Five Best Desktop Media Servers

Five Best Desktop Media Servers

Getting your music and movies from one computer to another computer across the house or across the world has never been easier. Apps make the process simple and painless, enabling you to watch movies on your smartphone when you’re out, or listen to music from your desktop in your upstairs bedroom. Here are five of the best, based on your nominations.

Photo by serrnovik (Shutterstock)

Plex (Windows/Mac/Linux)

MyPlex media centre hub

PS3 Media Server (Windows/Mac/Linux)


Subsonic (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Serviio (Windows/Mac/Linux)

PlayOn (Windows)

This week’s honourable mention goes to XBMC. This was frequently nominated, but it didn’t actually fit our criteria: the emphasis in XBMC is on being a media centre, not a media server. XBMC can share media to other computers on your home network if you have it on your computer already, but for streaming your media to any device, on or off your home network, a more focused and specialised media server app will do the job better.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn’t included in the list? Tell us in the comments.


  • PlayOn doesn’t transcode or offer remote management features <– Did you guys even bother to test/review all the features of Playon?

    Playon’s main feature is to transcode video off websites (whether it be netflix or hulu etc and many more) into a format that your tv/console/set top box device can read

    Using mobile access you can view the your media (or any plugin/app you have installed such as netflix it) on any IOS or android based device

  • I currently use PS3 Media Server but I find it pretty crappy. It really doesn’t like working as a stable application, if you put your computer to sleep it won’t be running when you power it back up again, getting the “service” running is a pain in the ass, and there’s no good way to check it’s actually working (it says it’s running, but when you go to play back a video on your PS3 it’s not there).

    I might give Serviio a try. Sounds like it does all I really want it to, hopefully it’s more stable.

    • Generally serviio is pretty stable. As I leave my streaming PC on all day I do sometimes need to give the process a restart/server a restart or the PC occassionally. Once I had to reinstall it as it had issues but besides that its generaly pretty good. Dont think youll find a server thats stable 24/7.

      As a side note I could never get plex working it basically brought my PC to a standstill made the fans and CPU run at 100 percent and couldn’t index my content properly anyway, when I tried to delete a folder from it was still to index and wasnt indexing on filename only metadata and you know how accurate that can be. and ive never had that issue with any other DLNA media server.

    • +1 Serviio. Its pretty simple and believe me if you are coming from PS3 media server you are going to love it. I also used PS3 media server and It really is a pain. Especially when you want to watch HD stuff. (even after the tweaks) Serviio’s transcoding is much better. I don’t need that option anyway with my wireless n router.

  • Serviio is one i use the most and by far the best one after testing them all. Theres is an Android app called ServiiGo that you can watch your content anywhere. There are more apps coming soon for other platforms that can do this. Not to mention Serviio has a vast range of plugins to watch a variety of video sites including live video.

  • I have just set up a Plex Media Server on a Mac Mini at home and I have to say I love it. I used to have two Boxee Box devices from DLink, which worked quite well, but did not share information on what shows I had watched/not completed/manually defined.

    Having Plex as a separate server has just taken that away. I am in the middle of putting the front end devices in (still waiting for the ATV3 jailbreak so I can install Plex on that!) but simply running the client on my MacBook Pro and/or Android devices (Motorola Xoom and Galaxy Nexii) has been fantastic.

  • I agree with Mischevious, but in regards to Plex. No mention of PlexPass and getting more advanced features before the non-paying users do, as well as being integrated into LG and Samsung TV’s.

  • If you just want to stream to iPad, I find that Boxee Media Manager on my Mac and the Boxee app on my iPad work well. I’m fairly certain that it transcodes videos as well although recently most have been mp4 already so I’m not 100% sure.

  • I use Vortex Box. It rips everything automatically then has it shared over DLNA. I imagine any other solution would only be better when you don’t own any of the media you want shared over your network.

  • This article doesn’t mention Remote Potato? Why not? It’s not only free, it’s open source. It also has both free and paid apps available for Android and iOS.

    This transcodes on the fly, and works with your windows media centre library.

    I used to be a bit into this, but have found much less use for them out and about. I often find you can get better quality in a smaller bandwidth size by just redownloading the content on your other device (that’s only if you lack the foresight to transfer the media to your other device before leaving the house). Naturally if your on a plane, having content preloaded is your only option.

    I understand their appeal for households with several people living in it though, but this can just as easily be achieved by sharing folders on your LAN, even if your destination device is a tablet.

  • Why does everyone always forget MYTHTV… Been using it for years… There’s a Linux backend.. with linux frontend and windows front end.. can stream to a ipad/iphone and android (with a lil digging).. Can probably fine a Mac front end for it too.. Streams over the internet, HTTP, Transcoding, Commercial flag deciding.. supports steaming of TV, Movie database and metadata look up and the list goes on and on…

  • I stopped using several of these because they were quite unreliable – and would give me a lot unsupported format errors – got a boxee and haven’t looked back

  • I personally use Air Video. It works exceedingly well on my iPad and iPhone and is very easy to set up on the computer.

    I tried other applications but found this one and while the iPad app is paid, it is well worth it.

  • I just switched from PS3 to XBox, when the PS3 died. I was using PS3 Media Server on my Mac to send things to my home theatre, but it doesn’t seem to work as well with XBox. I tried Connect360, but it only serves one folder at a time. I tried Plex, but it didn’t work well either (I could have set it up incorrectly). I tried XBMC, but it didn’t work well either (I could see drives, but not all the files – could also have been my fault). I’m now using Playback and so far, it’s great. I can see all my files and it does transcoding.

  • Ive used TVersity in the past and found it very capable.
    I also recommend BubbleUPnP for Android and its free proxying software to make any UPnP server available while on the go.

  • If I’ve got a windows 7 network of 3 or 4 computers at home (an no gaming consoles), is there any advantage to me using a media server/client setup like this article describes as opposed to just using windows shares? At the moment, I use windows media centre, which connects to my library by way of standard windows shares (SMB/CIFS?). Would a media server work better? (this is on a wired gigabit network, so bandwidth/latency isn’t an issue)

Log in to comment on this story!