLOWARIS for a reason