How to Set Up Media Server for Home Theater?

You’ve listened to the home media centers or media servers. They are used in many different ways, but its major responsibility is to implement media like movies, TV shows, music, games, etc., in a centralized manner. The media server is made possible using a NAS (Network Attached Storage) enclosure or a dedicated computer. With this system, you can watch sight content on a connected television or flow it through your home network on multiple devices from the house.

Steps to Set Up Media Server

So, how would you build up a media server for a home theater? The procedure for setting up a media server is not all that complex. Here are the common steps for set up:

  1. Purchase set up a dedicated computer or a NAS.
  2. Install hard drives to collect the media files and keep them safe.
  3. Connecting the media server to the network via an internet cable(s).
  4. Transmit the files to the hard drives and put any apps you would want to use.
  5.  You are using a media server as a streaming service, backup solution, storehouse.

For a more detailed clarification of every step, continue reading. We will go extensively on all of the above steps. This setup involves whether you should use a regular computer or a NAS addition, what kind of hard drives you want to use, connecting the device to your home network and how the server should configure it, what programs or apps you want to use, and how to transmit your files to other. It’s plenty to go over, but I’ll make this as manageable as I can!

Media Server for Home

1. Purchase NAS Compound or Set Up Computer as the Media Server

Choosing whether to buy a NAS or build/repurpose a computer as a media server depends on some things. How many parts do you want the equipment to fulfill? How many hours do you have to excavate into this project? Are you a very “technoid” individual, or do you know sufficient to get by? What’s your allocated balance?

NAS Enclosure Media Server

A NAS (network-attached storage) is a media server that includes slots or bays for hard drives and can distribute files/media throughout a network. Using a NAS as a media server will need to have a decent slaughter and memory/RAM. It intends to supply higher-quality video to one or even multiple sources with no buffering. If it has a slow mainframe or small RAM, it will be more at the mercy of buffering or lag. The NAS can perform to transcode to deliver one type of media to any gadget. Consult that not all devices use the same type of file.

Transmit takes one type of file and makes it agreeable to view or play on most devices (computer, tablet, smartphone, fire TV, etc.). Transmit usually uses a significant amount of processing power. That’s why a NAS has an inbuilt processor and RAM, just like a typical computer in the market. Except, the NAS’s processor and RAM are likely dedicated to serving, transmitting, and controlling the files and media hold on the computer’s hard drives.

Pros of NAS Enclosure Media Server:

  • Dedicated Purpose – The NAS’s intends only to control the files and media. It’s appropriating almost all of the cleanup power to serve its intends. It won’t be working web browsers and many backup processes that typically slow a computer’s downfall.
  • Features – It is attribute-packed with many several applications and utilities that are natively available.
  • It is easily Configured – Less of a hassle to set up and configure through a facile GUI and controlling system.
  • Availability – It’s doomed to be on a never-ending. Therefore, your media will always be accessible. With a computer, you must make sure it is on to approach the media.
  • Low Profile – The addition is much smaller than a standard desktop computer or server.
  • Support – They have the permit to customer support through the supplier. They can aid with more up-to-date uses if necessary to use. c

Cons of NAS Enclosure Media Server:

  • Price – A NAS Media Server comes along with a price tag of $300+. It is more costly than repurposing a decent desktop computer of the market.
  • Limited Customization – Some NAS inclusion has a limited amount of features and software available. If you are a super-user who wants to customize every single aspect, you may feel a bit limited. Of course, this is resolved by the system you are using. Some are extremely adaptable in what they can do that.
  • Less Processing Power – A beefy customed built computer/server will outperform a NAS enclosure easily. If you plan to stream a few users simultaneously, then a customized computer is likely a better option for a customer.
  • Limited Upgradability – Some NAS addition will have either 1 or 2 slots for RAM. So you could update the system to include more RAM, but it will also be restrained depending on the unit’s motherboard. You can better your hard drive depot, but this is restricted to the number of bays accessible. You are not able to update the CPU (processor) of these types of units.

I prefer neither the QNAP TS-251+ 2 Bay NAS (click for current Amazon price) nor the Synology DS218+ 2 Bay NAS. These units have two hard-drive bays at hand with 2 GB of pre-ensconce RAM, abundant to 6-8GB. The QNAP TS-251+ has a quad-core 2.0GHz processor, while the Synology DS218+ has a dual-core 2.0GHz processor. So, the QNAP TS-251+ is a bit faster but is hardly more costly. I recommend neither one of these units as a NAS addition option for that!

Typical Computer Set Up as NAS Media Server

The computer put up as a NAS media server is specifically used to disperse files and media. In general, a computer put up as they should customize a NAS media server to this task, and maybe a few small-scale tasks. It should not be halt by other procedures such as web browsing and everyday normal computer uses. Its main motive is to store the files and media on its hard drives, then distribute and transmit them when needed. It serves the same motive as a NAS inclusion, except it’s exactly like a normal computer.

