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Power Linux

Low-Power Home Linux Server? 697

mpol writes "For years I've been using a home server with Linux, but recently I've been having doubts about the electric bill. I'm not touched by the recession yet, but I would like to cut costs, and going from a 100-Watt system to a 30-Watt system would save me 70 bucks a year. The system doesn't need to do much, just apache, imap, ssh and some nfs, but I do prefer to have a full-fledged system, where I can choose what to install on it. I also don't really care if it's a low-power Via or an ARM processor as long as it's cheap. I'm aiming for $300 or less for a full system, which I could then earn back in about four years through power savings. I've been reading about the Western Digital Mybook World Edition, which has an ARM processor but isn't that easy to install Debian on. A Mac Mini draws about 85 Watts, so that isn't an option either. Something a bit more than turn-key would be fine, but preferably not a complete hack-job. Adding a temporary CR-ROM or DVD-ROM, or a USB disk with an iso to install from would be nice. Any Slashdotters run nice and cheap low-power Linux systems? What can you recommend?"
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Low-Power Home Linux Server?

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  • Linkstation Pro Duo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ceswiedler ( 165311 ) * <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:11PM (#29865387)

    I'm working on getting a Buffalo Linkstation Pro Duo [] set up with Debian Lenny. It's mostly complete, I'm rebuilding the kernel as I type to get USB printer support working. It's very compact and low-power, and has mirrored 500 GB disks, which I think is essential for any home server.

    The downside is that I had to solder on a serial connection in order to get access to uboot (a bootloader similar in concept to GRUB) so I could view early kernel output and diagnose problems, log in if networking didn't come up, etc. If you can find a NAS device which supports a serial console (or at least can use netcat instead), that would be good.

    One thing to be aware of is that you get a lot less CPU power with these low-watt ARM CPUs. The Linkstation Duo is great for fileserving, printing, and light email and webserving duties, but when I installed Gallery and postgres to view my photos over the web, it ran extremely slowly. That's not too surprising given it's a NAS not a full-fledged server, but it's something to keep in mind. You may only need a low-power device for 90% of your apps, but that last 10% can use a surprising amount of CPU.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:18PM (#29865459)

      I have a DNS-323 which looks similar. You can indeed install Debian on it, but it seems that some of the peripherals are not handled properly, in particulare the thermal sensors.

      My current mini-server of choice is the Micro-Client Jr DX (~10W)

      • by ls671 ( 1122017 ) * on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:32AM (#29869833) Homepage

        > and has mirrored 500 GB disks, which I think is essential for any home server.

        I found that when the computer is ran with with no screen, the hard drives are what require the most power. Not surprising when you touch them and see how warm/hot they get.

        I have two monitor-less servers, one has 2 X 500G drives in it while the other has 4. The one with 4 drives takes about 160 watts of power while the other with 2 takes about 80 watts of power.

        I would suggest to look at alternative media to store your data (or more energy efficient drives) if you are concerned with saving power. You may also look at stopping the drives from spinning when not in use depending on how busy your server is throughout the average day but I do not know how well it works under Linux.

        Also, if you live in a cold area where you need to heat your place, the heat dispersed by the drives will warm your house and make you save on heating bills. This is one of the reason I do not worry about this that much... I just warm my place up with the computers and this makes me save on heating bills ;-))

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fgouget ( 925644 )

          I have two monitor-less servers, one has 2 X 500G drives in it while the other has 4. The one with 4 drives takes about 160 watts of power while the other with 2 takes about 80 watts of power.

          All this means is that your two systems are pretty different. A typical 3.5" hard-drive uses less than 10 watts [], not anywhere close to the 40 watts your example would seem to imply.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cbreaker ( 561297 )
            But.. bigger capacity drives are heavier and require more electricity! Two 1TB disks will draw 2x more than two 500GB disks!

            Kidding aside, I think the big myth these days is that hard drives use a lot of power. They use a few watts when they spin up, but when they're just sitting there doing nothing they consume very little electricity, and when they're working hard they can use DOUBLE - and double of very little is still very little.

            I have a file server machine with 13 drives in it - all but one is is
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ls671 ( 1122017 ) *

            Nope, both system are the same you are not taking into account the following factors:

            1) additional hard drives will cause your power supply to generate more heat and to consume more energy.

            2) additional hard drives will cause your controller to generate more heat and to consume more energy.

            3) additional hard drives will cause all fans on your sytem to rev faster and to consume more energy.

