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Old 2010-12-15, 08:11   #1
ixfd64
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Default what to do with an old PC running Win2k Server?

I have a fairly old Dell PowerEdge (I'm not sure of the exact model) that uses Windows Server 2000. It used to be very reliable, but I rarely turn it on nowadays, due to the following reasons:

1) Windows 2000 is no longer supported by Microsoft, which can lead to security issues. Similarly, many newer software (such as Internet Explorer 8) will not run on such an old OS.

2) The computer only has 512 MB of memory, which is quite low in today's standards (it often hangs when Prime95 is running, although this has only started happening in the last two years).

Since it had barely started a new double-check assignment, I decided to let it expire on its own. So far, the PC is just sitting there gathering dust. However, it does have a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, which is still quite useful (in the context of GIMPS, I consider anything faster than 1.5 GHz to be valuable).

Also, I am interested in setting up a home server (to store photos and such) some time in the future. In this case, I could use this computer instead of buying a new one. Therefore, I'm considering the following options:

1. Buy a new computer anyway (should I ever decide to set up a home server)

2. Keep Windows 2000 but upgrade the memory, which will hopefully take care of the freezing problem.

3. Switch to a new OS, either by upgrading or doing a clean install.

I would prefer option #3 (in addition to a hardware upgrade) if possible. However, Microsoft does not support a direct upgrade from Windows 2000 server to the newer operating systems, so I'll either have to buy an intermediate OS, such as Windows 2003 Server or Windows XP (which have been discontinued), or do a clean install. I'd prefer an upgrade, although a clean install is also acceptable.

Any suggestions?
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Old 2010-12-15, 08:37   #2
mdettweiler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
I have a fairly old Dell PowerEdge (I'm not sure of the exact model) that uses Windows Server 2000. It used to be very reliable, but I rarely turn it on nowadays, due to the following reasons:

1) Windows 2000 is no longer supported by Microsoft, which can lead to security issues. Similarly, many newer software (such as Internet Explorer 8) will not run on such an old OS.

2) The computer only has 512 MB of memory, which is quite low in today's standards (it often hangs when Prime95 is running, although this has only started happening in the last two years).

Since it had barely started a new double-check assignment, I decided to let it expire on its own. So far, the PC is just sitting there gathering dust. However, it does have a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, which is still quite useful (in the context of GIMPS, I consider anything faster than 1.5 GHz to be valuable).

Also, I am interested in setting up a home server (to store photos and such) some time in the future. In this case, I could use this computer instead of buying a new one. Therefore, I'm considering the following options:

1. Buy a new computer anyway (should I ever decide to set up a home server)

2. Keep Windows 2000 but upgrade the memory, which will hopefully take care of the freezing problem.

3. Switch to a new OS, either by upgrading or doing a clean install.

I would prefer option #3 (in addition to a hardware upgrade) if possible. However, Microsoft does not support a direct upgrade from Windows 2000 server to the newer operating systems, so I'll either have to buy an intermediate OS, such as Windows 2003 Server or Windows XP (which have been discontinued), or do a clean install. I'd prefer an upgrade, although a clean install is also acceptable.

Any suggestions?
I wouldn't worry too much about Windows 2000 not being supported; as long as you've got a router between the computer and the web, and are not doing significant web browsing on it, there should be minimal exposure to potential security risks. For what web browsing does need to be done, I'd grab an alternative browser; the latest version of Firefox runs quite nicely on Windows 2000. (Google Chrome, I believe, requires XP at minimum, which is a bit of a shame since it's particularly lightweight, a plus on slow systems.)

That said, as you mentioned, Windows 2000 is not able to run many modern software applications, so a newer operating system would still be desirable. With regard to the question of clean install vs. upgrade, is there anything on the system (programs, data, etc.) that is important to have kept intact? Given the system is a server, I wouldn't expect this to be the case. If there's nothing more than a few isolated files you want to save, I'd do a clean install even if I had a version of Windows to which I could upgrade. An upgrade tends to leave all sorts of junk scattered around the system; whatever may be bogging down the old install will do so to a greater degree after an upgrade. A clean install, in my experience, can actually be somewhat simpler to perform than an upgrade (not to mention faster).

