Setting Up an XP Home Media Server – part 1

by Sarah on March 1, 2009

Last weekend DH and I decided it was pretty stupid to host pictures on his laptop, my laptop, and our never used desktop, so we decided to set up a Media Server.  It sounds scarier than it really is.  Some sites will claim you need the fastest, best-est processors and hard drives, but that doesn’t have to be so.

What you need:

An old desktop running Win XP with a pretty decent sized hard drive.

A router.

Back-up system of your choice.  This goes without saying.  Its NEVER wise to keep everything stored in 1 location.  Hard drive fries and you’ll cry.  I suggest picking up a WD My Book External Drive of an appropriate size.  Honestly having 2 forms of backup is more preferable.  Your daily back-up can remain right next to your server, but your weekly or monthly backup should be stored out of your house.  No use backing everything up if its all stored together and goes up in flames together.  Being a victim of a burglary, I can tell you the thought of having all of your photos stolen is MUCH worse then the actual loss of property.

That’s it.  If you want to get really fancy, upgrading the hard drive to a 7200 rpm speed is nice.

Our Server setup:

Compaq EVIO 510S, Win XP, Pentium 4, 1G RAM and 120G, 7200 rpm Hard Drive (this will be upgraded soon to most likely 1TB, 7200 rpm).  For a bit of speed and convenience sake, this is connected via ethernet to our router (an Apple Airport Extreme).  The server is being backed up via a 500G WD My Book Home External Drive.

Other computers (Clients) in the house that will be accessing the  server:

HP DV6119 laptop running XP

MacBook running OS 10.6.5

Ok.  Now for the nitty-gritty.

1.)  You need to give your soon to be XP Media server a name.  Go to Start, right Click on My Computer go to Properties, Computer Name, click Change next to “To Rename this computer or join a domain…”  Give the computer a name and a workgroup name.  For example you can call the computer Media and change the workgroup name to something simple that you can remember (like your last name).  For this article assume the server’s name is Media and the workgroup is Mediashare.  At this point you will need to restart the computer for the changes to take place.

You can view the screenshot in full screen by clicking on the box with arrows

2.)You now should set up user accounts for each computer (Client)/user on each computer (Client) that will be accessing the server.  Make sure the user names and passwords match those on the other computers.  This way you won’t have to continually log into your server.  StartControl PanelUser Accounts

3.) Create the folders that you would like to share with the other computers in your network.  In our case we have: PHOTOS, MOVIES, MUSIC.  You can create as many or as little as you’d like.

4.) You now have to allow network sharing of these folders.  Don’t worry, its easy (or at least we’re going to do it the easy way!).  Right click on a folder you would like to share, go to Sharing and Security .  Go to the Sharing Tab (if you have a separate tab for security read below).  If you see a Windows security warning under Network sharing and security, go ahead and click the link “If you understand the security risks but want to share….blah, blah, blah“.  A pop-up should appear asking you to choose either running the wizard or “just enable file sharing“, choose “just enable”.  You should now be back to the Sharing tab, but with options to share under Network sharing and security.  Check the “Share this folder on the Network” box and check the “Allow network users to change my files” box (if not no one will able to save or change the files on the server).  Do this for every folder you would like to share.

If you have a separate security tab, click on Tools – Folder Options – Views – scroll to the bottom and check Use Simple File Sharing.

5.) Ok, now we have to connect the clients to our server.  We’ll deal with XP machines today.  So in my case, I now needed to have my DV6119 “see” the newly created Media Server.  The 1st item of business is changing the workgroup name on my laptop to match that of the server.  So just like with the server – Right click on My Computer, go to Properties, click the Computer Name tab, then the Change button.  Here you only have to change the Workgroup name.  Type in the workgroup name you had given your server.  Like with the server, you will need to restart this client for these changes to take place.

6.) Once the computer is restarted, go to StartMy Network Places.  Congratulations!  You should now see your Media server and the shared folders.

If you do not see your media server here are a few things to check:

1) Double check that the workgroup names are identical.

2) If they are, it could be a firewall issue.  Try shutting them off (on both the server and the client).  If you can see the media server once they are off, you know its a firewall issue.  You need to make sure to add your home network IP range to its “trusted zone” (most providers should have a FAQ explaining how to do this).

Coming up:

Mounting the server/folders as drives on your XP client so that they are always present in My Computer.

Connecting Mac clients

Hooking the server to your TV to view photos and movies.

Telling iTunes where your music is.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave M November 10, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I know all this, but how do I connect to the media server via the internet without remotely logging into the host of the server or another computer at home with access to the server?

Sally S. April 12, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Nice set of instructions. However, I have problems viewing the image.

maggieg August 31, 2011 at 7:49 pm

I should add that I saw an article on using Windows Media Player 11 to stream media to a PS3. I have WMPlayer; I just want to use the Roku box in place of a PS3.

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