            4) Additional hard drives will cause your cpu to work harder generate more heat and to consume more energy especially if

    • by karnal ( 22275 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:42PM (#29865681)

      All I do from my home Linux server is read/write files - mostly from Windows clients, but I have a few Linux clients as well. Also some very basic MRTG which I usually don't even look at anyways. One thing I've consistently read about NAS devices is that they won't necessarily have the horsepower to push the network connection on file read/writes to the max.

      What's your experience with the speed of files in and out of the Buffalo device?

      • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:44PM (#29866207) Journal

        What's your experience with the speed of files in and out of the Buffalo device?

        Absolutely TERRIBLE, no question about it. You'll get much better performance out of the oldest system you can snag off ebay for $20.

        Even if you get one for free, I would recomend NOT using it. They made some of the most horrendous design decision ever. First is vastly underpowering the system. Second is giving it anything more than 10BaseT networking, and advertising it as if there's a snowball's chance in hell it'll be able to utilize it... Third, is not providing ANY WAY for the end user to access the underlying system, so when the array gets completely hosed for no reason (and it will! No question.) you can't get in, anywhere, to fix anything, and only a hacked firmware image will save you... Fourth and perhaps most significantly, is cheaping-out on $1 worth of flash, and instead storing the OS image on the HDDs, leaving it vulnerable to data corruption, and a huge pain in the ass to bootstrap with fresh drives (requiring Windows, or at least WINE to run the firmware updater app).

        I posted on a forum somewhere about all the typos I found in the firmware of my unit... "ehco" is a good extensive one in the software-raid scripts, ensuring nobody can actually get the reports of a few specific errors, should they occur. And this is in a commercial product.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thadmiller ( 1435871 )

      I'd like to second the Buffalo Linkstation solution. The LS-XHL model has a 1.2 GHz ARM CPU, 256MB RAM, and the 1 TB model is available from NewEgg for around $220 (they also make a 1.5 TB and 2 TB). I did have to take the drive out and hook it up to a desktop running Ubuntu for part of the install, but I didn't need to solder anything. I have Debian Lenny running on the NAS with AMP, Samba, OpenSSH, Webmin, and TorrentFlux for normal operation. I also have LXDE accessed via TightVNC with various deskto

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TeknoHog ( 164938 )
      Seconded, I have a Linkstation Live running Gentoo [].
    • by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @04:26PM (#29866903)

      Is it really worth buying some new kit whose sole purpose is to save money when, towards the end of it's lifetime, you will just about have saved the money you spent to buy it? How about saving yourself the time and not doing it?

      • by stokessd ( 89903 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @08:43PM (#29868143) Homepage

        I second this idea. I have an old athlon linux server next to the furnace that runs all sorts of crap. I was thinking of replacing it with an Atom based MOBO and some new drives. But I kept spec'ing a $750 system to replace my Raid5 athlon box. I kept thinking that for most of the year where I live, the server is actually heating my house, and every watt it consumes goes to heat. So it's like running a 150 watt space heater. That's bad in the summer when I'm paying for the heat, then paying to remove it, but this time of year, the heat is welcome.

        So I'm waiting for it to die, or for drives to get bigger so I can use fewer of them and simplify the system.


  • Underclocking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XPeter ( 1429763 ) * on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:12PM (#29865397) Homepage
    You don't look like you need extensive processing power, so why not just underclock your current server? That alone will save you a pretty penny on your bill.

    Also, the mac mini draws 110 watts
    • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sorny ( 521429 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:53PM (#29865759) Homepage

      I get a whopping 35 Watts used running SETI@home on my Mini... That is with a bus powered FW external HDD for Time Machine hooked up and not spinning down the disks when idle.

      A Mac Mini uses nowhere near the power you claim, unless you've got a case where both cores, the GPU, the HDD, and the DVD Burner all all running full tilt at once; a pretty tough thing to do with the use described by the submitter, I'd say.

      • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kitserve ( 1607129 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:42PM (#29866173) Homepage

        I second this - a few years back I switched my home server to a Mac Mini from an old x86 box, for power draw and space/noise reasons, much like the original poster. At the time I checked out alternatives, but there wasn't much to recommend other machines, all the ones I could find had much more limited storage space. No doubt that has improved recently, but being able to fit any standard 2.5" drive is a big advantage if you want to use it as a file server.

        My Mini draws 20W when idling (I tested it with a kill-a-watt). Power use will be higher under heavy load, of course, but your average home server spends most of the time idling. I'm pretty sure the 85W/110W ratings are the maximum the PSU can handle, not the power draw you'd expect in normal use. My box runs a web server, ssh, mail server, file server and various other bits and pieces. X is not installed. It is one of the old PowerPC Minis, which I think draw a bit less than the more recent Intel Minis, but I can't imagine the power draw has increased that much.

