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Best Emby Server builds 2018 – Pre-built and DIY options

Emby Server is an excellent Plex and Kodi alternative. Many new technologies have been made available for Emby to run upon, some of them are pre-built solutions and others you can build yourself. All it takes to create a great DIY Emby Server is just a little knowledge of the components you will need and the products you will use. Check out the best Emby Server builds 2018!

This guide will also help you if you are only interested in purchasing an Emby Server. As Emby has evolved and changed somewhat, there is more interest than ever in using Emby as a server. Emby is optimal server software. There are many ways to setup an Emby Server, and we have covered some of those more popular ways here as well on this website. This guide is designed to help you choose what kind of Emby Server setup you desire to build or purchase particularly from popular products of 2017. [ReadSetup Emby Server with Odroid C2 – Alternative to Plex and Kodi]

Best Emby Server builds 2018: Emby Media Server for all platforms

Energize your media streaming experience with an Emby Server
Make Emby your server today

Emby is the ultimate media streaming server software that offers the best pre-built and DIY options for both hardware and customization. Emby Servers come ready to run on five operating system platforms and NAS devices. [ReadSetup Emby Server with Raspberry Pi 3 – Media Streaming Server]

Windows Emby Server

For a home theatre PC (HTPC), you would use a standard desktop version of Windows such as Windows 10. As long as you have good hardware and you do not run other applications in the GUI, that should work for most configurations. If you are like many households that may need many connections using lots of bandwidth, you might already be running a server version of Windows.

Microsoft once released Windows Home Server, but after WHS 2011 they switched to Windows Server Essentials. The latter may be more server than most people need at home, however, and many times an ordinary Windows computer is setup with server software. Though this may be to use the computer as a server, it is often just to make media locally on the computer available to the wider network. Regardless of the version your HTPC is running on, Emby has an app for Windows.

We have an excellent guide for installing Emby Server on Windows.

Linux Emby Server

There are many Linux server distributions capable of running Emby smoothly and efficiently. These distributions (distros) are various and diverse in their construction, and you can probably find one suited for your needs whatever they may be. Also, there is a Linux-based version for ARM devices. Especially if you like the ability to use the command line, Emby has an app for Linux-based servers.

If you are only connecting one or maybe a couple of ordinary devices, you might be able to get away with using a lower end ARM device such as even the Pi. But, these devices were not made to be servers, and are more useful as client devices or educational or experimental tools. I sometimes like to test my setup on a cheap device that can run the same or similar operating system. In this way, I do not spend all my money on a setup that does not work as planned.

macOS Emby Server

One of the greatest things about macOS or OS X is that it is really Unix, which means it is really the sibling of Linux. That means that you can do most of the same things as when on Linux, or most of the same things differently. In fact, there is not really much that you can do on Linux that you cannot do on OS X in terms of the command line and available software for media streaming. So, it may be no surprise Emby has an app for setting up a server on Mac.

Emby for Docker

Docker is a popular container app for many other apps. If you use Docker, you are tech savvy. If you are new to Docker, I would recommend reading through some of the links to learn the software. Though this option requires the least investment, it might not be all of what you need. That depends on how much Emby must do in terms of using hardware resources.

FreeBSD Emby Server

FreeBSD is Unix. The benefit of running a purely Unix server is efficiency. FreeBSD is lighter than any other operating system platforms Emby runs on. Not only that, but with FreeBSD you have the benefit of free drivers and other updates from OpenFirmware. This is especially true for Mac computers, which originally only used OpenFirmware.

You can also use FreeBSD simply for the purpose of keeping your firmware current, and dual boot into another OS to run your server. Many times drivers might not be available for an older or out-of-the-way brand PC, but one operating system can provide the firmware that another cannot. Because OpenFirmware runs outside of the OS once installed, it does not rely on running an operating system to load drivers for hardware components.

Best Emby Server NAS: Emby for NAS Devices

The option of using a NAS device is probably the most versatile and technically easiest route to go. A NAS device can run not only Emby, but gives you tools for installing all the other software you might need to soup up your server. There are many great pre-built device options for network attached storage.

Asustor

Asustor NAS for Emby Server
Asustor NAS for Emby

These are the newest additions to the Asustor family.

