p166 as router/firewall?

By somekid007 ยท 17 replies
Aug 11, 2003
  1. ok so i have a old pentium 166 (remember those) system collecting dust in my basement and i'v heard about people using them as router/firewall boxes. i will probably run linux on it, but last time i tried installing mandrake, its kept on crashing so im back on 95. also, if i were to use it as a router/firewall how do i connect the other computers in my house to it? do i add like 3 pci ethernet card and connect the adsl line into one and the comps in the othe 2, or can i use a hub or switch?

    the specs for the machine (i believe)

    socket 7 intel pentium 166mhz (non-MMX) (dont laugh)
    ATL (who are they?) OEM-i HX mobo
    32mb 72 pin EDO ram (dont laugh)
    Quantum Sirroco 2.5gb h/d (same as above)
    Creative Sound Blaster 16 (same as above)
    Diamond Media Stealth 64 gfx (same as above)
    floppy, and Tatung 8x Cd-ROM

    i dont want to spend much money on it, considering what it is. but what OS should i run? i know 98SE has ICS but people say this machine isnt fast enough for it to run. or should i go with an older distro of linux?
  2. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    That would make a perfect system to act as a router/firewall.

    The best way to do it, is make it multihoned (put 2 NICs in it), then connect it to your DSL/Cable router. Then, plug the other NIC into a hub/switch/router/whatever you have. Then, if using windows you can either use Win2ks/XPs built in ICS, or get a program such as WinGATE, and the rest of the machines can be set to retrieve network info via DHCP - It's fairly simple.

    The best way to do it is to just give it a shot, and if you run into issues you can always come here and we'll help you out.

    I personally would use Linux, but if using windows, I would suggest you use 2k or XP, whichever you happen to have.
  3. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271

    Great! Thanks!
  4. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271

    Great Thanks!

    ill try it as soon as i get the chance (its summer break and i really dont feel like doing anything).

    anyways, i only have 32mb ram so i dont think 2k or xp is good for me

    maybe 98se or some distro of linux, well i better post in OS forums if i want to know what's best
  5. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Soul Harvester speaks the truth.

    Maybe the force be with you!
  6. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    Windows really wouldn't be a good choice. You want this box to run forever and automatically so that you turn it on and shove it under the bed where it will run for years without problems (a nice theory anyway :p ).

    You should look at specialised router/firewall packages. I would personally recommend Coyote floppy firewall which is small, reliable and with very small hw requirements.

    Linux has switching features too, so you could do the setup with a separate NIC for every client. This would be way too much hassle and probably less performance though. 2 NICs in the router box as Soul suggested is all you need.
  7. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271


    what are the benefits of using an old system as a router/firewall

    i just quickly checked the prices at a local store, http://www.ncix.com go there if you want

    so i found out that for 2 Surecom NICs are $30, and a 5 port Linksys Switch (model EZXS55W) is $56, a total of $86

    however, a USR router/print server for $80 has built-in dhcp, firewall, VPN and DMZ features.

    so i just want to know the benefits of using an older system as a router/firewall. also, this system has a really noisy cpu fan so i have to stuff it in my closet or something. i would keep it in the basement but it has a different land line
  8. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Well, an immediate benefit would be that you don't have to fork out for new equipment.

    Additionally, the linux box would have many additional features, but would in turn be more complicated to maintain.
  9. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    The benefit?

    From a purely hardware point of view, there might not be a benefit other then improved security control / greater flexibility depending on what you do.

    The greater benefit I see is the learning experience of dealing with a new operating system.

    For me it would also be cost. I don't have $80 to spend on a router, but I have many old machines lying around that would work just fine.
  10. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    Actually, a hardware router/firewall would be the best solution.The only advantage of the computer-based setup is price.

    Instead of the brand new NICs buy a couple of old crappy 10 Mbit ones (make sure they support twisted pair though :p ), maybe you can get them for free somewhere. Also, unless you will be doing heavy traffic between the local computers, get a hub instead of a switch. Again, a used 10 Mbit hub will cost you virtually nothing.
  11. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271

    thanks for the quick replies, yah i guess ill start going out to garage sales or something to see if i can get a couple of cheap nics (i picked up a ZIP drive for $3 last year). what brand would you recommend for a hub? i heard good stuff about linksys, and it will stack perfectly with my ADSL modem, but i can get an AOpen hub for around $29. the linkys is the same price as its switch
  12. acidosmosis

    acidosmosis TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,350

    somekid007; Garage sales are a waste of time when buying NIC's. Just drop by your local PC shop such as OfficeMax. You can get NIC's for around $9-$14. At that price it isn't worth the time visiting garage sales, plus those $14 NIC's are going to be brand new as opposed to getting them used.

    LinkSys NIC's at OfficeMax are $14 I believe if you prefer LinkSys.
  13. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    Not always true. Unless you can afford to really go all out and get a nice router, there are a lot of tricks you can do with a soft(pc) router that you couldn't do with your $80 linksys whatever.
  14. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    If you have 4 PCs or less, any old 10/100 hub will do, but even with $30 you can get something like a hawking 100mbp/s switch, plus a NIC (I saw that at frys a while back).
  15. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Yeah, exactly. They cost nothing.
  16. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271

    im in CANADA

    As much a i hear about the deals at officemax, fry's, newegg, etc. I CANT GET THEM HERE!

    the cheapest i found for linksys nic is $29, and the lowest price is a surecom for $15

    the cheapest hub i found is an AOpen for $29. are they any good?
    if not, ill have to buy a linksys switch that stacks nicely with my modem.

    that bring the price between $59 and $114.....

    a good router/firewall/vpn/print server from USR can be found for $80

    so i think it would be more easier for me to go buy a router/firewall/vpn/print server box and be an ***** this once, unless you can convince me that using my p166 is better =D.

    also, i powered up the dinosaur today and boy is the cpu cooler LOUD! can i just go out and buy one of those northbridge heatsinks and slap it on?
  17. Justin

    Justin TS Rookie Posts: 942

    actually, a p166 produces about as much heat as a prudish mormon girl, so you don't need to worry about the fan that much. You can take it off and you should be just fine. I run all my pentium classic cpus without fans (except the overclocked ones)
  18. somekid007

    somekid007 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 271

    thanks for all the help guys, i apologize for taking so long to reply but ive been really busy lately. i found a deal at a local chain, FUTURE SHOP during the labour day weekend with and SMC wired 4 port router for $9.99CAD after rebates. and im smiling as i use it :) thanks again for all the help
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