Need suggestions on building ITunes Media Server

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by RWinOR, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. RWinOR macrumors 6502

    Sep 11, 2010
    Greenest and wettest place in North America
    I have quite an extensive library of DVD's. I have been using Handbrake to rip them. The problem is my MacBook Pro (500Gig) is starting to run out of disk space. I use an ATV2 to stream to my TV. I would like to put an inexpensive Itunes server on the network so my wife and I can share the movies to our various Apple devices using airplay and airtunes.

    I love Apple hardware and know that if I purchased a IMac or Mac pro I could gain some disk space, and it would work fast and easy. The IMac would be limiting as well since it does not have extra bays for new HD's. The Mac Pro is outside my budget.

    As much as it pains me to admit, I am leaning towards a Windows 7 box running Itunes. Has anyone set this up, if so did you run into any issue with your Apple network seeing and playing nicely with the non-Apple computer.

    I know several years ago as I was getting into Apple computers my XP hardware did not play nicely with my Apple Hardware as far as sharing files and seeing each other.

    The second part of the question is, if they do play nicely, what hardware would you recommend? It has been years since I have payed attention to Windows hardware and who makes quality boxes and who to avoid. I am looking for something that is running a base OS, and Itunes. I would like to have at least 2 or 3 HD bays available.

    I love Time Machine to back up automatically, does Windows have a back up utility that is similar? I would hate to lose all the media I put on the machine?

    Planed media would be ripped or digitally downloaded movies, Music library, and possibly family photos.

    Thank you in advance to everyone who can help.
  2. EvilC5 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2010
    Hanover MD
    I went with a mac mini server, 1tb internal drive space, and a 3tb and 2 tb FW800 external.

    I know its not windows 7, and probably more expensive, but everything plays very nice together.

    I have ~500 movies ripped to my mini, and 14000 songs give or take. I also use the Elgato EyeTv HD to record from my cable box and store in itunes.

    probably could have set up a windows box for allot less, but I am done with patches every week for critical security issues, malware, and viruses...
  3. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    Have a look at

    In there, I spec out a $410 (hardware only) box that can run W7 or easily be converted to OS X.

    I used to house my main iTunes library on XP/Vista for a LONG time and never had any real issues with that and my ATV2. My current plan is to use the iMac with the actual media and iTunes Library stored on my NAS.

  4. tersono macrumors 68000


    Jan 18, 2005
    I went for a used G5 DP1.8 with a couple of 1tb drives internally + a 2tb external for Time Machine. Works like a champ driving my ATV and was a lot cheaper than a mini.
  5. alFR macrumors 68020

    Aug 10, 2006
    I second the Mac mini suggestion: if you want low footprint and low power consumption (a necessity in my book for an always-on device) they're hard to beat, especially as you can pretty painlessly configure them to go to sleep when inactive then wake on LAN (e.g. if a client requests a file, or you fire up the Apple TV to browse your media library) if you're using an Airport Extreme as your router.
  6. GLS macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2010
    I cobbled together an old Dell Optiplex workstation for a friend of mine; it has a P4 (forget the speed) with 1 GB of ram. Computer was being tossed by a local business. We placed two 2
    TB seagate hard drives inside of it (were $80 each), and put Windows XP on it.....and iTunes.

    Set it up in a closet headless, configured Remote Desktop, dumped all of his media on there, plus installed Handbrake, VLC, and Make MKV so he could rip DVD's to it....gave it a static IP...and walked away.

    He has had it a month now, streaming to his Apple TV. He is happy.

    Thing is...if you are willing to go away from a Mac (unless you have an old Mac laying around) you can do this pretty cheap.

    EDIT: The MacMini server works well here; one of the two in my sig is doing just what the OP was asking.....

    EDIT 2: The OP also asked about a backup utility; the Dell I built...the owner has a 1.5 TB external hard drive for now...I setup a simple batch file to copy the contents of his iTunes media folder to the external. Not as elegant as Time Machine, but gets the job done....
  7. alexioklini macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2011
    i am using an intel mac mini C2D 1.83 with 2GB of RAM with 3x 2TB USB Disks (Western Digital Desktop Elements) each on one of the four USB ports of the mini. The external drives are grouped together in a raidz1 using the ZFS file system.

    This gives the following advantages:

    1.) The complete space of all three disks is seen as one big drive
    2.) I can add additional drives as i need
    3.) Data is distributed across all disks
    4.) Read speed is much better than with a single usb disk
    I get now 40MB/s with three disks as opposed to 20MB/s with a single disk.
    5.) parity information is written so one disk at a time can fail without any data loss.

    So far its working wonderfully in terms of speed and data integrity.
  8. grawk macrumors 6502


    Jan 26, 2004
    Southern York County, PA
    There are lots of good backup packages for windows, but it'll be way more work than time machine. If you can forgo that, it'd work pretty well. But the hackintosh or mini solution is certainly way cleaner. I run a 1st generation core duo mini as my itunes server for 2 appletv 160s and an appletv 2nd gen plus it serves as a print and file server...
  9. miklovo macrumors member

    Dec 18, 2008
    I would agree. I am currently using a time capsule to do what you want to do but the biggest downside is I have to leave my MacBook Pro on at all times running iTunes. If you get a mini and stick it in your media cabinet alongside your cable box and such it becomes part of your TV setup plus gives you what you want.