Support pages

NetGear ReadyNAS

Netgear ReadyNAS
Netgear ReadyNAS for Emby Server

NetGear makes a lot of popular routers, but they also make some great NAS devices.

For community support, you can visit the Emby ReadyNAS page.

Support pages

FreeNAS

FreeNAS for Emby allows streaming media to another device
FreeNAS for Emby

Although usually not the cheapest server to buy, FreeNAS is BSD-licensed. This means that if the server is licensed to run the software it comes with even on a non-private network. So, a network admin would not likely need to procure any license to attach it an utilize it. Perhaps, if you must bring your media to work with you, if you are a teacher or someone who gives presentations as part of their job. If that is you or if you want to be able to do such a thing, Emby together with FreeNAS is your best answer.

The Mini and the Mini XL are affordable enough for even personal use. If you buy them diskless and install your own hard drives, you will save some money.

Support pages

OpenMediaVault

You can setup OpenMediaVault NAS as your Emby server
OpenMediaVault NAS for Emby

OpenMediaVault is for people who like to develop their own server, or just like doing it all on the command line. It is a NAS server solution you build yourself, running off the Debian Linux operating system with all the software you need already installed. For those of us who like doing the work ourselves. I like to develop my own server, because there is so much free open source software that works better than much of the commercial software available.

Emby itself is open source, as are great media players like Kodi and VLC. In fact, VLC came largely from another application, a server application called Live555. Kodi came from a Linux media player once called XBMC (for XBox Media Center), because it could connect to an XBox to play media files. Because of open source software, server software like OpenMediaVault can be expanded in all kinds of ways.

Support pages

QNAP NAS

You can setup QNAP NAS as an Emby Server
QNAP NAS for Emby Server

QNAP is especially optimized for Apple devices, because it is optimized for macOS. MacOS Sierra support provides faster and improved Finder browsing. If you are an Apple person, this might appeal to you.

Support pages

Synology

Synology NAS can be setup as an efficient Emby Server
Synology NAS for Emby Server

The great thing about Synology is not only the apps and devices, but the fact they are a big name that has been in the business for a long time. I like using brands like that because that means they have been in the business long enough to not make many of the common mistakes younger companies do. The other advantage is being able to lookup more support information and install more software for more functionality. Although none of these NAS solutions you can install Emby on are lacking, but they are all different.

Support pages

ThecusOS

Thecus and ThecusOS NAS technology are made to run Emby
Thecus NAS for Emby

Thecus is another award-winning NAS server solution with not only Linux server products, but with hardware pre-built to run Windows server platforms optimally as well. So, not only can you setup a great DIY Linux server, but you can later use the same Thecus NAS technology to connect a compatible Thecus Windows server.

You can then have two operating system platforms on two different servers that might allow you to do some of the things you can only do with Windows or Linux. That is useful mostly for third-party apps that may not be compatible with one or the other operating systems. If you notice there is also a place to download the firmware for each Thecus device on the product page for each device. That means you can run more platforms and software inside and alongside a ThecusOS installed device.

If efficiency and the higher dollar that may come with using a more diverse platform are the plan for your setup, you will enjoy the benefit of running Emby alongside many of the other applications that can make your server more diverse. Although all server software comes as standalone, if you are using serious server hardware you are probably running more than one server software application. Emby would be only one.

In this case, maybe there is an app you use in Windows or on the Mac that you want to have running on the same server as Emby. This will allow you to give Emby the same access and permissions to the same media as other apps you might use.

Support pages

Hardware recommendations for Emby

While many of these server platforms may be more appealing than others in terms of what they can do with the added features of the operating system they are on, others options on this list are more efficient. When thinking in terms of running a server, you should remember to consider what your hardware can realistically do. If you want to make full use of your hardware, make it more available by eliminating unnecessary software and background processes. If you do not need to use a GUI, you can even run a headless server. This is usually done by installing your preferred flavor of Linux without a desktop environment, or using a server distribution of your preferred Linux distro.

