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How To Set Up A Media Streaming Server at Home

Do you have a collection of movies, TV shows, and music that you’d like to be able to watch and listen to on any device in your home? If so, then you need a home media streaming server.

A home media streaming server is a device that stores your media files and allows you to stream them to any device connected to your home network. 

This means you can watch your movies and TV shows on your TV, your computer, your phone, or your tablet. You can even stream your music to your speakers or headphones.

Setting up a home media streaming server is not that difficult. In this article, we will walk you through the steps involved in setting up a server, including choosing the best hardware and software.

Importance Of Setting Up Your Own Media Streaming Server

Various frustrations come with relying on streaming services for your content. A common one is the need for multiple subscriptions. When media streaming was becoming a thing, one only had to subscribe to Netflix for their content. 

As more media and production companies realized how lucrative streaming could be, they launched their own streaming platforms and started hosting content they owned on these platforms.

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Every company is launching a streaming service

The result is fragmentation where you have TV shows and movies on different platforms, and you have to subscribe to multiple services for all your content. Some people turned to only subscribing when they wanted to see a specific show or movie and unsubscribing when they were done with it. 

That is not viable long-term because we are forgetful, and a streaming service will continue billing your account as long as you have not canceled.

Another is limited content availability. Several streaming platforms have indicated that they will remove some of their content due to storage and bandwidth costs. This means that you might not be able to watch your favorite TV shows and movies in the future.

Lastly, there is the issue of buffering. Depending on your internet speed and the quality of the content you would like to access, it can take a few minutes for you to have a good enough buffer to watch the length of the content uninterrupted. Set up right, a home media streaming service does not present these frustrations.

Choosing the Right Hardware For Your Media Streaming Server

There are three main options for building a media streaming server; a computer, NAS (Network Attached Storage), and a purpose-built server. In this guide, we will be focusing on the computer and the NAS and how to use those for your home media streaming server.

Sizing a media streaming server can be challenging as most people do not know the performance or amount of storage they need to start. 


Let’s start with the CPU.

Different processing tasks require different levels of processing power. Media encoding and transcoding take up most of this power, with running the operating system and the media streaming server taking just a little. 

While you can use a computer with an old PC, try to use a Pc with at least a 6th gen Intel CPU or 3rd gen AMD CPU. Popular opinions include the Intel Core i7-6700K and  Ryzen 5 3600, which are both affordable options. You can also buy some later CPUs but note that those will increase your budget.


In a home media streaming server, the RAM holds or stores files temporarily as they are being transcoded.

Some of the factors that determine how much RAM you need are the size of the files you will be transcoding, the size of your library, how many people will be accessing content at one time, and the quality of the content.

For a basic server, 4 GB of RAM is enough. However, it is always best to start with 8 GB of RAM as that will give you some leeway as your collection grows and needs change.

RAM for your media streaming server
You will need enough RAM for your media streaming server

If you have the budget for it, you can even go with 16 GB of RAM, but that is only recommended if you have more than a few people using the server at one time.

Another important note about RAM is speed. Faster RAM will always be better for media streaming. While DDR5 is making its way into becoming mainstream, there are also amazing DDR5 RAM kits that will serve you nicely for the next few years.

Graphics Card

A home media streaming server typically does not require a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU) unless you have specific requirements that involve hardware acceleration or transcoding of media files.

That said, there are a few scenarios where you might need one. One of these is hardware acceleration. Some media server software, such as Plex, support hardware acceleration for transcoding media files. 

In such cases, a compatible GPU can offload the transcoding process from the CPU, resulting in improved performance and reduced strain on the CPU.

If you plan to stream high-resolution content, such as 4K videos, or if you want to transcode media files with demanding codecs, a GPU can assist in smooth playback and efficient transcoding. 

GPUs with hardware decoding capabilities, such as NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon graphics cards, can handle these tasks effectively.

Lastly, If you intend to use your media server for gaming or running virtual machines, a GPU becomes more relevant. Gaming and virtualization workloads benefit from the enhanced graphical capabilities and processing power provided by a dedicated GPU.

It’s important to note that while a GPU can enhance certain aspects of your home media streaming server, it is not a mandatory component for basic media streaming and file-sharing functionalities. 

The CPU alone can handle streaming and file-serving tasks, especially if you are not engaging in intensive transcoding or working with high-resolution media.

Additionally, the GPU will increase the final cost of the server and so you should leave it out unless you have an absolute need for it.


Storage is one of the most important components of a home media streaming server as it determines how much media you can store, how fast you can access it, and how much room you have for your media to grow.

Many experts recommend that you have a separate drive for your software and a separate one for media metadata since the media metadata can quickly grow to hundreds of gigabytes if you have an extensive library.

You need enough storage for your Media Streaming Server
You need enough storage for your Media Streaming Server

Size and speed are the most important considerations for the streaming software and metadata and you can find high-quality but affordable SSDs for both.

For the media, size, and redundancy are the most important considerations. While you want to access your media quickly, you should always protect yourself against data loss. 

Because it is often not possible to back up a large media collection, many people use a RAID array to protect their media. For example, RAID 5 provides a balance between security and performance, but it requires at least three drives.


Lastly, you need a network. Since you want to stream media across your home network, you need a hardwired connection from your server to your router.