One other thing to consider: a computer with a 2.8 GHz P4 and 512 MB of RAM will not be able to run any of Microsoft's newer OSes. Vista, 7, and Server 2008 are out. (For comparison, I could barely get Server 2008 to run properly in a virtual machine on my Core 2 Duo with 1 GB of RAM assigned to the VM; it really needs 2 GB at least, not to mention considerable hard drive space.) Even with a hardware upgrade, I suspect that the P4 would just not cut the mustard. As such, your only options besides staying with 2000 are XP and 2003, either of which should run quite well on your hardware. Of course, there is the rather annoying problem of where to find a copy of either...eBay might be worth a try, though your mileage may vary considerably.

An alternative which may or may not be feasible depending on how you plan to use the computer as a home server is to try Linux on it. For a dedicated crunching machine, Linux is the way to go hands-down (less overhead). It's also a very good choice for servers in general, though a home media server is a little different story since such often entails the use of all-in-one software package solutions (usually Windows-only) for managing media. If all your media management software requires is to have a Windows network folder share available, though, Linux can fill that bill adequately (it supports Windows folder shares). Depending on your technical ability, you may want to jump into a full-fledged server distribution (such as Ubuntu Server or CentOS; usually no GUI), but if you're not particularly experienced with Linux administration a GUI-based desktop distribution can handle just about anything a server OS can. Ubuntu is a good choice for such a situation; it supports Windows network file sharing directly and somewhat intuitively in the file manager.

Hope this helps!
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Old 2010-12-15, 09:14   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
2) The computer only has 512 MB of memory, which is quite low in today's standards (it often hangs when Prime95 is running, although this has only started happening in the last two years).

< snip >

2. Keep Windows 2000 but upgrade the memory, which will hopefully take care of the freezing problem.
AFAIK the reports we get of freezing while Prime95 is running always turn out to be caused by something other than Prime95, which is well-behaved.

If the freezing is caused by a memory leak (which was more common in the older OSes), then adding memory could buy you some time. That is, the memory leak may take longer, after boot, to cause a freezeup. That would only reduce the frequency, not eliminate it -- but such a reduction could be an acceptable low-cost way to make your system satisfactory.
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Old 2010-12-15, 09:42   #4
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Run memtest86 to check if your RAM is good. I would run a Linux distribution, I prefer Ubuntu 10.04. If the system is over five years old, I'd check the hard drive as well. If it has SMART features, you can access it via the Disk Utility (System > Administration > Disk Utility) and check for "Uncorrectable" or "Current Pending Sector Count". Spinrite is an option but this is if you are ultra paranoid about your drive's condition.

If unsure about using Linux, run a live version state (do not install the software) and give it a try for a few days. If you don't like it, you haven't installed anything so you don't need to reinstall the old or another OS and work gets done.

Reinstall your Windows version so you have a clean install. Having to purchase additional memory just to run Prime95/mprime is generous, but I would consider it wasteful unless you need it for other purposes.
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Old 2010-12-15, 10:33   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imwithid View Post
I would run a Linux distribution, I prefer Ubuntu 10.04.
Yeah, I second that. Live CD will give you a chance to evaluate Linux, which btw is a primary choice for scientific computing in academic research labs.

Last fiddled with by tichy on 2010-12-15 at 10:36
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Old 2010-12-15, 11:07   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
I have a fairly old Dell PowerEdge (I'm not sure of the exact model) that uses Windows Server 2000. It used to be very reliable, but I rarely turn it on nowadays, due to the following reasons:

1) Windows 2000 is no longer supported by Microsoft, which can lead to security issues. Similarly, many newer software (such as Internet Explorer 8) will not run on such an old OS.

2) The computer only has 512 MB of memory, which is quite low in today's standards (it often hangs when Prime95 is running, although this has only started happening in the last two years).

Since it had barely started a new double-check assignment, I decided to let it expire on its own. So far, the PC is just sitting there gathering dust. However, it does have a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 processor, which is still quite useful (in the context of GIMPS, I consider anything faster than 1.5 GHz to be valuable).

