I run a file server at home that houses all of my files, including documents, images, videos and films, TV shows and music that I purchase. It also doubles as a media server, running Plex. But this is a damn expensive machine (by my standards). It cost me over $800 to build this system with an eight core CPU and 16GB of RAM.
I did run a Raspberry Pi file server briefly, and it served me very well as as file server. But it could not be used as a media server because my favorite Plex Media Server is not available for ARM.
There is another open source media server called Kodi that is available for ARM, but I prefer Plex for these reasons:
- Plex transcodes the media at the server level, which allows me to play content on any device without having to worry about whether the target device supports those media formats
- Plex has a very user friendly user interface
- Plex allows restricted access to friends and family members
- Plex allows remote access over the internet via Plex Pass.
Last month, Plex and Nvidia announced the arrival of media server capabilities to Nvidia Shield Android TV. I already own that device, courtesy of Nvidia. So I repurposed my media center PC as a desktop and deployed a combination of Raspberry Pi and Nvidia Shield as my media server.
- Nvidia Shield Android TV [ Find it on Amazon – *What’s this?* ]
- Raspberry Pi 2 [ Find it on Amazon ]
- External powered hard drives
There are two versions of Nvidia Shield: the regular 16GB for $200 or 500GB for $300. If you want to shell out the extra $100, you could simply use the 500GB version of Shield as stand alone media server [ Find it on Amazon ]. Or you could use any NAS solution as a file server. You can even plug in a powered HDD to Shield for storage. But because I need a dedicated file server that stores all of my files, I will be creating a file server with Raspberry Pi.
I have written a comprehensive tutorial on setting up your file server with Raspberry Pi, please refer to that for instructions on building your file server.
I strongly recommend organizing your media files in folders. These are the folders I create: movies, TV, home videos, music and photos. This is important because Plex has built-in capability to pull meta tags such as file name and description from the web. Later when you create media libraries on Plex, you should attach the appropriate folder with each media library, otherwise Plex won’t be able to detect the files and display meta information correctly. If you store home videos in the movie library, Plex won’t even show those videos. So be careful.
Once the file server is up and running, upgrade the Nvidia Shield Android TV to the latest version of Android. Go to System > Devices > About > Update. You should be running version 3.2 or newer for Shield software to be able use it as a media server.
Once upgraded, go to Settings > Devices > Storage & reset. There go to Network Storage and mount the Samba file server that’s running on Raspberry Pi.
Choose the registered user option and provide it with username and password for the Samba user. Now this storage is mounted on Nvidia Shield.
Now install Plex software from the Google Play store, open the app and log into your Plex account. During the configuration, please click on the ‘enable Plex Media server’ tab.
Plex will ask permission to access your storage devices. Then Plex will run for a while to configure the server. Once done, open a browser and visit this page (you can use web browser on Shield itself. I use a bluetooth keyboard with my Shield for typing). Choose the Plex Media server running on Shield and then click on the Media Library tab.
Now you can create different media libraries for different type of media. I create these media libraries to match my folders: movies, TV, home videos, music and photos. Select the media library and click on the ‘Add Folder’ option.
You will see the local storage of Shield and the network storage that you mounted to the server. Now attach the folders on your storage device with the corresponding media library.
That’s it. You now have your own media server running on Shield. If you want to access this server outside the local network, you can purchase the Plex Pass that allows you to access and manage your Plex server remotely.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in comments below.
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