Windows 8.1 for Media Server - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 08-14-2014, 10:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Windows 8.1 for Media Server

This quote is from another thread about a different topic, and I did not want to hijack someone else's question.


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Originally Posted by ajhieb View Post
I would never suggest someone disable updates for a general use PC.

But I think it can be made reasonably safe on an appliance-like device. Surfing/downloading/installing web stuff is the biggest issue in my opinion. I might even suggest turning Internet Explorer off, and not installing any other browsers to prevent the temptation to browse the interwebz.

If you try to surf with IE, that opens a can of worms because you end up having to install, flash or Java, or some other plugins to make it work, and inevitably all that crap installs autostart updaters that will start nagging you. Not to mention half of them want to install some crappy free version of McAfee or Norton. If you decide to forego IE and use chrome, it's getting a little sketchy these days too. It wants to autorun in the background, and I'm starting to get leery of it too. You're better of not surfing. Anything you need can be downloaded on another PC (with appropriate virus scan software) and transferred via network or thumb drive.

On my server, I just configured it without a default gateway so it can't access the internet. No bugging me for updates, not even aware of any updates. That worked on mine because it was a simple file server and isn't running anything that needs to access the outside network like metadata scrapers or transcoders.

This is one topic I have been kicking around ever since I decided to go with a dedicated server for the household. I'll be running Windows 8.1, mostly out of shear convenience. My issue is that the server will also be running Media Browser 3 and need to be accessible for streaming to devices. This means it needs to be an online machine. What is going to be my best approach to minimizing/eliminating bloatware and then keeping the system from collapsing in on itself without me resetting the server a minimum of weekly for Windows' Update Tuesday?

I would assume that once the OS is loaded, Chrome is loaded, FlexRAID is loaded, MB3, and PowerChute are loaded, and I've updated MB3, that I wouldn't really have any overriding need to continue updating constantly outside of the MB3 updates. I've always been a stickler about keeping everything updated on my PCs though, so I'm a bit on the leery side about taking this approach. Any thoughts or suggestions?
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post #2 of 5 Old 08-14-2014, 11:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aryn Ravenlocke View Post
This quote is from another thread about a different topic, and I did not want to hijack someone else's question.





This is one topic I have been kicking around ever since I decided to go with a dedicated server for the household. I'll be running Windows 8.1, mostly out of shear convenience. My issue is that the server will also be running Media Browser 3 and need to be accessible for streaming to devices. This means it needs to be an online machine. What is going to be my best approach to minimizing/eliminating bloatware and then keeping the system from collapsing in on itself without me resetting the server a minimum of weekly for Windows' Update Tuesday?

I would assume that once the OS is loaded, Chrome is loaded, FlexRAID is loaded, MB3, and PowerChute are loaded, and I've updated MB3, that I wouldn't really have any overriding need to continue updating constantly outside of the MB3 updates. I've always been a stickler about keeping everything updated on my PCs though, so I'm a bit on the leery side about taking this approach. Any thoughts or suggestions?
You can tackle the problem a few ways...

First and foremost, the biggest hurdle for most people is the will power to resist the urge to tinker with it once you have it working. Opinions vary on the subject, but coming from an IT background, for me you really shouldn't have much (if any) interaction with your server once it is up and configured, outside of the things it is meant to server. (ie you should be able to access files on a file server, mail on a mail server etc) Part of the stability of servers comes from not using them for anything other than their stated purpose.

Other people think that it's just another PC and if they want to use it to surf the web and play games on then bygod, they'll do it and anything else they want on it. That's fine, but there is a trade off in stability/reliability.

But back to your specific case, it sounds to me like completely blocking your server from internet access won't be feasible. MB3 is going to want to connect to the internet to get metadata, and as you pointed out it'll need the occasional update. Conceivably you could use a 3rd party metadata program like MCM on a different computer to handle metadata, but that still leaves you with the need to update MB3, so I'd just stick with keeping the internet "on" for that computer.

When getting everything configured initially I try to get everything as up to date as possible. After that, I turn automatic updates off, and disable the service. (I've encountered a few occasions where it decides to turn itself back on again) That approach works for me as I make sure any PCs that aren't receiving updates are otherwise locked down as to not be a significant risk for infection. (ie no internet browsing, no torrent or usenet downloads, no email clients, really, nothing other than guide updates on my WMC machine) If you're uneasy about ignoring updates all together, I'd suggest setting Windows Update to "Download Updates and let e choose what to install" as that will still give you the option to install updates, but it will be at your leisure instead of when MS dictates. Most importantly that still gives you control over when the server reboots. There are few things computer related that annoy me more than finding a computer I use has rebooted automatically to install updates, without me knowing about it.

