The Ultimate Guide To Synology NAS Setup
A NAS isn’t for everyone but as your Awesome Home Network expands and becomes more complex it can help get things under control. If you find yourself with random data, music, and video files spread over multiple computers and no backups a NAS could be for you.
A NAS device provides a central place to access and back up all your data. Special software like Plex can turn your NAS into an awesome media server that organizes all your movie, music, and picture files. A NAS can also easily be set up to access your data from remote locations.
Companies like Synology and QNap pack their systems with useful software such as Plex Media Server to maximize the fun and functionality of their systems. As a result, NAS servers can add new dimensions to a home network and are rapidly becoming more popular with home users
In this chapter we’ll discuss:
- Initial setup of a NAS
- Configuring drives on your NAS
- Sharing files with users
- Backing up your computers to a NAS
- Remote access
- Setting up a Plex media server
NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. A NAS is, basically, a group of hard drives with a dedicated Operating System and a network connection. The big difference between a NAS and an external hard drive is external hard drives are connected with slower USB ports that are only good for one computer at a time. Also, the applications written for NAS operating systems are far superior to what you get with an external hard drive.
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Setting up a NAS is a little more involved than setting up a computer and plugging it into your network. NAS technology has a vocabulary all its own which can be confusing for many people. Manufacturers of NAS systems have been around NAS for so long they don’t realize many of their customers don’t have an intuitive understanding of things like storage pools, volumes, and RAID.
Note: Before you become too intimidated you should know that Synology NAS employs a simplified version of RAID called Synology Hybrid RAID or SHR for short. SHR is recommended for beginners and setting it up usually involves using the “Quick” selections I mention below and clicking “Next” a few times.
Synology provides a quick overview of the quick and easy way to set up your NAS here.
As you can see it’s possible to get your NAS set up quickly and easily. The explanations I provide below will be helpful if you want to know more about NAS, have specific requirements, or want to add hard drives to your NAS later
Let’s dive right into the nitty-gritty of NAS terminology. The big question with NAS is how to set up your hard drives. That depends on if you are looking for storage capacity or redundancy.
Storage capacity is simply a word for hard drive space. If you have a computer with a 500GB hard drive it will probably fill up pretty quickly if you like saving videos, music, and picture files to it. In its simplest form, a NAS can be used for extra hard drive space or a place to back up your files on the network.
Redundancy is where NAS devices shine. A NAS server uses special hard drive technology called RAID which allows a group of hard drives to create a redundant copy of your data or special parity data which automatically recreates your data in case a hard drive fails. This can mean great peace of mind for you if you have important financial data or video memories you never want to lose.
When configuring drives on your NAS server you’ll be working with wizard-driven software (Such as Synology’s Storage Manager as shown below.) which expects you to know what words like volume, storage pools and RAID mean.
Let’s discuss those terms now. I like to compare setting up NAS drives to building a house.
A storage pool is like the floor of your house. It’s the total of all the physical hard drives you’re using. A volume is like a room on that floor. It’s a section of space that is used for a specific purpose like a kitchen or dining room.
You don’t have to divide a storage pool into several volumes (Or rooms) if you don’t want to. It’s perfectly normal to have a 1 TB storage pool that contains one large 1TB volume – kind of like the attic in a house.
Let’s say your NAS server has a single 1 TB drive installed already. That NAS consists of Storage Pool 1 and a single 1 TB volume called Volume 1. You decide you want to add two 1 TB hard drives to it. If you want to leave the data in Volume 1 intact (Not destroy the first floor of your house.) you’ll need to add another 2 TB storage pool to it. You can think of this as adding a second floor to your house.
You may want your new storage pool to be divided into several volumes such as storage, media server, and backups. The volumes can be any size you define. The storage and media server volumes can be 500GB each leaving 1 TB for the backup volume. Simple so far right? Things are about to get interesting.
This all changes when you add RAID to the equation. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. RAID adds redundancy to your NAS by creating duplicate (mirrored) drives or parity data used to reconstruct data from a failed drive. The most popular types of RAID are 0, 1, and 5.
If you use RAID 0 the size of your drive remains at 2 TB. RAID 0 simply combines your two drives into one big drive. The data is “striped” across both drives at the same time which allows for faster performance. Unfortunately, if one drive fails all the data is lost.
If you use RAID 1 you will have only 1 TB of hard drive space to work with. When RAID 1 is applied to a volume with two drives one drive becomes a duplicate of the other drive. The extra work of writing to two drives slows the performance a bit but if one drive fails you still have all your data on the other drive. The big disadvantage with RAID 1 is you lose 50 percent of your hard drive capacity.
RAID 5 requires a minimum of 3 drives and writes data to all drives at the same time. It also adds special parity data to each drive which can be used to recreate the data in the remaining two drives if a third drive fails. The size of this parity data is roughly the size of one of your hard drives. So if you use RAID 5 on 3 hard drives your capacity will be reduced by a third.
As you can see using RAID quickly becomes a balancing act between capacity and redundancy. It also becomes a matter of personal preference and what you can afford.
If you’re using a Synology NAS device another consideration you’ll come across is SHR vs RAID. SHR is Synology’s proprietary version of RAID. It’s designed to be easier to configure for beginners while RAID is an industry standard that IT types such as myself use to manage storage. Of course, you can use RAID as well if you’re comfortable with it.
I described the different types of RAID and I promised not to get too deep into minutia and technical details so there’s no need to get redundant here (Haha see how I did that?) There will come a time, though, when you’ll be asked to choose between Synology’s SHR and RAID. There are several major differences you should be aware of:
|Slower than RAID||Faster than SHR|
|Easy to configure for beginners||Better for more experienced users|
|Flexible – You can use mix and match different size disks.||Less flexible. All disks must be the same size.|
Tech Skills For The “Home IT Guru”
OK, I believe that’s enough technospeak for one chapter. Let’s get started setting up our NAS. First, we need to get it out of the box and get the operating system properly installed. On a Synology NAS, the operating system is called the DSM or Disk Station Manager. We’ll be using a Synology Diskstation NAS to demonstrate because in many ways Synology sets the standard for NAS systems in general.
If you just purchased your NAS and you’re taking it out of the box for the first time there’s some assembly involved. Most NAS servers don’t come with hard drives so you’ll have to purchase those separately. It’s best to use hard drives that are specifically designed for NAS servers such as Western Digital “Red” drives or the Seagate “Iron Wolf” series. These drives are designed to run faster, cooler, and remain in use 24/7.
The drives are easy to insert. Just use the plastic clips or screws to fasten your hard drive to the caddie and slide it in. Usually, it will only go in one way so it’s impossible to mess up.
Once the HD is inserted and the case is buttoned up connect the NAS to your network with an ethernet cable, plug in the power cable, and turn it on. The NAS will run through a series of checks that will take a few minutes to complete. The power light will blink and the indicator lights will light up one at a time as the NAS detects each hard drive.