Also, I am interested in setting up a home server (to store photos and such) some time in the future. In this case, I could use this computer instead of buying a new one. Therefore, I'm considering the following options:

1. Buy a new computer anyway (should I ever decide to set up a home server)

2. Keep Windows 2000 but upgrade the memory, which will hopefully take care of the freezing problem.

3. Switch to a new OS, either by upgrading or doing a clean install.

I would prefer option #3 (in addition to a hardware upgrade) if possible. However, Microsoft does not support a direct upgrade from Windows 2000 server to the newer operating systems, so I'll either have tElided by Xilman.o buy an intermediate OS, such as Windows 2003 Server or Windows XP (which have been discontinued), or do a clean install. I'd prefer an upgrade, although a clean install is also acceptable.

Any suggestions?
I had a W2K server until a couple of weeks ago. It was even older and weedier hardware than yours. I gave it away to someone doing a course which includes learning about hardware, networking and Unix-like operating systems.

in your position, I'd wipe the disk clean and install either FreeBSD (if you truly want a home server) or Linux (if you want a more touchy-feely machine). Then load it up with NFS server and Samba for file sharing. You may want to use it for other purposes, such as a DHCP server, a DNS server authoritative for your home machines, a CUPS print server, an ECMNET server, ...

If you go this route, I should be able to help out with a bit of tech support occasionally.

Paul
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Old 2010-12-15, 14:22   #7
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Bin it.

Or donate it to a charity or similar.

You could spend $200 on a GTX460 or some such and put it in your desktop, and after 12-24months, you'd be ahead on work output vs total costs.

Total costs including cost of the vid card + electricity to power it, vs cost of electricity to run the server for same period.

-- Craig
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Old 2010-12-15, 14:30   #8
xilman
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Originally Posted by nucleon View Post
Bin it.

Or donate it to a charity or similar.

You could spend $200 on a GTX460 or some such and put it in your desktop, and after 12-24months, you'd be ahead on work output vs total costs.

Total costs including cost of the vid card + electricity to power it, vs cost of electricity to run the server for same period.

-- Craig
Can you run a file server on a GTX460? Or a print server, a DNS server, a ... ?

As I read the OP, he would find a home server useful, regardless of whether the server machine also does number crunching. Speaking only for myself, I find that servers tend to spend most of their time idle unless running some crunching in their spare time. There's any number of projects that could use a machine of that age and performance to do useful work. I know because my servers are almost invariably running integer factorization code.

Paul
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Old 2010-12-15, 20:18   #9
ixfd64
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Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

According to the official system requirements, Windows Server 2008 R2 only requires a 1.4 GHz processor. Therefore, a 2.8 GHz processor should be adequate unless the Pentium 4 architecture is too old (it probably is).

I just checked eBay and found many cheap copies of Windows Server 2003, so I'll definitely consider that option. The other idea would be to buy a new computer (perhaps with Windows Home Server) and do clean install of Windows XP on the old computer, and use the latter to store backup files. After all, one shouldn't put all of their eggs in one basket!

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2010-12-15 at 20:20
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Old 2010-12-16, 14:08   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xilman View Post
Can you run a file server on a GTX460? Or a print server, a DNS server, a ... ?

As I read the OP, he would find a home server useful, regardless of whether the server machine also does number crunching....

Quote:
Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post

Also, I am interested in setting up a home server ...
okay, my bad.

Still given that, I wouldn't spend any major coin on the box. Memtest86+ iso to test the hardware before putting it to any use first.

-- Craig
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Old 2010-12-16, 14:23   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nucleon View Post
Still given that, I wouldn't spend any major coin on the box. Memtest86+ iso to test the hardware before putting it to any use first.
Now there we are in complete agreement!

Any software needed to run any number of different kinds of professional quality software is available for the cost of a DVD or of (at most) a gigabyte of download. His hardware is already more than adequate for a file server and noticeably more powerful than what I run my main file server, which is planned to have several other services migrated to it to reduce the amount of heterogeneous clutter on then home network.

Paul
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