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I'm looking to transform my aging laptop (without battery nor audio jack) into a Linux home server. I would like to run temporary game servers on it (for games like GMOD and Terraria), use it as a NAS, and sometimes use Wine to play a few light games that don't have a Linux release yet.

My question being: what distro is secure, has network capabilities, can run wine relatively well, and is beginner friendly? (Customization is also a plus.)

And what do I need to do to keep my pc safe from harm? (I have heard "Linux is safe no matter what" countless times, yet it seems like an antivirus could never hurt, right?)

closed as primarily opinion-based by Stephen Harris, Kusalananda, thrig, jasonwryan, Jeff Schaller Jul 29 '16 at 23:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Beginner friendly and stable/secure are often mutually exclusive in linux distros. Just get three different distros install each and see which on you like the most based on look and feel. I have yet to hear of a person that started using GNU/Linux after 2000 and did not switch distros after learning one or two things from his first distro. (Before 2000 there was no much choice). Also, this question is too broad for SE, it can have too many answers. – grochmal Jul 29 '16 at 21:35
  • Question is completely opinion-based! Every distro has network capabilities, can run wine relatively well, and can be friendly but not that beginner friendly for setting a server. If you haven't worked with Linux, it won't be that easy to set a "secure" server. As an answer, yes you should see what suits you more. Beside, you should learn how to manage your system, if you really want it to be secure. Good luck mate. – FarazX Jul 29 '16 at 21:48
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“Secure” is not a meaningful criterion. All major distributions have similar levels of security: safe defaults and timely security updates. Just stay away from obscure derivatives that might vanish or might not keep up with the updates (or from embedded distributions that aren't always good with security but you aren't in that domain space anyway).

To keep your PC safe from harm:

  • Don't run commands that you found on some random website and that you don't understand.
  • Install your distribution's security updates regularly. (“Beginner-friendly” distributions have a “software center” or similar software where you can click a button to do it, and may be set up to download updates automatically and prompt you to apply them.)
  • Stick to the software provided by your distribution as much as possible. Don't install the newest version of a program unless you actually need it. Distributions apply security fixes to the version they ship.
  • Run Windows programs in a virtual machine in preference to Wine. If you use Wine, don't allow it to access all your files, only a dedicated directory.

“Has network capabilities” is also not a meaningful criterion. All distributions include all the networking tools you'll need, they're very basic and it would be hard to exclude them from a system.

“Can run Wine well” isn't a very meaningful criterion, except insofar as you'll probably want to have a reasonably recent version, so pick a distribution that updates relatively often.

“Beginner friendly” is a highly subjective criterion. This being said, some distributions are more beginner-friendly than others. Pick Ubuntu, elementary OS or Linux Mint in preference to Debian or Arch Linux.

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