If the NAS beeps and the status light turns green it means you purchased the NAS with an operating system already installed and you’re ready to go. If the status light is amber it means the operating system still needs to be installed. A Synology NAS operating system is called Disk Station Manager or DSM for short.
To install the DSM you’ll need to hop over to a computer that’s connected to the same network as your new NAS, open a web browser, and enter find.synology.com. If this is a new NAS the browser will automatically take you to the setup screen of your NAS. If it’s not a new NAS and you don’t know its IP address you may need to download the Synology Assistant from their website.
The NAS has automatically picked up a DHCP IP address. You may want to write it down in case “find.synology.com” stops working. We’ll assign a static IP address later. Notice the operating system Status is “Not installed.” Click “Connect” to get started.
Click “Set up” to install the DSM.
Click “install now” to start the automatic installation.
Warning: All your discs will be formatted and your data will be erased.
The NAS needs to reboot to configure the newly installed DSM. Once it’s done you can start configuring your new NAS server!
Congratulations! Disk Station Manager has been successfully installed. Your new NAS is ready for configuration. First, we need to give it a name that will be seen on the network along with other computers. Next, create a username and password you’ll use to manage it. I named mine “Diskos” which is Greek for “disk.”
I recommend installing updates automatically. You can always change this later if you want.
Next, it asks you for the account information you probably don’t even have yet. Don’t worry about it for now. Just click “Skip This Step” under “Next” and we’ll take care of this later.
So you may be wondering – what is a Quick Connect? It’s pretty awesome. When you sign up for a free Synology Account you’ll get an ID and a domain name you can use to access your NAS remotely on the Internet using a web browser! This is much easier than alternative methods of remote access such as setting up a VPN or port forwarding. Don’t worry I’ll be covering both those methods later in case you want remote access to more than just your NAS.
Once the basic configuration is complete you’ll get a quick guided tour of the Disk Station Manager interface. This is the equivalent of a hotel employee walking you to your new room and telling you where the ice machine is and when the restaurant opens.
The most important configuration you’ll make on your NAS is how to configure your hard drives. I’m going to walk you step by step through one of the most common ways to set up hard drives on a Synology NAS. Please don’t feel you need to set yours up the same way as mine. Your setup will depend on the type of NAS you get, the number of hard drives your using, and your personal preferences.
I’ll explain my reasons for the settings I use so you can apply the same logic to your own decisions. At the beginning of this chapter, I gave you some background on the meanings of words like storage pool, redundancy, RAID, and SHR. You might want to take another peek at that now.
A great tool to help you decide how you want to set up your hard drives is the Synology RAID Calculator. It’s a beautifully done web interface that allows you to drag and drop different drive configurations to see how they each impact your redundancy and capacity.
Now that you have a good idea of how you want to set up your drives it’s time to open Storage Manager. Click on the menu icon in the upper left corner and select Storage Manager.
The Overview section of Storage Manager will do a quick health check and inventory of your drives. We currently have 5 unused disks, 0 storage pools, and 0 volumes configured.
- Clicking on “Volume” confirms we have no volumes configured.
- Click on “Create” to create a volume.
The “Quick” option guides you through creating an SHR volume. This is recommended for beginners and will make some decisions for you with various default SHR configurations. The “Custom” option is for RAID configurations and multiple volumes. This option is better for advanced users who have configured RAID before.
I’m going to select the “Quick” method to configure my NAS but first let’s take a quick look at the “Custom” method to see what that does. We’ll then return to the “quick and easy” way.
- Select “Custom.”
- Click on “Next.”
Remember a storage pool is like a floor in your home and a volume is like a room on that floor. To build a room, we need a floor to put it in. Since no storage pool (Floor) has been created yet “Choose an existing storage pool” is greyed out. The only available selection is “Create a new storage pool.” Click “Next.”
If you wanted to you could have gone straight to the Storage Pool section and created a storage pool but that’s just weird.
If this is your first NAS the “Better performance” selection is best. The “Flexibility” option is if you have a reason to use more than one volume. That’s better left to advanced users.
Remember we chose the “Custom” mode with is for RAID creation. This lists the different types of RAID available on this NAS. RAID 6 is the same as RAID 5 but instead of protecting against the loss of only 1 disk RAID 6 protects against the loss of 2 disks. Of course, this extra redundancy comes at the cost of capacity and leaves you with less disk space. For an excellent visual representation of this click on whatever hard drive sizes you have in the Synology RAID Calculator. You’ll be feeling like a RAID expert in no time.
RAID 10 is a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 0. It’s for people with lots of money to burn on hard drives. I believe JBOD stands for “Just a Bunch Of Disks.” JBOD is for when you want to combine a bunch of miscellaneous-sized hard drives collecting dust in a shoebox into one bigger hard drive. It may be a fun project but not recommended from a redundancy standpoint.
OK, so where were we? That’s right we were about to create a new volume for our NAS using the “Quick” method. The quick method guides us through creating Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR) volumes which allow for different sized disks and require less expertise than a RAID configuration. Select “Quick” and click on “Next.”
Since we haven’t created a storage pool yet the wizard automatically jumps to storage pool creation. As you can see the SHR method offers fewer choices than the RAID method.
SHR will analyze your disks and come up with a way to optimize for both redundancy and capacity. If you select 2 disks (In the next step.) your NAS it will automatically set up RAID 1 which means your drives will be exact duplicates of each other. If one drive fails it just keeps on running and your data is not lost.
If you select 3 drives SHR will set up RAID 5 which means a third of all your disk space will be used for special “parity” data which automatically recreates your data on the remaining 2 drives if a 3rd fails. This is great for redundancy but comes at the cost of a 3rd of all your disk space.
SHR-2 is like RAID 6 which protects against the loss of 2 drives instead of only 1 as with RAID 5. It requires a minimum of 4 drives. In my configuration, I’ll be using SHR-2. This means I’ll have the disk capacity of only 3 of my 5 hard drives but I’ll be protected against the failure of 2 drives. As you can see this is all a balancing act.
The final choice is up to you, your priorities, and your budget.
Select the drives you want to include in this Volume. Remember the number of drives you select here impacts how SHR will optimize them as we just discussed. My choice is to add all 5 of my disks to this volume. SHR-2 will configure 2 of them for redundancy.
Your data will be gone. If you have any objections please speak now or forever hold your peace.
Really? We’re not done yet? If you don’t have any special requirements for the advanced features of Btrfs select “ext4.” It works.
This is like when you spend half an hour figuring out what all the crazy buttons and dials on your futuristic, new washer and dryer do and you can finally hit “Go” and walk away. Make sure your selections are listed the way you want them and hit “Apply.”
Depending on how many discs you have this process can take hours and by hours I mean the better part of a day. Don’t be surprised to see this take 12 hours or more. You can use your NAS if you want but it will be very sluggish.
Time to take a mental break and return later feeling refreshed.
