If you are a professional webmaster or web hobby designer then sooner or later you will come to a situation when it would be very nice if you would have your own web server to do some experiments and test pages before they are placed on live site . Having a personal web server you need some simple software that includes Apache, PHP and MySQL and it can be installed on almost any machine. This works well, but serious development where you need to have some specific PHP version or Apache server under control, you need a separate machine dedicated web hosting.
Building a cheap server is fairly simple. You do not need fancy computer with the latest processors, large amounts of RAM or even monitor or keyboard. You have the old machine that was years your main computer, still works but was replaced by a new one. If the server your home will be a sandbox for web development and testing, this is the old machine all you need.
You can go with a Windows or Linux operating system. It’s a good idea to have a Linux server because it will closely replicate the actual server hosting company. Set up and maintain Linux is not complicated and you can find all the necessary instructions on the web. Any Linux distribution will do the job, a popular choice for simple servers are Debian or Ubuntu.
You also have the option to use this computer for several other projects, such as a file server or temporary storage for downloaded files, to run peer-to-peer client, or other applications that you do not want to run it on main computer. Such a machine will probably be always on so you could access it at any time, even from a remote location. In this case it makes sense to invest in some upgrades or to build a completely new engine.
Whether upgrading an old machine or a completely new computer, the basic requirements of the same. The processor or speed is not very important. Go to some good price-performance CPU. The amount of RAM is not important but where the units are cheap 2GB or more is a good idea. A little more attention needs hard drives. The best method is to physically separate system hard disk and hard disk data. For data storage, including websites, you can go with one drive or more elaborate RAID system. Almost all recent motherboards have onboard RAID controller. You need two to four drives and you can choose from a variety of RAID configurations. This allows you to crate large quantities and will add some protection if one of the disks fails. You do not need a keyboard or monitor such a server, except for the initial installation of the operating system.
Having a home server or merge files / web server is a good idea. You have a place where you can test your web projects, a place to store all multimedia files that are played on the network-enabled players in your home, and the machine to run torrent client. You can also enable remote access to this server so you can access your files even when you are not home.