Building versus buying

Whether you are building or buying a server you need to consider the quality of these hardware components, there are many client apps for diverse platforms for Emby. The server software is made for standard desktop grade processors that can also be found in laptops. That is because it is assumed you would only want to run such a server on more efficient hardware. There are many great tutorials for setting up an Emby Server on single-board computers, but a single-board server solution is not very practical for multiple connections. It is great for one or maybe two connections at the most, but if you are doing more than just playing tiny music files you will need a real server setup.

A whole household using an Emby Server on a Raspberry Pi, for instance, isn’t going to be able to do anything. For more than one connection you need a much faster and harder working device than the Raspberry Pi or a low-end Android box, and sometimes even a higher caliber single-board computer like the Odroid may not have enough power for a home network. A server expected to make multiple connections requires higher end hardware. Cheap Android devices can be used as client devices instead.

If you satisfy the suggested hardware specifications here, Emby should be able to smoothly serve the needs of an average home network making perhaps three to six connections. As a general rule a server that is able to play games should easily be able to stream today’s high quality video. Intel has a web page about building a PC for gaming. Most of the same hardware components are what we need to satisfy Emby’s system requirements.

CPU/Processor

The only hardware component just as important as the motherboard is the CPU. Today’s processors are capable of doing a lot without costing a lot. Although the CPU will usually be the most expensive item on the list alongside the motherboard, it is also the one you probably want to invest the most money in.

  • Minimum Requirements — no transcoding
    Intel Core 2 Duo processor 1.6 GHz or better
  • Recommended Configuration — transcoding HD Content:
    Intel Core 2 Duo processor 2.4 GHz or better
  • If transcoding for multiple devices, a faster CPU may be required

There are many ways to save money buying refurbished parts or shopping around for brands. I personally save a lot of money on eBay and even also Amazon that way, but I am showing you here some of the higher grade hardware you can invest in. The bargains are too many and too fleeting to try and post here. Some of the best CPU’s are

Motherboard

ASUS

What I truly love about ASUS motherboards is the ability to plugin your IPTV sub right in the ASUS UI. This could not only become very popular as more Internet Service Providers offer IPTV-enabled TV channels, but it could be the future of TV. Why use the air waves when there is already Internet? Why install and pay for two services when you can already use one? ASUS realizes this and proves again they are on the cutting edge of popular technology.

ASRock

More than just a rising star, ASRock is a big name in motherboards. There claim to fame is compact motherboards. They were the first company to make the X299 mini-ITX form factor MB.

Boxed Intel

Of course, we all know Intel, and we all know we can rely on Intel.

Gigabyte

It doesn’t have to say Gigabyte to be Gigabyte. They make other processors for gamers that are very robust, and their other processors are a definitely a cut above the rest.

Supermicro

Though its name sounds small, the Supermicro collection of products is vastly huge and superior to other server hardware in many ways. It is also very expensive, and this is the option to use if what you are going to do might include a rack or major configuration. But if you are fanatical about setting up a high end server, this is one great place to begin.

Memory (RAM)

When it comes to RAM memory, you should definitely optimize your RAM. Make sure any RAM you buy is compatible with the form factor of your motherboard.

  • Minimum Requirements — no transcoding
    1GB RAM for Windows/Mac OS X
    512MB RAM for Linux
  • Recommended Configuration — transcoding HD Content:
    At least 2GB RAM

While it used to be true that RAM was an easy way to improve the performance of a computer, today it is necessary to upgrade your RAM when you by a computer. If it is a desktop client computer, it will need it just to multitask and comfortably use apps. If it is a server, the client devices will probably be too busy catching up with their own tasks to make up for any lag from the server. One thing today’s developers do not do the same way as in the past is make software that manages its own use of resources.

The Web is no different in that respect, often overburdened with tasks for the processor to run. Though the speed comes from the Internet bandwidth, the computer must still run software for all the data it downloads from a web page. All these things together on a network do not create perfect harmony. That is why it is important to have little things like more RAM and fast hardware components. Every little bit does count and can make a big difference.

Server RAM versus desktop RAM

Another thing you need to realize when building a server is that the process of adding RAM may be different. You have ECC error correcting and non-ECC non-error-correcting. Newer servers may not require registered memory, but many other ones do. So, you should search for “server RAM” when shopping, because it may be required. You can and should check the support documentation for your hardware. Many times you can perform a memory upgrade, but might have to use only server RAM.

