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How do I Build a Linux® Server?

Kristen Grubb
Kristen Grubb

The Linux® platform can be used to create either a home server or an enterprise class server. It is considered one of the most safe and reliable platforms available. You can build a Linux® server using an old computer that is lying around your house, or you can purchase brand new hardware specifically for this purpose. The Linux® distribution and software that you use depends on the type of server you want to create. The nice thing about the Linux® operating system (OS) is you can have more than one type of server on a single machine.

Before you begin to build a Linux® server, you should have an idea of what it will be used for. The types of servers include file servers, Linux®-based web servers, Linux® media servers and a print server. You can create a specific type of server, or you can install multiple types of servers on a single computer. Each type of server requires specific software packages.

Racks of servers.
Racks of servers.

The type of server determines the hardware that you need. You can build a Linux® server using an old desktop if you are only going to use it as a file or print server. It might even be powerful enough for a Web server, provided that you do not get a lot of traffic. A heavily used media or web server will require more modern hardware.

When you have assembled your hardware, you can decide on the distribution that you want to use. If you are using very old hardware, you should download a distribution that is designed for older hardware. Otherwise, you can build a Linux® server using any distribution you prefer. Download the International Standards Organization (ISO) image for the distribution and burn it to a blank compact disc. Install the OS using the graphical installation wizard.

After the OS is installed, it is time to install the software required for the Linux® server you are creating. Most modern Linux® platforms have graphical package managers that you can use to install the software. No matter which server you decide to create, you should install remote access software and antivirus software. The antivirus software is used to protect any Microsoft Windows® computers that might access the server.

When you have installed the necessary packages and configured them according to the software documentation, you can remove the graphical interface. You also can remove any unneeded software, such as word processing software, image manipulation software and games. This will free up hardware resources as well as provide a small level of security to the machine.

Start the antivirus software, and disable the remote root access. If you want to have the ability to make changes to the machine remotely, add an account in the "/etc/sudoers" file. This allows administrative privileges without providing full root access to the machine.

Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- another advantage of using Linux is that a lot of distributions (called "distros" in the Linux world) offer packages specifically designed for server use. Combine that with the fact that Linux has become a lot easier to install over the years and it is no wonder that operating system is so popular for using on servers.

Yes, there was a time when installing Linux on anything was a chore and the operating system's reputation still suffers from those old difficulties. Ease of use and installation has evolved to the point where most users can simply install the operating system and it will find the drivers it needs and be usable right out of the box.

For those that get stuck, there are plenty of Linux groups on the Internet full of people who will offer useful advice.

Oh, and most Linux distros are available for free. The price can't be beat.


One thing great about Linux for servers is that the hardware requirements of almost all hardware installs are so modest that just about any flavor of Linux will run on almost any older computer. Of course, there's old and there's ancient. Don't expect Linux to work miracles, but it can get the most out of your aging hardware.

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    • Racks of servers.
      Racks of servers.