        My advice to the OP would be to pick up a second hand Mini and use that - there might be machines out there designed specifically as low power home servers, but Minis are fairly easy to come by and easy to install Linux on as people have been doing it for a few years now, even if Apple don't encourage it. If you're thinking about environmental impact as well as your electricity bill, buying a second hand machine is going to be better than buying a new piece of kit. This was another part of my decision to go with a Mini, there are various computers designed to do the sort of thing the OP has asked for, but they're much more niche and consequently hard to find second hand.

        By the way, if you choose to use a PowerPC Mini, choose a distro that fully supports PowerPC! When I set up the box Ubuntu still officially supported PowerPC, but it has since been switched to unofficial ports only support, which is pretty flaky. Debian is a much better bet, I am now using that as it is much more reliable (note to anyone who wants to call me on this, I am very happy using Ubuntu on x86 desktop, but my recent experiences of the PowerPC releases have not been favourable).

        Some people are suggesting laptops, but I wouldn't recommend one myself. For one thing, they aren't designed or expected to be on all the time, and I suspect you're more likely to run into heating and dust related issues. For another, one of the main advantages of a laptop is that it has a battery and therefore won't require a UPS. However, leaving the machine constantly on and charging is going to kill the battery life fairly quickly, at which point it's not really very useful. On top of that, most laptops use 80W+ when running on mains power. They're usually only designed to save power when running from battery. Obviously you can change the power saving settings, but it's going to be a pain to do so.

        • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nmos ( 25822 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @05:21PM (#29867199)

          Err.. Pretty much all of the reasons you give for not using a laptop are just plain wrong or at least only applicable to certain laptops. Basically the "Desktop Replacement" type laptops that were sold in the year or two leading up to the core2Duo were often essentially desktop processors crammed into a laptop sized case and pretty much behaved the way you described with some poor little fan running full tilt pretty much the whole time. Most older and newer laptops do a lot better though. I have a Toshiba U405D (dual core AMD Turon) right now doing a Vista -> Win 7 upgrade and is using about 40W. My thinkpad A22 (1GHZ P3) running Ubuntu is consuming 25W doing some light web browsing. With the screens off they would both use less of course. As for the battery life issue, while it's true that L-ion batteries will live longer if stored at somewhat less than a full charge the difference isn't that large. Most of these batteries are rated for something like 300 - 400 charge/discharge cycles which is a lot for the sort of usage we're talking about. Remember, these types of batteries/chargers don't just keep charging like NiCads sometimes did. They just charge up and stop.

        • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Insightful)

          by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @08:08PM (#29867969)
          There one reason against the Mac Mini, and it's from a purely economic point of view from what the guys says he wants. The Mac Mini is so much more expensive than an Asus Pundit or something similar then you would need to keep the thing running for several years before you saw any payback. That's certainly overkill for a small home server.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 )
        At idle I get about 12 watts to 14 watts (PPC vs Intel) for mac mini's on our APC monitored power controller. We watch closely as we only have a 2KW budget for the rack with all the equipment considered. Peak I have seen about 40 from a PPC and 65 or so from an Intel
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Swampash ( 1131503 )

        With apache+mysql+php, sshd, samba, and the entire OS X GUI running my Mini draws 16 watts. SIXTEEN.

        In conclusion: original post author on crack.

    • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Informative)

      by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:10PM (#29865909)
      No, the Mini power adapter puts out a max of 110w. Under load, the Mini actually draws a lot less:,2000070803,339295252,00.htm []

      Just under 30w under load. Might be a bit higher if you have a DVD in there. It draws a lot less juice than the adapter provides.
    • Re:Underclocking (Score:5, Informative)

      by camperslo ( 704715 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:33PM (#29866097)

      Also, the mac mini draws 110 watts

      I'd be surprised if it actually uses that much. The figures shown on consumer products for power consumption seem to be peak or maximum, not nominal figures. Using a meter such as the Kill-a-watt will likely show significantly less consumption. (read Watts, not VA) []

      A few years ago I built a desktop using a E6300 Core 2 Duo overclocked to 2.25 Ghz. With added Ethernet and Firewire cards, and typical optical and hard drives, consumption measures only 82 Watts. (tested while doing video compression) Components were selected with energy use in mind. It helped to use basic ICH7/GMA950 graphics.

      Clearly the Minis still use much more energy than some alternatives suggested here, but for a true picture of power savings measured consumption is needed. It would be interesting to results at different clock rates.

