Fine Tuning Media Center 7 – Media Storage

There are several ways to create a media ‘store’ with an HTPC-

  • Store everything on a single local drive (this drive will also hold the OS)
  • Store everything on a network share
  • Store everything on a second local drive
  • Store everything on an external USB\eSATA drive

I think the last 2 options provide the easiest and best solutions – especially for large amounts of media. The problem with storing everything on a single local drive, and I’ve experienced this first-hand, is if the OS fails, or you want to upgrade…ensuring that the media is preserved is tricky. You will also take a performance hit in this scenario being that the single drive is also the System drive.

Storing everything on a network share does get rid of the reliance on a single hard drive, but it’s still a bit tricky. When I had the HTPC setup this way, accessing the music library, for example, took FOREVER – it was almost like the system had to re-index the files everytime the system booted…granted that was for a HUGE music library…but still. This may be alleviated by storing the media on a file server with search service installed so that the server indexes everything for you – but I don’t have any first hand experience with this.

A dedicated drive for media is the way to go. This is how our HTPC is currently setup, and has been so for some time – it is an internal drive as opposed to external. I started with a 250GB drive, then purchased a 750GB drive – and recently it was getting quite full- there was only about 120GB free. This may seem like a lot, but when you record HD shows, storage space runs out quick!

More recently, the media drive began to show signs of failure – more details here. Fortunately, I was still able to access the drive so I did not lose and recorded TV shows. I went and purchased a replacement drive: 1.5TB for probably the same price, or lower than the 750GB drive! Once I had all of the media copied over, I installed the drive. Here’s a few notes about the Media Library locations in Media Center:

  • If you have to replace a drive, try not to let the system see that the drive is gone while you replace it – meaning- shut the system down with the old drive still working\installed, copy to the new drive, then install and boot the system with the new drive. Things seem to get weird if Media Center sees that media is missing
  • If the above is not possible, give the new drive a different drive letter than the previous drive. Doing this will eliminate the chance of weirdness – but you will need to go into the Media Library locations in Media Center, and remove the old locations with the old drive letter, add the new locations, and let Media Center pick up all of your media again.
  • ***If you use a large SATA disk (1TB or larger) you may run into an issue if you put the system to sleep. Upon waking the system, the large drive may not show in explorer – so all of your media will be unavailable. This has to do with the amount of time that the disk takes to have a ready status after waking up – the larger disks may take longer than the system expects to be ready. There is a hotfix available and it has seemed to resolve the issue- as I experienced this first hand with the new 1.5TB drive.

Another way to improve performance – especially in regard to Live TV\DVR functionality is to put the pause buffer on an SSD. This requires creating a symbolic link to the pause buffer directory that points to the SSD drive letter. Once I get my hands on an SSD, I will post the details.

Having the pause buffer on an SSD will greatly decrease the life of the SSD (depending on how much TV you watch or record). A better way to do this would be a large USB thumb drive or a RAM drive.

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