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A home multimedia server is a computer that has been configured to stream digital content to other media devices around the house. This content may include movies, TV shows, music or other digital media. Servers can be connected directly to a display device such as a wide-screen television or transmit data along a wireless or wired network. This type of server is often installed by people seeking to reduce their monthly bills by canceling satellite or cable subscription services. Some media servers are designed and built by computer companies, while others are assembled by computer enthusiasts.
The simplest home multimedia server is usually just a personal computer hooked up to a television and a high-speed Internet connection. This computer can be a custom-built system using hardware designed for a smaller form factor or an older model PC re-purposed for this task. The television serves as a monitor for the PC and allows users to watch downloaded content and any movies stored on the computer’s hard drive. The user must have a TV capable of connecting to a PC, and users may want to have a large internal or external hard drive to hold digital media. This type of set-up is sometimes called a home theater PC (HTPC) and may include a TV tuner card, allowing the PC to act as a digital video recorder.
A more complicated home multimedia server will operate on a home network and share media files with networked devices. This allows users to keep all of their digital media on one device, yet still have access to it when they are elsewhere in the house. Software packages are available for Windows®, Linux® and Apple® operating systems that simplify the process of storing and sharing files. High-definition gaming systems can be configured to work with media servers to stream content to televisions to which they are connected.
If possible, the user should install network cable throughout the home to provide the fastest and most secure connection speed for the home multimedia server. This is often done during new home construction or renovations. Once drywall has been installed, it is a much more expensive and time-consuming process. A wireless network will work almost as well and provide support for the owner’s mobile devices. Most users use a combination of connection options with the home multimedia server connected directly to the router.