Upgrading Old Windows 10 Plex Server: Should I Do unRAID Docker vs. unRAID + Win10 VM vs. Windows 10 vs. Windows Server 2019?


DrivePool9015

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Current Plex / General Purpose Server

i7-4770 / GTX 1060 / 32GB RAM / 48TB *external USB3.0 DAC* array running StableBits DrivePool

 

Why Am I Upgrading

I'm at that point where I'm contemplating how best to move forward with upgrading my 8 year old server. Everything performance-wise runs perfectly fine on the system today (1080p transcoding, I don’t expose my 4K library to anyone except my Apple TV) but I’ve put off upgrading to a larger chassis (for more drives) / server-grade components / potentially new OS for many years under the mantra “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” which generally in life has served me well.

 

I’ve now filled up the entire DAS array and instead of buying a larger DAS and shoving more 12TBs in there, I’d rather just build out a 16-24 bay server chassis with Dual Xeons / P2000 / 32-64GB RAM / 120TB *internal* array to future proof.

 

In terms of “needs”, the upgrades are more so to future proof as well as make transcoding large TV season packs to H265 go faster. I don’t plan on allowing other users to transcode my 4K library, but that is certainly a “nice-to-have” feature that I would consider a plus as I figure out which environment to run my server in.


Core Programs I Use in Current Server

  • Plex
  • Emby
  • Stablebits DrivePool
  • Stablebits Scanner
  • qBittorrent
  • uTorrent
  • Sonarr / Radarr / Lidarr / Ombi / Jackett / PlexPy / Trakt Scrobbler Plugin etc.
  • No-IP DNS
  • rClone + rClone Browser
  • Various Transcoding and Audio/Video Editing Software (Vidcoder / MKVToolnix / JMkvpropedit / FlacSquisher / DTS Encoder Suite etc.)
  • TagScanner
  • Bulk Rename Utility
  • Chatzilla
  • jDownloader
  • iTunes
  • Chrome
  • Teamviewer + AnyDesk
    • Teamviewer is used almost daily to interact with all the above programs as well as transfer files from my local PC via drag-n-drop to the remote server

 

Upgrade Options

 

This is where I’m looking for some wisdom from this great forum, especially those maybe in my shoes who were thinking about migrating from a Windows 10 Server to an unRAID based system. I have a few options –

1)      Simple hardware upgrade and keeping mostly all software the same (Win10 -> Win10)

2)      Upgrade to Windows Server 2019

3)      Build system with unRAID core and virtualize Windows 10 with mostly everything running inside the VM

4)      Migrate to unRAID + Docker-based Solution

 

Option 1) Windows 10

 

This is the most simple, no-nonsense “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” approach. I won’t be able to simply clone my SSD to the new server but setting up Windows 10 should be relatively straight forward to configure the various ports, install my programs needed above, copy and paste Plex’s %appdata% and keep the DrivePool integrity the same except for the fact that it goes from external pool of drives via USB 3.0 DAC to an array of internal drives.

 

Option 2) Upgrade to Windows Server 2019

 

There is something inside of me that says: “why would you buy all this nice hardware only to run Windows 10 on it. You should be running a server OS”. At the same time, I don’t think any features Server 2019 offers are immediately obvious to me that I would use (maybe someone can educate me on this?). Based on that fact alone, it doesn’t seem like the “better choice” vs. option 1. Teamviewer I think also completely breaks (makes you pay) if it detects Windows Server OS, which is my preferred client to connect remotely (AnyDesk is okay, I like file transfer speed/ease from Teamviewer better).

 

Option 3) unRAID + Windows 10 VM

 

This is the option I’m trying to research vs. option 1 & 4, in terms of what kind of performance hit “virtualizing” Windows would have and usability of my existing DrivePool setup.

 

I like that unRAID would act as a layer one above my VMs, where if something happens to Windows 10 (say it crashes), I could connect to the web interface and restart it manually. It also helps me “lean into” the software and learn more about it by playing around with different features (plugins/tools) while keeping the integrity of my existing system up and running within the contained VM.

 

After having read threads about poor “VM performance” that requires tinkering with CPU pinning/isolation, among other things. This makes me think there are various complexities with drivers, VM-passthrough performance etc. that will come up that will cause issues in the future that I have to constantly go back to forum searches to fix (unlike Windows main issue being the occasional mandatory random update). I’ve also read various software like CrystalDiskInfo / HWMonitor don’t play well with VMs. I probably know 10% of the potential compatibility issues to come with running such a system vs. plain straight Win10 setup which is why I ask if this is feasible vs. Option 1 without drastic performance hit on apples-to-apples basis.

 

Option 4) Migrate to unRAID + Docker-based Solution

 

So this is the one I know most people would defacto recommend, partially because you all are probably running it. I think I read that there are over 1mm users on Plex Docker plugin so it’s a well-walked path but I know it won’t be an easy 3 hour setup kind of thing.