      At aa 13 cents a kwh above baseline rate, I figure it costs roughly $1. per month for every 10 Watts of continuous (24 hr) load.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )

      Don't forget going to passive heatsinks (I just glue them on with a fat bead of epoxy around a dot of thermal paste, chisel off with a screwdriver if you want them back when disposing of the old system) and reducing the fan speed on the power supply.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bconway ( 63464 )

      Maximum. Mostly-idle use runs at 13W, which spanks an Atom in power/performance. []

  • Sheeva Plug (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:14PM (#29865417)

    Get a Sheeva plug its 5W and it looks like an adapter.

    • Got me one of these (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:52PM (#29865749)

      Highly recommended.

      I installed debian (lenny) and then updated to squeeze because (and this is to be expected) the squeeze installer is currently borked. Attached to an external drive caddy this solution chopuld come in well under your 30W and will do all you need.

      I have mine serving media to the PS3, downloading stuff, serving my music collection to wherever I happen to be, doing Samba, NFS, TFTP, SSH, SMTP and IMAP.... it's a great.

      • by johnw ( 3725 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:52PM (#29866277)

        Under 30W !? Miles under 30W.

        I've spent quite a few years working towards having a capable low-power home server. I've worked steadily downwards but up until now I've been forced to trade off capability against power consumption. For instance, an NSLU2 is great on power consumption, but its 32M of RAM means there are many things which it just can't do.

        The Sheevaplug has been the answer to my prayers. I now have one of these with an external 350G USB HDD attached and the total power consumption of the pair at idle is a mere 3W. It also seems to be capable of doing anything I ask of it. It runs a MySQL server, handles all my local file services, and provides a public NTP server in the pool, managing to keep a constant score of 20.

        It's a wonderful device. Nothing else comes close if you're after power savings.

    • Re:Sheeva Plug (Score:4, Informative)

      by Headworx ( 1664123 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:54PM (#29865763)
      I agree, nothing beats Sheeva... I have two servers running on this platform... One gathers information from weather sensors - some 30 of them, the other one is running Ubuntu 9.04 as a FTP/Web server for periodically changing content... Pretty impressive performance for $99 and 7 Watts... []
      • Four watts (Score:3, Interesting)

        According to my Kill-A-Watt meter, the thing consistently uses 4 watts. I set up um SVN MySQL LightHTTP Samba and I forget what else. SSH/SFTP were enabled out of the box. I transferred the filesystem from the crappy 512 MB NAND to a compact flash card and moved some var directories to an external HDD.

        Ironically it was much more difficult to plug in the Kill-A-Watt. It has a three prong plug sticking out of the middle of a chassis that is carefully designed to cover every other outlet in the room. The Sh
    • Re:Sheeva Plug (Score:5, Informative)

      by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:56PM (#29865783) Homepage Journal

      I've had one of these for about two months now and it's amazing. It needs a bit of configuration out of the box to fix some of the odd choices Marvell made in their distribution, but there's two great wikis that support the SheevaPlug so there's plenty of help. I'd highly recommend it, super low power, very small, and totally open for you to mess with if you'd like.

      I use mine as a media server and rtorrent downloader. It can serve up multiple samba streams at a time without a hitch. It also has a USB port that I have an external HDD plugged into, though it has its own power plug too (though there are some 2.5 drives that can be powered off USB).

      Definitely get the dev kit, has an SD card slot and serial USB port in addition to the normal USB and ethernet ports.

    • Re:Sheeva Plug (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DamonHD ( 794830 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:09PM (#29865885) Homepage

      The SheevaPlug is great: I've come down from over 600W for a rack of Solaris servers via 18W for a Linux laptop to now under 4W for a SheevaPlug (all quiet/typical consumption) to provide the same services, see: []

      (Served off the plug indeed...)

      I've reduced the consumption so much that the plug now runs entirely off-grid from a small array of solar PV panels (under 200Wp) with a small (12V, 40Ah) battery to cover nights and very dull days...



      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 )
        Where can i get a sheevaplug in the UK?
        The sites linked above are charging £60 in postage. Which is stupid considering the plug is £60.
    • Re:Sheeva Plug (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:15PM (#29865931)

      Don't forget the OpenRD []

      Same chip, but in a larger form factor to bring out the rest of the connectors: 7 USB, 2 Gb ethernet, VGA, audio, serial, & esata.

