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How To Create A Windows 11 VM on Your Synology NAS

12 juillet 2021 à 01:10

How to Setup a Windows 11 VM on Your Synology NAS

As Many of you may have heard, Microsoft has formally announced that Windows 11 is coming and after several high-profile presentations and numerous published references online, you are now able to begin the formal process of testing this new operating system to see if it brings any impressive improvements to your existing Windows 10 machine. When it is fully released later this year, you will be able to purchase Windows 11 for your new PC build or upgrade from your existing copy of Windows and onto this new software revision. Many of us have horror stories of bench testing a new OS either in beta or alpha release form, as it can often result in our working processes and workflow to suddenly wobble and fall over. When it comes to testing an entire operating system, not just an individual application or service, it is highly recommended that instead of upgrading your existing system blind, that you choose to run this operating system as a virtual machine. Also more commonly referred to as a ‘VM’, it is a virtual equivalent of a regular PC. Although you still need a physical bare-metal computer to host this VM and software for it to live within, known as a hypervisor, a virtual machine is an incredibly small alternative to a standard computer with all of its hardware specifications merely being a fractional and digital version of the physical computer that it lives within. A virtual machine can exist as a duplicated virtual version of your physical computer or as an entirely new computer that allows you to bench test Windows updates and whole system versions like Windows 11 without putting your existing setup at risk.

Why use a Synology NAS to host a Windows 11 VM?

In the last few years, we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of people that are using a Synology NAS to host one or more virtual machines. Not only because a NAS can be remotely accessed locally via the network or anywhere in the world via the internet, but it features a dedicated virtual machine hypervisor software that allows the system to efficiently host multiple VM and allow users to simply connect via a single portal tunnel and deploy the VM for use. Additionally, NAS VM software such as Synology Virtual Machine Manager allows you to take snapshots to revert a VM to a previous version, configure hardware assets and resources on the system up/down to improve your VM/bare-metal server as needed and also allows you to duplicate virtual machines very quickly and turn one successful VM deployment into many. Therefore if you have a Synology NAS with available resources to spare, it makes a lot of sense to test out windows 11 on your NAS with its free and inclusive software.

What You Will Need to Run Windows 11 on Your Synology NAS as a VM

In order to deploy a Windows 11 virtual machine on your Synology NAS, you are going to need a few things. These include:

  • I Synology NAS, obviously. But a Synology NAS with at least a 4 core Intel or AMD 64-bit x86 processor and at least 4GB of memory
  • A Windows VM beta image. There are numerous methods online to get the windows 10 ISO image file that I will discuss in this guide, that there is also the option to get a Windows 11 licence code directly from their website as long as you have an existing and authenticated copy of Windows 10 available.
  • It is recommended that you have at least 50GB of storage available for the test and likely more if you want to give Windows 11 an extensive preview experience.
  • Ideally, a desktop or laptop computer in order to conduct the steps in setting up the VM as it is a little bit more tricky (the UI) to perform with just a mobile device like a phone or tablet.

That is about it, everything you need to deploy a Windows 11 VM on your Synology NAS will likely already be in your possession if you are reading this guide. I recommend at minimum that you should have a mass such as DS920+ or DS1621+ in order to install this VM and still have sufficient system resources to run the NAS simultaneously.

Setting Up the VM software on Your Synology NAS Drive

The first thing we need to do is set up the virtual machine manager software on your Synology NAS. If you already have Synology VMM (Synology Virtual Machine Manager) on your NAS, you can skip this step and head to the next one. Otherwise, head into the DSM GUI on the NAS and onto the app centre.

From here, scroll down and find or use the search box, for the Synology virtual machine manager tool. It should allow you to click within a single button and it may ask you to install further applications such as the replication tool and system tools, go ahead and allow these as these will help you run the virtual machine fluidly.

After the application is installed you need to open it from the available list of apps and before you can proceed with the tool you will be asked to quickly check that you have sufficient resources available on your NAS in CPU and memory, as well as the system asking if it can create a new virtual network switch configuration. Click ok and allow it to do this as it ensures that the windows 11 VM can access by the network and the internet after it is deployed. If successful, you will be greeted with the Synology virtual machine manager user interface with a list of options on the left-hand side of the screen and a few hints and tips displayed in the middle of the screen. Next, you will need to get a copy of Windows 11 beta which can arrive in numerous forms.

Setting Up the Windows 11 ISO Image

As mentioned earlier, Windows 11 is currently available from numerous sources across the internet (for example) and alongside the ability to download the digital image of the software, more commonly produced as an ISO (which can be mounted vertically or burnt to a physical DVD if you want to install Windows 11 on a physical computer instead). Alongside this, you can use your existing copy of Windows 10 to connect with the Windows beta program (shown above, by searching for ‘Windows Insider Programme‘ in the settings menu) and it will provide you with a Windows 11 licence and means with which to test Windows 11 on your existing system. There are numerous other methods online and a quick Google search will provide you with numerous download sites where you can get hold of Windows 11 beta. For this guide, I have downloaded Windows 11 beta as an ISO at 4.54GB. it downloads as a single file and this is the file that you will need to transfer over to the NAS.

Once you have downloaded your Windows 11 ISO, simply access your NAS file manager as you normally would and then drag and drop the windows 11 ISO file into a NAS directory that you have access to. Depending on your upload speed this can take from seconds to minutes, As soon as that is done, make your way back into the Synology virtual machine manager tool and continue with the installation of Windows 11 on your soon to be created brand new virtual machine.