Aslo I understand the desire to install chrome in order to make it easier to download and install everything you need to get going. Once everything is setup and configured, I'd uninstall it. It just makes it to convenient to "just look up this one thing real quick" and the next thing you know you've got 5 tabs open and who knows what trying to creep into your computer.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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post #3 of 5 Old 08-15-2014, 12:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajhieb View Post
You can tackle the problem a few ways...

First and foremost, the biggest hurdle for most people is the will power to resist the urge to tinker with it once you have it working. Opinions vary on the subject, but coming from an IT background, for me you really shouldn't have much (if any) interaction with your server once it is up and configured, outside of the things it is meant to server. (ie you should be able to access files on a file server, mail on a mail server etc) Part of the stability of servers comes from not using them for anything other than their stated purpose.

Other people think that it's just another PC and if they want to use it to surf the web and play games on then bygod, they'll do it and anything else they want on it. That's fine, but there is a trade off in stability/reliability.

But back to your specific case, it sounds to me like completely blocking your server from internet access won't be feasible. MB3 is going to want to connect to the internet to get metadata, and as you pointed out it'll need the occasional update. Conceivably you could use a 3rd party metadata program like MCM on a different computer to handle metadata, but that still leaves you with the need to update MB3, so I'd just stick with keeping the internet "on" for that computer.

When getting everything configured initially I try to get everything as up to date as possible. After that, I turn automatic updates off, and disable the service. (I've encountered a few occasions where it decides to turn itself back on again) That approach works for me as I make sure any PCs that aren't receiving updates are otherwise locked down as to not be a significant risk for infection. (ie no internet browsing, no torrent or usenet downloads, no email clients, really, nothing other than guide updates on my WMC machine) If you're uneasy about ignoring updates all together, I'd suggest setting Windows Update to "Download Updates and let e choose what to install" as that will still give you the option to install updates, but it will be at your leisure instead of when MS dictates. Most importantly that still gives you control over when the server reboots. There are few things computer related that annoy me more than finding a computer I use has rebooted automatically to install updates, without me knowing about it.

Aslo I understand the desire to install chrome in order to make it easier to download and install everything you need to get going. Once everything is setup and configured, I'd uninstall it. It just makes it to convenient to "just look up this one thing real quick" and the next thing you know you've got 5 tabs open and who knows what trying to creep into your computer.

Well, this server is not going to be convenient to access for doing things like web-browsing and the like. So I'm not too worried about that part, but I do understand the need to make sure things stay that way. I probably could go without using Chrome and just stick with IE on that machine. There does need to be a browser though, and although I actually used to like IE, Chrome seems to be much lighter weight these days, that's why I was going to be running with it, at least to set up.

This machine will be serving media - movies, television, music. That's all it will be doing. But yes, there will be MB3 updates and metadata to consider. The media itself will be getting added from a drive on a different computer. Either the drive will physically spend the night with the server copying files over via USB, or I'll figure out how to transfer the files to the appropriate folders over the home network. If I do it that way, the server will actually rarely be physically accessed for any reason.

Sounds like a clean install of Windows, about a day or two of Windows updating (again and again and again) and then turning that function off. Without any bloatware from the manufacturer, I'm hoping that means the constant pop-ups to update and so forth remain a distant memory then.
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post #4 of 5 Old 08-15-2014, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Aryn Ravenlocke View Post
What is going to be my best approach to minimizing/eliminating bloatware and then keeping the system from collapsing in on itself without me resetting the server a minimum of weekly for Windows' Update Tuesday?
Security Tuesday is actually the second Tuesday of every month. Well technically they have skipped a month once or twice in the last couple of decades. Now at times they will release an update outside of this time frame but it's rather rare. Maintaining servers since NT I wouldn't worry about updates causing an issue.

Once it's fully configured you might want to look at msconfig (services running) and Task Manager - Startup to see which apps are running, configured to auto update and might impact performance. Real World these typically don't come into play but for peace of mind it helps.
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post #5 of 5 Old 08-15-2014, 02:38 PM
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Aryn - There's a number of things you can do when trying to use Windows 7/8/8.1 in a pseudo "server" role.

The biggest among them are removing/uninstalling "stuff" that's not needed for a "server". For e.g.:

- Uninstall all Media components (You're using MB3 anyway)
- Uninstall all Tablet PC input related crap.
- Uninstall all Games
- Uninstall all Print and Document services (unless you'll be making this a print server, in which case, don't)
- Uninstall Gadget Platform
- Uninstall Windows Search (That search is not what you think it is)
- Uninstall all XPS crap.

Just that will remove a lot of bloat. Then, there's a number of Services you can disable, which cuts it down even further. Then there's "optimizations"...

It can take a while, but you can eventually make a Windows 7/8/8.1 install quite light weight.
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