I had an old computer or two lying around, so I decided to cannabalize them and make a cheap NAS with the old disks. The main ideas were to keep it easy to maintain and to buy no extra components. Here’s what I did:

  • Hardware: I used an old desktop computer with BIOS that can boot from USB and an old 1GB USB stick (500 mb would be enough)
  • I downloaded Image Writer for Windows and burnt Debian Live image (debian-live-6.0.4-i386-standard.img in my case - I only wanted the command line) to the USB.
  • Plugged the USB in and opened BIOS, to set it as first in the boot order.
  • In the boot manager press Esc and write “live persistent”.
  • Install some packages needed - “sudo apt-get install parted ssh samba ntfs-3g hdparm”
  • Partition the nonpartitioned part of the USB by: “parted /dev/sda” (where /dev/sda is the USB stick you’re using). Use “help mkpart” and “print” to help with partitioning. Make a new partition by e.g.: “mkpart primary 302MB 1011MB”.
  • Make a filesystem on the new partition: “mkfs -t ext2 -L live-rw /dev/sda2”
  • Configure the bootloader, so it boots automaticaly after 5 seconds: “sudo nano /live/image/syslinux/syslinux.cfg”
  • Make default booting option a persistent one “sudo nano /live/image/syslinux/live.cfg”
  • Add some password for minimal security: “sudo passwd root” and “sudo passwd user”
  • Find the hard disks designations (in my case all partitions were NTFS): "sudo fdisk -l | grep NTFS" and add them into /etc/fstabs: “/dev/sda1 /mnt/windows ntfs-3g defaults 0 0” to have them mounted on startup.

  • To have disks spin down if idle edit /etc/hdparm.conf: “/dev/sda { spindown_time = 120 }”
  • Configure samba, to have it share the disks within your network. See this

The result should be a USB stick which boots up a nice light debian system, shares your files accross the LAN and is easy to maintain if you have basic Linux knowledge. I might improve the power consumption my setup in the future by replacing the old computer with a Raspberry Pi to make the whole thing much smaller and economical (supposedly it only consumes ~5W).