Creating Your Synology Virtual Machine for Windows 11

Once you have made your way back into the Synology virtual machine manager application. Select the side bar option called ‘Image‘. 

At the top, you will find an option that allows you to add a new image. Select option and when prompted, select the option Synology NAS.

The list of available options on screen will be the ones that you have on your NAS and you just need to browse through the folders to find the one where you uploaded the windows 11 virtual machine ISO earlier. Click this ISO and then go-ahead to the next step.

Now head up to the top of the menu at ‘virtual machine’ and click create.

Then select the option for Microsoft Windows as the Virtual Machine Type

Then select the storage volume on your Synology NAS that you want the Windows 11 Virtual Machine to live/run-in

Next, You need to assign how much storage in GB/TB that you want the windows 11 Virtual Machine to use

Next, you need to assign the Windows 11 Virtual machine to a network. Synology Virtual Machine Creates a new virtual network when the software is installed, so you can use this or create a new one if you choose.

At this point, the virtual machine creation window will appear. You will need to assign CPU cores and Memory amounts to this VM. It is recommended that you dedicate at least 2 cores of your x86 64bit CPU and 2GB of memory, however, Windows 11 will run much, MUCH better if you can assign more hardware to this VM. Just remember that in order for the NAS to run smoothly (and there for the Virtual Machine Manager Hypervisor software to run well), you should leave sufficient CPU/Memory to the NAS.

From here you will need to connect the Windows 11 ISO/image you added earlier (should appear in a drop-down) and it is recommended that you use the Synology Windows Guest Driver ISO into the 2nd mounted drive too (as shown). You can also assign USB ports to the VM to allow you to connect devices physically to the NAS and then they will be accessible/visible to the Windows 11 VM.

Next you will need to let the Synology NAS know which users can access the Windows 11 VM. A list of the current NAS users/groups will appear and you can put a tick next to the users whose login credentials will allow access to this VM.

Then you need to confirm that the settings are correct, then you can confirm and the Synology Virtual Machine Manager will create the VM with the Windows 11 ISO/Image mounted for the first time setup.

When the Synology Virtual Machine manager displays the VM as available/powered off, you can power it on from the options at the top and connect to it in the web browser

When you connect to the VM at start up, much like a physical PC, the system will read from the mounted ISO/Image (as a normal PC would boot from the DVD drive to check from media) and you will boot straight into the Windows 11 installation screen.

If you are using the Windows 11 ISO/Image and do not have a product key, but still want to test out the Windows 11 system, you can click the option at the bottom to install without a licence.

Then just select the version of windows you want to install:

Then the area of storage you created in the VM setup on the Synology NAS will appear and you can select it to install the Windows 11 operating system on to.

From there installation will begin and it will be a relatively fast process, depending on the power of the VM resources you gave it and the speed of the storage media in your Synology NAS

After this, the VM will reboot and then go straight into the Windows 11 Setup tutorial

If you do not want to supply your Microsoft associated account details to this VM and Windows 11, you can do it without entering them by clicking the option to sign in another way

Then clicking the offline option:

Then just entering local/offline security information. However, do remember that this will limit some features of Windows 11 that require a Microsoft account.

Then you can proceed with the setup and the system will apply the settings you created:

The Windows 11 desktop will then be displayed and you can go ahead and have fun with your new VM

By default, Windows 11 will display via the web browser in a lower resolution (in case it cannot be displayed to users with older tech. But you can change this quickly by right-clicking and selecting display options

Then you can increase the resolution, which will make the screen bigger in your browser VM access too:

Additionally, if you want to access the VM OUTSIDE of the browser, the best way to do it is with the Remote Connection tool on a local PC:

And remember to keep an eye on memory and CPU use on your Synology NAS whilst the Windows 11 Virtual Machine is running

And there you have it. You now have a windows 11 VM on your Synology NAS hypervisor software:

 

If you have already installed Windows on a brand new computer before, then all of the steps necessary to install Windows are very familiar to you. Even then, you may need a refresher, so use the video below for my guide on how to set up Windows 101on a NAS after the virtual machine and ISO have been created. Although this guide is for Windows 11 on a Synology NAS, the steps for setting up a VM are are remarkably similar to other brands.

And there you have it, you can now test out Windows 11 as a virtual machine on your NAS without fear of it leading to problems on your existing Windows 10 PC. It is worth remembering that this is still a beta of Microsoft’s brand new operating system and therefore you can expect there to be a few hiccups along the way. Additionally, bear in mind that the performance of the VM will also be hinged in a big way on the hardware resources of your NAS and depending on the amount of resources you assigned to the VM ,and therefore the amount of resources you left to your NAS to run in the background will dictate how well Windows 11 will run. So do bear that in mind

 


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We want to keep the free advice on NASCompares FREE for as long as we can. Since this service started back in Jan '18, We have helped hundreds of users every month solve their storage woes, but we can only continue to do this with your support. So please do choose to buy at Amazon US and Amazon UK on the articles when buying to provide advert revenue support or to donate/support the site below. Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] Terms and Conditions Alternatively, why not ask me on the ASK NASCompares forum, by clicking the button below. This is a community hub that serves as a place that I can answer your question, chew the fat, share new release information and even get corrections posted. I will always get around to answering ALL queries, but as a one-man operation, I cannot promise speed! So by sharing your query in the ASK NASCompares section below, you can get a better range of solutions and suggestions, alongside my own.   This description contains links to Amazon. These links will take you to some of the products mentioned in today’s video. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases

Replacing your WD My Cloud NAS – Synology or QNAP NAS?

