Building a home Plex server
I've decided that the time has come to stop paying out of my own pocket to run a Plex server for family, friends and instead I just want to run one for me and the wife inside the home. I know very little about home computer hardware these days as I've exclusively used MacBooks for the last decade, so I'm looking for some suggestions.
I don't expect to need to transcode beyond 1080p (having the option for 4k would be nice, but far from essential), and we're talking 2 simultaneous streams maximum. Storage wise, I have a bunch of big desktop drives knocking about I can use, but I'm not opposed to using a suitably powerful NAS either.
Noise/heat isn't too much of an issue as this will go in my office, but I would prefer something that's not too noisy.
I'm looking to spend about £300-£400, could stretch to £500 if I get some extra bells and whistles.
Does anyone have their own builds they could share or suggestions for suitable hardware that's reasonably easy to purchase?
Electricity price is to high for home servers atm. Just rent small dedi and that's it.
I went down the NAS route about 15 months ago.
Not saying it's best for you but I just found getting a set-up designed for the specific job in hand was way easier than having to self-build. Been very impressed with Synology NAS software, being able to mix drive sizes and of course, it has many more uses than just Plex.
Lots of different enclosures are available to meet your budget.
It's not significant plus I have mine set up to automatically shutdown and start each day, so only runs 10 hours every 24.
I went down the NAS route but built my own.
Fractal Node 304 Case
i3-9100 CPU @ 3.60GHz
16G ECC Ram
Asus Mobo (P11C-I Series) - messed up buying this mobo as it doesn't utilize the i3 Graphics - no big deal as I don't trans-code anything.
Shucked 4 x WD D10 Black 12TB Drives - 1 for parity & 3 for storage.
1 x Samsung SSD 870 QVO 1TB for cache drive.
1 x Sabrent 1TB Rocket Nvme PCIe for the odd VM / Docker Container and my plex library.
Runs on Unraid OS.
Runs like a dream
I appreciate the suggestion, but I don’t think that’s actually accurate.
How much do tou pay per kilowat?
I went overkill with my plex server some years back:
Chassis: SuperMicro CSE-826
CPU: 2x E5-2670
RAM: 16x 4GB Hynix DDR3 1333MHz ECC
Drives: 2x Intel 545s 512GB SSD + 8x Seagate IronWolf 8TB NAS HDD
RAID Controller: 2x LSI 9210-8i
PSU: Dual 920W PWS-920P-1R
Pics - https://imgur.com/a/9yiqVcX
Then... about a year or two ago, I decided to scale down significantly. I moved the drives to a old tower case I had laying around, bought a new cpu, ram, and mobo for ~$300-400. I'd highly recommend sticking with a somewhat modern Intel CPU (10th gen or later) simply due to the fact that hardware acceleration using Intel QuickSync in Plex is fucking amazeballs. Can easily handle half a dozen 1080p transcodes without breaking a sweat (total load under 1). I have the i5-10400 in my server in my shed and it handles Plex like a champ along with a slew of other things running on it. Biggest costs will be disks if you're storing things locally.
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Yup - especially if you get the mobo that does this - unlike me who didn't - always best to do the research first
Like @Mason I am downsizing the lab. Partially due to my energy costs going from $0.08/kwh to $0.32/kwh (and now with surge pricing too!), But moreso because my needs have changed.
Wife and I don't watch too much crazy high but rate stuff so I'm moving my home server to a couple of SBCs, hard drives to SSDs, and reencoding videos into something my Rokus will directplay (e.g. easily plays x264 and some lower bitrate x265 stuff).
Don't transcode - obtain it in the right res / format from the start
Thanks for the replies!
@Lee I am completely down with a pre-built, ready to roll solution, but I really can't spend that sort of money - I've just spent a few quid kitting out my office (including a new arcade cabinet), so as much as I'd like to drop a few more quid and get something pre-built and seamless, the missus will kill me.
@OsirisBlack how much did that set you back roughly?
@Mason thanks for the suggestion, I'll keep the recommendation on CPU/mobo in mind.
@havoc I get the point, but easier said than done at times, new stuff is obviously straight-forward, but some of the older stuff is hard to find and you get what you get - I don't have time to be messing around with re-encoding files, I really want a solution that is really just set-up and forget.
Depends, my home server runs me half of a comparable dedi and I got the hardware for free from work since they upgraded
So I've been researching, and I've seen quite a few recommendations on the Synology DS220+ as a decent mid-range NAS. It seems like it checks a lot of boxes in terms of the requirements, does anyone have experience with that (or a similarly specced) model?
I personally run a Synology DS920+, upgraded the RAM to 12GB and it's got 25TB storage.
Serves 7 people, works flawlessly.
