Use for old computer in home network

I have a home network (my main PC, a wireless laptop and a digital media server). I have an old Dell computer with a PIII 550 processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 10 GIG HD. What is the best use of this computer? As a file server or a file backup system? I use a peer-to-peer program. Would it be a good idea to run this off the Dell rather than my main computer (a Gateway P4 2.8 system)? Would it be a good idea to spend a few hundred dollars to upgrade my memory or storage, or is that a waste on a system so old?

Josh FialkoffFounder/CEO Asked:
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The best use is one that fills a need you have.

A place to store backups completely off the other systems is a good thing.
Backups on the hard drive that breaks don't help much.
The memory you have is fine for that.
You'll probably need more hard drive space.

If you don't need it then sell it, or donate it to a school, or load it up with some educational software and give it to someone that can't afford a PC and has kids.

It will also come in handy if you have problems, to test parts or software.
Does the system have USB ports? for transferring files that is an easy option to have.
And if you want to test disks or cd drives with it, you can have a long IDE cable coming out the back, together with a power plug (extension)
...and you could use it for the internet connection, that way, if you get malware, it would not be on your main computer.
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If you are using a standard usb or parallel printer (or even both), why not use this pc as a print server. You will probably be able to pickup a secondhand laser printer for a few dollars, and you probably have an up-to-date inkjet connected to your main pc already. Connect the laser to the parallel port, and the inkjet to a usb port on the spare pc. This will reduce the load on your pc, and should save you money (using the laser as your standard output and the inkjet only when required).

If you want to use this as a file-backup system, then you will need to add a second hard disk (minimum 80Gb). If you do this, then adding a dvd-writer gives you even more options, using it as your burning station etc..

Hope this helps


Josh FialkoffFounder/CEO Author Commented:
I like these suggestions... What would the benefit be of using the Dell as a print server? Are theare any ways to use the Dell to improve the performance of my system (i.e., by running certain programs on the Dell).
A print server isn't a terrible idea in itself but it would be a waste to use a whole system as a print server.
Used print servers are pretty darned cheap these days (via eBay).

Windows really doesn't share work between computers in such a way as to improve your network's overall performance.

If your connection to the internet doesn't already have a firewall you could set it up as an Internet Gateway.
The idea is hackers only see the Dell and can't get to the other PC's on your Network.
It requires two NICs in the system.
-- Most broadband routers/modems and such have that 'built in' these days so you may be protected that way already.

If there is a remote place you would occationally like a work station, and not have to move your laptop to there, it would work well for that. (Garage?, Kitchen?, Dinning Room?,) It could still be your backup storage from this other location.

It would also work as a 'guests' system so if someone wants to use the internet while they are visiting, you don't have to let them have access to all your 'stuff' or risk having them screw up your 'important' system.


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Josh FialkoffFounder/CEO Author Commented:
Thanks for all of your suggestions. While i think all of the posts had creative and informative ideas, PCBONEZ synthesized the relevant data best... and I admire his idea of giving the system to someone less fortunate (although in my case that may not be as useful because I use the Dell monitor as my secondary monitor, and I don't know if a daycare/school would be *that* thrilled to get a CPU with no monitor ;-) ).

Thanks again... I love this Web site-- what a great use of tecnology to create a meaningful community!

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