NAS devices and RAM

NAS devices on the other hand might have their own RAM memory.

Graphics processing unit (GPU)—aka, graphics card

When buying a graphics card consider how it might affect the quality of the streaming content. If you need 4K and 3D, make sure the graphics card is robust enough to support multiple connections. Again, because many of the same hardware components are required for a media server, it helps to refer to gamer reviews of a graphics card. Also, make sure that the graphics card is compatible with the form factor you are using.

Storage, hard disk drive (HDD), solid-state drive (SSD)

Cache memory on a HDD is beneficial; 64 MB or more. RPM speed is important and should not be less than 7200 for multiple connections. Some HDD feature faster speeds than others such as this one at 6 GB/s.

Power supply unit (PSU)

A power supply without enough power will malfunction in some way. Streaming sticks usually continually reboot without enough power, for example. Too power can damage some devices. An app or device might simply freeze or crash. Power supplies also must be able to get enough energy from the source. To work as advertised.

Measure your power source

A power meter may be necessary to make sure your outlet can feed your PSU the juice it needs.

Utilize an Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply is usually used with a server that is supposed to always be on. While this may not be necessary for the same reasons a server is attached to a UPS at your work place, there are other reasons you might use one for your home server. A standard PC inside of a tower has no battery of its own, if the power goes out so does your server. This may not be a problem when you are at home and can turn the server back on when power is restored, but not if you are out of town and trying to remote in to share your media with family and friends. A UPS will ensure that your device is receiving steady power, and that will keep it from lagging or freezing and crashing from weaker threads of electricity during normal use.

The higher end uninterruptible power supplies are today smart devices. They will not only regulate energy flow, but will also manage it. This is good if you have a lot of devices using the same power source, which is common in a home theater setup.

Cooling system (fans or liquid), fan splitter

There are all kinds of cooling options, but there is a difference between cooling a desktop computer and a server that is always on. What may have worked for one device streaming a video on its own is not going to cool a server sufficiently. I recommend liquid cooling systems.

Liquid cooling

Many people seem to believe that electronics and liquid cooling systems do not mix. I used to believe this for the same obvious reason as everyone else. However, do realize there is almost no mechanical or electrical device that uses liquid cooling that does not run the same risk. This fear of ruining a computer is the same as ruining any other costly device that uses liquid cooling. Most of these devices are damaged without sufficient cooling, not because of cooling solutions. Usually the damage form insufficient cooling is not noticeable because it only decreases the longevity of one or more hardware components.

Liquid cooling commercial liquids

If you still are not sure, you do not have to use distilled water like everyone else. You can buy liquid made to safely and properly do the job.

Case

For a server you do not need a fancy case, but usually when you build a computer the case becomes a matter of pride for the job and task to be done. Many people will spend a few extra dollars just to get a case that looks neat. I do too. After all, the case is the least expensive purchase. The only thing that I might decide against where others do not is a case that lights up the room and cannot be turned off without turning off the computer. While this is okay for a computer you will turn off at the end of the night, it does not work for a server that is on almost all the time. Still this does not stop many people, and if you are like most people that server is not in any place where the light will create any disturbance.

We also have a guide for computer cases for 2017.

Pre-built Emby Server solutions

If it is easier for you to buy a pre-built server, some out-of-the-box that easily fulfill the needs of an Emby Server are also available. As long as the device satisfies the system requirements, many pre-built Android TV boxes can run Emby as well. This may be the best option for you if a computer still needs to be for true computing in the end, instead of media streaming. If you use a pre-built PC as an Emby Server, I would recommend something fast and compact.

Pre-built Emby PC servers

Intel offers many compact mini-servers, mini-PC computers that are small and sharp. If you shop around you might find a few really good pre-built Linux computers, but most pre-built servers come with Windows installed. The companies that make pre-built Linux servers are many but they are usually smaller companies, because having a Linux server means you are typically able to build one. This is not so true today anymore of Linux end users, because of the more user-friendly nature of Linux today.

