upgrade old FreeBSD home server

Todd McComb

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Hello, hopefully I've found the right place for my rather general inquiry.

I have been running FreeBSD at home since the 1990s, and have not updated my desktop/home server hardware in around ten years. It is far past time.

My only "specialty" need is two network connections, so that I can run my home network. Otherwise, it's basically a desktop machine, so I need memory, storage....

Is there a standard recommendation for where to start for a basic system like this? I don't stay up to date on hardware at all, but unfortunately must do my own IT. I don't want to skimp on costs, but I also don't need anything special. Just something that's going to be rock solid for years, hopefully.

Thanks for suggestions.
 

PMc

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That's quite vague. I was in a similar situation 9 years ago, then I bought a consumer asus board with ivybridge i5 CPU, and it is still running stable (24/7) and fitting most of my needs.
I think there are two decisions to make: 1. go with Intel or AMD? (I'm not sure if there is something else)
2. is consumer stuff good enough or workstation/server board preferred? The latter gets expensive, but then a used one may do.
 

decuser

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I agree w/PMc... pretty vague. I've got two dell optiplex 755's that will run until the next millennium, or until some hardware fails and when it does, I'll prolly go on ebay and buy their replacement.

The hardware notes is prolly a good place to start:
https://www.freebsd.org/releases/13.0R/hardware/

There used to be a hardware compatibility list, but I don't know where the updated version is.

If you stick to a known video card, I don't think you'll have problems with most reasonably standard hardware even on the latest machines (maybe not bleeding edge).
 
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Todd McComb

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Sorry for the vagueness. My needs are pretty straightforward, but it's almost the fact that there are too many choices that makes it hard to start.

Right now I have AMD consumer hardware, so that's probably fine.

As far as video, I'm just using what's on the motherboard right now. It needs to be able to run a modern web browser. That's the most intensive app on the system, although running the network puts a pretty constant background load on the machine (not super high, but a load...).
 

Jose

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If I was going to build a low-power server from scratch, I would probably use one of the Pcengines APU systems that Phishfry recommends:
 
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Todd McComb

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Something that's a lot quieter would also be a nice upgrade to my current machine....
 

bakul

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I am using an inexpensive laptop ($300, Ryzen 3500U, 8GB, 256GB NVME -- alas no longer available) as my everything-but-the-fileserver-server. A laptop mainly to avoid a UPS (PG&E country. Have had outages > 30min and frankly most inexpensive UPS are crap). Its fan only goes on when I am running make -j8 build{world,kernel}. I use a GBe USB dongle as a second ethernet port . Plus the builtin GBe port.

The things to consider:
  • If you want to run games etc. you may want faster cpu & more memory. If you want to run VMs, you may want more cores & memory. If you are the kind who has 100+ browser tabs open go for more than 8GB.
  • If you don't want extensibility (more IO boards) got for a mini PC (about the size of Intel NUC) or a laptop.
  • Unless you want to store petabytes of data, avoid HDDs. May be even avoid SSDs (SATA interface). NVMEs are good enough. Buy two to mirror.Most desktops have a few SATA ports but why pay for them if you are not going to use them.
  • If you want to use less energy go with a laptop. Not sure they will last as long as desktops though.
  • 4k 27" displays are not too expensive and definitely worth the money.
 

Trihexagonal

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I only buy older Thinkpads off ebay that are either business lease returns or from private sellers.

I have two Thinkpad W520 laptops with these same specs. One I paid a little over $200US for a few years ago and purchased the one I'm using now last summer for $286US delivered. Both are business lease returns and run like new:

Thinkpad W520
Intel Quad Core i7-2760QM (2.40GHz, 6MB L3, 1600MHz FSB, 45W)
8 GB RAM PC3-10600
Hitachi Travelstar 500GB HDD @ 7200 RPM
Nvidia Quadro 1000M with 2GB DDR3 and 96 CUDA cores with Optimus
15.6" TFT display with 1920x1080 (FHD) resolution with LED backlight

Here is this one ATM running FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE-p6 with urxvt ,xfe, audacious, gkrellm2, firefox-esr, some leafpad text files open in the tray and gimp for the shot using a wallpaper I made with it:
blackdoll.png
 
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Todd McComb

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A laptop is an interesting idea, but I was thinking about just a standard case, etc. There would seem to be more flexibility, especially for the future, and it's something I'll be wiring into place.