Once DMS is set up and your disks are configured accessing your NAS with find.synology.com may not work anymore. You’ll have to type in your IP address to log on to and manage your NAS. As you may remember the problem with IP addresses is they can change. That means you’ll have to search for your NAS every time you want to access the DSM. If you plan on setting up a Plex server and remote access you’ll need a static IP address or all your configurations will become invalid every time the IP changes.
Setting a static IP for your NAS is easy and only takes a few minutes. First, we need to make sure we don’t use an IP that’s in the current IP address pool because it could be used again by another device. This means we need to log onto our wireless router and check our DHCP Pool settings.
- Go to the LAN section of your router.
- Click on the DHCP tab.
- The DHCP scope is 192.168.1.40 to .100.
This means we can use an IP between 192.168.1.1 (Gateway) and .40 or one after 192.168.1.100. Right now the IP address on our NAS is sitting near the end of our range at 192.168.1.99. Let’s change it to 192.168.1.101 since 101 is easy to remember.
- Click on “Control Panel.”
- Select “Network.
- Clicking on the down arrow next to LAN reveals the current IP settings.
- Click “Edit.”
- Select the “Use manual configuration” button.
- Change the IP to 192.168.1.101 or whatever is best for your NAS.
- Click “OK” and restart the NAS.
- To restart the NAS go to the upper right-hand corner, select the user icon, and click on “Restart.”
Now that we have our new NAS set up and on the network with a fresh IP address let’s open Windows Explorer and see if it shows up like other computers on the network.
- Click on “Network” and wait for the device icons to populate.
- Our NAS is named “Diskos.” It shows up but if we click on it…
- We have to enter a password to access it. What happened?
We haven’t enabled file services or set up any shares on the NAS yet. That’s what the next sections are all about.
You may remember in an earlier chapter we had to do some special configuration to set up file access from one computer to another. This is pretty much the same thing – except different. Most computers run on Microsoft or Macintosh operating systems. The DSM on your NAS is based on Linux. Luckily Linux has special services to allow access to Windows and Macintosh computers. These are usually turned on by default but it’s a good idea to double-check.
We need to go to File Services and make sure SMB and AFP are enabled. SMB works with Windows and MAC. AFP works with MAC but Apple plans to go with only SMB in the future. The third option is NFS. NFS is for Unix and normal people don’t use Unix so you can skip that.
- Click on “Control Panel.”
- Go to “File Services.”
- Make sure “Enable SMB service” is checked.
- Make sure “Enable AFP service” is checked.
- Click “Apply.”
You want to make sure the Workgroup is the same as the workgroup your computers are on. WORKGROUP is the default workgroup name on both the NAS and your home computers so you shouldn’t need to change this unless you want to get creative.
Your NAS is now ready to operate just like any other computer with file sharing enabled. Once you add a file share and set up user access that shares you can access files on the NAS from other computers on your home network.
If you log on to a Windows computer with the same username and password you use for the Administrator account on your NAS you already have all the access you need to any folder shares you create. As an Administrator, you’re automatically given read/write access to all shared folders.
- Read-only access – You can watch a video, listen to music files and open documents but you can’t edit a document or delete any files. You also cannot add additional files to that folder.
- Read/write access – You can do everything someone with read-only access can do but you can also edit, add and delete files in that folder.
Even if you enjoy living life like a hermit you may want to allow visitors access to your computers while only allowing them access to certain things on your NAS. You can do this by setting up an account that allows visitors read-only access to certain folder shares.
All user accounts are automatically added to a default group called Users. By simply giving the Users group read-only access to a shared folder all user accounts on your NAS will have read-only access to it. In the next section, we’ll get into a way to manage multiple levels of user access to multiple file shares with a minimum of confusion using groups.
For now, let’s apply what we just learned by creating an account called “Visitors” and giving it read-only access to a folder share called “Public.”
Right now I’m logged in as Jerry. My account is in the Administrator group and the Users group by default. Let’s take a look at how that looks in Control Panel.
- Click on “Control Panel.”
- Click on “Users.”
- Highlight an account.
- Click on “Edit” to view or edit the account details.
- Click on the “User Groups” tab to view the accounts group membership.
I used my name to create the Administrator account so my account was automatically added to the Administrator group. I’m also a member of the Users group by default since all accounts are automatically added to that group.
Theoretically, these are all the groups you need. You could just assign access to shares using the Users group or even individual accounts. As time goes by and the number of folder shares and users increases this can become confusing. That’s why it’s a good idea to manage user access with groups. We’ll cover that later. For now, let’s continue with our simple example.
- Click cancel to close the user account window and click on “Create.” The “User Creation Wizard” window opens.
There are only three requirements to create a user account:
- A Name
- A password
- The same password again
That’s it. Even though user accounts require a minimal amount of input they can contain many more details so the User Creation Wizard seems to go on endlessly with questions most people would never even consider. Usually, you can just click “next” a few times to get past it all. I’ll provide a brief description for each screen in case you want to consider some of these features later.
- Enter the name of your user.
- Enter a brief description.
- Enter a password. If this matches their Windows account username and password they won’t have to enter credentials when accessing the folder share.
- “Disallow the user the change account password” is optional but worth considering.
- Click “Next” to continue.
We haven’t created any more groups yet. The default Users group will do fine for now. We’ll be giving the Users group read and write access to the Public folder when we create it.
Our Public folder share hasn’t been created yet. The folder shares you see here are part of some multi-media applications which come installed in the DMS so they don’t apply here.
The Quota option can be used to limit the amount of hard drive space a user can use. This is mostly used in business environments. It might come in handy in certain situations with children who like to download tons of videos and games.
Someday you may find yourself installing and configuring a service that requires special account access to applications that run on your NAS. That’s what this screen is for.
Your new account has been created. In this screen, you can highlight an account, click on “Edit” and roam through the tabs on top to review and change the settings if you choose.
Now let’s create our folder share.
- Click on “Control Panel” if you’re not already there.
- Click on “Shared Folders.”
- Click on “Create” and the Shared Folder Creation Wizard opens.
Now let’s create our folder share. Fill in the basic information and click “Next.”
- You may choose to show or hide this share from view under “Network” in Windows Explorer.
- “Enable Recycle Bin” allows you to recover deleted files in a special location. This is best left up to administrators.
Encryption is outside the scope of this course and best suited for business environments. Click “Next.”
Confirm your settings and click “Apply.” The new folder is configured and we’re given the option to configure Folder Permissions (Access.)
Remember we can give folder access to users or groups. Giving access to one user at a time can be cumbersome. Using groups is more convenient. Since we haven’t created any groups yet we can use the default Users group for this. Select “Local groups.”
The Administrator account automatically has Read/Write access to everything so that box is already checked.
The Visitor account we just created is automatically a member of the Users group. So if we give the Users group read-only access to the Public folder the Visitor account will “inherit” the User group’s read-only access.
So what happens if we give Read/Write access directly to the Visitor account as well? The Visitor accounts read/write access will override the Users groups read-only access. This is known as “explicit permissions” in the Techie World.
