Media Server

A media server allows you to keep all your entertainment in one central location, then copies of the files can be transferred or streamed to all the capable devices on demand.

Benefits of having a centralised location saves the hassle of searching for media on different computers then having to leave them on while say watching it on a TV.


Before you can stream there needs to be the right equipment on each side, the server side that hosts the files and at the other end a device capable of receiving and decoding the file. That other end could be a whole host of different things, TVs, game consoles, Internet radios, phones and tablets, a hole host of things. If  you haven't got a capable device then there's no point, but most newer smart TVs and current generation game consoles can be happily streamed to.

It's important to note that are two different techniques to how media is streamed that determines hardware requirements. The first is traditional streaming, where say a video file is opened and decoded on the server, then the raw video is send through the network to a device where it is displayed. In this method the processing power is needed on the server, and a network with a greater capacity is needed to avoid bottlenecks and the dreaded buffering.

In the other method a server acts more as a file server, simply transferring the file as is to the device where it is then decoded and displayed. These eases the load on the network as the file is still encoded, meaning greatly reduced network traffic, but then the device must have enough power to do the processing, lucky these days the cost for capable devices are plummeting, even the original £25 Raspberry Pi is capable of playing full HD video.

Recently manufacturers realised the complexity of streaming media across different devices and came together to support a standard of streaming known as DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance). If looking for compatible devices that can stream from a server then DNLA certification is a reassurance that it will work.


An average PC is capable of becoming a media server, especially so if it uses the file transfer method of streaming. But what they all need is a lot of storage space, enough to hold all your video, pictures and music. A hard drive with a preference for capacity over speed is needed, as all desktop drives are capable of serving multiple streams. Processing grunt only becomes significant when the server is pure streaming to device but nowadays processing is handled by the end device, it's worth checking just in case there is a device needing a pure stream.