Faraz Kaleem Malik

CS '26 @ UofT

Budget Homelab Overview | Faraz Kaleem Malik

Budget Homelab Overview

February 09, 2024

Overview of my extremely budget homelab setup

Now that my Github Student Developer package has run out of DigitalOcean credits (with DO refusing to give me more this year), I decided it would make more sense to move my servers on premises. Maybe this might give you some ideas on how you start your own college dorm servers too!

Entire Setup


First off I have a Raspberry Pi 4B (2GB). Easily the most expensive component, costing ~$100 in 2021. It is being booted off of a USB drive instead of the standard microSD card since in my experience the cards have a much higher failure rate (for any set GB/dollar). Originally this was meant to be my only server, but its limitation of being ARM in an x86_64 world forced me to add another one.

Second is a salvaged motherboard from a Lenovo Ideapad. Even when it was operational it wasn’t a particularly powerful machine, having low power Celeron N4020 CPU. I took interest in this because of the low power draw (the fact that it was free helped). Some downsides are soldered RAM and storage (with the SSD completely busted), as well as the lack of proper IO like Ethernet or SATA ports. Both servers are booted off of USB Thumbdrives for this reason, with application storage and backups going on the NAS.

My NAS is some old model of a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo. 2 3.5in SATA bays, but only 1 is occupied at the moment (with 500gb). I got this off of Facebook Marketplace recently for $20. The web interface is straight out of 2007, and the security horribly outdated. I found it really nice that despite Netgear exiting the NAS market a few years ago that their forums and support pages are still active (for now). Much of my setup would be very difficult without these. I connect to the NAS on my servers and desktop using NFS, and even stream media to my phone using FTP. Naturally the device is blocked from internet.

Finally there is my OpenWRT router, as seen here. For $15 it has proven to be very versatile thanks to the well supported operating system.

Overall the system could not have costed much more than $150, while keeping the power bill fairly minimal. I like the idea of getting used to slower hardware so any improvements end up feeling quite dramatic! I will probably do something about the laptop motherboard and upgrade NAS capacity for my next steps.