Pre-built Linux PC servers

At the same time, using the command line and developing your own software from existing open source apps has become almost as common as building your own PC from raw parts. In fact, considering how much it costs to buy hardware, it might be might become more popular of a hobby to play with open source software. You can find plenty of open source software on websites like GitHub. Usually, a pre-built PC with Linux will let you use this software more than a Windows computer, because Linux is easier to develop on with more tools and transparency that allows people to use the software.

On Windows you have to rely on the Microsoft for most your software. While this may not be very exciting to me, it may be just the answer you are looking for if you do not enjoy such things. I would recommend Windows server software mostly to those who do not want to do such a thing with their server at all. Conversely, I would suggest Linux is more made to create and change things if that is your fascination.

Building versus buying

Most likely, if you purchase a pre-built server for Linux, it will not come with the operating system installed. That is because Linux users tend to prefer certain strains of Linux over others, perhaps because they are the ones they know how to use more. Whatever the reason, the reason will become more real when you move onto running a server. So, you will probably have to pick and choose and install your desired version of Linux if you buy instead of build.

A single-board computer might be sufficient for some Emby Server setups, such as a music server or one with limited connections. For regular use, I would recommend a standard PC, but I would use a compact motherboard such as Micro-ATX. If you are buying one, I would suggest shopping for something on the basis of the operating system you want it to run rather than the one it comes with. The most efficient use of hardware would be to run Emby on Ubuntu server using only the command line, but if you end up using high end hardware where resources will not be lacking you can use any platform to run Emby. [ReadHow to install Emby on Ubuntu server the easy way]

Pre-built Windows PC servers

You can sometimes find a server system with Windows already installed, but it is not always easy. Most of those you find might be in limited supply, because they are built as they are moved. Very few companies will install an operating sytem twice on a device, so they do not make the mistake to begin with. That is how they are pre-built to move, and only put together when they are going to be sold.

If you look you might see some choices you prefer, but it is my experience you will probably choose to install Windows yourself. You can not only buy license for Windows on sites like Amazon, and sometimes they are discounted if you only need the serial key. This means you have to either have a disk you can use, or be able to create one for exactly the operating system and version release. So, make sure you know what your getting if you go that route.

Though it is a NAS device, believe it or not Thecus can come with a Windows license.

Client, mobile, and remote apps

Another consideration when choosing how to build your server that is true when buying one as well, is what client, mobile, or remote apps you will use to access Emby. An Android Emby Server, for instance, cannot do exactly the same thing that a Windows Emby Server can. The mobile apps will probably not notice the difference if an Emby Server is running on an Android or Windows. This may not be true with all the desktop and tablet applications you might use on other platforms or even on the same platform.

Software can do unexpected things, and it is important to test any setup before you buy all the pieces for it completely. If you use no other operating system platform on your network than a Unix-based one (i.e. no Microsoft Windows devices), you can probably get away with using only FreeBSD. This would be the absolute most efficient use of any hardware you have, and the lightest operating system you could use as a server. You also want to be a bit of a command line geek to do such a thing. The pro side of that is you will always have hardware support if using OpenFirmware.

A pre-built solution is not necessarily a more expensive one, and the decision to build a device is neither cheap or easy. In fact, the more you build your own setup, the more your really will spend money on it in the long run. Because if you upgrade it and update the operating systems you will buy new licenses for software and new hardware. The real advantage is being able to control the nature of your setup and the use of technology.

Emby plugin guides

We have several Emby plugin guides available here on our website that can help you get started after you have setup your server.

Best Emby Server setup 2018: Final thoughts

Emby is a robust and exciting home media experience. There is no out-of-the-box solution that compares to installing and using Emby. You can buy any DVR or use any of the many other PVR apps and devices made to record and stream media. These are simple solutions, but nothing compares to being able to improve that experience. Not only can you improve Emby over time, whereas you cannot improve a TV box from Wal Mart, you can expect new features and improvements to Emby. If you want to stay posted on Emby news, you can always visit their blog, where there is always something amazing and new.

Your turn: Which Emby Server hardware do you recommend?

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About the author

w3tech

My interest in media software is development and instruction. I feel I can explain things well in writing. I have to make sense of it for myself, and bring it down to my level before I describe it to someone else. That should be easy enough for even a house plant to understand. I enjoy plenty of sun and need a lot of cool shade just the same.