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How to build and set up a home media server?

  • February 4, 2022
  • 6 min read
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How to build and set up a home media server?

High-speed Internet has divided people into two groups: some subscribe to streaming services, others prefer the old-fashioned way to store their own copies of films and albums on their hard drive, especially when it comes to rare releases that cannot be found online. 

But Netflix or Spotify is easy to launch from any device, but how can you access the files stored on the drive from your TV or smartphone? To do this, you need to organize a home media server. This is much easier than it seems, and is feasible even with standard Windows tools. Watch your Netflix on Projector Screens with big screens.

What is a DLNA media server?

A home media server allows you to connect all available devices to a single wireless network and share music and movies on your hard drive, flash drive and SD card. This eliminates the need to store a copy of a movie or album on a PC, tablet, smartphone, laptop and TV memory – one copy on the media server will be enough.

You can make many devices as a media server: 

  • Computer: current workstation or old PC
  • DLNA-enabled routers
  • Microcomputer
  • TV Boxes
  • NAS (Network Attached Storage)

At their core, all these devices are a computer with a processor, video core, RAM and a disk for storing files. To turn them into a media server, you need technology for high-speed content transfer in real time. It’s called DLNA.

DLNA is a set of standards for connecting devices that support this technology into a single home network for transmitting media content. Most often these are TVs, printers, players and receivers, as well as portable equipment – smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc. Many manufacturers use DLNA in their ecosystems under brand names:

  • Samsung-Allshare
  • LG-SmartShare
  • Philips-Simple Share

Apple AirPlay is also similar, but it uses different protocols and only works with Apple devices. 

The easiest way is to make friends with a TV media server if the latter supports DLNA. Otherwise, connecting using a TV box or microcomputer will help.

Media server from PC

A home media server can be organized on a working PC. All you need is a router and a DLNA-enabled device, such as a TV.

If the TV and PC are connected by the same home network, Windows 10 allows you to transfer content directly to the device without unnecessary settings. Just right-click on the file and select the desired device from the list in the “Cast to device” tab.

In order not to click on the files on the PC every time, but to select them immediately from the TV or tablet, you will need to set up a DLNA server: 

  • Open media streaming options and enable this feature
  • Give a name to your server and open access to the necessary devices.
  • By clicking “Configure” when choosing a device, you can open the transfer of one or another type of content.

Now available media content will appear on TV and portable devices. However, it will be in an unsorted form, it is impossible to store hundreds of films and albums in this way. You will need to set up folders and categories. It is possible to organize them even using Windows Media Player 11 and higher: right-click on the “Video” section, select “Video Library Management” and add folders with pre-sorted videos to the list. Likewise with photos and music.

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Media server from the router

Some routers with a USB or SATA connector can work as a media server. In the characteristics of the router, the function of the DLNA server must be indicated . You will also need at least 128 MB of RAM (256 MB is better). If the Wi-Fi network is too busy in the 2.4 GHz band, a dual-band router will come in handy. It will help to avoid packet loss, which will be expressed in lags and friezes. For normal operation, the connection speed must be at least 60 Mbps. Usually, you can configure DLNA on the router directly in its web interface: you need to enable the function itself and select folders with content. Then you can connect smartphones and TVs to it. The main advantage is the simplicity of the solution, but there are also disadvantages:

  • Weak processor and insufficient amount of RAM lead to brakes and lags
  • The more full the hard drive connected to the router, the more the system slows down
  • Not all models are able to work stably with hard drives 

Media server from TV set-top box

What if the TV is not smart enough and does not support DNLS? Then you can connect an additional device to it, for example, a TV box . They support DLNS and provide the ability to upload your media files to a USB flash drive or SD card in order to view them from TV, and sometimes other devices. Moreover, Android gives these consoles the functionality of a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to install applications on them, use streaming services, YouTube, play games, etc.

microcomputer media server

IY lovers can make the media server based on the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, the ASUS Tinker Discussion Board or the like. These usually come in the form of a board without housing, on which the ARM-based processors, RAM, video card, modules Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB ports, HDMI and Ethernet. Accordingly, you can connect almost any TV and even an external sound card.

This allows you to fine-tune the characteristics of the model to suit your needs and construct their own case and cooling system. Both SD cards and HDDs can be connected to microcomputers (both USB and SATA via an adapter). The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ is powerful enough to play high-definition movies and 4K videos on YouTube. 

Conclusion

The media server allows not only to organize gadgets into a convenient home ecosystem, but also to open access to files in storage via the Internet from anywhere in the world. This is how you can set up your own streaming service so you can listen to your music and watch your movies from your portable device wherever network speed allows.

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