Media Server: 5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Old PC Into a Media Streamer
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Media Server: 5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Old PC Into a Media Streamer

Yesterday while hanging out in my attic among all the old stuff, I came across my old PC. This computer has last been there for at least a couple of years. Thinking of disposing of it properly, I began searching the internet for articles on disposal. While searching for a couple of minutes, I came across a site that suggested the idea of ​​turning an old PC into a media server. With a few dollars to spare and some spare time on my hands, I decided to go for it.

What is a media server?
First things first, I’m sure some of you are wondering, like me initially, what is a media server? A Media Server is a PC system designed to receive and record TV programs, play video, and manage the digital music and photo libraries available on its storage through a Television unit connected to it. The core components are a robust storage system with ample hard drive space and sufficient processing power and random access memory to deliver seamless playback of HD content.

1. Check the performance of your old pc:
Analyzing the old PC, I found out that it has a 2.4 GHz Pentium IV processor with 256 MB of RAM. While going through the minimum specs, I found that you may have problems when trying to play HD 1080 videos, so I decided to upgrade the RAM to 1 GB and keep the same processor to save some money in case I need to upgrade the HDD as well.

2. Check storage; examine the capacity and speed of the hard drive:
The storage capacity of the old PC is about 40 GB of IDE disk; which is much less compared to the latest media servers. In general, for a media server, you should have a capacity of 500gb to have enough space to store the equivalent of hundreds of DVDs. The speed of hard drives is also a consideration. Fortunately, both of these problems can be corrected with a RAID array of hard drives.

RAID vs single hard drive:
RAID array consists of more than one hard drive integrated as a single drive for higher capacity and speed than single hard drive with external backup. Depending on how the RAID array is configured, you can also configure the array for backup security. This is an added benefit as no data would be lost in the event of a hard drive failure.

3. Consider buying a digital TV tuner card:
A digital TV tuner card is a basic component of the media server that is used to receive and record video content from the local cable or satellite system to the local hard drive. This card is very useful as it will allow you to connect TV to your PC and record your favorite shows. With various companies charging fees as high as $6 per DVR box per month, the one-time cost of a TV tuner card could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

4. Choice of software for your media server:
Windows XP Media Center Edition is an excellent choice of software for a media server; Having a beautiful graphical interface and easy configuration, it is however a bit expensive. If you’re strapped for cash, Linux-based operating systems might be a good option as they are totally free and have Myth TV software for media server purposes; but they can be difficult to set up.

5. Connecting the server to the TV:
The last step involved in this project is establishing a connection between the PC and the TV. Now you must make the decision to connect the media server through a wired or wireless connection. Wireless systems can be more convenient and will allow you to access your media server from anywhere in your home. Also, in terms of placement of wireless systems, the server can be hidden out of sight. The downside to wireless systems is that they can be expensive. If there is only one TV unit present, simply running a cable from the server to the TV may be better both in terms of cost and setup speed.

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