diy home media server

A media server is a hub for all your media content. It can either be a regular or dual core computer or a dedicated home media device, but did you know you can create your own DIY home media server?

To help you make one and set it up seamlessly, our team is here to guide you through the steps and what you need.

How to Create a DIY Home Media Server

To create a media server, you want to be familiar with the NAS, or Network Attached Storage. There are a few steps to follow to set up your own media hub in no time, and that includes finding the best NAS devices. You will either want a NAS, or a dedicated desktop computer to do the job.

When you have identified your ideal NAS or desktop computer, you want to then install a hard drive, or hard drives if you intend to store a lot of media content.

hard drive

Our experts say to connect the media servers using a cabled connection like the ethernet to a network. Even if wireless is available, a connection with a hardwired cable will yield a stabler connection to your Network Attached Storage.

Then comes the easy but time consuming part of transferring your media files and content to the NAS or computer hard drives. You can also take the opportunity to set up any apps or software you want to use. When the transfer is complete, you can take advantage of your DIY media server by using it for media streaming, storage and more.

Things You’ll Need

Above is how to set up your DIY media servers in a nutshell, but now our experts are going into more detail on the components you will need.

A NAS is essentially a mini storage or computing device for your media content. Since the media server is used to bring TV shows, movies, music and more to your devices, you want your system to be connected to your home Wi-Fi network. 

While you can purchase your own NAS, such as a NAS that is readily built from Synology, you can also build your own using hard drives and an old computer.

Buying a ready-to-use NAS will save on storage space, because this kind of NAS is usually smaller, you won’t need to set up anything on your own, and media servers that are already completed are easily implemented into your established system setup.

That’s not to take away from building your own server. Some like the research, assembly and configuration. If you do decide to build your own media server, it won’t come with the software like Plex.

plex media server

Our experts recommend Plex Media Server. Plex Media Server is a free software that turns your computer into the media player with all the media files or content.  All you need to do is add your movies, TV shows and other files and give Plex Media Server an access.

After you have decided on a ready-to-use NAS or building your own, you should consider the hard drive. How many hard drives you want depends on how much content you have. The more TV shows, movies and other media streaming data you have, the more hard drives you want.

Computers usually come with a 3.5 inch hard drive, but you may need to add more. If you DIY your own server, then you will have to look into an external hard drive. The next step is to connect the server to your home network, so you want an ethernet cable for the most stable connections.

To sum up, you need a NAS, a hard drive, and an ethernet cable to create your DIY server.

Set Up Your PC as a Media Server

If you have decided to go the admirable route of creating your own media server with your PC as the NAS, instead of buying a home theater PC, then this section is for you. It’s quite a bit more complicated than just using a ready-to-use free option like the Plex Media Server, but that’s part of the fun.

After you have your dedicated PC as your home media hardware choice, you need to then choose the operating system setup you run. Aside from Plex, Windows and Linux systems work well as media servers. The next step is to install the external drives if you need more. All it takes is to mount the hard drives in the tray.

After installing the drives, hook up your system to your home network. Once that is done, then you will be ready to share the files to the NAS. When the NAS is full of your video files, you can install the server app.

If you like the idea of a free apps, then our experts suggest going with Plex App. Plex is also a highly compatible choice, so you won’t have to worry about the Plex settings and suitability with your particular operating system.

Benefits of Using a PC as a Media Server

Are there really any benefits to using a PC as a media server when you can easily purchase one off the shelf? Our experts are here to give you some answers.

Black computer keyboard with monitor and speaker

Since you have built your NAS from the ground up, it’s easily more customizable than a purchased NAS enclosure down the line. Like most technology that is self-built, the PC has more processing power.

The processor within the computer will be much more powerful. Unless you have decided to go for a computer with an old and slow processor. However, the processor can always be replaced with better options.

If you decide to use an old and obsolete computer, it may save you some cash. Just make sure the processing power, RAM, and storage is enough for your needs.

Another huge pro our experts can say about using a PC is compatibility. You have more operating systems to choose from, and Plex Media Server also makes things easier. The Plex Pass is also worth looking into when you have a PC media server as it gives you the best experience.

Purchase a NAS Enclosure

You can purchase a NAS enclosure off the shelf as our experts have mentioned. If you decide to go with this option, the Synology media server is a good one to go for.

Synology is a Taiwanese company that specializes in NAS and will give you plenty of support. However, you should be aware that the use of a NAS enclosure will give you less RAM and processing power, so you will need to make sure of that.

For those that don’t know, the RAM and processor are essential to the operating speed. The faster they are, the less chance of lagging and buffering when you view your files.