21 mai 2021 à 16:00

WD My Cloud NAS or Synology/QNAP?  Which Brand Should You Buy?

For many users, the first NAS they ever owned was the affordable and sturdy WD My Cloud NAS drive. From students and teachers to console gamers and small business, the WD My Cloud range of NAS devices was one of the earliest attempts by hardware manufacturers to bring the arguably tricky subject of home server ownership in an affordable and easy to use way. Indeed, in previous years I have recommended the WD My Cloud Pro P2100 and PR4100 NAS systems for use in Plex, low-level surveillance and prosumer home network storage. However, in the last few years brands like Synology and QNAP have absolutely dominated the home and small business NAS market with a large portfolio of solutions that effectively surpass the majority of WD NAS’ in every possible way. So, we sadly face the fact that given WD has not released a new generation of their My Cloud series for a number of years and desirability has begun to fall, many users are deciding on where to go with their data, whether it’s in a new NAS or upgrading on an older WD My Cloud system. Today I’m going to discuss which NAS brand you should choose when upgrading from a WD NAS and which manufacturer deserves your data.

Is WD My Cloud NAS Still Ok to Use?

It is important to highlight that this article is not about me saying the WD My Cloud range is bad, because it really isn’t and it is still one of the best bang for your buck NAS solutions you can buy right now in 2021 – as well as being remarkably user friendly for the first time NAS user! Additionally, with the majority of WD solutions arriving with bundled hard drives, a simple streamlined user interface and considerably better high street availability than any other brand, they are still a good solution. However, like most technology, the evolution and expectations in what it can do in the eyes of buyers change rapidly and although most other brands have pushed software and hardware innovation to some incredible lengths, the WD My Cloud NAS range has remained quite steadfast in its refusal to adapt. Although WD My Cloud is sturdy, safe, robust and makes no promises it cannot fulfil, in terms of what you can do with it and how you can evolve the system in its lifespan is tremendously limited. This along with some third party app brands not updating their applications for the WD NAS OS system has led to an increasing lack of support of these popular software platforms. Ultimately, the majority of people reading this are owners of a WD My Cloud NAS that are now looking to upgrade to something with a little more future-proofing and modern innovation. However, don’t overlook the fact that you can still use your WD My Cloud NAS as another tier of your backup strategy, by synchronising over the network or internet with numerous application methods available from WD themselves and others brands. 

Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Software – Synology

Unsurprisingly, if you have been researching the subject of NAS and thinking of upgrading from a WD My Cloud NAS, then the name ‘Synology’ and its incredible software will almost certainly have appeared on your radar. Although the brand is not as establish or steeped in years as Western Digital, Synology is still over 20-years old and has produced hundreds of NAS solutions in their portfolio. The main difference between Synology and WD when it comes to NAS software is twofold. The first major difference is the first party software on offer. WD and it’s NAS OS have surprisingly thin software add-ons available, with most of the system abilities being classed more as day-to-day services – RAID functionality, USB backups, synchronised backups and low-level account control. WD-OS is very functional but it has not changed much in the last 5-6 years in terms of innovation and most of its key abilities are considered rather rudimentary in 2021/2022. Synology on the other hand includes its DSM (Diskstation Manager) software platform with every NAS, which is is the equivalent of an entire operating system comparable to a desktop OS that can be accessed via the web browser and numerous mobile apps. The Synology supports all of the services that the WD My Cloud does, but has also evolved every one of them into a central data ecosystem. The range of first-party services, applications and add-ons that Synology provide are extensive and cover surveillance, virtual machine deployment, intelligent multi-tier backups, bespoke email server deployment and more. Alongside this, DSM also provides applications that attempt to wrestle the user away from third-party desktop client apps for business. Examples include Synology Chat that serves as an alternative to Skype, Synology Office which serves as an alternative to Google Docs/Office 365, Synology Video Station is a popular alternative to Plex Media Server as well as an alternative to the slick and easy UI of Google Drive and Dropbox with Synology Drive. The evolution of Synology software where is genuinely unparallel and although QNAP is always getting closer, it is still going to be very impressive for the end-user when switching away from WD My Cloud NAS OS to DSM.

The second reason that the Synology NAS software platform is significantly superior to the WD NAS software is the support of third-party applications. WD NAS OS does have access to a small apps centre that includes easy installation of a few third-party applications. Although the majority of these have been all but abandoned in terms of updates and utility in recent years, one popular 3rd party application that most users a few years ago purchased the WD My Cloud NAS for was Plex media server. However updates on the Plex media server application on the WD NAS platform have slowed down and because this is a third-party application, you are heavily reliant on the manufacturer to develop updates for the WD NAS platform – something that has become increasingly less frequent from 2020 onwards. Synology NAS on the other hand supports significantly more third-party applications in it’s app center, as well as numerous custom apps that can be installed manually. There is certainly a few bits of bloatware in this application centre that can be overlooked, but nevertheless, there is still a good 30-40x third-party applications here that are worth your time and updated with more frequency than those found on the WD NAS platform. Equally, as the popularity of Synology NAS has increased, so has the amount of time that developers have spent on both the first and third-party applications for this platform and this combined with the improvements in mobile applications has led to the Synology NAS range being wildly superior to that of WD NAS My Cloud in software. Add to this that Synology also provides the option of BTRFS as a filesystem choice option with its file self-healing and lower resource-consuming snapshot creation, as well as the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) configuration for allowing mixed hard drive capacities, and the Synology NAS software is easily the preferred upgrade choice for those moving away from the WD My Cloud NAS platform for apps and services.

Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Performance – QNAP

The performance of a NAS drive will often be dictated by both the internal and external hardware available. The quantity and number of hard drives you install inside will always provide something of a performance boost, but overall the performance will always be dictated by the primary components that the brand chooses to use and the external connectivity that a system features by default. Each one of the WD My Cloud range of devices are very efficient, make the most of the hardware inside and are designed for smooth running with little or no intervention by the end-user at any point. However, it has to be said that the hardware featured inside pales in comparison to that of QNAP alternatives in the last few years. With the WD My Cloud series largely concentrating on an Intel Pentium processor from 2015/16, alongside several ARM processors in 32-bit and 64-bit, they are certainly comparable to a number of QNAP NAS systems in the TS-X31K, TS-51D and TS-53D Series. Unfortunately, they soon get surpassed in comparison to the wide array of more modern processors available in QNAP desktop systems that can range from Pentium Gold, Newer Gen Celeron and Ryzen, to Intel Core i5, i7 and Xeon. This disparity also extends to the memory available, with most WD My Cloud systems arriving with between 1-2GB of memory that cannot be upgraded – where has QNAP arrive with vast memory upgrade options and many models arriving with 4GB and 8GB by default.

The difference between QNAP and WD My Cloud is made even more clear when you learn that the majority of QNAP NAS systems also include M2 storage upgrade slots internally that allow you to install SSD in SATA or NVMe that can be used for an area of superfast storage, tiered storage for data to be scanned and moved to the most appropriate media source or for caching to allow frequently access data to be copied over to the SSD for improved performance in the files that need it most. Although the use of SSDs for intelligent caching is by no means a new feature of NAS, it is still something that WD My Cloud NAS has yet to integrate and something that QNAP NAS has applied to the majority of their hardware portfolio. So, with both the baseline level of hardware AND the upgradability of the internal hardware found in a QNAP NAS to be better than that found in WD My Cloud NAS, it’s a great upgrade for those that are interesting in improved internal performance in their next NAS purchase.

Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Connectivity – QNAP

The connectivity between the network-attached storage device and your local network hardware environment will massively dictate the speed at which your client devices can access your data for home or business use. Although there are a handful of more enterprise-level WD NAS solutions available, all of the WD My Cloud Feature 1Gbe with no means with which to upgrade that connectivity. Some NAS in the My Cloud range are a little better with dual 1Gbe RJ45 connections, but even then this is a small all edition that in 2021/2022 is less desirable than it once was. However if you are looking for the best possible external connectivity in a modern NAS when choosing from or upgrading from a WD My Cloud NAS, then QNAP have easily the best selection of external connectivity on even their modest hardware solutions available.

Rear of the WD My Cloud Pro PR4100

Rear of the QNAP TS-453D 4-Bay

Even on the 1/2-bay NAS solutions, you can find 2.5Gbe connectivity on a number of QNAP solution, which then scales progressively throughout their portfolio to multiple 2.5Gbe connections, 5Gbe connections and 10Gbe very easily while still maintaining a price point that remains compatible with that of even the biggest WD My Cloud solution. Then you have the fact that a number of QNAP solutions can be upgraded via PCIe or USB upgrade adaptors for more numerous external connectivity or at the enterprise level with larger bandwidth connections such as 25Gbe and 40Gbe of PCIe Gen 3 NICs for just a few £100s. Finally, there is the growing collection of Thunderbolt 3 equipped NAS systems from QNAP that allow a marginally more plug-and-play connection between the NAS and a thunderbolt 3 USB-C equipped client device. Ultimately QNAP NAS wildly outpaces the WD My Cloud range in terms of external connectivity and is arguably better for its external bandwidth than most NAS brands on the market today.

Better Alternative to WD My Cloud for Plex – Synology

As mentioned at the start of this article, many users purchased the WD My Cloud Pro NAS system as it was remarkably proficient at Plex Media Server, thanks to its choice of Pentium Processor and hardware transcoding in Plex as standard utilization. However, due to Plexnot frequently updating the WD NAS Media Server application in line with how the platform has evolved over time, the WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 and PR4100 have grown increasingly less proficient at Plex Media Server, leading to guides and support walkthroughs being needed to bridge the gap more informally and this has been one of the largest driving force for users wishing to trade away from a WD NAS and onto something a little more modern. When it comes to buying a NAS that is primarily used for Plex media server, for the sheer simplicity and Performance it is hard to argue with a Synology NAS as a better Plex media server. Although many would argue that a QNAP NAS would serve as a better Plex media server due to a higher class of CPU, the Synology NAS platform tends to get more out of the hardware at any given time in terms of efficiency which for most users and Plex media server is highly desirable for a stress-free, set up and forget architecture.

