Creating a cheap as chips network storage system

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything on here  but here goes.

A while back I started looking into the idea of network storage drives but each time was put off by the cost.

Last week I decided I to take the plunge.

As is usually the case I decided that I should check out the reviews on each item that seemed suitable in price and size.

Unforunately it seemed that most of the ones I was contemplating where either unreliable, limited in use or just plain junk.

So what would be the solution?

Build one myself!!!


I knew I had some spare drives and an old HP Kayak workstation in the attic that I’d previously bought to transfer samples across to Emu sampler I once had.

At the time I must have known a tinkering was in it’s future because I hadn’t stripped it for parts and thrown it away.

At the time I’d paid £10 for it.

Luckily for me I’d upgraded my old 19″ monitor for a brand new 22″ widescreen model.

So now I have Workstation, Monitor + spare 40gb hard drive and keyboard and mouse.

The workstation came with Windows 2000 professional already installed, 256mb ram and 10gb system hard drive.

It also came with the most important bit, a 10/100 LAN card installed.

Now I know what your saying, 40gb is not a lot of space or I haven’t got a spare monitor or PC.

Well let me answer those:

1. 40gb is a small  amount but what we’re creating here is a network server. This will allow us to do an awful lot.

It will let us attach any usb or parallel device with will give us networked printers.

This will also allow us to attach via usb any usb hard drive we have and leave it attached.

Also if you take into account that the PC has 4 IDE channels – this gives us minus the os hard drive three more attached drives(we won’t be needing a CD or DVD drive).

Look on ebay, a 120gb hard drive can be bought for £10 – work it out 120gb x 3 = 360gb at £30 cost.

Be careful though and check what size drive your motherboard, OS and bios will support.

2. On the subject of spare monitors, you don’t need one! You can use your desktop monitor to set it up and maintain if needed – or borrow one from a friend.

Once up and running it won’t need a monitor, we’re just using it for network storage and networking our printers and besides further on I’ll show you how to get access to the screen without a monitor.

On the subject of keyboard and mouse.

You’ll need the keyboard attached at least and it’s always worth having a spare mouse knocking around, again ebay can cut costs here, don’t go for fancy, go for cheap.


Let’s do a bit of costing on my system as an example

Workstation = £10

Monitor = £0 already owned

Keyboard and Mouse = £0 spares from attic

40gb hard drive = £0 spare.

120gb hard drive = £10 bought on ebay

LAN card = £0 already installed

Network Cable = £0 spare

In total £20 for a 160gb network hard drive.

You’d have to cost in any item you don’t own but LAN cards and Network cables are cheap on ebay, in fact if you have a wireless router you should have an appropriate cable somewhere already.

Anyway lets’ get on with it.


Setting up the network.

For this bit I’m going to name the two PCs I used to setup.

PC = Workstation(wired) and Laptop = Laptop(wireless)

Attach the network cable to the PC LAN card and attach the other end to the first port on your router.

Fire up your PC.

Now please note, PC has windows 2000 professional installed and LAPTOP has windows vista.

On my network these two found each other straight away. If you have problems at this point then you’ll need to do some extra reading on setting up a network. Google is your friend!

Now onto the cool part.

I now have my Xbox(softmod) and XMBC installed connected to router(wired), my Laptop connected by wireless, PC connected(wired) with printer attached and 250gb usb hard drive attached also.

My xbox can access my music collection from the PC, my laptop can also access said PC and I can also print via network printing.

Network printing is easy to set up –

1st install printer drivers on all attached computers wanting to print from.

2nd attach printer to PC that is attached to router

3rd In Vista – Goto Start – Settings – Printers – ADD Printer add a network printer – if your network is setup and printer is on then it should find it.


Finally the really cool part

How about having access to your files when away, such as your music collection or wanting all your business files secure.

This will work with a laptop, desktop and netbook.

1st You’ll need a gmail account

2nd You’ll need to download this peice of software GBridge

Gbridge is a free software that lets you remotely control PCs, sync folders, share files, and chat securely and easily. An extension of Google’s gtalk service, Gbridge automatically forms a collaborative, encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network) that connects your computers and your friends’ computers directly and securely with patented technology. Gbridge has many unique features.

DesktopShare and SecureShare are the ones we’re looking at.

Once the software has been installed on all pcs attached to our network we can connect from anywhere in the world.

You can play mp3’s direct from a browser!

You can also connect to the PCs desktop via Gbridges VNC connection, which means you can remotely control your PC, which also means no need for a monitor.

Gbridge is free and easy to use.


Well that’s me done, hope there is some food for thought there,

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