If we try to access Diskos now we get prompted for a password. This is because we’re logged in to the computer using an account called Bill. If we log into an account with the same username and password as the Visitor account it should let us right in with no password.
The visitor account username and password work!
We can see the contents of the folder but if we try to create a text file we are given the “You need permissions” message. This is exactly what we set it up to do. So our first user account and folder share are a success.
If you want to go on like this you can. You never have to create another group if you don’t want to. You can simply use a combination of the Users group and direct account access and it will work.
Using groups to manage folder access is how it’s done in business environments with large amounts of employees but it can help make things more organized and streamlined in a home environment as well. Adhering to a standard can always simplify things in the long run. It’s up to you how you want to manage your NAS. I’m providing the next chapter on using groups to manage access for whoever is interested.
In this section, I’m going to be the father of an imaginary family. Our family consists of myself, my wife, a boy, and a girl. Our family has several Windows computers and we have a central NAS server we all access for different reasons.
The NAS server will have three folder shares:
- Finance – Used for credit card records, tax returns, and bank statements.
- Software – Used to store important software downloads and license keys.
- Homework – Used to store the kid’s homework and things for school projects.
I’ve decided to control access by dividing the family into 3 groups:
- Adults – Jerry, Wife
- Kids – Boy, Girl
- Family – Jerry, Wife, Boy, Girl
Access to the folders will be as follows:
- I want the kids to have read/write access to their Homework folder.
- I want the kids to have read-only access to the Software folder.
- I want the kids to have no access to the Finance folder.
- I want my wife and I to have read/write access to the Finance, Software, and Homework folders.
To accomplish this I’m going to create three folder shares named Finance, Software, and Homework. In addition to the Jerry account which already exists for me, I’m going to create three more accounts named Wife, Boy, and Girl. Then I’m going to add my family members to their respective groups and give folder access to those groups. It should end up looking like this:
Don’t worry I won’t make you watch the creation of every user, folder, and group. You already know how to create user accounts and folder shares from the previous section. I’ll create the user accounts, folder shares, and all but one group offline. Then I’ll demonstrate the creation of the final group and show you how to use it to assign access to the users and groups.
Be right back.
OK, I’m back. I just created the Wife, Boy, and Girl user accounts. Then I created Finance, Software, and Homework folder shares. Finally, I created groups for Adults and Family and gave those groups the appropriate access to the folder shares. The final step was adding users to their proper groups. Once a user is in a group that user “inherits” that group’s access to whatever folder share it has access to.
The final group is the Kids group. Let’s create it and see what that process looks like.
- Click on “Control Panel.
- Click on “Group.” You can see the Adults and Family groups I created are already in there.
- Click on “Create.”
The Group Creation Wizard opens:
- Enter the group’s name.
- Click “Next.
So what are we trying to accomplish with the Kids group? The purpose of the Kids group is to assign “read/write” access to the Homework folder. Nothing more. Assigning permissions to any other folder is not necessary in this case. You don’t have to check “no access” to the Finance folder because the kids are not in the Adult group which is the same as “no access.” You don’t have to check “read-only” access to the software folder either because the kids are in the Family group which already has “read-only” access to the Software folder.
The only thing left is to add the Boy and the Girl to the Kids group.
Click on Control Panel. Go to User, Highlight a user, and click “Edit. The Boy account properties window opens. Click on the “User Groups” tab.
This shows which groups the Boy is a member of. As I mentioned earlier he automatically became a member of the User group the second his account was created. Since we gave the User group read-only access to the Public folder the Boy also has read-only access to that folder.
I recently added him to the Family group. This gives him access to whatever the Family group has access to. Let take a quick look at the Family group and see what he can access.
Go to Control Panel/Group/Highlight Family and click “Edit.” Click on the “Permissions” tab.
As a member of the Family group the Boy also had “read-only” access to the Software folder. Let’s go back to the Boy account. This time let’s go to the “Permissions” tab instead of the User Groups tab. You may remember earlier I mentioned if you don’t want to use Groups you can directly add “explicit” permissions to each user. This is where you do it.
As you can see it’s blank. That’s because we’ve been using User Groups to assign access and not Permissions. You can also see how much work it would be to go through all these boxes and try to decide which ones to check for every user on your NAS.
Let’s go back to the User Groups tab:
Check the “Kids” box then “OK” and you’re done. Once we do the same thing with the Girl account our Family access project is done. Since this is just a fictitious family it’s not necessary to let’s not and say we did. At this point, you should have a good handle on how Users, Groups, and Folder permissions on a NAS work.
I could go on forever about permissions. We could examine the properties of each account, folder, and group, make changes, and test our results. Permissions were a big part of my IT Guy education but one of the first things I mentioned in this ebook is I’m not trying to turn you into IT Guy. Especially when there are so many more awesome things to learn about your NAS like the included multimedia packages, Plex Server, and remote access.
We now have our NAS set up as a central access point for our files. So how do we get to them? Let’s start by creating a drive mapping to the Public drive. This will give us simple drive letter access to our Network Attached Storage file shares just as if they were a local drive on our system.
Let’s start by opening Windows Explorer:
- Click on “This PC” in the left pane. Note the already existing drive mappings on the bottom of the right pane.
- Scroll down and click on “Network” in the left pane. The upper pane display other computers on the network including our NAS named DISKOS.
- Double click on the device you want to share on your network and the existing folder shares on that device are displayed.
- Click the path in the address bar and its formatting will change to a name we can copy and paste into the “Map Network Drive” utility.
- Click on “This PC” and click on “Map Network Drive.”
- Select a drive letter.
- Select “Reconnect at sign-in.” This will cause the drive mapping to be available every time you log into the computer.
- Paste the path you copied from the address bar into the previous step into the “Folder” window.
- Click on “Finish.” Your network drive is now mapped. You can see it every time you click on “This PC” in Windows Explorer.
- Your new drive mapping is displayed under “This PC” with the drive letter you chose.
- If you are logged in as a user with read/write permissions to the folder you should be able to create and save a file in the folder. Test by right-clicking on a blank space and selecting “New” and then “Text Document” to create a file in the shared folder. If it doesn’t work you may need to review how you set up your permissions.
From now on what happens when you click on this new drive mapping depends on who you’ve logged in as.
- If you’re logged on to the computer with the same username and password as the Administrator account on the NAS it will let you right in as soon as you click on it.
- If are logged on to the computer with an account that has read-only access to the folder you’ll be allowed to enter with no password but you’ll receive an “Access denied.” Error if you try to edit, delete or create any files.
- If you are logged onto the computer with an account that doesn’t exist on the NAS you’ll be prompted for a username and password and be given the access assigned to that account.
A Synology NAS has a built-in utility called File Station which performs the same file operations as Windows Explorer on a Windows computer. You should use this utility when doing all file operations on your NAS.
- The File Station application can be found on the desktop.
The NAS will allow you to connect to a shared folder from a Windows computer and copy files and folders but folders over but if you’re working with a special application such as Plex Media Server folders added or created using Windows Explorer may not be “counted” and properly indexed unless they were created using the File Station utility. As a result, they may be skipped over by the Plex application when scanning for new files.
