Mini Ubuntu Media Server requirements
Linux (including Ubuntu) does not have high hardware requirements.
The minimal requirements which are given in Ubuntu Server Guide are quite low:
CPU=300 MHz, RAM=128 MB with 500 MB hard drive.
It should be enough for testing purposes and you can even swap your hard drive into another computer with minimal fuss. You should only match the CPU architectures (32 or 64 bits) between your previous and new hardware.
XBMC media center, which initially aimed to be only the media player, is officially a part of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. That could be one of the reasons, why the Ubuntu minimal requirements are not well reflecting the DLNA media server’s needs during the video transcoding. Another reason is that those requirements are still minimal 😉
Only a few Linux media servers’ websites provide the approximate requirements for the processor and the memory. LXiMediaCenter requires at least a CPU supporting the SSE2 instructions set and 512Mb of RAM, MediaTomb says that Intel Core 2 Duo 2.9GHz CPU or better is required, XBMC requires a dual-core 2 GHz or better CPU.
The x264 HD video encoding benchmarks should help you roughly estimate your chosen CPU performance.
However, I would recommend finding some hardware with at least dual-core 2.8-3GHz CPU and 1GB RAM. In this case, some decent ex-Windows machine will do the job pretty well.
In my case, I am going to use Asus P2-MA690G, which I bought five years ago and is in my house from that time. It was bought originally as a barebone system, in which I had to install only AMD X2 6400+ CPU, 1GB RAM and hard drive. I replaced two hard drives during all those years because I was running it as 24/7. The 1st one was Samsung brand and the 2nd was Western Digital. Both were the desktop grade hard drives.
The air flow inside your server (old or new) is highly important. If it is not good enough, then the temperature inside your server case will increase. That will affect badly the very important hard drive life. I learnt this from barebone Asus and that was one of the reasons to have the hard drive replacements. I mainly paid the attention to the fancy look (at least five years ago) and hardware specs when I was buying Asus. As I discovered later, the air flow performance was poor.
If you want get more reliable and 24/7 optimized system, it is not worth to save on the storage. You could buy a server grade hard drive. The prices for them are approximately 30% higher compared to the desktop grade, but the server grade hard drives are far more suited to thermal changes and have an improved error recovery algorithm. You will not need any powerful graphical card because it is supposed to show you only shell.
At the beginning, you will have to setup a basic Ubuntu server.
You may consider some of the features from the following list:
- SSH (secure remote shell) for remote management of your home media server
- SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) for remote file download/upload from Internet
- Samba service as home file server for Windows PCs
- NFS (network file system) as home file server for Linux and Mac PCs
- DLNA (UPnP) as media streaming server for your clients