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One of the most popular uses for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computers is as a media center. Indeed, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a Model A, a Raspberry Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Getting Started with Raspberry Pi Zero Whether you bought a magazine with one glued to the front, or found a kit online, the chances are you're now the proud owner of a $5 computer: the Raspberry Pi Zero. Read More , or a Raspberry Pi 3 How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3 How to Upgrade to a Raspberry Pi 3 Upgrading from an older Pi to the new Pi 3 is almost as simple as swapping out the microSD card. Almost - but not quite. Here's what you'll need to do first. Read More – while the later model will naturally offer superior performance, the fact is that all of the devices can deliver you compact, affordable, low-power, media center solution.

But which media center application should you install on your Raspberry Pi’s SD card How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi How To Install An Operating System To Your Raspberry Pi Here's how to get a new OS installed and running on your Pi – and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More ? Several options are on offer, and we’re going to walk you through them now, looking at the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each.

ReadyMedia (MiniDLNA)

Formerly known as MiniDLNA, ReadyMedia requires installing on a standard Raspberry Pi operating system, such as Raspbian Jessie 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use 5 Ways New Raspbian Jessie Makes Raspberry Pi Even Easier to Use Following the release of Debian Jessie in July, the Raspberry Pi community has been blessed with a new release of the Raspbian variant, based on the "parent" distro. Read More . Start by mounting the disk drive(s) with the media data on, and then use the standard installation command:

sudo apt-get install minidlna

Unlike the other examples here, some manual configuration is necessary, as described in this video.

Once installed, this simple tool is compatible with DLNA/UPnP-AV, which means that any DLNA-compatible device on the same network should be able to detect your Pi and play media from it.

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Fast, lightweight and easily configurable, ReadyMedia is the option to choose if you just want to stream your media and have no interest in indexing it.

Kodi/OpenElec

Perhaps the most recognized name in this list, Kodi — formerly XBMC — is available for the Raspberry Pi. Various options are available for this. Among them are writing a full Kodi-based distro to SD card and manual installation using:

sudo apt-get install kodi

Such distros include OpenElec, OSMC and XBian. You may already know that OpenElec is available on NOOBs How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users How NOOBS For Raspberry Pi Can Help First Time Users There is something about the Raspberry Pi that might just put people off: until now, setting it up has not been particularly user friendly. NOOBS aims to change that! Read More for easy installation.

But wait a minute. Aren’t the Kodi-based media servers actually media centers? Well, they’re actually both, which is how they come to be in this list. While you might use these distros (or manually install Kodi) as a media center/HTPC solution on a Raspberry Pi, the provision of DLNA/UPnP means that Kodi (and its forks) can be used as a media server.

If you’re already using OpenElec, OSMX, XBian, etc., then you don’t need a media server as you already have one. Simply open Settings > Services > UPnP and enable Share video and music libraries through UPnP. You’ll then have the ability to stream content from your Kodi-based system. It’s simple, but demands that you have already set up the media center software and attached the various hard disk drives that store your media.

OpenMediaVault

Admittedly closer to a NAS than a media server, OpenMediaVault is the current smart choice for Pi owners wishing to make their media files (and documents and other data) available to them from any device on the same network Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into An NAS Box Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into An NAS Box Do you have a couple of external hard drives lying around and a Raspberry Pi? Make a cheap, low powered networked attached storage device out of them. While the end result certainly won't be as... Read More .

Setup is straightforward, if lengthy, but you may run into initial problems mounting any hard disk drives that you have connected to your Pi. This should be quickly overcome, however, enabling you to configure the system correctly. Among the features with OMV are support for a UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) and statistics pages to assist in system monitoring. There is also EXT3/EXT4/XFS/JFS filesystem support and RAID can be set up for HDD mirroring. SSH, FTP, TFTP, SMB and RSync are all supported for direct connection to your OMV device, although you will typically access it via your web browser, by opening the IP address.

Various plugins are also available for OMV, such as a Bittorrent client. You can try a demo version of the console on the OMV website.

Summary: Great option for a media-focused NAS, but setup time may prove discouraging if you’re looking for a quick “turnkey” option.

Plex Media Server

If you prefer to simply stream from a desktop or dedicated media server to your Raspberry Pi, seek out Plex. A popular name in home media streaming, Plex can be used to stream content to all manner of devices, even the Google Chromecast How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast How to Set Up Your New Google Chromecast If you own a brand new Chromecast but have no idea how to use it, let our easy-to-follow guide help you get started in mere minutes. Read More .

Using Plex Media Server with your Raspberry Pi requires you to first download the RasPlex client installer to your Windows, Mac or Linux PC and write the software to an SD card compatible with your Pi.

