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Manage Digital Media in Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Published: August 21, 2012

Updated: March 26, 2014

Applies To: Windows Server 2012 Essentials

The following topics discuss the media streaming features of your server, and explain how to set up and use media streaming on your network.

noteNote
By default, the media streaming functionality is unavailable in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 R2 with the Windows Server Essentials Experience role installed. To add the media streaming functionality in these versions, download and install the Windows Server Essentials Media Pack from the Microsoft Download Center.

Digital media refers to audio, video, and photo content that has been encoded (digitally compressed). Encoding content involves converting audio and video input to a digital media file such as a Windows Media file. After digital media is encoded, it can be easily manipulated, distributed, and played by computers, and it is easily transmitted over computer networks.

Examples of digital media types include: Windows Media Audio (WMA), Windows Media Video (WMV), MP3, JPEG, and AVI. For information about the digital media types that are supported by Windows Media Player, see File types supported by Windows Media Player.

Many people store music, video, and pictures in shared folders in Windows Server 2012 Essentials. There may be times when you want to do the following:

  • Watch videos. Your server can be used to store and stream large collections of videos and recorded TV shows to your computers or other playback devices on your network. You can stream videos to an Xbox 360 or to a computer by using Windows Media Player.

  • Play music. When you turn on Media Sharing for the Music shared folder, you can access your music from devices that support Windows Media Connect. You do not need to enable or configure any user accounts to stream from the Music shared folder after sharing is turned on.

  • Present photo slide shows. You can store your digital photos in the Photos shared folder on your server and then access them from any computer or from an Xbox 360 that is connected to a TV in your home or office. You can watch photo slide shows, which is like turning your TV into a large picture frame.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials does not support sharing copy-protected media. This includes music that is purchased through an online music store.

Copy-protected media can be played back only on the computer or device that you used to purchase it. Copy protection prevents you from playing media on more than one computer or device, even if you copy the media to your server and play it from there. However, you can store the copy-protected media on Windows Server 2012 Essentials and continue to play back the media on the computer or device that you used to purchase it.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials makes it possible to perform common administrative tasks by using the Windows Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard. The Media tab of the server Settings page of the Dashboard provides the following:

 

Section Functionality

Media server

The Turn on/Turn off button enables you to turn media streaming on or off.

Video streaming quality

The drop-down arrow enables you to choose the video streaming quality of the videos that are played from the server.

Media library

Displays the name of the media library. The default name of the library is called Digital Media Library, which is created when you turn on media streaming. To change the media library name, see Rename the media library. You can click Customize to customize the folders that are shared into the media library.

 

For more information, see Allow or restrict access to a media library on the server and Sharing copy-protected media.

The media streaming feature in Windows Server 2012 Essentials makes it possible for networked computers and some networked digital media devices to play digital media files that are stored on the server.

When you turn the media server on, content that you share in the media libraries will be available for play on devices on your network that are capable of receiving streaming media from your server. You can stream most types of digital media files. Some of the more common types of files that you can stream include:

  • Windows Media formats (.asf, .wma, .wmv, .wm)

  • Audio Visual Interleave (.avi)

  • Moving Pictures Experts Group (.mpeg, .mpg, .mp3)

  • Audio for Windows (.wav)

  • CD Audio Track (.cda)

To play a file, simply locate a song, video, or picture in a shared folder, double-click the file, and the content will stream from the server to your computer and play. For information about how to find and play the digital media files that are stored on the server, see Play Digital Media in Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

To stream your media, you need the following hardware:

  • A wired or wireless private network

  • Either another computer on your network or a device known as a digital media receiver (sometimes called a networked digital media player). Digital media receivers are hardware devices connected to your wired or wireless network that you can control by using your computer—even if your computer is in another room.

For more information, see Turn media streaming on or off.

You can share music, videos, and pictures from Windows Server 2012 Essentials by streaming files to any supported digital media receiver (DMR) such as computers, mobile phones, televisions, digital media receivers, extenders for Windows Media Center (including Xbox 360), and other personal electronic devices.

For a current list of digital media devices that are compatible with Windows Server 2012 Essentials, see the Windows Compatibility Center.

To share the media that is stored in Windows Server 2012 Essentials, you need to turn on media streaming. Media streaming is turned off by default.

  1. Open the Windows Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard.

  2. Click Settings, click Media, and then do one of the following:

    • Click Turn on to start sharing all of the files that are stored in the Media Library of the server.

    • Click Turn off to stop sharing all of the files that are stored in the Media Library of the server.

  3. If you want share additional folders in the Media Library, click Customize, and then select Yes for each shared folder that you want to include in the Media Library.

  4. Click OK to save your changes.

For information about the digital media types supported by Windows Media Player, see File types supported by Windows Media Player.

For more information, see Allow or restrict access to a media library on the server.

The server administrator can add digital media to shared folders in the media library by accessing the server directly, or by using the Remote Web Access site to sign in to the Dashboard. Other users can add media files to the server by using the Shared Folders connection on the Launchpad, by using the Remote Web Access site, or by using the My Server app for Windows Phone. For information about playing media, see Play Digital Media in Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

noteNote
You can also upload media files to the server by using the My Server app for Windows Phone. You can download the My Server app from the Windows Phone store. For more information about the My Server app for Windows phone, see the blog post My Server phone app for Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

  1. Use one of the following methods to sign in to the server:

    1. For information about logging on to Remote Web Access, see Log on to Remote Web Access.

    2. For information about signing in with Launchpad, see Overview of the Launchpad in Windows Server Essentials.

  2. Search for and click the folder for the media that you are adding.

  3. Copy and paste, or drag-and-drop the media files that you want add to the appropriate shared folder on the server.

  • When you turn on media sharing, it creates four predefined folders: Music, Pictures, Videos, and Recorded TV. If any of these folders preexists on the server, the existing folder is reused as a shared folder for media sharing. All the existing folder’s media content and user permissions are preserved, and they are shared with all network users.

