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Need help w/new Media Server build

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Senior Member
May 3, 2004
Hello all!

After over 10 years, it's time to upgrade my media server/nas. Ten years is 4 lifetimes in technology world and I'm woefully out of touch, so hoping folks with more (recent) experiences might be able to provide some thoughts for my next build and setup. Requesting opinions on hardware, operating system and applications.

My current server (more of a nas than a server) is using an old intel 775 cpu/mobo and 10 drives (using a sas expander card) running WHS2011.

Scenarios to be covered with the new build (plus notes on my experience with the current build):
1) File Storage/Sharing (mostly movies, music and photos) - WHS2011 is/was fine for this (with drivepool).
2) Full Redundancy - WHS stunk for this but Stablebit Drivepool add-in makes it excellent.
3) FTP Server - WHS2011 also fine. Like that remote users get a nice browser interface.
4) Music/Movie Streaming (ala netflix, hulu, etc) to connected devices (couple smart tvs, pc's, tablets, phones) as well as from anywhere with an internet connection - My setup is horrible for this. No chance at smooth streaming. Only option is to copy the full file to the local device then play it.
5) Automated backups - WHS is/was excellent for this.
6) Great to have: Support live tv streaming and dvr of non-OTA in and outside the network using a cablecard tuner (silicondust hd homerun prime)
7) Fun to have: Support for things like Nest (have one of the intelligent thermostats), Echo Dot, Google Mini, maybe Sonos, etc

My current usage thoughts DO NOT include running VM's nor hosting applications.

Have lots of hardware laying around so, if possible, would like to use some of it. That said, if I need better equipment to meet my objecives, could budget some funds for purchases.
- cpu/mobo/ram- Have a couple setups laying around that MIGHT work. a) Ryzen 3 3200G, asrock pro4m, 16GB ddr4, and, b) Athlon II X2 250 (quad core), gigabyte ga-ma785gm with 8GB of (non-ECC) ddr3.
- vga- thinking of maybe using a 1080Ti that's not in use atm. Streaming is a high priority, would the 1080Ti be able to transcode maybe up to 3 streams at time?
- case- who cares, have a few
- 2x 8TB 7200 rpm sata drives

Is that 3200G sufficient? What's the story with ECC ram? Seems like most recommended media server builds call for 16-32GB of ECC ram. The server won't be running a lot of VM's or applications and the maximum number of simultaneous client connections is likely only 3 or 4 (but 2 would be the more normal usage). My only concerns with the 1080ti are heat and power. Would it be better to get a mid-range workstation card instead (like the quadro p2000)?

Also, am stil undecided (and looking for thoughts/opinions) on the operating system and other applications but recall reading that, if I use ZFS, it eats 1GB of ram for every terrabyte. If neither existing cpu/mobo/ram will likely meet my objectives, I'd welcome cpu/ram/mobo recommendations.

Operating system:
Definitely liked WHS2011 with the drivepool add-in. As a regular MS user it was familiar and easy. The ability to perform auto-backups of all connected machines was super easy.

Am totally open to using a different operating system but I'm not the most technically skilled person out here so it'd have to be easy. The ones showing up in searches include; WHS2011, Windows 10 (really??), Amahi, Ubuntu Server Edition, FreeNAS, ClearOS, OpenMediaVault and OpenFiler. The only ones I've experienced are WHS2011 and Win10 (but not as a server). Another question....as keys seem pretty cheap, would Windows Server 2016 or 2019 also be viable or totally useless given my needs?

Other apps:
It seems PLEX server is the go-to for streaming audio and video? What do you think? Seems I'd have to upgrade to the 'pro' version to get vga card transcoding working. Anyone used Serviio? Worth a look or just go with PLEX? Are there any other apps I should be thinking about for this build?

Tia for input and feedback!!!!
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Plex is pretty good, I've switched back to it because how easy it is to spread the library across devices, and ease of sharing with family memebrs it used to be pretty annoying but i find it sufficient as it stands now.

the 3200G should be sufficient as long as you arent streaming a ton of remote content outside the network, if you are the 1080TI is overkill but will certainly do the job. i run my plex server in a VM with 6 cores (2.1ghz) and 4GB of ram and i have up to 4-5 simultanious streams outside of my network at times and cpu encoding has been sufficient.
Thank you wagex! One of my brothers in EU is piggy so he'd probably be streaming from my server more or less every day. Generally, will have 1 or 2 clients inside the network so that's how I came up with the 3 simultaneous streams requirement.