Beyond the Raspberry Pi, you’ll be able to enjoy media streamed via Plex on a wide selection of devices, as Plex is perhaps the widest-used of all media server applications. Mobile apps are available for Android, iOS and Windows 10 Mobile, while media streamers such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and many Smart TVs also have Plex clients. There are even clients for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as Windows, and Mac OS X, while various third-party builds are available for Linux.

Note that Plex demands that your files are named in a particular format if it is to pull the appropriate metadata from the Web. This support page from the Plex website explains file organization and naming.

As things stand, Plex should be your first choice of media server, and the RasPlex client is as good as the mainstream version The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex The Easiest Raspberry Pi Media Centre, With RasPlex Read More . For the best results, however, make sure you’re using a Raspberry Pi 2 or Raspberry Pi 3.

Which Raspberry Pi Media Server Do You Use?

We’ve presented you with four options for setting up your Raspberry Pi as a media server The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center The Hardware You Will Need To Build A Raspberry Pi Media Center With so many ways of using it, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the Raspberry Pi has sold over 1 million units. Although designed for one key purpose (programming) this small credit card-sized computer... Read More , capable of delivering movies, photos and music to devices around your home at the touch of a button. But did we miss one?

Is there a tool that you prefer, and think everyone else should be using too? Tell us what you think in the comments.

  1. Caleb V.
    November 17, 2016 at 2:40 am

    Ok, I'm trying to use miniDLNA as a media server for my PS4. I've got my RPi connected to a USB hard drive, and I directed miniDLNA to use the hard drive as the media directory. However, when all is said and done, and I select my RPi on my PS4, I can't find my media anywhere.

    I know the PS4 can be a bit picky about folder names for media, but even though I have all my TV shows under a folder named "Video" (with the capital "V"), it still can't pick up anything. I'm thinking this could be because miniDLNA can't find the media, but I'm not sure. Anyone have any ideas?

  2. Carlton H
    October 22, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    I'm new to setting up a server other than Subsonic/Madsonic years ago. I'm considering that again as I really only care about a music server for now. I'm curious why Owncloud/Nextcloud wasn't on the list? Do you have an opinion on which is best for a Pi-3 music server?

  3. Christian Cawley
    August 22, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    There was a slight issue with the way the opening sentence concerning Plex was worded, leading to misinterpretation.

    Hopefully I've now cleared this up :)

  4. Chathun
    August 2, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Hello, every one , i have raspberry pi 3 model B, i want to make raspberry as server, to get video to ipad from Desktop which i have connected to raspberry, please anyone can suggest me which server i have to make raspberry.Iam very new to this raspberry

    Thank You...

    • Dann
      October 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      What i do dor that is use VLC. On the ipad. Make sure it's running, and on PC go my browser and go to http://ipad.local

      Then can copy files for offline use without iTunes

      (debian user)

  5. Rob
    June 9, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    According to everything else I've read about RasPlex, it is a PLEX CLIENT on OpenELEC not a PLEX SERVER, as this article states: "Installing the Plex Media Server on your Raspberry Pi requires you to first download the RasPlex installer to your Windows, Mac or Linux PC and write the software to an SD card compatible with your Pi. Once installed, you’ll need a client app on the device you wish to view content on."

    RasPlex states that a Plex Server must still be installed on another machine in order for RasPlex to work.

    I came here looking for a solution to run the PLEX SERVER on a Raspberry Pi.

    Please clear this up!

  6. Mike Heim
    May 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    I just got a RPi3 and the first thing I did was load Kodi on it to watch my ripped movie collection on an external USB.
    Figuring out how to load the software was a fun little challenge, then getting the speaker to work through the headphone jack was a little project too. But then I got it up and running and then I noticed that the movie was dragging, like the file was too big for the machine. Any advice out there?

    I used Handbrake to rip my DVD collection and I'm sure it was the standard default file, so probably an 800Mg file.

    • marcus
      August 26, 2016 at 7:31 am

      I dont rate the pi as a media player (esp. if you are running the full GUI version of Raspbian). I use my Pi3 as a media streamer, so I have installed minidlna (super easy <10mins). It then indexes all my files on my 1Gb HD (via SATA to USB cable - $4 ebay). I then use my blue ray player to watch all my movies, and my Onkyo recevier to play all my audio as they both support DLNA. I connect all of this with LAN cables (no wifi), as everything is on the same bench. I can then use the Pi 3 as an internet browser connected to the TV, and with it I use a cordless mouse and keyboard. When I need to program on linux from my laptop (running windows), I use a VNC program that's free called No Machine (tightVNC isn't half as good). I have the port forwarding open across my wifi router so I can then access the pi from any machine connected to the web. The pi 3 is a wonderous thing, and I didnt even mention the 6 pi 3's I use for my house robot !

  7. Tushar Singhal
    May 18, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Hello everybody... seems you all have done some excellent work in streaming the content from Pi. I am a non techi guy but want to use Pi as a media server to stream Video and Audio content to devices connected to Pi on same network. Wan to steam the content without using internet.