Here is my FULL Guide on Synology NAS for Plex in 2021 (Click Below):

The performance of Plex media server on a Synology NAS when compared with that of a WD My Cloud NAS though is not quite as clear-cut as you might like though. For a start, in order to take advantage of hardware transcoding on the Synology, you are going to need a paid Plex Pass, which may come as a real disappointment given that earlier revisions of Plex media server on the WD My Cloud allow Plex to use this CPU and hardware transcoding for free by default. However, the performance of this older Pentium in hardware transcoding is of a similar level to the software transcoding of the much newer Celeron found in the Synology recent diskstation releases – so this advantage can be largely negated. One final point that, although not applicable to everyone is still worth considering when looking at a NAS for Plex media server, is how the system utilises the hardware resources available between both the Plex application, other software services and the system in general. Plex media server in its recent 1.23 version consumes the majority of the hardware available on the WD My Cloud Pro system with even modest playback of 1080p media and is all but consumed by 4K files, leaving little or no resources for the rest of the NAS and it’s applications. The majority of Synology Plus Series Diskstation NAS systems, by comparison, thanks to using more modern hardware architecture and upgradeability in their design result in a smaller percentage of resource consumption buy Plex media server and therefore more fuel in the tank for other services too.

Better Alternative to WD My Cloud for Business – Synology

When network-attached storage was in its infancy, it was presented as a means for prosumers and small-medium business users to have an alternative to subscription-based Cloud services (DropBox, Google Drive, etc) with improved customizable security and larger capacities. Due to the nature of data and how it is the centre of all kinds of business in the last few decades, the idea of a business having its own server is hardly a new thing, given the importance of data retention and GDPR. However, the expectations from a business in what a server can do at even the most modest level have grown rapidly and a simple hard drive connected to the internet will simply not do! As mentioned earlier, the software available on the WD NAS OS platform is starting to look a little underwhelming in 2021, whereas Synology has invested heavily in software development for the NAS systems likely more than any other brand. This extends to more than the brand trying to ape popular business software and extends to numerous business class advantages and functions in even the comparatively small hardware options by comparison.

A business user already knows that a Synology NAS will be able to store the data in a centralised manner. However, Synology DSM also features business class surveillance with the Surveillance Station 8 platform that can easily rival that of enterprise-class NVR/CCTV utilities like Milestone. There is also the Active Backup Suite software that is included with every Synology NAS that is a licence free multi-platform backup and synchronisation tool that extends from NAS and server utilisation to Office 365 and Google workspace platforms. Moving forward there is also the Synology Virtual Machine Manager platform that not only allows you to deploy VM (virtual machine) images directly from your NAS, but also allows synchronisation and third party software OS migration from the likes of VMware and Hyper-V in just a handful of clicks. Thanks to services like these used in conjunction with the first party communication tools such as Synology Chat and Synology Mail, spreadsheet and document editing with Synology Office and even data pinning and on-the-fly streaming locally with Synology Drive for Mac and Windows – Synology provide an extensive range of business tools in their NAS software that is still a few steps ahead of practically any other brand.

Should I Choose Synology or QNAP NAS?

So, if you have reached this far in the article, you are likely wondering whether you should switch from a WD My Cloud NAS towards either a Synology or QNAP NAS? It’s a valid question, as both brands (especially in recent years) managed to carve their own very distinct design, the priority of build and available utilities for different end-users. Synology will always be the software optimized choice over hardware (60/40) and manages to get the very most possible out of comparatively less hardware in their own first-party applications. QNAP NAS on the other hand has more of a hardware focus (again 60/40) which means that they have a better 1t and 3rd party hardware balance when it comes to using their system in your environment. Synology is a solution that wants you to do things its way and in return gives you a smooth if safe and predictable outcome. QNAP NAS manages to be exceedingly customizable and adaptable and for those who take the time to tweak it, setup it up from scratch or adapt it to their 3rd party environment, can achieve much better results overall. Below is two videos that focus on each brand and key consideration on QNAP and Synology before you buy. Take a look:

 

Choosing A NAS – Need More Help?

So, those were the key considerations for those looking to buy a new NAS or looking to upgrade/migrate from an older NAS Drive. However, there is still so much that you may need to know to range from operating system compatibility, how to connect the NAS in the best way, ideal software and the best backup methods. If you still need help choosing the NAS solution for your needs, use the NASCompares free advice section below. It is completely free, is not a subscription service and is manned by real humans (two humans actually, me and Eddie). We promise impartial advice, recommendations based on your hardware and budget, and although it might take an extra day or two to answer your question, we will get back to you.

 


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Visit the NASCompares Deal Finder to find the best place to buy this device in your region, based on Service, Support and Reputation - Just Search for your NAS Drive in the Box Below

 

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Need Advice on Data Storage from an Expert?

We want to keep the free advice on NASCompares FREE for as long as we can. Since this service started back in Jan '18, We have helped hundreds of users every month solve their storage woes, but we can only continue to do this with your support. So please do choose to buy at Amazon US and Amazon UK on the articles when buying to provide advert revenue support or to donate/support the site below. Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] Terms and Conditions Alternatively, why not ask me on the ASK NASCompares forum, by clicking the button below. This is a community hub that serves as a place that I can answer your question, chew the fat, share new release information and even get corrections posted. I will always get around to answering ALL queries, but as a one-man operation, I cannot promise speed! So by sharing your query in the ASK NASCompares section below, you can get a better range of solutions and suggestions, alongside my own.  