The NAS’s main job is to run transcoding. Transcoding will allow you to send one type of file to all types of devices, which is why the RAM and processor are included.

Benefits of a NAS Enclosure

Let’s take a look at the benefits of buying a NAS enclosure just to give you a better idea of which is better.

Synology 2 bay NAS DiskStation DS220j (Diskless)

Although it may have less RAM and a weaker processor, the NAS enclosure can still be fast enough for your needs because of its dedicated purpose. There won’t be any background programs running to slow it down.

The configuration is easy, won’t take a lot of time and it will give you easy access to programs and apps already installed. You won’t need to do it yourself as everything is taken care of for you.

NAS enclosures are also smaller, which is a more compact option if you are short on space. Also, since you would want to purchase the NAS enclosure from a reputable company such as Synology, there will also be customer support and warranties available.  

Install Hard Drives

How exactly do you install extra hard drives? This is a crucial part to your DIY[1] media servers, and our experts are here to help. As said above, it’s a matter of removing the drive trays from your NAS enclosure. Once you have done that, you just have to mount the drives in the drive tray and insert it again into the enclosure.

If you use a desktop PC, then you will want to remove the cover, mount the drive into the drive bay, connect the cables, and place the cover back on.

Connect Your Server to the Home Network

After all the hardware configuration, you have to get the drives ready for video transfer. Our experts always suggest having lightning networks speeds to limit lag and slow processing. Also, find an ethernet cable that supports fast network speeds up to 1000 mbps if possible. This is an example where faster is better.

yellow ethernet cable

Remember to always go for the wired connection. Wireless is volatile and unstable, you never know when the signal will grow weak. With a cabled connection with direct access to your network, you can be sure you will get the fastest speeds. Connect one end of the ethernet cable to your desktop or NAS enclosure and the other to your router.

To ensure the best and smoothest performance, pay attention to the network transfer speed, computer transfer speed and the type of cable you use.

Transfer Media

After your NAS enclosure or desktop computer is all hooked up, you can start to transfer the files. There is no correct way to do it because your setup will affect the transfer of the files, but our experts will do their best to explain it.

This is where the simplicity of the NAS enclosure beats out a computer NAS. If you use a ready-made NAS, it should come with instructions on how to move the files. You can do it from your computer directly or other devices that house your files. Again, this is where Plex Media Server comes in to make everything easier. Also, Plex is compatible with mobiles, tablets, and computers. 

Although a NAS enclosure is a dedicated network for your data, you can also set it up and connect it to your home system to run other programs for security, home entertainment etc,. 

Transferring files with a computer is a tad more complicated. You need to install the OS, which could be Windows, Linux, Amahi, etc., then map your drives to transfer the content. After that’s done, install the server apps to get things up and running.

Install Apps

Installing the app is very easy, especially if you go for the Plex Server. Start by downloading the program you choose. You may need to create a sign-in and log in to the app for the first time. If you go with Plex, from then on everything is easy because the Plex App will guide you through step by step and there are even videos to show you how to also install Plex for TV. 

Backup Data

We were indoctrinated as kids and even adults in the workplace on the importance of backing up your data, which is why this also needs to be done for your media servers.

gaming mouse beside a keyboard

You can use the extra space in your hard drives to backup and store your data. Not only that, it can serve as a backup for all the app options and data you have on all devices such as your tablet, phone, computer, etc. 

FAQ

What is the best home media server?

The best among the media servers is the Plex. Not only is it easy to use, it is even free to download but some of Plex services are not. Plex is also a highly compatible option that will work with any type of operating system you get, including Windows. All you need to do is give Plex an access to run your content.

How do I turn my old PC into a home media server?

You can turn your old PC into a media server by converting it into a NAS. This will entail the installation of hard drives, hooking it up to your home network, transferring files and downloading server apps.

Why have a home media server?

You should have a media server because it offers more convenience when accessing files from multiple devices. You get to play different content on different devices with the server.

Conclusion

There is no debating the advantages of having a home media server. If you choose a DIY home media server, you open the possibilities to customizations down the line and faster processing and more RAM.

There are plenty of media server apps that offer amazing customer support for your system. The setup of your new home media server shouldn’t take much time if you follow our experts’ guide.

Streaming is never been enjoyable when you can fuse your speakers to your chosen stereo. Check out the Sonos Port and Sonos Connect review, and choose the best streaming device for your home theater. 

Willie Greer

Willie Greer is the founder of The Product Analyst. A cinephile, he has made it a personal quest to achieve the awesomest home theater possible. He now shares what he has learned through the years on the site, and has enlisted the help of tech-savvy colleagues in providing more insight about today’s most sought-after gadgets.
Willie Greer

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