For most people, a 1Gbps connection will be fine. However, many modern motherboards come with one or multiple 2.5Gbps connections. Remember that you will need a router that can support your motherboard’s network speed.

If you require wireless connectivity, ensure your server supports the latest Wi-Fi standards such as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) for faster and more stable wireless streaming. You will also need an access point for wireless connectivity.

Selecting the Operating System For Your Home Media Streaming Server

There are numerous operating systems to choose from for a media streaming server. However, we will look at the most common ones that you can install easily with no help or with some help from our upcoming tutorials.


Windows is a familiar option for most people but is not always the best choice for this application. Some common issues you run into when using Windows are a higher overhead compared to other operating systems and some software issues. 

With the overhead, you will put your server under a lot more stress, and Windows cannot do HDR tone mapping if you choose the free version of Plex. The HDR issue means you have to choose another operating system if you would like to stream HDR content or use hardware acceleration.


UNRAID is another popular option you can install on any server hardware but is typically used in network-attached storage (NAS) servers. It allows you to install streaming software like KODI, Plex, and JellyFin as well as Docker containers easily. 

The main downside is that UnARAID is a paid solution with a few limitations that make it unsuitable for specific use cases.  


TrueNAS, formerly known as FreeNAS, is another excellent option with functionality similar to UnRAID’s. They are popular for NAS operating systems, but can be installed on any hardware including on a virtual machine if you like.

TrueNAS also comes with the self-healing OpenZFS filesystem. This filesystem used to be available for enterprise users but has been added to the free version known as TrueNAS Core. OpenZFS comes with built-in raid, the ability to detect and repair data corruption and bit rot silently, and powerful data management tools.

The combination of TrueNAS and the OpenZFS file system ensures data integrity whether you are using the operating system for sharing files, serving media, or backups.


If you are an avid Linux fan, there are several distros or your home media streaming server. Some of these make installing streaming software easy while some require that you know how to tinker with Linux to get everything working as expected.

Some of the best Linux distros for a home media streaming server include:

  • Ubuntu
  • Debian
  • CentOS
  • Fedora
  • Linux mint

Choosing and Installing Media Streaming Server Software

Just like you choose an operating system, you also need to choose a streaming platform or streaming software. We will look at some of the more popular options below.


Plex is arguably the most popular media streaming software with both free and paid options. In addition to allowing you to organize and stream the content you already own, you can also stream content from the Plex platform.

The main reason we recommend Plex is the massive community that has formed around it. You can find information on anything you need to know about Plex, including how to install and configure it.

Plex also has free and paid mobile apps so you can configure them to stream your content or stream content from the platform.


Emby is the closest competitor to Plex at this time. It has both free and paid options, with the paid option unlocking additional features like hardware accelerated transcoding, live TV, and smart home integration.

Emby also has a mobile app, but there is no free option like you have with Plex.


Kodi is a powerful media center software that brings together a world of entertainment in one convenient package. It provides many of the same features other streaming software does, and users can extend its functionality using packages.

It has powerful media importing, organizing, and streaming capabilities, with users able to leverage most of its features without paying for them.

Adding Media Files To Your Media Streaming Server

Now that you have the server, the operating system, and the streaming software set up, it is time to add your media. To get started, you need to digitize your media and store it in folders inside the operating system or storage device if you are using a NAS.

It is important that you only digitize content that you already own as there are legal implications of digitizing and storing media you do not own or did not obtain legally.

Digitizing Your Music Collection

If you have a music collection on a CD or in another digital format, you can use different software solutions to convert it into a format you like. MP3 offers the most compatibility for storage. If you have more space or a large capacity, consider storing your audio files in lossless formats like FLAC that provide a much better sound quality.

If you own analog music collections such as vinyl, you will need the right hardware to convert the files into MP3s as they play.

Converting Video Files

If you own Blu-rays and DVDs, converting them will take some time. A popular software option for converting your DVDs and Blu-ray discs is MakeMKV. The MKV format is not as widely supported as MP4 and AVI files, and you will need to rely on your streaming software to transcode the files to play on certain devices.

MKVs are also much larger than other formats, with typical Blu-ray backups taking about 30 GB of space. However, the format preserves image and soundtrack quality so you have a great viewing experience.

You will also need to convert your DVDs and Blu-rays

You can still reduce the size of the backups by deselecting some options like bonus material and additional soundtracks, but you will lose some content and image or audio quality.

Remember that you will need a device with an internal or external DVD or Blu-ray drive to convert your video files.

Moving Content To Your Home Server or NAS

If you are using a computer as a home media server, you only need to ensure your files are in their respective audio and video folders. You can also create separate files so you can make it easier to use your media streaming server for TV shows, music, and movies for easier management.

If you are using a NAS, it should appear as a network drive on your computer. When moving and organizing your files, you should treat the NAS like a hard drive or USB drive connected to the computer.

Once you have moved all the files, you need to tell the streaming software where to find them. The process differs depending on the streaming software and operating system, but it typically entails pointing the streaming server to where the files are stored on the server or the NAS. 


A media streaming server lets you consume your content without worrying about subscription fees or a streaming service removing the content you like. 

Building one entails finding the right hardware depending on your use cases, installing the operating system, setting up the streaming software, and adding your files to the server or network-attached storage.

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