7 Ways to Set Up Your Raspberry Pi as a Media Server
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One of the most popular uses for the low-cost Raspberry Pi computer is as a media center. Indeed, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a Model A, a Raspberry Pi Zero, or a Raspberry Pi 4.

While the later model will naturally offer superior performance, all models can deliver a compact, affordable, low-power, media center solution.

Several Raspberry Pi media server options are on offer. We’re going to walk you through them below, looking at the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each.

Why Use a Media Server Distro for Raspberry Pi?

Various media server solutions are available for Raspberry Pi. These range from video only servers to audio-only solutions, with most handling all types of media.

We’ve rounded up the best media server solutions for Raspberry Pi:

  1. ReadyMedia
  2. OpenElec (Kodi)
  3. Mopidy
  4. OpenMediaVault
  5. Plex Media Server
  6. Pi Music Box
  7. Emby

But which media center application should you install on your Raspberry Pi’s SD card How to Install an Operating System on a Raspberry Pi How to Install an Operating System on a Raspberry Pi Here's how to install an OS on your Raspberry Pi and how to clone your perfect setup for quick disaster recovery. Read More ?

1. ReadyMedia (MiniDLNA)

Formerly known as MiniDLNA, ReadyMedia requires installing on a standard Raspberry Pi operating system, such as Raspbian Buster. Start by mounting the disk drive(s) with the media data on, and then use the standard installation command:

sudo apt 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.

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.

2. Kodi Media Streaming With OpenElec

Perhaps the most recognized name in this list, Kodi is available for the Raspberry Pi.

The most popular option is to write a full Kodi distro to your Raspberry Pi. Of these, OpenElec and OSMC and LibreElec. You may already know that OpenElec is available on NOOBs for easy installation.

However, you can also do this manually, writing a full Kodi-based distro to an existing Raspbian installation using:

sudo apt install kodi

But wait a minute. Aren’t the Kodi-based media servers in fact media centers? Well, they’re 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 a Kodi-based distro, 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 can then stream content from your Kodi-based system.

Check our Kodi distros comparison guide for Raspberry Pi How to Choose the Best Version of Kodi for Raspberry Pi How to Choose the Best Version of Kodi for Raspberry Pi Not sure how to get started with Kodi for Raspberry Pi? Here are your best options for an awesome home media center. Read More to decide which option to install.

3. Mopidy

Looking for an audio-only media server solution for Raspberry Pi?

With support for custom extensions and Python, JSON-RPC, and JavaScript APIs, Mopidy is more than just a music server. Whether playing tracks from a disk-based library or streaming from Spotify, SoundCloud or Google Play Music, it could be the most powerful Raspberry Pi music server available.

In the video above, Mopidy is installed on a Raspberry Pi embedded in a retro cassette player. With the buttons and volume hooked up to the Pi’s GPIO, audio playback is via a custom Mopidy extension.

NFC tags in the cassettes are used to prompt playback of specific Spotify playlists. This is just one way that Mopidy’s extension support can enhance your audio enjoyment. Learn more at www.mopidy.com.

Download: Mopidy

4. Build a Raspberry Pi Streaming Server With OpenMediaVault

Admittedly closer to a NAS than a media server, OpenMediaVault is the smart choice for Pi owners wishing to access their media files from any device on the same network.

Setup is straightforward, but lengthy. 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 supply) and stats 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. You’ll typically access it via your web browser, however, by opening the IP address.

Various plugins are also available for OMV, such as a Bittorrent client.

Download: OpenMediaVault

5. 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.

Thanks to Plex’s popularity, you’ll be able to enjoy media streamed via Plex on a wide selection of devices. Mobile apps are available for Android and iOS. Meanwhile, media streamers such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and many Smart TVs also have Plex clients.

You’ll even find clients for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as Windows, macOS, and Kodi.

Note that Plex demands that your files are named in a specific format. This enables the software to pull the appropriate metadata from the web. Doing so gives you details about the media files in your library, e.g. album or DVD covers, track listings, etc.

This support page from the Plex website explains file organization and naming.

As things stand, Plex should be your first choice of media server. Use the Plex Media Server build for Raspberry Pi How to Turn a Raspberry Pi Into a Plex Media Server How to Turn a Raspberry Pi Into a Plex Media Server Here's how to install Plex server on a Raspberry Pi, configure it, and start streaming movies, TV shows, music, and more. Read More for the best results.