Plex + Sonarr + Radarr + Prowlarr + sabnzbd + pihole
Happy as Larry and power consumption is very low.
Indeed a Synology DS with J4125 works like a charm. It's also a nice AIO solution that does a lot more (Time Machine, etc.) than Plex and also passes the spouse test.
Just to throw in some alternative ideas, you could get an Intel NUC essential (N5105 or N6005) or a (fanless) noname something from Aliexpress with similar (at least a J4125) + some external drives (in your case external drive enclosures).
Or, you could avoid (video)transcoding altogether with a high end client like Nvidia Shield+Kodi with Plex addon or possibly ATV+Infuse. In such case an ARM SBC would easily do the trick of hosting your Plex+ARR stack, like the RPi 4 (way overpriced atm), Odroid M1 or the like.
I have an old Synology (DS412+) for my movies/photos/shared documents that just keeps humming along. I'm going to have to do something with it soon, but it has been very good to me. They still update the software and it does everything I need.
Good to know the older devices remain supported, that’s one of my main concerns with pre-built devices.
Also, HDD prices are suddenly going through the roof. A had a couple of WD Reds in my Amazon basket at the weekend, £84 each. They’re now £124. Fucking inflation.
Save a few quid, get some WD elements and shuck them. All my drives are shucked and no issues, saved a fortune.
I don’t even know what ‘shucking’ is, I’m assuming from the context it’s ripping the actual disks from consumer desktop HDDs?
If so, I have an old WD Elements drive sitting around doing nothing since I disconnected it from my XBox. Can I just yank the disk out or is it a bit more complex than that?
Basically that :-)
You may be surprised how little (horse)power you need for most Plex scenarios in-home.
In order of ascending costs:
1. Repurpose one of your old MacBooks. They will easily be able to serve files.
Use inexpensive prebuilt used/off-lease hardware ( e.g. ebay.com/itm/274694321600 & ebay.com/itm/175345461496 )
Budget Plex Server:
CPU (G7400 Alter Lake w. Quick Sync):
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B084Q4N364/ or just get 8GB -you don't need 16GB
1 x Samsung NVME M.2: https://www.ebay.com/itm/284748057067
1 4TB WD: https://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-WD40EZAZ-5400RPM-Internal/dp/B087QTVCHH (though, you have SATA HDDs already)
CASE: Get a cheaper one if you must buy one. One such:
Gold Plus Dell built by Delta Electronics or AcBel:
Use an above-mentioned example NAS build.
*If you are using WiFi, consider top-end gear: Ubiquiti Networks Unifi 802.11ac Dual-Radio PRO Access Point
Hey there guy,
Thanks for the suggestions! However, they are somewhat in vain, as in the 2 months between the previous reply and yours, I bought a NAS and some Ironwolf drives and I’m happy as a pig in shit! I’m sure someone I’ll find your suggestions useful though!
Buy a cheap NUC.
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If you're not transcoding at all, Chromeboxes can save you power costs over the long run.
EDIT: Oops, just noticed that we're late!
Also, fuck Google, fuck Chrome.
You can fuck anything you'd like, but it doesn't change the fact that Chromeboxes are dirt cheap and sip very little power. $75 for an i3 with 8GB as of yesterday on ebay.
As a note for one of your previous issues, you could look at running something to auto convert your media. I use Tdarr personally at this time but there are other options including Unmanic, FileFlow and Ripbotx264 as well as a bunch I couldn't remember / prob don't know about I'm sure.
Tdarr can run things on a schedule and also lets you connect like 4 or 5 I think systems together on the free version so you could have your desktop if it's on and has more cpu / gpu power add in to the mix while you sleep for the big initial convert run. Then Tdarr will work on all your files and not have to convert them once you figure out the settings that all your players will do (I prefer Nvidia Shield Pros, they are costly but work well and really can negate a lot of the converting as well, but tdarr setup helps makes sure stuff is all the same as you can have it adjust audio tracks for channels or language or all kinds of things)
There are a gazillion uSFF (1L, tiny/mini/micro) corporate desktops on ebay; 7th gen is super cheap now, e.g., m710q. Anything of that gen or later, even the little 2c Celerons, has QSV and can transcode 26 simultaneous 1080p h.264 streams without breaking a sweat. Media storage can be mounted over NFS from a NAS of your choice (which itself can be a super cheap 1150 system). Chromeboxes are a subset of uSFF, but the $75 i3 are older gens without proper QSV.
Really? That's definitely **not ** what the police said the last time my neighbour called them.
Thanks for the suggestions - at the moment it looks like it might be a non-issue; the device I bought can apparently transcode 4k x265, which is far more horsepower than I actually need; codec support in clients seems to be improving too, so there's less of a need for it anyway; that said, having everything in the same format is appealing so I'll take a look.