Instead of copying folders from your Windows computer to your NAS, it’s best to use the “Create folder” utility in File Station to place it on your NAS.
- The “New Text Document” we created earlier can be seen from within File Station.
- When adding folders to our “Public” folder it’s best to use the “Create folder” utility in File Station by right-clicking on the folder we’re working in.
- Name your new folder and click “OK.”
- It’s best to use the “Upload” utility to upload files. Right-click on the folder you want to upload to and select “Upload.” “Skip” means it will skip over any duplicate files and “Overwrite” will overwrite them.
- Once you select the files you want to upload to your NAS File Station will open Windows Explorer to complete the operation. Select your files and click “Open.”
- File Station offers basically the same functionality Windows Explorer does except it does it with drop-down menus. Since it’s done in a web interface it’s very similar in its look and feel to Google Drive and Dropbox.
Now that we have some fresh, new hard drive space on our network it makes sense to use some of it to back up our other hard drives in case of a catastrophic failure. Two copies of a file are always better than one because the chance of two hard drives going bad at the exact same time is almost non-existent.
Windows 10 has some solid backup software built-in that is fairly easy to use. All it requires is a list of folders to back up and a drive to back them up to. The drive you back up to can be a local drive on that computer, an external hard drive connected by a USB cable, a shared folder on the network, or cloud storage. We’ve already discussed cloud storage and we know it can get pretty expensive if you want to back up large amounts of data.
Since we already have quite a bit of available storage space on our NAS we’ll be creating a shared folder on it for the explicit purpose of doing backups. In this example we’ll be doing the following:
- Create a shared folder called “Backups” on our NAS.
- Create a user named “Backups” to have read/write access to our “Backups” folder.
- Use Window 10 File History to back up files to the “Backups” folder.
- Specify which folders to include and exclude in our backup.
Windows 10 File History is not designed to do a full backup of all the files on your hard drive. It can if you want it to but it’s not designed to do that by default. By default, it backs up the profile folder of the user creating the backup. You can add or exclude other folders if you want.
Your user profile can be found at C:\Users\Yourname. That folder will contain other folders you use by default such as Documents, Music, Pictures, Downloads, Favorites, Desktop, etc. It will make copies of everything in your profile folder and any additional files you chose.
One thing you want to be cautious of is cloud services like Google Drive and Dropbox will store their folders in your profile folder. You may not want to back these up because you already have them backed up in the cloud. You may choose to exclude those folders from your backup to prevent it from becoming too large.
Let’s start by creating a shared folder on our NAS. This will be the location your backup software copies your files to. You can name it anything you want. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to name my backups folder “Backups.” I’m just clever that way. I can’t help myself.
Log onto your DMS using an administrator account and open Control Panel.
- Click on “Control Panel.”
- Click on “Shared Folder.”
- Click on the “Create” button to create the shared folder.
- Give your backups folder a meaningful name and description.
- Uncheck “Enable Recycle Bin.” A backup job will copy all your files once and then add copies of only files that change after that. If it runs out of hard drive space it will start to delete the older copies of those changed files. Sending those deleted files to the recycle bin defeats the purpose of trying to save hard drive space.
- Click “Next.”
- Skip encryption unless you have specific hardware that adds this capability to your NAS.
- Check your settings and click “Apply.”
- By default, the administrative accounts on your NAS have read/write access to the new folder. The “Backups” user hasn’t been created yet so it isn’t shown here. Later when we create the “Backups” account and give it access to this folder those changes will be shown here. Click “Apply.”
- Our shared folder is complete. Let’s take a look at the network and see if we can see it. The name of our NAS is “Diskos” and our shared folder is “Backups.” That means if we enter \\diskos into the Search box and hit enter all the shared folders on our NAS will show up including our new “Backups” folder.
Now let’s create the “Backups” user account and give it access to the “Backups” folder.
- From within Control Panel go to “User.”
- Click on the “Create” button to create a new user.
- Give your new user a meaningful name.
- Create a password.
- This prevents the password from being changed by accident.
- Click “Next.”
- By default, the “Backups” user account is placed in the “users” group just like all other user accounts. This is fine because this account needs no special access to anything but the “Backups” folder.
- We now assign the “Backups” user account read/write access to the “Backups” folder.
- Windows File History will create a single copy of all the files you back up and create multiple copies or “revisions” of files that change. If the backup job runs out of hard drive space it will start deleting older revisions of your files. In my case, the data I’m backing up is about 250GB in size so I’m doubling that to keep the quota within a reasonable limit without taking up too much space.
- The “Backup” user needs no access to applications.
- Confirm your settings and click “Apply.”
- There is no reason to set speed limits on the “Backups” user account.
Your backups user account and shared folder are now created. Now it’s time to configure Windows File History to back up your files and send them to your NAS.
To get to Windows File History go to Control Panel:
- Type in “control” in the search bar in the lower-left corner.
- Click on Control Panel when it pops up.
- Click on File History.
The File History window opens.
- DON’T hit “Turn on” until after you fully configure the backup. It will start immediately and you’ll have a mess on your hands trying to stop the backup job from sending files to where ever the drive is set to by default and then backtracking to start over again.
- Click on “Select Drive” to select the newly created backup folder on your NAS.
- Click on “Show all network locations” and scroll up and down until you find the shared folder you created.
- Highlight and select the shared folder on your NAS. This is now the “Drive” that Windows File History will send backups to.
I mentioned earlier that, by default, Windows File History backs up everything in the user folder of the person logged in at the time. Unfortunately, Google Drive and Dropbox store their folders in your profile folder as well. This can dramatically increase the size of your backups needlessly since these folders are already backed up on the cloud.
Let’s take this opportunity to exclude those folders and any other folders we don’t want in our backup job. If the size of your backup is not a concern this isn’t necessary.
- Click on “Exclude folders.”
- Click on “Add” to add an exclusion.
- Scroll down to the C: drive on your computer.
- Browse directly to “C:\Users\Yourfolder.”
- Select the folder you want to exclude such…
- …as Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Click on “Select folder.”
This can be kind of a painstaking operation but you only have to do it once.
Phew! We now have a shared back folder created on our NAS, a user account for backups created, we’ve set up Windows File History to back up to our NAS, and folder exclusions have been made. Time to start the backup!
- Click “Turn on” and your backups start immediately. If you want to you can browse to your shared folder and watch as the file and folder structure is created on your NAS.
Time to relax and let your backups run while taking comfort in the knowledge that if anything catastrophic happens to the hard drive in your computer your files are safe on your new NAS.
If you accidentally delete or misplace a file Windows File History has a couple of ways for you to get it back. You can restore individual files and entire folders to their original locations with a very intuitive interface or you can “go back in time” and restore previous versions of a file you make frequent changes to.
To restore files and folders go back to Control Panel as we did before, click on File History, and on the left, you’ll see an option to “Restore Personal Files.”