      It's 250 instead of only 99, though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's the same hardware, I think, but there's also the TonidoPlug [], which costs $99 too, and comes with Jaunty preinstalled, along with some snazzy-looking apps (the roll-your-own OpenID seems groovy).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonsmirl ( 114798 )

      Pogo Plug is a commercialized Sheeva Plug. It may be easier to buy. []

      Sheeva/Pogo is the best solution to this problem that I am aware of. 5W and $99.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sunking2 ( 521698 )
      The sheeva is great, I get about 10Mb/s transfers to it as a file server. The only thing you do need to realize going into it is that there is no fpu on it, resulting in like a 20x hit if you try to run anything that wants floating point math.
  • by ( 463190 ) * on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:17PM (#29865437) Homepage

    Where on earth did you get 85? Are you reading that off the power brick? Those figures are meaningless for this purpose - that's the total load the PS is rated to deliver, not the average load at the wall socket.

    The Mac Mini has all the components and power management features of a notebook so it's going to be about as good as you can get. For less money, the FitPC or a second-hand laptop is probably the next best choice.

  • Mac Mini (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Evro ( 18923 ) *

    You mentioned a Mac Mini, but what if you put Linux on the Mac Mini and clock it to 500 mhz? Maybe you can shut down one of the cores somehow to conserve more power.

  • Laptop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by talcite ( 1258586 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:19PM (#29865461)
    An old laptop will probably give you the lowest power for the cheapest cost. It doesn't sound like reliability or performance is your main concern. You can disassemble it and take out the LCD to save a couple more watts if you want, but a typical laptop draws between 10-20 watts.
    • Re:Laptop (Score:4, Informative)

      by loupgarou21 ( 597877 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:03PM (#29865843)

      If he's going to use a linux distro, he can use vbetool to turn off the monitor, or apple laptops will let you turn off the screen completely. Then use ssh, vnc, or ard to control the computer remotely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      One thing to watch out:

      I tried this with two laptops, and you have to keep the lid open, because processor overheats otherwise.

      This is bad for the space it occupies and for the dust that keeps raining on the keyboard ...

      With lid open, it works great.
  • A BeagleBoard is well supported by Linux and draws under 1W in typical operation. It supports USB and MMC+ for peripherals and storage, but there's no IDE or SATA so you won't be able to connect it to an array of disks, for example. For the simple tasks you want it will probably be more than adequate, but when you say 'apache, imap and nfs' that could mean anything; is it just a single user occasionally accessing files, or do you want to host complex web apps for a few thousand visitors?
  • I'm doing some ARM development and we use an OpenRD( board to compile and test some apps. It has dual NICs, a ton of USB ports, and an eSATA port. Internally it only has a 4G SATA DOM so you probably want to use some sort of external media. It comes with Debian Lenny installed, but you can install other things. The biggest pain in the ass is dealing with uboot but once you get it working its like a normal PC.
  • by thomasdz ( 178114 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:19PM (#29865483)

    The Linksys WRT54G router runs a version of Linux in an open source distribution...
    Or a D-Link DNS 323 NAS box... there's quite an active hacking community using these boxes...

  • by mihalis ( 28146 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:21PM (#29865493) Homepage []

    "The mini uses only 15W while idling in our tests, and a low 34W while running the CineBench benchmark test"

  • I am using a eeebox at home as a file/web server and to do music and video in my living room. The first models B202 uses around 30W of power and doesnot make much noise (eay less than my fridge). There is no optical drive. It can not render full HD but 720p can still be done.

    It may not be what you are looking for, but I think it is a faire reference point.

  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:22PM (#29865511) Journal
    Even if going to a new system would save $70 a year, how much would a new system cost? $300? So it would take 4 yrs just to pay off. My advice? Go with a old p3 laptop with external USB drives or forget the whole thing because it's not really that cost effective.
  • That sounds rather high for the Mini. Apple claims [] that the new mini uses 14 Watts when idle. Typical laptops use 30-40 Watts or less when idle.

    Your best bets are probably the Mac Mini, or another computer with an ultra low voltage desktop chip, an ARM processor, or a low voltage mobile processor. Laptops would be particularly good. Use an SSD instead of a hard drive. Use enough memory to cache your files so you don't have to keep hitting the drive, but do

  • Via Epia 5000 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robertkeizer ( 1596715 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:23PM (#29865527)
    I just finished setting up a via epia 5000 - it maxes out at 20watts power and runs a 533mhz cpu. It retails for about $100 US.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jeroen94704 ( 542819 )
      Second that. My home server runs FreeNAS on an EPIA 5000. Including a gigabit ethernet card, 4-port SATA card and four 1 TB drives, this system draws about 35 watts. When the drives spin down, power usage drops to
      One downside is that the EPIA 5000 is too light-weight to do software RAID (even JBOD), which I found out the hard way (by losing data!), so I am now running the HD's as plain, separate partitions.
    • I have one set up too. With no disk (CF card on a CF-IDE adapter) it's as slow as a dog for loading programs, but only uses 13Watts. Plus it's completely silent. So long as you have enough RAM to keep all your apps resident, their response times won't be too bad. Plus writes to cache help speed things up - so long as your electricity supply is reliable.

