HP Media Server lets you access your iTunes library from any computer on your home network

HP Media ServerFunny how fast things change. When I bought my laptop a couple of years ago I thought 80 gigabytes (GB) of hard drive storage was plenty. I guess it was at the time. But now I routinely receive low disk space warnings mainly due to my ever-growing iTunes music collection that I store on the laptop.

Make that used to store on my laptop.

My second new toy I recently purchased (remember the first was a TiVo HD DVR) is an HP Media Server running Windows Home Server. While I am still putting the new media server through all of my tests, I already have plenty to say about it.

What is the HP Media Server?

Let’s start with the basics. The HP Media Server is like an external USB hard drive on steroids. What I mean by that is that the media server has several advantages over an external USB hard drive. Namely:

  • The media server connects to your home network meaning it is always available to any computer on your home network. Conversely, an external USB hard drive has to be physically connected to a computer and then shared with other computers on your home network. Turn the computer off with a USB drive connected and other computers on your home network can no longer access the USB drive.
  • The media server can be expanded with additional hard drives, both internal and external and the total accumulated storage space is treated as one large hard drive. In other words, it grows as your storage needs grow.
  • The media server is really a miniature computer with no monitor, keyboard or mouse required. It runs Windows Home Server as an operating system. What does this mean for noobies? It means you can do all of the administration of the media server from another computer on your home network through a fairly simple-to-use graphical interface.

Obviously there are some negatives to the media server. Such as:

  • There is a minimum degree of technical expertise you must have to set one up. As much as HP and Microsoft would like you to believe a two year old could set it up, they couldn’t. Neither could a 40 year old without a certain amount of technical experience.
  • Although, it is remarkably small, the media server still does have a larger footprint than most external USB hard drives. So you have to find a place to put it and that place better be close to one of your available network jacks on your router or hub. Remember what I said about it not being as easy as they say to install?

Consolidating my iTunes library

Back to my storage issue on my laptop. One of the first things I did with the media server was to copy my entire iTunes music library to the media server. The advantage of doing this is that any computer on my home network could access the same iTunes library. In fact, the media server comes pre-packaged with an iTunes server which can automatically maintain your music library no matter which computer you use to purchase new music.

Oddly enough, I chose not to use the built in iTunes server but I’ll save that topic for a rainy day.

So now I am in iTunes nirvana. My laptop has 75% of its storage space freed up and I can access any of my music, videos and podcasts from any computer on my home network.

In future posts I will discuss some of the other features of the HP Media Server such as automated backups, digital photo sharing and remote access.