- Click on “Restore Personal Files.”
- Select the file or folder you want to restore.
- Click on the circular arrow button to restore your selection to its original location. Don’t worry this doesn’t remove anything from your backups. You can do this over and over again.
- You’re given several options as to what to do with the file.
You can also go “back in time” to previous versions of a file you frequently edit.
- Right-click on the file and select “Restore to previous versions” in the drop-down menu.
- Previous versions of your files are displayed. Select one and click on “Restore.”
You should now have quite a bit of peace of mind knowing your most important files are safe and sound on your NAS. For additional security consider installing Synology Apps like Hyper Backup and Cloud Sync to backup and sync your NAS to the cloud. This offsite backup method is additional protection against disasters that may impact your home.
These and many other great apps can be easily installed from Package Manager on your NAS. If you’re anything like me it’s just a matter of time before your NAS becomes your favorite new toy. Next, we’ll be discussing an easy way to access your new toy from just about anywhere with an internet connection.
Synology makes it extremely easy to access your NAS from anywhere with a service called “QuickConnect.” You set up Quickconnect by creating an account for yourself on the Synology website. Once your Synology email account has been registered you can use it to activate Quickconnect on your NAS. EZ Peezy.
You can register your free Synology account by going to https://account.synology.com/en-us/register or clicking here. Signing up is just like registering with any other website. You create a username and password for yourself and a confirmation email will be sent to you. Once your account is created you can use your email address to set up Quickconnect on your NAS.
- Enter your details on the Synology Account Creation page and click “Next.”
- An email will be sent to you. Check your email spam folder
Click the link to activate your account. There’s not much to see on the website right after activating your email account. Synology will ask you to register your NAS. This is not necessary now because once you enter your email address into your NAS it will register with the site automatically.
- From within Control Panel go to “QuickConnect.”
- Enter the email address you just used to register your account with Synology.
- Click “Enable QuickConnect.”
- Create yourself a QuickConnect ID.
- You can use the links that appear here to access your Synology NAS remotely.
- Double-click on one of the links to create a secure connection to your NAS. If you’re accessing remotely you can enter http://QuickConnect.to/yourid into a web browser and hit enter. If you did everything right you’ll get a page that looks like this (above) that says you’re connecting.
You’ll be presented with a screen that asks you to log in to your NAS just like you would at home. Once you’re logged in you can view all your files and make the same configuration changes you would make on your NAS at home.
While being able to access your NAS from anywhere is a great convenience the truth is the process of accessing your photos, videos, and music files leaves something to be desired. Depending on what you’re doing the web interface can be clunky and cumbersome at times.
This is where Plex Server comes in.
Plex offers a beautiful, intuitive interface that can be used to organize, categorize, and access your multimedia files from many types of devices such as computers, mobile phones, and tablets. Plex Media Server is designed to run on all major platforms including Windows, Linux, Mac, and the most popular NAS devices such as Synology and QNAP. The Synology client is designed to work on most computers and portable devices such as Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Amazon TV, MAC, Playstation, Roku, and many smart TVs.
Once your Plex media server is set up you’ll be able to use your Plex account to access all your favorite multimedia content from virtually anywhere.
If the main reason you’re purchasing a Synology NAS is to create a Plex Media Server you want to make sure it supports Plex. Many budget NAS devices don’t meet the processor or memory to support Plex. If you don’t see Plex Media Server in Package Center under “All Packages” on your NAS there’s a good chance it won’t support Plex. You’ll need to do a little research before you make a purchase to make sure your NAS supports Plex. Generally speaking, if your Synology NAS is on this list it supports Plex.
- 20 series:FS6400, FS3400, RS820RP+, RS820+, DS620slim, DS420j, DS120j, SA3600, SA3400, SA3200D
- 19 series:RS1619xs+, RS1219+, RS819, DS2419+, DS1819+, DS1019+, DS419slim, DS119j, DVA3219
- 18 series:FS1018, RS3618xs, RS2818RP+, RS2418RP+, RS2418+, RS818RP+, RS818+, DS3018xs, DS1618+, DS918+, DS718+, DS418, DS418play, DS418j, DS218+, DS218, DS218play, DS218j, DS118
- 17 series:FS3017, FS2017, RS18017xs+, RS4017xs+, RS3617xs+, RS3617RPxs, RS3617xs, RS217, DS3617xs, DS1817+, DS1817, DS1517+, DS1517
- 16 series:RS18016xs+, RS2416RP+, RS2416+, RS816, DS916+, DS716+, DS716+II, DS416, DS416play, DS416slim, DS416j, DS216+, DS216, DS216play, DS216j, DS216se, DS216+II, DS116
- 15 series:RS815RP+, RS815+, RS815, RC18015xs+, DS3615xs, DS2415+, DS2015xs, DS1815+, DS1515+, DS1515, DS715, DS415+, DS415play, DS215+, DS215j, DS115, DS115j
- 14 series:RS3614xs+, RS3614RPxs, RS3614xs, RS2414RP+, RS2414+, RS814RP+, RS814+, RS814, RS214, DS414, DS414slim, DS414j, DS214+, DS214, DS214play, DS214se, DS114
- 13 series:RS10613xs+, RS3413xs+, DS2413+, DS1813+, DS1513+, DS713+, DS213j
- 12 series:RS3412RPxs, RS3412xs, RS2212RP+, RS2212+, RS812RP+, RS812+, DS3612xs, DS1812+, DS1512+, DS712+, DS412+
- 11 series:RS3411RPxs, RS3411xs, RS2211RP+, RS2211+, DS3611xs, DS2411+, DS1511+, DS411+, DS411+
If your NAS supports Plex that’s great but is the fact that Plex will run on your NAS enough? It may be or it may not be. It depends on what you’re doing. If you rip a DVD to .mp4 or .mkv format, upload it to your NAS, and watch it on a computer, smart TV, or phone in your home you should have no problem at all.
Unfortunately when you leave the comfort of your home and venture off into the world of mismatched technology things can go sideways in a hurry. There are many different file types, compression types, device types, and connection speed types that don’t always play nicely with each other.
When watching videos away from home people are usually confronted with one of the following three issues.
- Size – 4K video is becoming more commonplace. These files are huge and require more CPU power to transmit without a lot of lag or “buffering.” This can cause your NAS device’s processor usage to spike. Your NAS may transmit the file but it will be able to do little else.
- Bandwidth – If your ISP provides a download speed of 15MB and an upload speed of 3MB that upload speed may turn out to be a bottleneck from your remote location. You want at least 5MB up from your provider if you’re going to successfully watch videos on your home NAS from a remote location.
- Format – Certain file formats and file compression types won’t play on certain devices. That’s just the way it is.
This is where transcoding comes in. It’s a complex topic. Basically what transcoding does is it resizes and reformats a file on your NAS to make it more acceptable for the destination device on the fly – amazing!
There are two basic types of transcoding and understanding the difference is very important.