      Not great for surfing, or HD video but a home server is generally just passing data around and leaves the compute intensive stuff to the users' PCs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by (H)elix1 ( 231155 ) *

      I've got one of these running my local subversion repositories and a few other processes. As a bonus, it is fanless. One gotcha is it is a i586 CPU, which means distros like Centos and a few others will not install without a bit of extra work.

  • .. and certainly others too. Lots of exciting hardware available.

  • by IceFox ( 18179 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:23PM (#29865531) Homepage
    I recently went through the same search, two good options show up 1) Get a mac mini. The idle power consumption is 13 watts. You get a dvd rom, intel cpu, video out if you need it etc. It costs more and the high cpu usage is 110W. Make sure to not get the older mac mini's, only the ones starting I believe last January had the low idle watt usage. And as a bonus at the end you have a mac you can resell. 2) Get a Sheeva Plug. It only costs $99 and only draws 5 Watts of power. It is arm. I myself simply put a usb stick in it loaded up debian and have been happy ever sense (So I am running at 5.5 W). Silent, low power draw. Downside it that it takes 10 minutes to setup and you can't just plugin a monitor and drop in a install cd you have to drop an install image in a sd or usb stick, but there are helpful webpages people have made showing you step by step how to do this.
  • Use a router supporting this []. Look for a router equipped with one or more USB ports, so you can add disks and USB printers at will. Asus routers are probably the easier to hack, although I have been a bit disappointed with the quality (my experience with Asus is however limited to a WL-500g).
  • Just get a low-end Eee PC; configured right, they consume only a few watts.

    If you want something even cheaper and smaller, get an NSLU2 (but they're a little more work to install on).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RandomJoe ( 814420 )

      Or even a nicer one - I have the 1000HE (Atom processor, 160GB HDD) and it runs 10-12W with the screen on. Performs comparably to the Atom "fanless" desktop machine I also have (which won't run more than 1/2 hour without getting hot as a pistol thanks to the lousy chipset, so it now has a fan on the heatsink!) which pulls 25W at idle with NO screen. Both running Ubuntu 9.04. (Of course, the Eee pulls more when it needs to charge the battery - I don't remember what that tops out at.)

      I use the Eee as a lap

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:24PM (#29865545) Homepage

    The [] runs a 1.2ghz Marvell PXA 270 ARM, and costs $99.

    The UD-160A [] gives you a full set of ports (4x USB2, VGA-out, 10/100 Ethernet) thanks to DisplayLink [] drivers. Price: $90-ish.

    If you don't need a screen, you can get away with a 4x USB2 hub ($8) or a 7x USB2 hub ($12) and spang on peripherals as you need.

    Then, if it turns out that you do want a screen after all, you can always go for a Doublesight DS-90U [] USB 1024x600 screen, again, using DisplayLink [] free software drivers.

    There are plenty of other ARM-based low-power CPUs with at least 512mb of RAM: the beagleboard and the IGEP-v2 go for $100 appx at 600mhz.

  • Used P3 (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:26PM (#29865551) Journal

    I have a Compaq low-profile Presario P3. It's tiny (about 3 inches tall and about 12 inches on a side) and consumes very little power - about 20-25 watts.

    1 Ghz CPU, 512 RAM, 100 Mb Ethernet, 250 GB HDD, worth about 20 dollars w/o the HD, been my "mini" server for years now running CentOS 4.

    Tough combo to beat....

  • by goodtrick ( 1201109 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:26PM (#29865557)
    I would bet that your 100 watt server running 24/7 is just a small fraction or your overall usage.

    Save money in other places first, have you replaced all your light bulbs with CFL's yet? You won't notice the difference between a 100 watt incandescent and the equivelant 24 watt CFL, but you probably will notice the difference between a 100 and 30 watt server.

  • We went from having 2 computers with a server and a laptop to having 2 laptops, a base station and no cables. With today's 1TB 2.5 HDD and easy sharing through wireless N, it's relatively simple, efficient and in the past 3 years, we saved a crapload of money since we don't even come near a 500W power supply recent towers (nearly) require. When we wish to have access to our data from home without our computers, we leave them open and they are shared through our router. Otherwise, we have our computer with u

  • Marvell Plug (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doches ( 761288 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:29PM (#29865583)
    I think you're after a plug computer ( [] ) and just don't know it yet. Super low power, ARM-based system that can (easily) run debian + an apache stack, along with whatever else (well, within reason) you need. [] has it for $99; you can get a European or UK version as well.
  • LEX mini PCs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Look at Lex has got many small systems which run perfectly Linux and OpenBSD. Some of them are fanless - the alu case doubles as cooling block for the CPU.