 

Plex vs Emby on your NAS Drive – Which Should You Choose For Your Media Server

14 mai 2021 à 01:03

Choosing Between Plex and Emby on a NAS in 2021/2022

Despite the fact that network-attached storage NAS has a vast number of services and utilities for home and business use, many users predominantly use their NAS for a media server. From streaming multimedia to numerous devices in the home, to sharing their entertainment collection with friends and family worldwide, the advantages in using a NAS as a centralised location for all of your movies, box sets, music and photos are pretty obvious. Many users choose to buy a NAS as a viable alternative to streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime video in order to watch the media they own, rather than pay monthly for media they can only rent without choice. In recent years, creating a private media server with your own collections of TV shows and more has become increasingly easy and even manages to provide the slick, detailed and appealing design of internet streaming giants. Two of the biggest media server applications for NAS drives in 2021 are Plex and Emby, two free media server applications set are available 4 pretty much all the client and playback devices in your home, your bag and your pocket worldwide. Both services not only package your own media in the most appealing way possible, but also the connections to online media databases and the scraping of metadata can allow you to transform your decades of multimedia into your very own personal Netflix. However, each kind of media server application for NAS has its own advantages and disadvantages, with some people preferring the more user-friendly plex or the more customisable Emby. Today I want to compare the Emby and Plex media server programs for NAS and figure out which one is best for your own personal multimedia collection.

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Installation

After you have set up your NAS for the very first time, you will have the option to install more applications on your device and make the most of all of those terabytes of storage you have to play with. Both Plex and Emby are completely free applications that are supported by the majority of modern NAS brands, with installation being possible within minutes. However, it is worth highlighting that although Plex media server is an available application in practically all NAS app centres from Synology, QNAP to Asustor and WD, Emby in most instances needs to be downloaded directly from the official website and then installed manually in the NAS system software. This is by no means difficult and only adds around a minute to the initial installation, but the result is that many users are not even aware that they can use Emby due to its apparent absence on most NAS application stores.

After its initialisation, both the Plex and Emby media server software will ask you the location of the media on your NAS, categorise it by type, configure how much metadata scraping and from which sources you want the media server software to perform it. Metadata is crucial in how the media server software creates a beautifully graphical user interface of thumbnails, media descriptions, cast lists, reviews and just overall makes your multimedia collection into your very own fully-featured personal streaming service! However one of the earliest differences between the Emby and Plex media server software is that Emby allows you to scrape from multiple sources at once and then it will select the best result for your media (so, a larger capture area), whereas Plex asks you to choose one source from several choices and then pull the metadata from that single source. There are exceptions in some of the background data that Plex pulls from multiple metadata sources, but in the majority of cases and where graphical details are considered, you have less flexibility in Plex than you have in Emby.

Once your media collections are complete and metadata scanned and applied, you can create multiple users to connect with your media server and stream those lovely box sets and movies. Another early advantage of Emby media server free version is that it allows you to create multiple users on a single NAS that each have a custom level of media access and NAS control. This allows you to share the contents of your NAS with some users but prevent them from changing all or accidentally deleting any of your content. Plex media server has this but unfortunately is part of the premium Plex pass service that requires an additional fee.

Overall I think it is safe to say that the initial installation is definitely easier and a lot more straightforward on the Plex media server application, however, the Emby media server application is a great deal more customisable and arrives with numerous features at the setup that are either absent on Plex or require a paid subscription. 

Plex vs Emby Media Server – User interface

The difference in the user interface of your media server NAS depending on whether you use Plex or Emby is notable, but more on a backend/server level. The actual front-end that connected clients use when browsing your multimedia on their phones, Amazon Fire TV, consoles and more is is quite similar with each type of media being clearly distinguishable and the scraped metadata immediately doing its job to create a smooth, slick and intuitive user interface for your connected users and devices. Indeed, logos aside and use of green vs orange, the UI for a connected client/user is largely the same.

However, the back-end where you customise your Plex or Emby media server, adjust user privileges, produce Analytics, adapt the system behaviour and just generally control your entire media server are very different indeed. Plex media server is the slightly more user-friendly option of the two, as you might have expected. The areas related to users, the server, file handling and connected services are all clearly indicated and although the number of configurable options on Plex is a fraction lighter than those found in Emby, they are easy to follow and for the most part, do not require any kind of technical understanding.

Where options can become technical in areas of DLNA configurations, port forwarding, checking on system resources and monitoring connected devices, Plex has hidden most of the technical aspects behind an ‘advanced tab’ option. As you might expect, some more useful and popular aspects are only accessible with the Plex pass subscription and although most of these can be ignored, the fact they hid the task manager, adding multiple users and system resource monitor behind a subscription service seems a little mean to me

Emby by comparison throws a whole lot of options and choices at you immediately when entering the system & software settings of this media server. If you have ever used the back end of a WordPress website, then the general server admin user interface will seem very familiar. Although much like Plex, it also provides an advanced tab that hides some information deemed more technical from the user, even the standard options and configurations of Emby are a few steps above the novice tier and despite descriptions and clarifications of what each setting is for are available, can still be a tad intimidating for those less tech-savvy. Emby media server makes up for this by being incredibly adaptable and if you are willing to take the time to configure it and navigate each of the settings available, you can easily create a farmer custom and ultimately better media server for your needs.