 

Going back to the "don't fix what's not broke", the question really boils down to figuring out what tangible, specific "upside" is there to an to a unRAID + docker solution vs. Option 1 or 3…I’ve tried to think of some below but any input would be really helpful as I try to think this through:

  • What is the tangible “regular Plex” benefit – does items in Plex load faster in Docker vs. option 1? Do remote streams startup quicker? Is Plex native performance so much better in Docker that it can handle one more incremental 4K stream vs. Option 1 or Option 3? Etc.
  • Can I import all my Win10 %appdata% with custom covers / tags / custom descriptions / playlists / watch status / view count/history etc. to Docker or is Marcus Nailor’s Plex Move Guide just totally not recommended vs. a clean install?
  • Is it purely less resources dedicated to the OS-overhead that will improve tangible performance across my intended program usage (transcoding / torrenting etc.)?
  • If I want to run a Windows 10 VM for some specific Win10 programs while everything else runs in Docker containers, does that mean my performance would need to be effectively split in a fixed proportion (CPU cores / RAM / GPU) to the VM vs. unRAID while they are running at the same time?
  • Can I run Plex / Sonarr / Radarr etc. in Docker while still pointing it to my existing DrivePool or will need to spend a lot of time effectively moving over to a pooled + parity-based solution in unRAID?
    • Can the reformatted drives be accessed from a Windows based machine?
    • Does introducing 1 or 2-parity create significant slow down from a write perspective?
  • Are there unRAID only benefits (cache drives for metadata vs. everything on a single SSD? Cache drives for torrenting?) that are only available in this environment vs. Option 1 / 3?

 

unRAID Parity vs. Stablebits DrivePool
 

Perhaps something overall driving my decision making process is just my general satisfaction with Stablebits Drivepool and not having found the equivalent of its simplicity on unRAID (fine-tuned automatic balancing across large array of disks, volume equalization, drive evacuation based on health monitoring, software level file duplication, and ease of adding/removing drives to the array without long wait times of rebuilding parity) with unRAID so far, understanding that unRAID's parity-array to protect against drive failure is one of the biggest reasons to move over to unraid from Win10 based solutions. I understand the biggest differences between unRAID and Drivepool would be the ability to have real-time redundancy in unRAID if a drive fails, but I’m not too fussed as long as I know approximately which parent folder contains the corruption/failure as I keep a 1:1 monthly online backup of the array offsite that I can always redownload (and I’ve had Drivepool evacuate a detected failing hard drive just fine without…evacuated, removed, put in a new drive and balance redistributed all the files back).

 

Conclusion

 

It seems based on the above, I’m leaning towards Option 3 so long as it retains the majority of performance functionality versus Option 1. Option 4 I could certainly be convinced and perhaps Option 3 eventually does lead to Option 4 down the line. The big hesitation / question is figuring out what performance difference occurs between Option 1 and 3 and what big “upgrades/features” I get using Option 4 over Option 1 / 3.

 

Would love to hear people’s general thoughts, sorry for the wall of text but I’m sure someone else in the world has thought / considered much of the above as they dip their toes into this fascinating software!

 

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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

i have a similar situation.  im running everything on and old Xeon serve with Windows server 2016.  Im trying to move over to unraid on an old gaming rig, 8700k and a 1070 which will handle everything much better.  windows server is staying on current server for automated centralised backups and bare metal restore function.

 

what did you decide to do?

 

i could run everything in a VM on unraid because my Blue iris (cctv) setup needs a windows environment anyway.  or i could run blue iris on the vm and plex in a docker or option 3 is i run windows to for plex and blue iris and have a separate (3rd) server just for unraid and use that for centralised media storage. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Genesius10 said:

i have a similar situation.  im running everything on and old Xeon serve with Windows server 2016.  Im trying to move over to unraid on an old gaming rig, 8700k and a 1070 which will handle everything much better.  windows server is staying on current server for automated centralised backups and bare metal restore function.

 

what did you decide to do?

 

i could run everything in a VM on unraid because my Blue iris (cctv) setup needs a windows environment anyway.  or i could run blue iris on the vm and plex in a docker or option 3 is i run windows to for plex and blue iris and have a separate (3rd) server just for unraid and use that for centralised media storage. 

 

I'm leaning towards Option 4 but I honestly haven't setup all my drives yet / still waiting on a few server parts to arrive. My game plan right now is to try a full move to Unraid, see if it works and if it doesn't I go with Option 3 because Windows gets unstable over time and I need Unraid running on the top since this is a remote server without IPMI.

 

Do you have any thoughts to any of the points I raised in Option 4?

Edited by DrivePool9015
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My thoughts are:

 

i dont know how to use unraid.

i cant seem to find an advantage to a docker rather than windows in a VM, especially when i will be running a VM 24/7 anyway.

 

im still toying around with it.  i want unraid because ive got a lot of drives and a lot of storage. plus i want to edit video and store media over the network.

 

i have asked about the advantage and i was told that errors that occur in a docker stay contained as they are their own environment but im not sure thats a good enough reason because ive had no issues running plex inside windows for years.

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