If you’ve ever upgraded your computer system, you had to deal with the old version. You may want to sell it online for a penny. Tap or click here to maximize your selling price when handing out your old devices.
On the other hand, you may not want to part with it for several reasons. This makes sense: your old computer has some pretty cool applications. For example, you can turn it into a home media server that stores your old songs, videos, documents and files.
This is a great backup if you ever deal with cloud storage issues or lost flash drives. All you need is the right free software and a little ingenuity. Here’s an easy guide to turning your old computer into a convenient home media server that you’ll use over and over again.
Why you need it
Here’s a quick overview if you’ve never heard of a home media server. It’s like a private streaming service that stores copies of your favorite movies, photos, shows, podcasts, and more. Think of it as a central hub for your media.
The main advantage of having your own home media server is freedom. You are not at the mercy of streaming services and their ever-changing deals. So often you find a show or a movie in just one service to find it gone a few days later.
This can be frustrating, as you have to search the movie again to see where it is being broadcast. You may even need to sign up for a new service to watch the movie. Tap or click here for a few handy sites that reveal where the show or movie you want to watch is broadcast.
The home media server also allows you to watch high quality videos
Setting up a home media server saves you time and effort. Another great advantage is the preservation of video quality. Eventually, your local network can move data faster than your Internet connection.
Simply put, adding 4K Blu-ray movie to your home media server means you can watch it anytime, even when you’re not online. Although you do not need internet access, you will need a LAN or local network.
If you’re new to jargon like LAN, check out our easy internet connection guide. You can even work with your router to control traffic with network priorities and increase security. Tap or click here to get better Wi-Fi using these features on your router.
Are you ready to get started? Here’s how to set up your own home media server
So you just learned that you need media server software to access your files. Fortunately, the home media server is easy to set up. Now you need to do one of two things:
- Install a third-party program (more on this later) or
- Change some settings on your computer to start using it as a media server
For now, we focus on step two. This is because Windows 10 has built-in software that you can turn on. (If you have a Mac, you’ll need to install a third-party program, so scroll down to the section called “Best Third-Party Home Media Setup Software.”)
For now, here’s how to make sure your computer has its own software needed to set up a server.
Check out this feature in Windows 10 to see if you can start the original media server
- Head to Control panel.
- Search media in the search box.
- Then select Center for Network and Sharing. Then head to Media streaming options.
- Click Turn on media streaming.
- Then select Media streaming options for computers and devices.
- Click All right. This means that you have just applied the settings to your computer. Now every device on your local network has access to the media files in the media libraries on your computer.
However, this software may not be enough for you. Maybe you want to expand your home media server – or maybe your Mac or computer doesn’t have pre-installed media server software, period. (This may be the case if your gadget is much older.) In this case, it’s time to look for third-party media servers.
The best third-party software for setting up a home media server
You need the right software to work. However, you don’t have to spend a lot of money: Just install a free program on the old computer you’re reassigning.
We recommend using one of the two Cody or Plex as server software. Each of them will categorize and organize the content stored on your old computer. Don’t think of them as streaming services – think of them as media center apps that allow you to import content.
Install one of them on your old computer and they will give you access and allow you to stream everything you put on your home media server. Both Kodi and Plex are free to use, so you can decide which one you like best.
Plex vs. Kodi: A quick overview of the significant differences
To use Plex, download Plex Media Server to your old computer. Connect your media files, install the app, sign in and get started. You can even upgrade to several plans:
- Monthly plan: $ 4.99 / month
- Annual plan: $ 39.99 / year
- A lifelong plan: $ 119.99
On the other hand, Cody is 100% free – there are no levels here. This free open source software is ideal for people who want the power to customize. You will find many add-ons, but you do not have access to your content when you are away from home, and it is not as easy to start using as Plex.
Need more information before making a decision?
See this diagram to find out how these two server programs differ:
|Stream content from your server to other devices (as long as they are connected to your home network)||For the most part, you can only access the contents of your media server when you are online|
|Works well for beginners, intermediate and even advanced technicians||Ideal for advanced technicians|
|Partnering with Crackle means you have access to over 20,000 free shows and movies||Does not automatically share your media library with other devices in your home; unlike Plex, you need to set this up with an add-on|
|Includes 180 live TV channels||There are no partnerships with major media companies|
|Available with paid levels||No paid levels – 100% free|
|Very few customization options||More customizable – very easy to change|
|You can access this media server from any device, even if it’s not connected to your network||It’s almost impossible to access this media server on an offline device, although you may be able to dig around and find a plugin for it (it can take a long time to set up).|
|There are no official plugins, but you can find and install third party plugins||Many formal and informal additions|
|It has an easy-to-use interface that is ready right away||Allows you to control how it looks … which means it takes a while to set it up the way you want it|
|The features are easy to find||You may need to dig a little deeper to find all the options and features|
Once you have made your decision, move on to the next step.
Make sure your computer has a large enough hard drive
If you want to stream video, you will want to use a newer computer. However, if you want to stream podcasts, you can go with an older computer. Ideally, you want a system that runs Windows 10 or 11 and has at least 4 GB of RAM.
Another good step is to check your hard drive for any problems. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to do this. Tap or click here for six sites that will help you check if your hard drive is not working.
Is your computer causing problems? Try a Raspberry Pi device
These magical little gadgets can do almost anything. Some people even make robots with them. Fortunately, this project is a little easier.
Here is the device we recommend:
Just install the media server program of your choice on your Raspberry Pi. Here’s how to set up a Plex server using a Raspberry Pi.
Do you prefer Kodi? Use this guide to install Kodi on your Raspberry Pi. Either way, connecting this device to one of these programs means that your media server is almost ready and working.
There is only one last step. Mount a thumb on Pi to transfer home videos, photos, MP3s and more.
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