Overall I prefer the flexibility and customisation found in the Emby media server over that of Plex because it allows a wider degree of customization to the end-user. Little options such as saving metadata and grouped media background files locally to the NAS in custom locations to be used in other ways (info files too for other media players and resources). Then you have the much more open worldwide supported functionality towards subtitles and metadata downloading where you can be more regionally specific to your needs and wider simultaneous support of metadata sources at once means that although the Plex media server is incredibly user-friendly by comparison, after a while the advantages of the Emby system become abundantly clear. You should take the time to learn your way around your new media server with Emby.

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Client Applications

Although both Plex and Emby are available as media server applications for multiple NAS host platforms, in order to watch and enjoy the multimedia on your NAS, you will need to utilise the client applications of each software. The majority of modern internet-accessible household entertainment devices have access to either their own dedicated app centre (Google Play Store, iTunes, etc) or provide the ability to manually install third-party applications. Both the Emby and Plex multimedia client apps are available for numerous hand-held, desktop, home cinema and console platforms. However, Plex has by far the larger coverage of these devices and the majority of devices in your home probably have access to the Emby client app but certainly have access to Plex.

The advantage that Plex has in client support is further improved by the fact that a number of key devices do not feature the Emby client app in their native app centre, leading to many users having to manually install the application (mentioned earlier). It’s a very small distinction and one that generally has little to no impact in the grand scheme of things, but many devices will ask you to confirm and accept liability when installing applications from outside of their official app centres. This can all too often make users give Emby a miss and stick with the presented security that the Plex client app provides. Overall Plex most certainly winds in terms of client support and availability over Emby.

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Playback

Once you have your Plex/Emby media server NAS ready and installed all the proprietary clients on your entertainment devices, the next big deciding factor is simply going to be playback. The performance of your NAS multimedia server is something that theoretically you should NEVER think about and if a media server is doing its job properly, you should never notice any performance problems. As both Plex and Emby media server are third party applications (i.e neither have 1st party hardware and rely on a NAS or custom PC server build for installation) this leads to an additional layer between the software and the server hardware that does all of the tricky media handling, transcoding and tweaking to ensure that the multimedia client applications playback faultlessly. So, it is worth mentioning that technically, both Plex and Emby will never outperform the native NAS video application on the hardware itself (see Synology Video Station vs Plex/Emby videos below).

Generally, if either Plex or Emby is installed and deployed on a NAS system, they will playback files pretty much the same and any differences between them is barely noticeable in the case of playing back media in its original file format. The user interface of the player as well as the location and navigation on both media software clients is intuitive and everything is where you might expect it to be. One small difference between them that is worth a brief mention is that Emby has a stats for nerds button that allows real-time playback and media information to be displayed on the screen. This is an incredibly niche and largely overlooked feature, but still pretty cool for those that want to know the quality of the multimedia they are watching.

In the event that you need to adapt files to be better suited to destination device hardware, network strength and screen size, the system will need to utilise transcoding. As mentioned, if you are using older client hardware, using a device with fewer supported formats, streaming over a more limited connection or just generally want to view a more compressed version of a file, both Plex and Emby support this functionality. However, both media server platforms only provide software transcoding in the free versions and in order to take advantage of hardware transcoding (i.e use the NAS system embedded graphics or a graphics card) you will need 2 views Plex Pass or Emby Premiere on a monthly subscription. Nevertheless, in testing when trying to play HEVC/H.265 10bit files that required transcoding or forcing the system to transcode files on the fly, the Emby application was notably the more responsive and executed these transcoding actions marginally quicker on almost every occasion (even with just software transcoding). Both platforms allow the numerous different transcoding formats to choose from but Plex would take those extra few seconds longer to continue playing the file after each instruction. It’s a small edge, but the Emby Media Server did do a slightly quicker job which will likely be felt in exceedingly high format media (whilst still considering the base level NAS hardware of course).

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Metadata Scraping & Plugins

The thing that sets Plex and Emby media players apart from regular DLNA multimedia streaming and basic file servers is the awesome graphical user interface that ultimately allows you to turn your bog-standard decades of multimedia collected over the years into your very own personal high-quality media centre. Premium media server applications like Plex and Emby are able to utilise resources found on numerous film and TV databases such as IMDb and then use this to present your own collections alongside box art, descriptions, cost lists, published reviews and even trailers. The information gathered from these third-party databases for use in Plex and Emby media servers is known as metadata and the act of collecting the appropriate resources for your personal collection is known as scraping. Despite their similarities, these two media server programs approach the subject of metadata scraping slightly differentially and the resulting implementation makes a difference on your media server. 

Plex media server has access to all of the usual official TV and movie online databases, as well as review sites and casting information. It also has access to some third-party and unofficial databases that allow users to have a more bespoke user interface on your Plex media server. Likewise, the Emby media server has access to practically the exact same resources for all of this metadata. However, the big difference is that whereas Emby allows you to aggregate and apply metadata from all of these sources at the same time (with the system prioritizing metadata from multiple sources for a single media file by priority of source), Plex asks you to select just one source for that metadata for it to scrape at any time for each category. This is a small but significant difference as it ensures that more obscure media in your collection has a higher chance of having its metadata found and applied automatically. 