Any thoughts on which OS? I'm tempted to use whs2011 as it's so familiar to me but what do you think? Some say Ubuntu Server is the one to use, any idea?


I really should just put these in my sig because I refer to them every time someone asks about a media server. The 2017 article uses Debian as a base, 2019 uses proxmox. Debian is known for stability and while short on eye-candy (not necessary for a server). You will have to roll up your sleeves for Proxmox, it is purpose made for virtualization and is a little tougher to use. You can go that direction if you want but Debian is sufficient and has an easier learning curve. If you want to use WHS.... I think docker works in Windows, but have no personal experience with it.

Keep us updated. I personally am a big fan of NAS/media server builds
personally i use windows server 2012 because i run a bunch of virtual machines. IMO windows is the easiest platform to use for those who have little to no linux experience, while I do run linux virtual machines most everything is just simpler in windows. I personally use a hardware raid controller because ease of implementation and less chance of having one issue breaking everything since its hardware not software raid. I've tried using proxmox and linux as a host but after 10 years of running my own server ive ended up sticking with windows and hyper-v. I also tend to compartmentalize everything, EG. a VM for plex server, a VM for my LAMP web server, a VM for my pihole, VM for my, VM for my minecraft server,s blue iris, domain controller ect. that way when something breaks inevitably.. it doesnt break all my other software and they dont have to go offline to fix one issue.
The 1080ti will be good for transcoding your files that you want to serve outside your network. If you don't plan to have anything 4k it will be Overkill. There's also a firmware/driver hack that opens up more than 2 simultaneous transcodes on non-quadros. I have a 1650 super on my Plex server set and haven't had any issues to speak of.

My media server is a freenas box running as a VM on VMware esxi. I decided to make a separate Plex server for easier setup with the GPU when I bought it a few months ago and moved on from running it in a jail on freenas

Thanks everyone!

Here's what I'm thinking for hardware:
- cpu/mobo: Ryzen 3 3200G, asrock pro4m
- ram: 32GB (2x16GB) 3000 ddr4
- vga: Quadro P2000
- drives: 250GB SSD (os), 2x 8TB 7200 rpm sata drives, plus 2 or 3 2TB satas

OS: On the fence between WHS Vail (with the stablebit drivepool, smart and a couple other add-ins) and Unraid. Given my desired scenarios, am really not sure of the advantages of unraid. Will definitely be using Plex.

A couple of random things:

There is a pretty cool site that shows the number of streams a nvidia card should be able to run:

There are ways to remove the silly 2 stream limit for commercial cards (won't have to do it with a P2000):

I use storage spaces for my plex server and it's ok, unraid would likely be better, but I like to run windows on the server so I can also use it as a steam stream machine.
Thanks custom90gt...yep...saw those :)

Based on my objectives combined with my experience using WHS, really leaning toward it as the operating system. Something like unraid or Ubuntu Server, etc seems like it'd offer much more flexibility but seems overcomplicated for what I'm trying to do. From a stability perspective, my little whs nas build had huge uptime and ran steady for roughly 10 years without issues (other than needing a drive swap here and there). knoober's setup looks really outstanding but it's a bit more involved than I was hoping.

Since WHS is so old at this point, wondering about Windows Server 2016 or 2019. Are those are similar enough to WHS to give me only a tiny learning curve? The main WHS features I used were the user profiles, automated backups, folder access rights, remote access for external users (decent web ui with logon screen and access to entitled folders) and streaming (which never really worked stutter-free...think my cpu may have been the issue). Drivepool handled the jbod and mirroring very nicely.

Appreciate thoughts on whs vs. one of the other flavors of windows server! Have most of the hardware together, just waiting for the p2000 and I'll be ready to move forward.
Thank you again!
I think an important part of WHS is that at least version from 2011 ended support in 2016. So if there's a newer version maybe that's the way to go. Looks like it moved to 'windows server essentials' which maybe close to what you had before. Otherwise I really like freenas as my OS, but you won't be able to do pci passthrough to a Plex jail for transcoding.