I won't be playing games, so don't need that level of graphics, but I don't want to skimp on memory. That's why the current computer won't run a browser adequately anymore.

And no, not petabytes of data, but I do store my backups there. A couple of terabytes is probably fine.

I'd ask a computer salesman what the "sweet spot" is for buying hardware, but they won't know anything about running FreeBSD....
 

SirDice

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Any local computer shops selling so-called "upgrade" kits? Those typically consist of a mainboard, CPU (with cooler) and memory. I often build new machines around such package deals. Then it's just a matter of adding a fitting case, a PSU and some storage (ssd, disks, NVMe, whatever you fancy or budget allows). Depending on what the mainboard of that package deal supports note that because it already comes with memory you might want to add more, so if it has 4 slots and only two are used with the packaged memory you can easily add more memory later (if you need it). But if it only has two slots and both are already in use then you would need to replace it with larger modules.

I'd ask a computer salesman what the "sweet spot" is for buying hardware, but they won't know anything about running FreeBSD....
It's likely not going to matter, FreeBSD should run fine on most mainboards. Just be wary of things like built-in Wifi, get a mainboard without it. You can always add a Wifi card later and you'll have more control which card to pick. You can't swap it out if it's builtin on the mainboard. The less "optional" features a mainboard has the better in this case.
 

covacat

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get a 2nd hand graphics workstation. they are big and ugly but have higher quality components and good cooling, ecc ram good nics, server chipsets
i use to have a hp xw as a small office server. it was very quiet and reliable. you can get the manufacturer refurbished with warranty etc
 
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Todd McComb

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Tangentially, what's the preferred way to put the OS onto a new machine these days? USB stick?

I guess I'll still want an optical drive, because I do find myself ripping CDs still. (I run a small music non-profit.)
 

BostonBSD

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I think I've mentioned it on this forum before, but this is what I have, it runs FreeBSD with Xorg better than it ever ran Windows. Very silent (with SSD), low cost ( usually <$250 on ebay), very low power ~65 watts.

They do have the wifi option, although mine doesn't, which is actually a positive aspect of it.

HP Elitedesk 800 G3 Mini

This one replaced my old HP DC7900 Core2Quad, which lasted for over ten years.
It would have lasted longer but the the cooling system, started to fail.

(compiling the kernel with the -j4 option takes less than 30 min)
 

jdakhayman

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Just a few questions:

1. How many systems will be on the network?
2. using wireless?
3. Running any services that need to be reached from the outside?

If your just looking for a newer system that will act as a gateway for your outside network, ebay has plenty of good deals on used desktops that are typically from business lease returns

But if you are running additional systems on the lan and need other services, I would look into separting some of them out into diferent machines to try and avoid single failure points. The PC engines APU2 is a very nice choice to run as a gateway and firewall appliance.

More information on what you need will help to make suggestions.

jda
 
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Todd McComb

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To the questions above:

1. A handful at any given time, maxing out to like a dozen. But the old server handled this fine.
2. It is like this: outside internet connect <-> computer I am discussing <-> switch <-> wifi router <-> devices (& sometimes devices wired to switch)
3. Only the server under discussion needs to be reached.

Are people running networks through those workstations?
 

mark_j

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As I see it you have a few options depending on local vendors:
1. Build your own. This takes some investigation work & some knowledge of current hardware: RAM, CPU, motherboard, graphics card etc. The beauty of this is you get exactly what you want.
2. Purchase a pre-built one from a local Computer shop or a known manufacturer like Dell, Apple, HP etc.