6. Pi MusicBox

Described as the Raspberry Pi’s “Swiss Army Knife of streaming music” Pi MusicBox streams cloud audio to a connected speaker. This might be from Spotify or other online services, or local or networked music from your NAS. There is also support for TuneIn and other web radio services, and podcasts from iTunes.

Pi MusicBox has USB audio support, as well as wireless connectivity with Spotify Connect, AirTunes/AirPlay, and DLNA streaming. This means that music served through your Raspberry Pi can be played back on any mobile, tablet, or Smart TV.

Pi MusicBox is based on Mopidy (above) so if you’re looking for a preconfigured Mopidy solution, try this. Learn more about the software at www.pimusicbox.com.

Download: Pi MusicBox

7. Set Up the Emby Media Server on Raspberry Pi

Finally, Emby, a media server solution with support for photos, videos, and music. Apps stream your data to Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows tablets, along with Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, and more.

Parental controls can be set up with Emby, making this the perfect family-based home media server for Raspberry Pi. Emby fulfills the multiple roles of Raspberry Pi photo server, video server, and audio server.

There’s also DLNA support to simplify the streaming of content to and from your server.

Several options are available to install Emby. The simplest solution is to use the DietPi low-footprint Raspberry Pi distribution. With this installed, you can simply select the Software Optimized menu option then Emby Server.

Learn more about Emby at emby.media. And check out our helpful tutorial on turning your Raspberry Pi into a media server with Emby Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Media Server With Emby Turn Your Raspberry Pi Into a Media Server With Emby One of the best options for a Raspberry Pi media server is Emby. Here's how to install Emby Server and Emby Theater. Read More .

Build a Media Server With Raspberry Pi

We’ve presented you with seven options for setting up your Raspberry Pi as a media server, capable of delivering movies, photos, and music to devices around your home at the touch of a button.

Set up for each solution is fast. You should have a Raspberry Pi media server up and running in minutes, ready to stream files across your home with ease. It’s just one of the great uses for a Raspberry Pi.

For other cool ideas, check our list of the best Raspberry Pi projects 26 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi 26 Awesome Uses for a Raspberry Pi Which Raspberry Pi project should you start with? Here's our roundup of the best Raspberry Pi uses and projects around! Read More .

Explore more about: Emby, Media Server, Plex, Raspberry Pi, XBMC Kodi.

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  1. Ryan
    September 23, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Unfortunately, your guide for Plex is out-of-date since dev2day.de no longer offers his unofficial packages. Plex now offers official packages that work with the raspberry pi and he recommends using those.

    Check out https://forums.plex.tv/t/read-me-first-about-server-armv7-and-armv8-ubuntu-debian/226567 for more info and installation instructions.

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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)

  6. 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!

  7. 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 !

    • Dan T.
      January 28, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Mike,

      You're probably running it without installing the codec licenses. Go to raspberry pi's official website and search for them. It will cost you a few dollars, and they'll email your licenses to you within a few minutes. Then input the license keys and your video playback will stop stuttering.

      If you compressed a full movie into only a 800MB file size, and your source is a DVD (not a Blu-ray), then your compression ratio is probably about 6:1, which means your Pi should more than be able to handle it. I don't compress any of my DVDs and Blu-rays (I use MakeMKV or rip the ISO file) and my Pi3 can play everything flawlessly. My files are typically around 5GB for DVD, and 25-30GB for Blu-ray (I remux the files though, usually opting for uncompressed video with compressed audio; my audio system isn't good enough to demonstrate the differences between compressed and uncompressed audio). I had the same problem you had until I installed the codec licenses.

      Also keep in mind that installing the license codecs for OpenELEC requires using SSH to access root, which can be unintuitive. I recommend using the OSMC variant because it allows you to enter the codec licenses inside the GUI and it will successfully write them to your Pi's root files without needing to SSH into your root files. The Pi3 has enough CPU and RAM to run OSMC quick and snappy, so anyone who claims that OpenELEC is faster is probably correct when it comes to model 2 or 1. Model 3 handles OSMC without a glitch.

  8. 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.

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

    You forgot mediatomb!

  10. Anonymous
    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!

    • dparky
      June 28, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      as a newbie, how do you set this up?

  11. Anonymous
    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.

      • Anonymous
        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.