Windows server gives you a ton of options, but it is also running full windows server so configuration of the roles and features etc are all there. From domain controller, deduplication, file server, dns, DHCP, etc are all available. Also important is that for the most part you never want to use a browser on a server for security purposes.

Thanks Janus
Lemme peruse some guides. Yeah...the EOL thing is sketchy as no security updates (everything else should remain fine I reckon). Also...the web gui was only for remote users, ftp-stylee. That'll part will be replaced by PLEX. I connectd in via remote desktop from inside the network.
Am very much leaning toward some version of Windows Server. Having run WHS for a decade+, am pretty comfortable with one of the newer flavors like 2016 or 2019.

That said, have read in multiple places that if I run PWS as a service, hardware transcoding won't work. Some have said it's an Intel bug but that seems odd. Anyone have it working properly on Windows Server with an AMD chip?

Seems like the only way to get hardware transcoding working with Windows Server is to make it suto-login then run PWS normally.

Any ideas? To get it working consistently, do I have to run something like unraid? Would I have to run any virtual machines at all in order to get things like automated client backups working properly?

Hoping to keep this as quick, simple and easy as possible. Windows is the logical choice for me but need hardware transcoding working at all times and prefer not to auto login (or have to manually login) at every start/reboot.
Pretty much put together. Just waiting for 1 more 8TB drive and it's built and ready for me to do something with it. Starting to (sadly as well as kicking and screaming) consider non-windows options. The inability to use the p2000 for transcoding unless the server's set to auto-login is basically a showstopper from a security perspective (or is it?). Any info on the windows server/hardware transcoding thing, opinions on the real risk of having a logged in server user, other workarounds/fixes, etc....would be super appreciated.

Atm....checking out some guides and vids for unRaid. Any others I should check out given my objectives and desire for an easy(ish) time getting everything set up?
Again....thanks in advance

Before and after pics. Hardware's come a long way in 10 or so years! :rofl:
oldserver1.jpg newserver1.jpg
Going with unRaid! Seems perfect for what I want to do. Been reading and watching some excellent video tutorials (by SpaceInvader 1).

Last drive arrives Monday so hoping to boot unRaid for the first time Tuesday, perform the initial setup tasks and let the os start prepping the drives. Could take a while, SI1 used 2x 1.5TB drives and it took 29 hours to complete, no idea how long the process will take with 3x 8TB's.

Once that's done, I'll create and initialize the array and start the big data copy from the old setup to the new one. It's 8 or 9TB of stuff so that may take a while, too. :/

Definitely psyched! Looking forward (with fingers crossed) to the first movie and tv streaming tests! Woohoo!!
You dont have to run plex as a service, like you mentioned it can cause issues. You create a scheduled task to launch on boot, easy peasy. I have mine running on a hyperv vm, 8 cores of xeon e2630v2, 8gb ram, no remotefx, and dont have issues transcoding or streaming so not so sure a discreet GPU is really necessary
You dont have to run plex as a service, like you mentioned it can cause issues. You create a scheduled task to launch on boot, easy peasy. I have mine running on a hyperv vm, 8 cores of xeon e2630v2, 8gb ram, no remotefx, and dont have issues transcoding or streaming so not so sure a discreet GPU is really necessary
Do you have 4k media? I didn't have much trouble with movies and TV that were 1080 and below, but 4k pretty much required a dedicated gpu

Hey ya'll!

Sooo....ended up going with unraid. SO many great video tutorials (Space Invader 1 is a beast at these) and better I think for the longer haul. The amount of stuff that can be done with unraid is a bit overwhelming but little by little I guess. Took almost 2 weeks between preclearing the drives, setting up the array, copying all the data from the old build and then letting the parity drive do it's thing.

Getting everything to see the p2000 was simple (again, thanks to SI1's video on the topic). Getting Plex Server set up properly took me a few tries but not bad. Have no problem streaming 1080p to a brother in Switzerland so good to go. Haven't tried streaming 4K yet but feeling pretty good atm.