    I have Raspberry Pi 3 Model B with me and HDD storage mounted on the same. I am able to mount everything but can not figure out how to stream the content in HDD to local LAN via WiFi. I also do not know that will i require a streaming server or Pi can work as NAS drive to get access to content.

    Can any of you, help me in this as i am struggling a lot to figure this out. Thanks.

  8. Richard Hughes
    April 1, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    You forgot mediatomb!

  9. hunterwesson
    April 1, 2016 at 3:56 am

    No need to install anything to serve media. Raspbian comes with opensshserver preinstalled. That means you can stream media from a Kodi client anywhere even over the internet if you just forward port 22 in your router configuration.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 22, 2016 at 7:05 am

      Fair point!

  10. likefun butnot
    April 1, 2016 at 3:47 am

    A Pi is fairly useless as a media server unless you have a big-boy computer transcoding everything into the formats that it can handle decoding. Using one for a Kodi/Plex/DLNA client device isn't the worst thing in the world, but if you have a big enough collection of media to want a dedicated media server, you're better off using something with x86 CPU cores.

    • Dave
      May 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      I use my Raspberry Pi 3 running OSMC as a media center AND a media server, and I've never had a problem with either function. Even my largest bitrate uncompressed BluRay rip (Schindler's List) seamlessly streams across my network (even wi-fi) and OSMC handles all the heavy transcoding never going above 65% CPU usage. So maybe I have it set up weird or something, but I think the Pi 3 handles the workload marvelously.

      • likefun butnot
        May 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm

        @Dave, You're establishing a low upper bound on the quality of your content by doing things that way, both in terms of maximum bit rate and video resolution for transcoded content. Depending on your clients, that may or may not be an issue.PMS will deliver the raw file to a LAN client, probably running a desktop OS, that reports that it is fully capable of playing the source file, but if you've got ARM handling transcoding for other ARM systems like Set Top Boxes, it's going to be a step down in my experience.

        • Dave
          May 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm

          Oh, I know exactly what you're saying. I normally do NOT use my Pi/OSMC as a media server; I'm just stating that I CAN. I'm actually sort of a lossless purist freak, so I don't like anything compressed at all. When I actually DO use my Pi/OSMC as a media SERVER, it's going to the TV in the master bedroom which is a small, 24" TV with a Roku 3 as the output device, and so lossy compression doesn't really show itself on a TV that small. But out in the living room, where we have a 42" TV, I NEVER use OSMC's media server at all and just go direct play with Kodi. Again, for those who might google this article asking themselves the question: yes you CAN use OSMC/Pi 3 as a media server, though depending upon your device, you might notice a drop in quality.

        • Dave
          May 13, 2016 at 3:54 pm

          Incidentally, just so inquisitive minds know, my media is stored on a Synology DS416j, which is NOT capable of transcoding. While my wife likes the nice interface and easy remote control of the Roku 3 for streaming, the Pi 3 w/ OSMC was the cheapest and slickest solution for me for streaming uncompressed media off the Synology NAS. I couldn't justify the cost of a Synology Plus or Play series for their transcoding capability once I found out the Pi 3 handled Direct Play.

          Also a side note, and it took me about a week of googling to find this out: if you like the huge, super cool fanart and layout of Kodi (PMS is similar, IMO), the movie/TV/music scrapers will NOT work if you set your NAS or other media server to UPnP/DLNA only. The files will come up as "Video Files," but the "Movies" section won't work. You have to tell the NAS to serve up the media files under at least one of the following protocols: 1) Windows Workgroup, 2) NFS, 3) Mac. I'm only stating this because I pulled my hair out for a week trying to figure it out until I found an obscure note at the bottom of a forum where someone said this. Hopefully this save someone some headaches.

        • Christian Cawley
          May 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

          With a standard-sized HD Ready TV the Pi 3 is adequate. Larger full HD displays naturally benefit from a higher quality streaming solution. It really depends on what your preference is, who is watching, and what the movie/show is.

        • Dave
          May 13, 2016 at 4:15 pm

          Absolutely, and for only $45 USD (mobo + power cord), I'm super happy with the Pi 3. I don't even use a case; it just hangs off the back of the HDMI cable - ha! I also tried an Android box that was $110 USD and the picture quality was atrocious; I sent it back. That's when I learned about the Pi 3. I've also used a small, HP Pavilion mini-PC and an Intel NUC as the direct play device, but getting a remote control to work was clunky and cumbersome. Kodi and my TV remote integrated inside 10 seconds (via CEC), so no need to buy another remote control. I'm quite pleased with what this little thing can do.

      • Christian Cawley
        May 13, 2016 at 3:24 pm

        I'd be inclined to agree with you, Dave. The RPi3 certainly changes things.

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