Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Turn Your Old Computer into a Web Server (for free)...

Years ago, I published a paper titled, "The Configuration and Deployment of Residential Web Servers".  In retrospect, it wasn't the sexiest title, but the idea remains as relevant today as it was then.  For the Internet to remain open and embody democratic values, power needs to be decentralized.  For anyone looking to do something proactive about it, one easy (and free) way of doing so is to turn your beat-up old computer into a fully functional Web server;  the idea being that hosting Web content yourself means that others have less control over what get published.

So, in a brief attempt to update my old paper, here are the necessary steps for turning your old computer into a Web server...

  1. Download this MSI file which contains the Apache Web Server software.

  2. Double-click the MSI file to begin installing with the wizard.  Keep all of the defaults.  This should install the Apache Web Server to your "C:\Program Files" directory.

  3. Open the folder "C:/Program Files/Apache Software Foundation/Apache2.4/conf".  Open the file named "httpd.conf" in Notepad.  Scroll down and make sure that the following line is included (change the path to wherever you saved Apache if necessary):  

    • DocumentRoot "C:/Program Files/Apache Software Foundation/Apache2.4/htdocs"

That should be it.  To test it, open up your web browser (Firefox, Chrome, etc.) and go to the following URL:  That should bring you to a web page that simply says, "It Works!".  You are looking at the "index.html" file inside of your Apache/htdocs folder.

To actually share the contents of the Apache/htdocs folder on the Web, you need to setup Dynamic DNS.  Long story short, because your home ISP changes your IP address frequently, you'll need to download some free software, called a DUC client, to update it automatically.  I recommend using NoIP.com.  Then you'll need to setup Port Forwarding on your router by opening up port 80.

Any files you save to the Apache/htdocs folder will now be immediately published on the Web.  Not only do you have total control over any websites that you want to create, but you are also serving a higher democratic purpose.



At 2:10 PM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

As an additional note, if you want to have a web server that also includes PHP and MySQL (for programming full-blown web database applications), the easiest method is simply to download the WAMP server: http://www.wampserver.com. You will first need to download these Windows libraries: vcredist_x86, vcredist_x64, and vcredist_x32.


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