- Hardware-based transcoding – This comes in the form of a special “transcoding engine” built into some processors (CPUs). This offloads the work of converting files from the processor to the transcoding engine.
- Software-based transcoding – This relies on 3rd party software (Like Plex) to emulate what a transcoding engine would do. This forces the processor to work harder at pushing the software by making the needed file conversions.
A processor can only do so much work until it heats up or just “stops” so overworking your processor is never a good thing. This makes hardware-based transcoding the preferred option by far because the transcoding engine does all the work.
Unfortunately not all NAS devices or computers have built-in transcoding engines. You have to do some research. Before making a purchase look into the type of processor your prospective NAS has. Generally speaking, you’re looking for an Intel-based processor that supports “Intel Quicksync.” Note: Some affordable Synology NAS devices have Realtek processors that now support HW transcoding.
So how do you know if the NAS you’re looking at has a built-in transcoding engine? You’ll have to look closely at the specs of the device your considering purchasing.
- If the product listing contains the words “4K 10-bit H.265 video transcoding on the fly” that’s a good indication you’re looking at a NAS with a built-in transcoding engine.
- If you’re shopping on a site that provides detailed specs such as Amazon you may see a chart that lists the type of transcoding engine a NAS has or doesn’t have.
- You can enter the name of your processor here and check under “Memory specifications” and then “Processor graphics” or simply check this list.
- To look up the actual transcoding capabilities of a specific NAS check out this NAS Plex Capability sheet.
So we’ve done our research and we’ve chosen a NAS that has the capabilities we want. All is good with the world, right? Not so fast. This is where we reach a bit of a fork in the road.
You may bring your new NAS home, load it up with 4K video files and launch one on your phone or smart TV and see a noticeable amount of lag, and according to the Resource Monitor widget on your desktop, your processor is “red-lining.” You may wonder out loud to yourself, “You call this transcoding?”
Well yes, it is transcoding. It’s Plex (3rd party) transcoding. This is what we referred to earlier as “software transcoding.” Next, you may wonder out loud to yourself, “So why the heck did I go through all the trouble of searching for a NAS with a hardware transcoding engine if it won’t do hardware transcoding?”
By default, Plex will use it’s own software transcoding if:
- Plex can’t find a hardware transcoding engine on the device it’s installed on.
- The owner of the NAS doesn’t purchase a special “Plex Pass” to enable Plex to work with the “native” hardware transcoding engine on your NAS.
The Plex pass is not expensive and it comes with features that many feel make it worthwhile even without the HW transcoding.
If you don’t have a huge 4K library this may not be much of a concern to you. Also, keep in mind the negative impact of not being able to transcode 4K files will usually be limited to mobile devices away from home. You should be fine on a remote computer with a high-speed internet connection as long as your ISP provides you with a decent upload speed.
There is a technique called “pre-transcoding” which can help get you over the hump with all this transcoding mess. There’s a free, open-source software product called Handbrake. It will greatly reduce the size and change the format of most video files to whatever works with your mobile devices without reducing quality. It’s pretty easy to learn and best of all it’s free.
The first thing you need is a free Plex account. Plex offers some perks for their paid subscription but you can get most of the features you need with the free account. Go to www.plex.tv and set up an account.
- Once you create a free account you should get a confirmation email. Go to your email account and click on the link to confirm your account.
- You can now log into your new Plex account.
- At first, all you can see is content provided by Plex because we haven’t set up the server and added any media yet. You can poke around in here to get familiar with the interface if you like.
Let’s set up the server now. Note: This can be done in one of two ways.
- The automatic way is by going to “Package Center” and running the “Plex Media Server” installer. This will install a slightly out-of-date version of Plex on your NAS.
- The manual way involves manually downloading and installing the current version of Plex. This method will also give you a familiarity with downloading and installing packages that may come in handy later. It will also give you some useful knowledge about your NAS.
The automatic method requires no demonstration so I’m just going to demonstrate the manual method.
- Once you’re done perusing the Plex interface while logged in go to the upper right corner and click on your account (The circle with your first initial) and click on “Get Plex apps” in the drop-down menu. You’ll be taken to the page below.
- Make sure you click on the “Plex Media Server” button and scroll through the different platforms the server can be installed on. Under “Nas” click on “Synology.”
- Select “Choose Package.”
- You’ll be given some download options which may not make sense to you at first. We need to figure out which type of NAS we have before downloading the package file for our NAS.
This information can easily be found on our NAS.
- Go to “Control Panel.”
- Click on “Info Center.”
- The information we need is on the “General” tab next to “Model Name.”
- Clicking on the package with the model name of your NAS will begin the download.
- Save it to an easy-to-find location. We’ll be browsing to this location from Package Center on our NAS.
Log onto your NAS from the same computer you downloaded the installer package to and go to Package Center.
- Open “Package Center.”
- Click on “All Packages.”
- Click on the “Manual Install” button to upload the package installer we just downloaded.
- Browse to the location you downloaded the installer package to.
- Find the package and highlight it.
- Click on “Open” to begin the installation.
- Once the installer runs you should see “Plex Media Server” in the “Installed” section.
As tempting as it is DON’T click on “Open” or “Launch” yet. Running Plex now will launch a webpage that links your NAS to your Plex email account and starts a wizard that creates libraries in folders we haven’t even created yet.
Let’s make sure our Plex Media Server folders are in order before we create a confusing mess that may be difficult to back out of.
Plex installation automatically creates a shared folder called “Plex.” This folder will contain a “Library” folder. We need to make sure the Plex folder has the correct permissions for the users on our network to access it. We do this in the “Control Panel.”
- From within “Control Panel” go to “Shared Folder.”
- Highlight the “Plex” folder.
- Click on the “Edit” button.
- Go to the permissions tab and make sure “Local Groups” is selected.
- We want to give the “administrators” group “Read/Write” access and the “Family” group “Read-only” access.
- Click “OK” to save the changes.
The Plex interface offers an easy-to-use wizard to create your media libraries. A library is simply a grouping of media files such as video files, music files, or picture files. The Wizard is much more intuitive if the folders you use for your libraries have already been created. This is done by using “File Station” in advance to add files and folders to the “Library” folder in an organized fashion before creating libraries.
OK please bear with me because this is about to get a little weird. You saw how easy it is to transfer files and folders from one Windows computer to another. That’s not the case with Plex. Yes, you can easily copy files and folders to your NAS from a Windows computer but Plex probably won’t see them.
That’s because Plex relies heavily on the indexes created by File Station. Any copies, moves, and renames may go unnoticed by Plex if they aren’t done with File Station. File Station keeps everything nicely indexed and easy to identify which is vital to creating media libraries in Plex.
You would think you could simply use the “Upload” feature in File Station to grab a bunch of files and folders from your computer but it will only allow you to upload files and not folders. On the other hand, it will allow you to copy, move, and even drag folders from one location on the NAS to another with no problem.
The workaround is to create a file structure as elaborate as you want on your Windows computer and use Windows Explorer to copy it over to a temporary location on your NAS. Then hop over to your NAS and use File Station to copy those folders to your Plex/Libraries folder.