The fine thing about using a typical computer as a media server is that you have a ton of flexibility! There are many items available to choose for you for full customization between the hardware, operating system, applications, etc.

Pros to Typical Computer as NAS Media Server:

  • Upgradable Hardware: With the computer, you can update any component! You can better the motherboard, processor, RAM (memory), network card, etc., at any point in your choice. A NAS inclusion will properly use a laptop motherboard that has very limited invincibility. A normal desktop motherboard will have more RAM slots and PCIe slots available to further increase your system’s potential.
  • More Processing Power – You can accomplish much more high-quality processing speeds than a NAS addition. If you have an older processor with slack speed, you can always purchase a better one and install it, depending on the motherboard.
  • Cheaper if using a Repurposed Computer – Many people have switched from using typical desktop computers to laptops. It is provable you can reprocess your antique desktop computer put to use as the media server. Just make sure that it has an appropriate amount of processing power, hard drive storage, and RAM.
  • More Operating Systems Options – You aren’t plunged with using Windows as an operating system. Many Linux-based NAS operating systems, such as Amahi, NAS4Free, and more, are accessible for an attractive price or even free of cost! These operating systems make composing the NAS a more simple process. o

Cons to Typical Computer as NAS Media Server:

  • It’s harder to Construct: Configuring everything can be difficult between the hardware, operating system, and software. It will need much more time to construct everything on a normal computer compared to a NAS inclusion.
  • Lack of Support: With all of the construction obligatory, you will find it tough to find an easy support channel to help set it up. You are busy with google searches and youtube videos and 
  •  (perfectly viable options, by the way).
  • Larger and Bulkier – In nature, a desktop computer is way larger than the typical NAS enclosure. You won’t put it in your home enjoyment center; you will require a much larger scope to hold the computer in the room.
  • More Expensive when Upgrading Components – Unhappily, upgrading computer accessories isn’t a low-rate task. Higher-end PC accessories can get extremely costly and will finish your pockets in a shorter period. Keep this in mind when using a previous system that could be outdated within a couple of years.

2. Hard Drives for a NAS Media Server

Hard Drive

All NAS inclusion and almost all desktop computers will use 3.5-inch inner HDDs. There are several different types of hard drives out there. These are usually designated with a color such as red, blue, green, black, purple, or gold and should use each of these colored drives in a fixed area. NAS drives are drawing with the red color. They are placed to fit indoor a NAS inclusion. NAS drives are built to work 24/7 and have a high-quality reading rate than normal HDDs. Red drives also brace RAID (redundant array of independent disks) configurations.

There are two raid configurations allowable to most NAS enclosures and computers for media servers without getting too complicated. Any RAID layout should use identical hard drives. RAID 0 “stripes” data across two drives. That means you can use the full size of both drives and should pull off twice the read and write the presentation.

However, with this RAID layout, if one of the drives stops running, you will lose the data on both hard drives. It is not very dependable and normally not preferred. RAID 1 “mirrors” data to have an imposing copy of the data on each drive. But this means you oblation half of your total storage amount. If one drive fails to run, you will still have an imposing copy of that data. For more info on RAID layout, check out this video.

I suggest using identical, red, NAS hard drives in a NAS enclosure or computer used as a media server. I prefer neither the Seagate Iron Wolf NAS HDD nor Western Digital Red NAS HDD. Below is a contrast chart of the 2TB (Terabyte) model from both WDand Sea gate.

*Seagate Ironwolf 2TBWestern Digital Red 2TB
Capacity Options1TB – 14TB 1TB – 10TB
InterfaceSATA 6GB/s SATA 6GB/s
Hard Drive RPM7200 RPM 5400 RPM
Cache256MB 64 MB
Warranty3 Year 3 Year
AVG Price (Will Vary)$77 $85

You should get an equitably large amount of depot. Get more than you await that you will need. Once you have everything put up properly and working well, you will use it more than begin with a thought. It would be half you got as much storehouse that will fit in the NAS enclosure or computer as you can afford. Don’t break the bank by buying an obscene amount of storehouse you may never use. For a median user, 4TB will, in all probability, be plenty. For a power user, 8TB+ is in general preference.

Install the Hard Drives

Installing hard drives is very simple. NAS enclosures have drive trays nad they can remove from the enclosure. Get up the hard drives on/inside the drive tray, then reinsert them into the NAS inclusion. To fix a hard drive into a desktop computer, detach the case cover, get up the hard drive into one of the obtainable 3.5-inch drive bays, and connect the SATA and power cables. The process of actually fixing the hard drives should take no longer than 5-10 minutes. It’s not complicated, I promise.