  • Bubba|TWO NAS server (Score:3, Informative)

    by jomcty ( 806483 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:32PM (#29865603)
    Check out the Bubba|Two Server []. Its a PowerPC-based NAS running Debian Etch with with 2 x 1Gb ethernet ports, 2 x USB and 2 x eSATA ports.
  • Where are you getting 85W for the Mini? Maybe under load it's that high, but at idle it's much less. Apple publishes power consumption numbers [] on all their consumer systems, and the mini pulls 13.5W at idle load (aka. "apache, imap, ssh and some nfs."). Not to say you couldn't do even better with some other lower-power ARM- or ATOM-based options on busybox, but for your specs the Mini is certainly a contender.
  • A Mac Mini draws about 85 Watts, so that isn't an option either.

    Measuring the power draw of my (admittedly four years old) Mini, I have trouble getting it up to 65 watts. And when not doing anything in particular, it fairly quickly drops off into the 15-20 watt range. Averaged over the whole day, it comes in pretty close to your 30-watt target. But even the minimum configuration costs much more than you want to spend, new. I would also comment that I have been regularly frustrated when porting assorted so

  • Zotac Ionitx (Score:4, Informative)

    by someone300 ( 891284 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:35PM (#29865629) []

    According to this article, it's between 25-30W, and it fits into any standard Mini-ITX case. Couple it with a low power hard disk or CF drive and it'll be very power efficient. It's also possible to run it completely passively cooled, and if you wanted to use it as a media frontend, it'd be more than capable. You can even get a version that comes with it's own external power brick rather than a PSU.

  • why bother (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flok ( 24996 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:36PM (#29865633) Homepage Journal
    300 dollar? you could pay the 70 bucks extra for the old system 4 years for that...
  • Been running a Jetway VIA box [] for about six months in a home server role - just added ram, a big cheap HD, and Ubuntu. Installed the OS over the LAN with PXE. Works just fine so far. Meets your budget. Haven't tested actual power draw though. It's small, reasonably quiet - an internal fan for the CPU but the power supply is a fanless external brick. No Ubuntu compatibility hitches at all, so Debian should be fine too.

  • by niko9 ( 315647 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:56PM (#29865777)

    Intel just released the D945GSEJT Atom board. This is not the same boards that used to older 945 chipsets. The older boards needed a fan on the chipset for it sucked up almost 20 watts!! The new board is mini-itx so it should fit in just about any case and runs on a single 12 volt coaxial plug so no need for a buly ATX PSU.

    A nice review here: []

    I also use, and am a big fan of the PC Engines Alix boards: [] You have several board styles to choose from. You can install Voyage Linux (Debian based and keep APT!!) on a compact flash with a simple installation (specifically for ALIX) script: []

    My alix, which I use as a USB music server, draws a measly 3 watts (Kill-A-Watt meter) when playing FLAC files. You can attach a low power USB hard disk for added storage if you want to run NFS.

    • by ajlitt ( 19055 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:37PM (#29866137)

      Seconded on the D945GSEJT! For under $200 I was able to get the board, a 1TB Seagate Barracuda LP drive, 2GB SODIMM, and some miscellaneous bits to make a simple plexiglass case. The PSU came from an old external HDD case and didn't require any cable hacking to fit the connector at the back. The board has no onboard fans, and runs so cool I didn't need to add any. It's so quiet that I can't hear it over the hum of the 2 CFL bulbs 10 feet away.

      I haven't measured power consumption yet, but considering my PSU is only 12V@2A and it hasn't caught fire yet, it can't draw much more than 24A running full tilt.

  • by mattbee ( 17533 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:04PM (#29865857) Homepage

    I bought a Western Digital MyBook network drive which is basically a little ARM board with 32MB memory. It is intended just to serve up some windows shares over a network. But you can run a simple program to enable ssh access, install a package manager and start installing other software on it - mine runs a few cron jobs to download files, as well as being a print server through its spare USB port. I'm not sure how far it could be pushed given how little memory it has, but I'm sure a bit of email & NFS wouldn't be beyond it if you're not fussy about speed.

    Power and cost were only a bit more than the drive itself.