It all depends on your skill level, purchasing power and needs.
Personally I would go for option 1, but I understand people selecting option 2.

There's always a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8gb RAM.

Your question on installation media: USB is way, way, way faster than DVD/CD. I haven't had a CD/DVD/Bluray player in a desktop in ~10 years, but I understand you still use one. Just don't use it to install.
 

BostonBSD

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Are people running networks through those workstations?
I am not running a network through this workstation, although I see no problem with it for personal use (a heavily used network would require more research).
 

jdakhayman

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To the questions above:

1. A handful at any given time, maxing out to like a dozen. But the old server handled this fine.
2. It is like this: outside internet connect <-> computer I am discussing <-> switch <-> wifi router <-> devices (& sometimes devices wired to switch)
3. Only the server under discussion needs to be reached.

Are people running networks through those workstations?
It is my understanding that you are using the machine in question as both a gateway and as a desktop system? The one you want to upgrade?

jda
 

Jose

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To the questions above:

1. A handful at any given time, maxing out to like a dozen. But the old server handled this fine.
2. It is like this: outside internet connect <-> computer I am discussing <-> switch <-> wifi router <-> devices (& sometimes devices wired to switch)
3. Only the server under discussion needs to be reached.

Are people running networks through those workstations?
You could run into performance problems if your Internet connection is relatively fast. I used a Soekris net4801 (basically a 486) as my gateway and firewall running Openbsd for years. Then I upgraded my Internet connection to 100 Mbps, and discovered that old box could only do 30 Mbps. I have a small form factor motherboard in a rack-mount case now that routes and firewalls my Gbps connection with no problems. The problem with the Soekris box was IRQ load. I shop for Intel NICs with IRQ and DMA coalescing features.
 
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Todd McComb

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Yes, I am doing double duty on the box as both a gatway and my desktop. (It grew that way organically, adding a home network to a single computer....) I haven't really run into trouble doing double duty, and it's easy to administrate this way. (The other devices are consumer devices, including the laptop I'm typing on now. Because my "main" computer can no longer handle a web browser.)

As far as handling the network load, the old computer has been adequate, although demands will surely only increase....

Regarding the options from Mark_j, I'd assumed I'd probably need to do #1. If I had someone where I'd have confidence for #2, I'd go for it though.
 

PMc

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Yes, I am doing double duty on the box as both a gatway and my desktop. (It grew that way organically, adding a home network to a single computer....) I haven't really run into trouble doing double duty, and it's easy to administrate this way. (The other devices are consumer devices, including the laptop I'm typing on now. Because my "main" computer can no longer handle a web browser.)

As far as handling the network load, the old computer has been adequate, although demands will surely only increase....
I don't think there would be a performance issue. I would rather see a security issue (depending on what is done on the desktop). In my setup the gateway is not used interactively and is protected in all directions. Then everything on the inside becomes a real intranet. And there is no switch - the server has to do that. (I bought a switch only once - it was linux inside and full of bugs.)
 
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Todd McComb

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I used to be more worried about intranet security, but now all of our intranet devices are also "travel to random public networks" devices, so there is nothing left to be sheltered....
 

Tieks

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Yes, I am doing double duty on the box as both a gatway and my desktop. (It grew that way organically, adding a home network to a single computer....) I haven't really run into trouble doing double duty, and it's easy to administrate this way. (The other devices are consumer devices, including the laptop I'm typing on now. Because my "main" computer can no longer handle a web browser.)

As far as handling the network load, the old computer has been adequate, although demands will surely only increase....

Regarding the options from Mark_j, I'd assumed I'd probably need to do #1. If I had someone where I'd have confidence for #2, I'd go for it though.
If you go for option #1, don't go for state of the art stuff, because you might buy something that that isn't supported yet. It is best to go for hardware that was top of the bill 1-2 years ago. That will be supported by now. The difference in performance will be minimal, and you will agree to the difference in price.
 
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