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Minimum Computer Needed

The minimum hardware that is necessary is a 486-compatible computer (Intel, AMD, or Cyrix) with 32 MB of memory and a 250 MB hard drive—although a 1 GB hard drive would give you more flexibility. A CD-ROM drive will make installation much easier. The computer will also need two network cards.

This basic computer is generally easy to find. This type of computer is often slated to be thrown away because it won't run Microsoft Windows 9x/NT/2000. Businesses, and even some home users, are literally trying to give these old computers away. Watch for clearance sales or online auction sites. Old 486s and old Pentium-class computers usually sell for less than $100.

The network cards don't need to be anything fancy. One card will be an Ethernet card that will connect to your Internet connection, such as the cable modem. The second card will connect to your home network. Most often, your home network will also be Ethernet. Basic NE2000 Ethernet cards can be purchased at a computer/electronics supply store or online for less than $10 each, and they will work just fine.

While the firewall computer will need a monitor, a keyboard, and possibly a mouse for initial installation and setup, you can safely remove each of these once the system is up and running. At this point, you will have only a computer box, which won't take up much space or be too intrusive. The firewall computer can then be accessed by using another network computer for necessary administration tasks. This remote connection to the firewall system is usually done with a secure access program such as ssh .

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