A couple of years ago I moved what was then my main desktop PC into the kitchen (not quite as drastic as it sounds!), fitted a tv card into it, placed the monitor on the wall and combined with a wireless keyboard/mouse combo plus the addition of a remote I had another media center in the kitchen as well as a pc that could be used sitting at the kitchen table. The addition of this second media center was what prompted me to consider creating a file server as I'd record something on one machine or download a movie/tv episode etc. and then at the point I'd want to watch it, it would inevitably
be on the opposite pc to the one I wanted to watch it on! I'd also begun ripping all my CDs to the computer and I was manually keeping the two pcs in sync with one another, which created its fair share of problems...
As per normal I didn't really want to spend any money if I could get away with it and being the tech geek that I am I also happened to have some stuff laying around, such as an old laptop, which while not the fastest in the world (celeron 1.2gig, 256MB ram, 20gig HD etc.) it would certainly suffice to send a few files across the network. Additionally I'd recently acquired a 160gig USB external hard drive, which I could use to store all my music and tv episodes. The only thing that I needed to purchase was a wireless network card, which I think at the time cost me about £20.
My only cause for concern was that the laptop had USB1.1 ports that I wasn't sure would be able to handle streaming large files across the network, especially if both clients were connecting at the same time, luckily these reservations were unfounded as ultimately the speed of the wireless network caused more problems than worrying about USB1.1!
I tucked the laptop away in a cupboard upstairs so it was out of site and to minimise the noise although being a laptop there was hardly any. So now I had my very first file server, this system worked really well and saved a bunch of hassle between the two systems, it also increased the WAF level enormously as no longer did I need to be consulted about where such and such show was as it was now always available.
Of course, 160gig in this media day and age does not go too far and I soon acquired another external hard drive, this time with a capacity of 250gig and naturally this filled up reasonably quickly as well, so what does your average tech geek decide to do when you're running out of USB ports and there's only so many external hard drives one can buy?!? That's right, you decide to build a big, better and badder file server... :-)