    You could even get a refurb/eBay special older intel mini and add a couple of TBs as an ext hard disk and dump everything onto it. Prob cost around $500-600 total (mini and disk)
  10. BeachChair macrumors 6502a

    Apr 11, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Why not just put the movies on an external hard drive and plug that into your Airport Extreme. Now jailbreak your ATV2 and install XBMC, add the external hard drive as a source and voila, you're good to go.
  11. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030


    Jul 7, 2009
    I currently have an ATV1-40gb that has been hacked to have a 500gb drive in it. I have been wanting to switch my setup around and have been considering the Mini as the server for all media in my house. But I just found an old Dell Laptop sitting in my closet; I think I'll install iTunes on it, an external 2TB drive and stream away that way. Nice things about old laptops as servers is that if something goes wrong, the keyboard and monitor is right there for you. No need to go looking for a monitor and keyboard to hook up to it (I have a FreeNAS server running that is headless and keyboard less and every once in a while I need to plug in the monitor and keyboard to get it to do something).

    Since I already have the machine with Windows on it, my solution is simpler and cheaper. But I am still thinking that maybe a Mac Mini would be better. We'll see. Watching Craigslist for a cheap C2D to show up. :D

    Anyone think that I should buy the Mini Server instead? What advantages would it give me over a regular mini?
  12. grawk macrumors 6502


    Jan 26, 2004
    Southern York County, PA
    If you're not going to use the other features that snow leopard server offers, then it's just the extra internal drive. Not terribly helpful, unless you don't have the physical space for external drives...
  13. EvilC5 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2010
    Hanover MD
    I got the mini server because the cost to upgrade to 4gb ram, and 1 tb of storage was more than the mini server cost out of the box, plus the server had a faster CPU.

    but to piggyback on whats been said, the power, space, and cooling of the mini wins in my book, it runs 24/7, sleeps when not in use, and wakes on LAN within seconds.

    yes it was a little more money, but its nice to fire up my MBP from the basement and start a download, or a transcode with handbrake using the screen sharing.

    A cross platform VNC is kind of a pain in my experience.
  14. NEBaghead macrumors member


    Oct 21, 2009
    Omaha, NE
    If you are just going to have it be an iTunes server only, there are lots of options with an intel atom processor mobo combo. You can get an intel mobo with memory and plenty of SATA ports with a small tower case for under 150 and just load it up with 2 TB hard drives. Just run some version of windows xp or greater on it and set it up with an external drive for back ups. You can compress the backup drive so you get more space and since it will only be used for backing up your media, the slower times to copy or read from it are not an issue. You can either use a freeware back up program to copy your media on the external drive or just use PowerToys Sync (free) to just copy new files onto the external drive.

    The intel atoms are extremely low powered so it won't run up your power bill and they are more than adequate as a server. When I stream movies to my ATV2, i only see 3 MB/s speeds for network usage so you are very unlikely to saturate your server I/O for streaming.
  15. Bye Bye Baby macrumors 65816

    Bye Bye Baby

    Sep 15, 2004
    i(am in the)cloud
  16. RWinOR, Feb 4, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011

    RWinOR thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 11, 2010
    Greenest and wettest place in North America
    Thank you

    Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. Looks like most suggest the Mac Mini. I was originally thinking about that route. I see the mini server has two 500gig HD's that would be helpful.

    ALEXIOKLINI how does the "external drives are grouped together in a raidz1 using the ZFS file system" work. I am not familiar with this. Is this a software program I can download or is it a piece of hardware I need to use. This could solve my HD space issue quite easily.

    Thank you again
  17. rick6502 macrumors member

    Apr 11, 2006
    My two USB drives failed on my first try at a media server and after spending many many hours re-ripping everything, I vowed to minimize the chance of that happening again. I am currently using a G5 tower with 4 1TB SATA drives configured as a RAID 1+0. I started the RAID in a G4 733 (way too slow). Moved it to a G4 1.2 (better, but occasional network slowdowns), and I now the G5 (about perfect).

    The drives were the most expensive part when I set the RAID up about 2 years ago, but now, they would be about half as much. You can pick up a cheap G4 for under $150 off of craigslist. I use a rocketraid 1740 that I think cost around $125.

    G5 - Speed, security, & fairly inexpensive. I would say use external drives only if you can afford to spend the time re-ripping all of the data.
  18. alexioklini macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2011
    ZFS is a filesystem developed by Sun and used extensively in their Solaris OS.

    Apple wanted to support that filesystem for Snow Leopard, but later decided to drop support for unknown reasons. During Snow Leopard betas Apple provided the necessary components but they were not included in the final release.

    A small group of dedicated developers now maintain their own ZFS implementation for Mac OSX based on open source SUN code.

    I am using build 74.0.1 on a Mac OS X Server 10.6.6 without any troubles.

    Please see the above page for more detailed information about ZFS in general and the usage on Mac OSX.

    If you need additional info you can contact me via pm.

  19. kiranmk2 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 4, 2008
    I'd definitely recommend the NAS/Atom combo. A decent NAS unit will take care of it's own backup (to another NAS or external drive) on a regular basis. The only downside is that iTunes needs to be in the mix somewhere. If you already have a computer that has itunes running 24/7 (or whenever you're likely to need the ATV) you're just about done. If not, try and pick up an old Atom netbook (should be able to get one with 2 GB ram for about £100/$150 these days), Install iTunes (and maybe an anitvirus program) set the screen to point it at your NAS for the iTunes shares and set the monitor to sleep and leave it running. The combination of ATOM/small SSD drive and sleeping screen should keep the power down.

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