Building a centralized storage for your media files does not necessarily need to be expensive. In this guide, you will learn how to build your own home media server with FreeNAS software by utilizing old computer parts.
What Is a Home Media Server?
The purpose of a home media server is to store media files in one centralized place that can be streamed to various devices such as HTPC or media streamer.
What Do You Need to Build Your Own?
- FreeNAS Software
– Old computer or new media server components
– Hard drives (internal HDDs or external USB disks)
While you can use even a modest old computer as a home media server, there are certain consideration you need to be aware of.
Firstly a typical hard drive consumes around 5W at idle, but may need as much as 30W at start-up. Therefore, you will need to have enough power to start up all HDDs at the same time.
For example, if you are planning to build a 10 hard drive server, you will need
- 300W at start-up
- 50W at idle
2 TB HDD is currently a standard size for media servers. Popular models are Western Digital Caviar Green and Seagate Barracuda Green.
Streaming media files does not require much CPU performance, so you will be fine with a dual-core processor. Similarly, 2 GB of RAM is enough for most builders.
A Gigabit Ethernet adapter is a must to ensure you will have enough bandwidth for streaming HD videos.
In this guide, I have selected Linux based FreeNAS software as it will give you the utmost control. FreeNAS is an open source storage operating system that supports sharing files across Windows, Max OS X and Linux-like systems. FreeNAS is an excellent choice if you want to use Samba (SMB) protocol to share files.
Setting up a computer with FreeNAS is quite easy, and you will need to reserve an hour to complete the following steps.
Download FreeNAS ISO image
First, you’ll need to download an ISO image here.
Burn ISO image to CD disc
Next, burn the ISO image to a CD disc using a commercial burning software such as Nero or free software such as Free ISO Burner.
Boot computer to CD image
Once have prepared a bootable CD image, simply boot your home server with the CD. Make sure you have set the booting order so that the computer attempts to boot from the CD drive first.
– After booting, select install to hard drive
– Select hard drive where to install FreeNAS
– Remove the CD disc from the drive and boot the computer
– Make sure you have connected the Ethernet network cable (WLAN does not work)
– After booting, FreeNAS says that you may try the following URLS to access the web server interface
Setting up FreeNAS
To set up a FreeNAS, you will need to use another computer with an Internet browser. Go to the URL address that was given to you in the previous step (e.g. http://192.168.1.40).
Follow the steps to change your admin password, create a new user account and set up storage volumes.
– Account – My Account – Change Password
– Go to Account – Users – Add User
– Storage – Volumes – Create Volume
Please note that the storage disks need to be separate from the FreeNAS operating system disk drive. You can also use external USB disks as storage disks.
Next, let’s activate the file sharing services.
– Sharing – CIFS Shares – Add CIFS Share
– Services – Control Services – CIFS = On (Activate CIFS service)
Congratulations! Now you are ready to start transferring media files to your home server, and set it up as a source in your media center software.
Add media files to the FreeNAS
You can transfer media files as follows depending on which operating system you use.
– In Mac OS X FreeNAS will appear to your shares after activating the AFP share
– In Windows 7, simply Map a Network drive and you are ready to copy files
– Connect with FTP to FreeNAS
Add FreeNAS as a Source
To complete this guide, I will show you how to set up your home made NAS as a source in XBMC media center.
– In XBMC go to e.g. Videos
– Select Add Source
– Add source smb://FREENAS/your_NAS_name
If you got interested, here is a complete video tutorial from the guys at FreeNASTeam to walk you through the whole installation process.
I heartily recommend FreeNAS as a free (or very inexpensive) solution for a home media server. Alternatively, you can use a commercial Network Attached Storage by following our complete guide to setting up your NAS.