Optimizing old laptop for HA server use

As my Pi crashed for the second time within a year I temporarily set up an old laptop Acer Aspire 3810T. But it actually has worked pretty well, so I am considering using it as my server going forward. It is of course not the fasted computer in the world, but not something I notice when using Home Assistant.

It has:

  • Core 2 Solo processor (1,4 ghz SU3500)
  • 4 GB ram
  • Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B, 5400 rpm 320 GB harddrive.

If I were to use the above for server use is that an okay configuration or should I upgrade some parts. Processor is of course not possible to upgrade and I guess ram is sufficient so perhaps the harddrive for an SSD? But what would that benefit, less risc of harddrive failure, more speed and less noise? The OS is Linux Ubuntu Mate.

I am not planning for using it for much else than Home Assistant and some web scraping stuff and some light database use cases.

Sorry I can’t help, but I am watching this with interest. I was offered a Core2Duo laptop a while back for £50 and turned it down… Keep on thinking back that I could have used it as a HASS box. But have no idea how i’d set it up.

Edit -
Also, what is the minimum spec people would recommend for a HASS box on a laptop?

If you’re not super familiar with command line Linux I’d probably (that’s a lie: it’s what I actually did :laughing:) just install Ubuntu Server 18.04 on it. Sure there are leaner distros out there but there’s a lot more help on the internet for the LTS Ubuntu versions than anything else.

I don’t know if that laptop would handle docker well or if you’d need to install HA right on the machine.

That’s my 2 cents at least.

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I started with Hassio about two or three months ago on a Raspberry 3. The enormous time needed for restarts after any smallest GUI change (pre Lovelace) drove me crazy. When RPi crashed and my precious config was gone, so was my patience. Since then HA has been running on my ancient former work machine, Lenovo T42, C2D, 4 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD. Battery is almost dead, but who cares.

There’s Ubuntu server 18.04 running with 12 docker containers:
Home Assistant (not Hassio)
HA Configurator
Influx
Grafana
Node-Red
Mosquitto
Booksonic
Cops
Heimdall
Watchtower
Calibre-server
ESPHome
Tasmota

The system has been online with no restarts since then, disk usage is 23 %, memory usage is 43 % and CPU is about 4 % on average. I’m very happy with it.

Should you consider upgrading your laptop? Not really. Just for noise reduction from the HDD, I’d go for a SSD drive, even a refurbished 128 GB or maybe 256 GB could come in handy.

You can keep Ubuntu Mate there, no need for the server edition, especially if you are not really into Linux (I am). Mate is a well balanced DE with very low system resources.

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A laptop is pretty similar to a NUC, it just has a screen built in, look at the various threads about NUC’s for info on how to install :slight_smile:

It certainly is possible to take out the SSD or HDD from the laptop, put it in a portable enclosure and write the NUC Hassio image directly to the drive. Then put that drive back in the laptop. I’ve done that with my mini PC.

However if you want flexibility (I don’t need anything other than the available addons) it is recommended that you install HA on a Linux OS as per the alternative installation instructions. https://www.home-assistant.io/docs/installation/

Thanks for all your feedback :slight_smile:

I think I expressed myself too vague in my initial post, I have installed Hassio on my laptop using the tutorial: https://www.home-assistant.io/hassio/installation/#alternative-install-on-generic-linux-server, so that works already :slight_smile:

I think I will upgrade to a SSD then :+1:

One of the most annoying things so far with the laptop is the desktop - the laptop only has a resolution of 1366 x 768, so when I use TeamViewer the resolution looks pretty poor. How do people with a NUC come around that without a screen?

Remote access by SSH , Samba and the web interface on the local machine for lovelace.

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SSH. I don’t need a desktop.

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I use the laptop as a headless server - it’s hidden in a corner of an occasionally used room. One of the reasons for my runaway from Hassio was Samba, or better say, the impossibility of sharing the config location via NFS. As I said earlier, I use Linux as my daily driver and therefore I strongly prefer NFS over Samba for many reasons. Samba just sucks in comparison :-). If I need a direct access there is always ssh.

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When you use SSH, Samba, etc you can interface with your server right from another computer’s GUI, so you skip right passed the GUI of the server computer. This has a couple benefits: 1) better user experience (for you) because you’re using the local windows and programs of the computer you’re physically using, instead of looking at a video of the desktop of your server and 2) because you’re not using the GUI on your server, you uninstall it so it doesn’t use resources. Idk how much it’s using on your laptop but the default desktop on a raspberry pi uses quite a bit.

Sorry I hope that wasn’t condescending, I have no idea of your knowledge level.

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You already said it works pretty well, so haven’t you already answered your own question?

Having said that, upgrading to an ssd is likely a good upgrade. RAM is often an expensive upgrade on laptops, especially if the latest ram chips (which are generally cheapest) are incompatible.

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i have a old laptop in which only 32 bit ubantu can be installed ,
can i use it for Hassio ?

which version of ubantu server should i install ?
all the latest version of ubantu servers are 64bit only , so should i use older 32 bit version or latest minimal version ?

That would have to be really old! What processor does it have?

16.04.6 LTS is old, but I think it is the last 32-bit version. It is still technically supported, I believe.
I would tend to use Debian anyway without any desktop GUI. you should be able to use CLI & ssh for access. They still have 32-bit builds.
https://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/current/i386/iso-cd/debian-9.9.0-i386-netinst.iso

How do you run calibre-server exactly? I am guessing you are not running it inside of Home Assistant. Do you know of a good tutorial to install it? Thank you so much!

https://manual.calibre-ebook.com/server.html

Here is my docker-compose calibre part:

##### C A L I B R E - W E B  #####

  calibre-web:
    image: linuxserver/calibre-web
    container_name: calibre-web
    environment:
      - PUID=1000
      - PGID=1000
      - TZ=Europe/Prague
    volumes:
      - /home/vlad/docker_files/calibre:/config
      - /home/vlad/knihovna:/books
    ports:
      - 8050:8083
    restart: unless-stopped

Sorry for the delay.

Hi @tom_l ,

An old post, but I have a Lenovo Q180 that had upgraded to Windows 10 but couldnt keep up, so I thought that I would repurpose it to a dedicatd HomeAssistant server. So i took out the HDD and wrote the “hassos_intel-nuc-5.13.img” to the HDD using BalenaEtcher. Not sure if that was the correct way. But now when I try to boot the PC I get the message “reboot and select proper boot device or insert boot media in selected boot device ad press a key” so obviously I didn’t do something correctly.

I have spent the whole day trying different things and following old tutorials but nothing seems to work. I tried to install Debian using thi tutorial byt get the same error after removing the boot installation media and try to restart the machine (Installing Home Assistant Supervised on Debian 10) so I wonder if you could clarify with me how to go about this to be able to reuse my old Lenovo Q180 for HA?

Thank you for any guidance from yourself or anyone else that can help.

Regards
Chris

Install debian, then do a supervised install.

The NUC images are for specific NUC hardware.

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