  • Before you turn on Media Library Sharing for a shared folder, you should know that Media Library Sharing bypasses any type of user-account access that you set for the shared folder. For example, let's say that you turn on Media Library Sharing for the Photos shared folder, and you set the Photos shared folder to No Access for a user account named Bobby. Bobby can still stream any digital media from the Videos shared folder to any supported digital media player or DMR. If you have digital media that you do not want to stream in this manner, store the files in a folder that does not have Media Library Sharing turned on.

  • If you turn on Media Library Sharing for a shared folder, any supported digital media player or DMR that can access your Windows Server 2012 Essentials network can also access your digital media in that shared folder. For example, if you have a wireless network and you have not secured it, anybody within range of your wireless network can potentially access your digital media in that folder. Before you turn on Media Library Sharing, make sure that you secure your wireless network. For more information, see the documentation for your wireless access point.

The default name of the media library is Digital Media Server. It is created when you turn on media streaming in Windows Server 2012 Essentials. For more information about turning on media streaming, see To turn media streaming on or off. You can modify the media library name at any time by using the server Dashboard.

  1. Open the server Dashboard. To open the Dashboard from the Launchpad, click Dashboard, type the server password, and then click the arrow to sign in.

  2. On the server Dashboard, click Settings.

  3. On the Settings page, click the Media tab.

  4. In the Media library section of the Media settings page, click the name of your media library.

  5. In the Change the Media Library Name dialog box, type a new name for the media library, and then click OK.

The server administrator can stop sharing digital media that is stored in shared folders on a server running Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

  1. Open the server Dashboard.

  2. On the Dashboard Home page, click Setup, click Set up Media Server, and then click Click to Set up Media Server.

  3. On the Media settings page, you can choose one of the following options:

    • Click Turn off to stop sharing all of the files that are stored on the server.

    • Click Customize, and then select No for specific folders that you want to stop sharing.

  4. Click Apply or OK to save your changes.

Devices that use Server Message Block (SMB) for network file and share access instead of DLNA (for media streaming) require that the Guest account be activated. This allows any device or user on the network to view the contents of shared folders without authentication.

CautionCaution
When you enable the Guest account, anyone can access the shared resources on the server by default.

To stream media from your Windows Server 2012 Essentials server, you can use a computer that is running the Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating system or other networked devices (such as digital media players), or Media Center extenders (such as Xbox 360). When you are away from your network, use Remote Web Access Media Player to play files that are stored on your server.

You need a data transfer rate between 200 KBps and 10 MBps. You need to use media formats that your computer and devices can recognize and play. Not all devices support the same media formats, so there must be a way for your computer and devices to play the media files that you have.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials contains transcoding support that determines the capability of the computer or device, and then dynamically converts an unsupported video file into a supported one. In general, if Windows Media Player 12 can play the content on a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows 8, the content on the server will play on the network-connected device.

The format and bit rate chosen for transcoding is highly dependent on the performance of the server processor. The processor performance is identified as part of the Windows Experience Index. To determine the performance score of your server, do one of the following:

  • On a network computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8 that has the same processor as your server, go to the Control Panel, click Performance Information and Tools, and then review the information on the Rate and improve your computer’s performance page.

  • Contact the manufacturer of the processor.

For the best user experience, choose a video streaming resolution quality that is appropriate for your server processor. The server will automatically adjust the bit rate to one of these settings:

  • Low if the processor score is less than 3.6.

  • Medium if the processor score is greater than 3.6 and less than 4.2.

  • High if the processor score is greater than 4.2 and less than 6.0.

  • Best if the processor score is greater than 6.0.

If you choose a video streaming resolution that requires more processing power than your server has, you may experience buffers and stops while streaming media from the server.

noteNote
To stream high-definition video through Remote Web Access, you need a processor with a score of at least 6.0.

The media streaming feature in Remote Web Access uses the Windows Media Player 12 Network Sharing Service. Remote Web Access media streaming supports the audio, video, and picture file types that are supported by Windows Media Player 12 and Silverlight 4.

The following table lists the file types (formats) that are supported by Remote Web Access media streaming. If there are media file types on your server that are not included in the table, you cannot stream them through Remote Web Access media streaming.

 

File Type File Name Extension

3GPP files

.3gp, .3gpp, .3g2, and .3gp2

Audio Data Transport Stream (ADTS) audio files

.adts and .adt

AU audio files

.au and .snd

Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) audio files

.aif, .aifc, and .aiff

AVCHD files

.m2ts, .m2t, and .mts

CD audio disk

.cda

DVD-Video disk

.vob

JPEG picture files

.jpg

MP3 audio files

.mp3 and .m3u

MPEG video files

.mpeg, .mpg, .m1v, .mpa, .mpe, .mp4, .mp4v, .m4v, .m4a, and .mov

Windows audio and video files

.avi and .wav

Windows Media audio and video files

.asf, .asx, .wax, .wm, .wma, .wmd, .wmp, .wmv, .wmx, .wpl, and .wvx

noteNote
If you cannot use a file type that is listed in this table, the file may also be encoded with a codec that is not supported by Windows Media Player.

For additional information about supported file formats, see File types supported by Windows Media Player and Supported media formats, protocols, and log fields for Silverlight.

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