I’ll demonstrate that in a moment.
Another thing to be aware of with Plex is you don’t want to mix and match media file types. You want to keep your video files with video files, your music files with music files, and your photo files with photo files.
Plex likes to group media libraries into four major types: Movies, Music, Photos, and Videos. The closer you follow this grouping method the better your NAS will perform. Don’t get me wrong. You can have multiple Picture and Music libraries all labeled differently but you want to avoid dumping music files into your photo libraries etc.
I created a folder called “Library” on my Windows computer. It contains four folders: Movies, Music, Photos, and Video. Inside each of these folders are more folders broken down into various subcategories and genres of music, videos, etc. It comes to about 16GB of files and will serve as a good basic file structure to build my Plex Media Server on.
Plex has a “Sort by folder” feature which makes this type of folder organization very useful.
The goal now is to use Windows Explorer to copy (Not move.) the entire folder structure from the computer to the “Public” shared folder on the NAS and then use File Station to copy those files over to the Plex/Library folder. This will create all the needed indexes to keep Plex happy and yourself sane.
Please forgive me but I ended up copying all those files and folders over to my NAS and organizing them into libraries before writing this chapter. I couldn’t help myself! To avoid deleting all my precious Plex media libraries and redoing them I’m going to limit this demonstration to adding another “Music” library called “Tunes.” Once you see the process done once you should be able to do it yourself easily with as many folders as you like. Soon you’ll be routinely adding, creating, and editing media libraries without thinking about it.
- First I’m going to use Windows Explorer to copy the “Music” folder from my computer to the “Public” folder share on the NAS.
- Then I’m going to use File Station on the NAS to copy those folders from the “Public” folder to the “Library” folder on the NAS.
- Right-click on the file we’re copying and select “Copy.”
- Scroll down and click on “Network” in the left pane.
- Click on “Diskos” or the name of your NAS.
- Navigate to the “Public” folder and right-click in the right pane to paste the file.
- Wait for the folder to transfer from your computer to the NAS.
- Open File Station and check the “Public” folder to make sure the “Music” folder is there. By right-clicking on the folder you can see the operations that can be performed on it. I’m renaming mine to “Tunes.”
- Right-click on the “Tunes” folder and select “Copy to…” Selecting “Copy” is less risky than “Move” but you’ll want to make sure you go back and delete the original files after a copy to conserve disk space.
- Navigate to the “Library” folder.
- Click “OK.”
- Wait for the copy operation to complete. The progress bar shows our files and folders being copied and indexed by File Station. This is the way to prepare media files and folders for Plex.
- The “Tunes” folder is now in the “/Plex/Library” folder where it belongs and is indexed properly so that Plex can recognize it when we’re ready to create our libraries.
So where were we? Oh yeah, that’s right! We just finished installing Plex and were about to launch it for the first time. We took a slight detour first to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Now that we have our Plex account created and our library folders in place let’s launch Plex for the first time. This process is very important because it links your NAS to your Plex email account. From now on whenever you log into your Plex account it will recognize your Plex server and only load the multimedia content and settings on your server.
- Go ahead and launch Plex from your NAS’s desktop.
- Enter the email address and password you used to create your Plex account and you’re given a brief explanation of how Plex Works.
- Once you’re logged in Plex assumes the NAS you’re on is the one you want to link to this email account and sets it up for you in the background. You should see a message saying “Great, we found a server!” If you don’t you can always help it along by manually typing in the name of your NAS.
- Don’t forget to check “Allow me to access my media outside my home.” If you want to access your Plex server remotely.
- Once your Plex account finds your NAS you can immediately begin adding libraries. Now you see why we did all the preliminary work adding folders to “Plex/Library.”
- Choose the type of library you’re creating. In my case “Tunes” is a “Music” library.
- Name it whatever you want. I’m changing the default “Music” to “Tunes.”
- Click “Next.”
- Click “Browse for media folder” to find the folder you added earlier.
- If your NAS has only one volume you’ll most likely need to browse to “/volume1/Plex/Library/” to get to your new folder. Click “Add.”
- Click “Add Library.”
- Plex will create your new library and search the Internet for the appropriate thumbnails, cover art, and metadata for your files. This makes your media files more eye-catching and easier to find.
- Once all the swirling and spinning stops click the name of your NAS and you should find your new media library is ready to use. In my case my NAS is named “Diskos” and my new library is “Tunes.”
- By clicking on the three dots next to the name of your library and going to “Manage Library” you can edit your library’s settings. You can rename it, make changes to its folder location, rescan for metadata, or delete it if you wish.
Congratulations your Plex Media is now completely set up! You can manage your media files as you wish using the simple steps above.
Earlier I mentioned File Stations “Upload” feature only works with files and not folders. This is still a useful feature. Let’s see how it works. I’m going to add a folder called “Courses” and upload some videos to it using File Station and then use the Plex wizard to make that folder a new library called Courses.
- Create a folder for your new media library.
- I’m naming mine “Courses.”
- The new “Courses” folder is in “Plex/Library” where we want it.
- In this case, we can use File Station’s “Upload” feature because we’re only adding files to our new folder and not an entire cluster of files and folders.
- Highlight the files we want to upload.
- Click “Open” to begin the upload.
- The status of your upload is shown in the upper right.
- Highlight the new “Courses” folder (Or whatever you named your folder) to make sure your new files are there.
- Time to leave File Station and go to Plex. Click on the “+” symbol to add a new library to your media server.
The “Add Library” wizard appears.
- Select the type of media library this will be. (Remember don’t mix and match.)
- Name your new library.
- Click “Next” when you’re finished.
- Time to browse for the folder you just added to your “/Plex/Library”
- The “Volume1” folder indicates “Volume 1” on your NAS. In this case, your “Library” folder is actually located in “/volume1/Plex/Library.”
- Click “Add” to add the new library to your Plex Media Server.
- Plex will immediately start scanning the file indexes we created with File Station. It will also search the Internet for any thumbnails or metadata related to your media. If you load popular movie or music content this is usually pretty accurate. If you upload videos from your phone it will probably be way off.
- You can kick off the scanning process manually by clicking on the three dots on the library you want to scan and selecting “Scan Library Files.”
- Eventually, the scan process will be complete. If Plex can’t find any metadata for your files it will usually create thumbnails so you can recognize them.
- You can always make changes to your media libraries later by clicking on the three dots and going to “Manage Library/Edit…”
- Now you can log into your Plex account from anywhere with a web browser and click “Launch” to access all your media libraries and settings.
- To find your personal media libraries click on “More.”
- To access your personal media files simply click on the name of your NAS
- Click on “PLEX” to access free content provided by Plex.
- You now have your Plex Media Server installed on your NAS. You can conveniently access all your media libraries from anywhere using a web browser. You can also download clients for many other popular devices such as your phone, Chromecast device, and smart TV. Welcome to the world of Plex!