Setting up a PC as a web server?

I’m looking at both signing up for internet service through the cable company (where I would get a static IP) and buying a new PC sometime withing the next few months. How would I go about setting up my old 400 mhz Celeron as a web and/or mail server? I imagine I’d have to install lots of stuff I currently know nothing about, but I’m a quick study. Any ballpark estimates of the aggravation factor involved?


The way I see it, you have two good options:

Windows 2000, which has a very low aggravation factor for setup and maintenance of simple stuff, but high price.

Linux (or FreeBSD), which has a very high aggravation factor if you don’t know a lot about A) PC hardware and B) UNIX, but is extremely powerful and nerdworthy, and of course is really cheap.

If you want it to just work with as little effort as possible, I’d get Windows 2000. If you really want to dig in and learn and tinker, get Linux, but be prepared to spend weeks making your system work right.

If you want to use Windows, you can run Apache on Windows, but it’s not as versatile as running it on a Unix system.

      • An article in the newspaper today has ways to speed up older computers to put off having to buy newer ones. A couple of the suggestions were obvious, such as adding memory and upgrading the videocard. Others I don’t know about, having avoided networking classes:
  • One was to reset the computer’s file system from “regular desktop PC” to “file server” which I did. No difference that I can see. Why would this be faster than normal? [-in Win98, by the way. The article gave instructions for Windows, but it didn’t say that this was for any specific version]
  • Something else it said to do was, to speed up the startup, you should remove programs from the startup menu -which left me wondering, uh, how do you start a program if you have removed it from the start menu? (I mean, assuming you don’t know what the start program is actually named, and can’t go into DOS to find it, because they didn’t tell you how to do that in the article) I first assumed what they meant was removing the stuff that accumulates in the systray, but it ain’t so. - MC

Well, I’m not sure if this actually speeds up the ol’ computer, but what I did was take almost everything off the actual desktop and drag it to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. I then make the desktop an Active Desktop and hide the remaining icons (Network Neighborhood, etc.). Then I set the toolbar to Auto-Hide, meaning it’ll only appear when I move the mouse down there. This doesn’t speed anything up, but it allows me to look at my wonderful, lovely wallpaper without icons and other junk in the way.

As for removing a program from the Start Menu, doing so does not mean you remove said program from the system. So how do you start it if it’s not in the Start Menu? You do what I do - you drag the ol’ icon to the toolbar. When the PC boots up, it looks at the desktop and the Start Menu to see what to load into memory. But if you put those programs you need on the toolbar, only those small icons will actually be loaded.

In addition, if you want to run a program that’s not in your Start Menu or on your desktop, you can click on Run from the Start Menu and browse to that program’s directory and run it from there. No need for DOS.

So I have nothing but shortcuts on my toolbar, and virtually nothing on the ol’ desktop. I even cut down on the shortcuts on the toolbar by only including the ones I really need.

And, of course, if you don’t know the file’s name to launch the program, you can click Start|Programs and find it there rather easily.

I think they were talking about removing these items from the startup folder, not the start menu. The startup folder is where you drag stuff when you want it to start when you turn the machine on (or, if you’re running NT or Win2K, when you log in).

If you’re setting up a machine to run as a server, max out your memory (it’s really cheap these days - 256MB DIMMs cost less than $80) and don’t run any programs that you don’t need. If you can, use a SCSI disk, since SCSI requires much less overhead (i.e. CPU time) than IDE.

I changes the size and nature of the disk caches. It’s not generally a noticable improvement by itself.

That’s the Startup Folder. Look in the Start Menu (not “Startup” Menu, BTW), under Programs/Startup. Most items found here are detrimental to system startup time and performance and tend to offer little benefit. If you don’t use them, remove them.
I’ll offer up my own little time-testrd performance improvement tweak. It’s not especially cheap and not for the uninitiated. Add a second hard drive. Change Virtual Memory to use this drive and lock in the size of the swap file (min and max the same) to 4x physical RAM. Create a directory in the root of the new drive called “Temp”. Add the following two lines to AUTOEXEC.BAT:
For IE users: Go into Internet Options and move your “Temporary Internet Files” directory to D:\ to get it off the main drive, too. Netscape users can also relocate the cache directory to this drive.

If both of your hard drives support DMA (and nearly all drives over 1GB do), they can be on the same IDE channel with no noticable difference in performance.

Please remember to check your agreement with your cable company. Most of them prohibit you from using your service to run a server or have different pricing if you plan to do that.

This Dudley Doright moment has been brought to you by Canadian Tire – retailing Star Choice DTV services since 1998. Thank you.