In the last installment, we have hopefully built up a computer which will become a media server computer. In the final step, we have to get the software set up so that you can start broadcasting at home. If the computer does indeed have a solid state hard drive as I recommended, then it’s a matter of installing the operating system of choice on to it. While I’m personally using Windows 8, there’s not much wrong with the previous iteration (Windows 7) at the moment. Personal choice aside – Windows 8 has a brand new, rather polarising interface – it does use less processing resources than Windows 7 but given you will most likely be accessing the system from afar, Windows 8 with the new tiled interface might be easier to see and interface with.
In any event, install Windows on to the solid state drive but don’t use it as actual storage. This is what the two paired hard disks are supposed to be for. Once Windows has finished installing, personalising the look and feel of the operating system is obviously up to you. The next part is important for a few reasons. The use of hard drives is used to create a large storage space spanning over multiple disks or automated backup system – so that you don’t lose everything if a disk fails – is entirely up to you. Windows 7 and 8 don’t use the real RAID 5, but have a virtual configuration similar to the it. The relevant guides are here and here to set up the configurations correctly in the two most recent versions of Windows. Mirroring is quite important if you do want a backup of data, otherwise you can meld multiple disks into one giant hard drive.
My recommendation is to go with the configuration that automates data back up. This minimises the chance that hardware failures will cause you to lose data, and with the size and amount of files that you would be storing, it is quite important not to have to go back and recreate it all. Of course, this doesn’t in any mean you should stop doing regular backups of important stuff either.
Once all the storage mediums are set up, it’s time to start loading data on to it. How you organise folders, is of course completely up to you. My suggestion would be to separate music, movies and television episodes out in some way. It makes it much easier when you begin to add your media to the media software of your choice. I’ve previously recommended Plex, and I’ll stick to it because it’s available for all the major popular platforms, Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It’s easy to configure, it analyses your media for you and can broadcast to any device on the network, or even over the internet if you sign up for an account.
All in all, that concludes my adventures in home theatre. I’m sure there will be new and better ways of doing things into the future. Until that happens, I’ll be sitting down and enjoying the fruits of my labours!