  • A couple random tips (Score:4, Informative)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @02:18PM (#29865943) Homepage Journal

    I've been into low-power conventional computers for a while. You can buy an old Compaq iPaq [] (the computer, not the PDA) for almost nothing ($10-$50 in speeds from 500 MHz Celeron to 1 GHz PIII) and they'll use 30W at idle and under light use. They come in "legacy" (serial, parallel) versions and "legacy-free" (USB only) versions. They have a bay that can hold a CD, floppy, or no drive. (Compatible with Armada laptops from the same era.) So beware that if you buy a used one it might come with no optical drive so shop carefully.

    A slimline HP [] will also use about 30W and is a little newer and faster--the one I had was a 1.6 GHz Celeron with a DVD burner (could be a 2nd HDD instead) and SATA hard drive.

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @03:01PM (#29866333)

    Buy a mac mini and hook a bicycle + generator up to it. Runs your server and burns off yesterday's donuts.

  • Intel Atom (Score:3, Informative)

    by dws ( 197076 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @03:38PM (#29866589)

    I wanted the same type of box a year ago, and settled on Intel's D945GCLF2 board, which has a dual core Atom, onboard video, one memory slot, and two SATA plugs. Adding a 2Gb stick, a 500Gb Seagate drive, a generic CD-RW, and a case to put it all in ran just over $300. Runs Ubuntu 8.10 like a champ, and draws 35 watts when spinning the disk. To quiet it down, I replaced the stock northbridge fan with a Zalman passive cooler (instructions here []).

  • SuperMicro 5015A-H (Score:3, Informative)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @03:39PM (#29866605) Homepage

    I just put together a SuperMicro 5014A-H 1U server (dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor) with two 320GB 2.5" hard drives (in a RAID-1 configuration) and an 8-port Digium card (AEX800) for Asterisk use. Aside from the Digium card (which was inherited from another server), the total cost of parts including tax and delivery was under $500. The system runs Asterisk, Samba, Apache, PostFix, and Dovecot and does so consuming (according to Kill-A-Watt) roughly 40 watts of power. It's also reasonably quiet and compact. The only downside is that the chassis was designed to hold one 3.5" HDD, and the adapter they sell for it makes it impossible to use anything larger than a half-height PCIe card, so mounting the two 2.5" drives required some drilling new mounting holes - no big deal, but something that should have been foreseen by SuperMicro.

  • Check out Intel D945GSEJT Johnstown Mainboard [] Dual core Atom, low power fanless, doesn't need power supply (jack in back goes right to power brick) and gig ethernet for about $118. Very low profile Mini-ITX board, works well in $39 mini-case []. I've been using this combination for all sorts of things esp storage servers ( Try OpenFiler [] Linux-based or FreeNAS [] BSD-based FOSS NAS solutions )

  • by jovetoo ( 629494 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @05:04PM (#29867127) Journal
    I am running a system based on an Atom 330 motherboard from Intel. It has 2GB of memory and a 320GB harddisk. I payed about 300 euros for the complete system, but you can probably get it cheaper. The motherboard with cpu was 70 euro.

    I like it because it is powerful enough to do most of my daily computing. It runs an apache, a mailserver and serves as my desktop machine. I use a 1680x1050 Gnome desktop, fullscreen video, browser and email client. It has, in practise, completely replaced my normal (1300 euro) desktop. After I replaced the crappy fan that came with the motherboard it is now perfectly silent.

    The whole system, under load, uses 28Watt.

  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @05:25PM (#29867215)

    If you want low power, look at any of the Netbook and low power 'portable' market devices.

    They run on a few Watts compared to something even like a Mini-ATX or Mac Mini desktop solution.

    Pick an OS that knows how to handle the device's power management - some distributions suck at this, and some are smooth as butter. (Use something like Windows7 -trial copy- to baseline the power usage to help pick a distribution that gets close to what Windows7 does with power usage or beats it, as it is a good all around consumer baseline OS that does try to manage every power management trick in the book.)

    You can even stick to a bland x86 architecture, making things a lot easier for you.

    If you pick a netbook or low end laptop, use USB 'selective suspend' devices for storage, DVD/CDROM, etc. Also some of the low end power efficient laptops have eSATA, ExpressCard, etc.

    Low power is what these devices were designed to do. (One caveat, make sure they have a 'smart' AC adapter, if not, the AC adapter will not cycle down, and so all the laptop side power saving won't have as dramatic gain.)

    PS for a Server, a low end laptop is rather smart, as it can be folded away on your bookshelf next to your hub out of the way, and they also have built in battery backup for power outages and smart shutdown/restart - perfect for servers.

    Good Luck...

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.