If your collection is made up of popular classic media and all from reputable sources, then this will be little or no difference for you as Plex will no doubt find all of the metadata appropriate to your media. However, if you have slightly harder to come by media in your collection (older recordings of non publicly released content that has been found on older film forums and Reddit sharing for example), unique versions or simply multimedia that is formatted in a less common way, you are far likely to find the metadata applied initially on an Emby based setup overall. 

Emby is made significantly more attractive when it comes to custom content over Plex when you also factor in plugins. Services from data and coverage upgrades, the IP TV streaming, add-on media services and smart home upgrades are available to be downloaded and installed on the Emby Media server in it’s very own app/plug-in center. Plex Media server seems to have largely abandoned this feature (available in a more open form in earlier versions of plex and now largely cut off) in favour of connecting plex with numerous online content sources for shows and movies, though many question the appeal of this as they are not exactly premium service and ones that can still be accessed online easily outside of plex. There are newer innovations for Plex (such as the recent Plex Arcade from emulation service at an additional cost) but these are all seemingly paid extras or small diversion services that Emby provides in a better way in the plug-in center.

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Free Vs Paid

Both Plex and Emby require you to create an account with the respective media server developer. This allows you to access long-term software updates, access numerous software add-ons and also enables remote access over the internet to your NAS multimedia server collection. Both Plex and Emby media server do not require any kind of payment to use the base-level services and features of their programs, but both platforms have a premium level subscription service for around £5-10 a month that allows access to more fully-featured services and functionality, such as hardware transcoding, trailers and more.

VS

Now, it is important to highlight that you do NOT need a paid/premium account for Plex or Emby in order to enjoy all the main range of services on offer. In most cases, the Plex Pass and Emby Premiere add ons are related to things that require 3rd party services, are something that only a small % users might use or are genuinely things that have seemingly required technical/design implementation in the media server platform. However, that still does not make them ALL justified and overall. Here is a breakdown of which services are included on Emby and Plex that are either Free or Paid:

X = It is included in the appropriate FREE/PAID service

Feature Plex Emby
Free Plex Pass (PAID) Free Premiere (PAID)
Camera Upload X X
Remote Streaming X X
Local Streaming X X
Full Playback (Local & Remote) Web App, Non-mobile Android (Fire TV, Android TV), Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs, TiVO, and Game Consoles Mobile Android and iOS Apps – require Unlock fee or Plex Pass Web App, Roku, Apple TV, Smart TVs Android (including Fire TV, Android TV), iOS, Emby Theater, Game Consoles – require unlock fee or Premiere
Media Optimizer X X
Hardware Transcoding X X
Live TV X X
DVR X X
Mobile/Folder Sync X X
Multiple Users X X
Parental Controls X X
Photo Albums X
Lyrics X
Library Sharing X More Options X
Trailers and Extras X X
Cloud Sync
Multiple Users X (All accounts except Managed Users require Plex online account.) X (All accounts are local. Emby connect account is optional)
Smart Home Unofficially Alexa and Google Assistant
Other Content Movies, TV, Web Shows, Podcasts, and News Podcasts

Even at a casual glance, it is abundantly clear that the bulk of the services that are on offer from Plex is either ONLY available in the paid Plex Pass tier OR are only available in a more limited/streamlined capacity at the free tier. This also applies to Emby too in a number of key areas too, however, there are certainly some odd choices. Hardware Transcoding (which requires the software to understand the complexity of many hardware platforms) is understandably only in the paid version of Emby and Plex, however the fact that the dashboard resource monitor AND ability to add more users requires the paid subscription service on Plex is a little harder to justify!

The 2021/2022 Price of a Plex Pass Subscription

Parental controls on Plex being locked behind a paywall is also a little disappointing too, especially when cross-referencing the certification and suitability of media in your collection via metadata must arguably be very easy indeed. Emby is by no means perfect though, with the client application for game consoles not being in the free tier being a real shame. However, taking everything into account, when it comes to both the free AND paid services on each media server, I think Emby and Emby Premiere give you more than Plex and Plex Pass on your NAS system.

The 2021/2022 Price of a Emby Premiere Subscription

Plex vs Emby Media Server – Conclusion

Both Plex media server and Emby media server for NAS are great applications that manage to give you that great feeling of owning your very own Netflix style streaming service, however as good as Plex is, it is arguable gotten a little too comfortable as the de-facto media server of choice in the last few years and allowed a few more fringe services like Emby and the slightly more technical Jellyfin to close in and (in some ways) surpass them. With Plex trying to merge more entertainment streams into their service (3rd party online sources, podcasting, emulated games roms, etc) they might have lost their focus a little and in doing so make their platform less immediately desirable to the new NAS media server user. Emby is still a media server service for NAS that has a few early hurdles for some (either by its absence in the default app center of your NAS brand, or the more layered setup options on day one, but if you are happy to spend a little more time at setup, Emby will most certainly allow you to create the better Media Server solution on your NAS in 2021/2022.

 

Choosing A NAS – Need More Help?

So, those were the key considerations for those looking to buy a new NAS or looking to upgrade/migrate from an older NAS Drive. However, there is still so much that you may need to know to range from operating system compatibility, how to connect the NAS in the best way, ideal software and the best backup methods. If you still need help choosing the NAS solution for your needs, use the NASCompares free advice section below. It is completely free, is not a subscription service and is manned by real humans (two humans actually, me and Eddie). We promise impartial advice, recommendations based on your hardware and budget, and although it might take an extra day or two to answer your question, we will get back to you.

 


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