3. Connect the Media Server to the Network


Next, you require to connect the NAS media server to the accommodation network. Producing higher quality media to particular devices will need a high network speed. Your media server will have issues transporting media to devices with a less network speed, such as 10Mb/sec. Most NAS inclusion will have at least one GbE (gigabit ethernet) port.

A gigabit ethernet port permit for delivering speeds of up to 1Gb/sec (1000Mb/sec). Keep in mind one thing that internet speed is several than the network speed. How fast the internet speed is so that a device can download/upload data outdoors your home network (such as accessing a website). Network acceleration is how fast a device can upload or download upload data inside the home network, transmitting a file from your laptop to your personal desktop computer)of your own.

There are a few things to keep in mind when connecting the media server to your network.

  • It is wired, not Wireless – Always hardwire the NAS with an Ethernet cable. Please do NOT use a wireless signal, and it simply won’t be reliable enough for the NAS to operate smoothly.
  • NAS/Computer Transfer Speed – Find out your NAS enclosure or computer’s network card supports transfer speed; as I mentioned earlier, most NAS inclusion support up to 1 Gb/sec transfer speeds. Make sure the network card supports at least 1 Gb/sec transfer speed if you use a typical computer.
  • Network Infrastructure Transfer Speed – Make sure your modem/router supports transfer speeds up to 1 Gb/sec. Most latest routers will keep up this transfer speed. If yours does not, then I highly preferred that you perfuse in one that does.
  • Ethernet Cable Type – To use a Cat 5e or Cat 6 Internet cable to connect the NAS to the network. Both of these cables brace network speeds of 1 Gb/sec. Cat 6 supports 10 Gb/sec, but 1 Gb/sec should be much of a speed for almost all computer users.

The highest transfer speed of 1 Gb/sec isn’t obligatory, but it is a very large sum from 100 Mb/sec. You will perceive a pretty significant increase in performance with higher transfer speeds.

4. Transfer Files, Install Apps, Etc.

Once the media server has been attached to the network, we can shift the media and other files to it and install any inevitable programs. 

These are the server where it’s hard to give exact specifications because it varies for various systems.

NAS Enclosure

For a NAS inclusion, the manufacturer will provide pretty specific instructions for initially setting the unit up. Follow these commands, and try our files to it through the recommended method. You can share files directly from your laptop or computer to an external hard drive. A NAS inclusion’s operating system will probably have an “app store” with different apps to fix. The most known media server program for a NAS addition is a bit Plex Media Server.

You will need to reward a yearly fee for permits to all devices, but it’s worth it. The Plex Media Server program is very advanced with its transmitting and file management methods. It’s capable of offering your media on almost any device such as a Fire TV, Apple TV, smart TV, tablet, smartphone, computer, etc. If you prefer to use various services, then there are many options at hand. Remember one thing, and a NAS inclusion isn’t just meant to be a media server. There are also tons of other apps available for backup/syncing, content management, entertainment, home automation, security, and more. It has access to many software to make it more than just a plain media server.

Computer NAS

Putting up and arrangement is a little more complicated to a NAS Computer, but many options are available for everything!

  1. Install the Operating System – First, you must select an operating system to work on the computer. You can manage Windows, Amahi, NAS4Free, regular Linux, etc. I prefer going with a Linux-based NAS operating system. That will help simplify things, and it allows you to configure and install compatible applications from an app marketplace easily. Plus, Linux does not use as much utilizing power to work itself. Windows is much more resource-intensive and will naturally run slower.
  2. Transfer Media and Other Files – Once your operating system is installed, transfer your media files to these hard drives. Do this by using mapping drives, external hard drives, shifting files through the network, FTP, etc. The best choice is to map the hard drive inside Windows or Mac to easily access your files from your desktop computers or other laptops. Here’s how to plan a hard drive in Windows 10.
  3. Install Media Server Application – All of your files have been shifted to the NAS hard drives; we will need to fix a media server application to divide the media into another device. Again, I preferred using Plex Media Server. It’s one of the most beneficial (if not the best) media server applications out here! Plex Media Server is present on all major operating systems out there, so it’s likely compatible with whatever OS you chose.

5. Enjoy Your New Media Server

With your newly construct and put-up NAS Media Server, you are prepared for rock and roll! Just fix the Plex Media Player (or other media viewer) on your tool to view the media. You will be suitable for seeing the media on almost any device from anywhere in your home cause you have decent network connectivity. Yes, the setup is slightly time-consuming, but believe me, it’s worth it in the end!

Would you please go and check out another article on our website? That is a great way to amplify your home entertainment experience!

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Last update on 2023-11-30

TheaterDIY is a dedicated platform where I passionately share my vast knowledge and experiences in the realm of home theaters and home electronics. My expertise and insights are a guiding light for enthusiasts seeking to create their own cinematic havens.