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I'm planning to use one of two old computers as a low-volume backup server. The machine will be online and files will be backed up over ssh/rsync. I will do a minimal install of Ubuntu or Debian server.

The specifications of the machines are as follows:

  • Pentium3 1GHz Coppermine CPU with two 168-pin SDRAM DIMM slots with 320MB RAM (256MB and 64MB)
  • Pentium3 450MHz Katmai CPU with three 168-pin SDRAM DIMM slots with 384MB RAM (256MB and two 64MB). The motherboard in this machine seems to be a little more reliable.

I only have 384MB of 168-pin SDRAM DIMMs available in total.

For the task of low-volume backup server, does it really matter which one I use? The difference in RAM is small and a previous minimal install of Ubuntu 8.04 server used <20MB RAM anyway. However, the Coppermine CPU is more than double the speed if the Katmai, so I should use that one?

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I think ram is much more important than CPU specially when it comes to old computers, but the 64MB won't make much of a difference. So I'd go for the faster CPU. I assume that for some reason you cannot exchange the RAM? – d_inevitable Jul 20 '12 at 9:08
@d_inevitable: I've updated my question to clarify the RAM. – SabreWolfy Jul 20 '12 at 9:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'd say that the most important thing for a backup server is reliability, so would tend to go for that machine. You say it's low-volume so the CPU would be idle most of the time anyway.

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It won't matter, unless you maybe want to encrypt the backups. I don't know how Ubuntu fares as a server OS, I tend to use Debian. If it turns out you want some more services, RAM is extremely cheap and should be a good investment here.

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168-pin SDRAM DIMMs are quite hard to find :) – SabreWolfy Jul 20 '12 at 10:51

I think current performance will be enough. But think again about power consumption of such old system and reliability and noise.

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