Play Music Directly From Windows Home Server in iTunes

So, you have your home server set up and your shared music folder is full to bursting with great tunes. You’ve tried various media players, but you’ve settled on Apple’s iTunes, perhaps because you have an iPod or iPhone, or just because you like it. But how do you play the music stored on your home server in iTunes? Sure, you could add all of the tracks to your library, and wait for a couple of days whilst it’s moved across. Or, like many of the branded home servers available today, you could install an iTunes Server, so your home server pops up in the list of devices available in iTunes.

itunespre

As you can see here, we already have two HP Data Vaults on the network which come with an iTunes Server pre-installed – they appear in iTunes’ Shared menu, and we can jump straight in and play music stored on those servers immediately. But our self-build home server, WHSTV, is not listed, so we need to get that iTunes Server installed quick smart.

Here’s how!

1. Download Bonjour for Windows

Bonjour is a networking protocol developed by Apple, which is required by iTunes to see devices on the network. The good news is, it’s a very simple download and install. So, download the Bonjour for Windows installer, which is our first step.

bonjdl[1]

2. Install Bonjour for Windows on Your Home Server

We now need to install Bonjour on your home server. Firstly, copy the Bonjour installer to your home server’s Software shared folder.

bonj[1]

Next, we need to install Bonjour on the server. To do so, we’ll use Remote Desktop Connection to work directly on the home server. On one of your PCs attached to the network, go to Start > Accessories > Remote Desktop Connection to bring up the login screen.

rdc[1]

Type in the name of your home server, and your Administrator login details when prompted, and you’ll open your home server’s desktop. Once you’re there, open up the Software shared folder, and you should see Bonjour there waiting to be installed.

bonj3[1]

Double click on the Bonjour installer, and click through the wizard. You can leave the default settings in the wizard as you work through.

bonj4 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server bonj5 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server bonj6 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server bonj7 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server bonj8 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server bonj9 thumb Watch Video on Your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch With  Air Video and Windows Home Server

3. Download Firefly Media Server

Firefly Media Server is an open source media server which connects the pipes between iTunes and a range of devices running various operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS and Linux. At the time of writing, the application hadn’t been updated for some time, but that’s okay as it works fine. We’ll need to download the Windows 2000/XP/Vista (32-bit) version.

firefly

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52 comments

      1. Maybe it was exclusively built for HP. Have you ever checked the version number of FireFly that comes with the HP MediaSmart Server Update 3.0 (I don't have a HP box). Maybe that one is the most stable release.

    1. Thanks a lot. I will try that one. I have a major issue with the 1696 version. Sometimes when a stream to an iTunes client is not properly closed, then firefly ends up in an endless loop, consuming 100% of one of the Atom330 cores in my server. Even though the system is reasonably cooled (but the Atom has only a heatsink !), the Atom gets to approx 100 degress Celsius. So I want to change to a different build.

  1. Hi Terry, Thanks for this article. I'm using iTunes to organize my music as well (Album covers, Playlists, etc…).
    With this setup each iTunes client will still update is own database locally (so a playlist created on computer A, is not available on computer B) or does Firefly take over the cataloging features?

    1. Firefly will look after indexing any content that is on the home server itself, and is independent of the local iTunes database/library. Note that your music won't be added to the iTunes library itself, but the device is now visible on the client PCs ruinning iTunes.

      1. Are there any advantages to using Firefly over adding files on the server to the local database? Is this mainly for folder monitoring?

  2. For me personally I hack the iTunes package from Apple and load it directly on my WHS box which is my own custom box and not from specific vendor.

    To hack iTunes packages you need download iTunes, have a zip utility, and an msi editor. Unzip the exe file you download. Edit each msi file and remove the OS restrictions believe table is called local launch or something like that. In the main iTunes.msi file go to the table called service or services and remove the two ipod entries. Install iTunes on WHS by executing iTunes.msi and not setup.exe.

    You will get little nuances like iTunes helper not installed correctly but iTunes will work like it should. Now you can stream not only audio but video as well including stuff you buy from iTunes.

    From there I’d setup the home share feature or whatever its called in iTunes and you can have it pull all paid content to the WHS box.

    1. Hi Jasen, could you write down a more detailed instruction on how to do this? Would appreciate it.

    2. Yes, more detailed instructions would be great! I'm trying to do this, specifically for the reasons you stated +
      1) When I sync my iphone to any client, it backs it up to the WHS and transfers new purchases etc.
      2) I use itunes as my home music system with a hand full of airport express' to distribute music to different rooms. I need itunes up and running at all times so I can access it from the Remote App.

  3. I don't get it. I mean I do, but why is it so involved?

    I purchased my WHS 2.5yrs ago precisely because my XP laptop at the time only had a 100GB drive and my iTunes library was about to burst with about 60GB. After the initial WHS setup, I created a Music dir directly under the \serverMusic share. All my laptop music was then transferred there. Yes, a lengthy, but one-time transfer.

    Within iTunes, instead of the default C:Music folder for the library location, I changed to M:Music. …and voilà!

    My wife bought her laptop (Vista) and I made the same change there. We both point to the same iTunes library on M:Music and can see each other's playlists, additions, etc. Only downside is not able to BOTH have iTunes open at the same time (which, for us, hasn't been a problem) I have since dropped my XP laptop for a Win7 desktop and one small iTunes lib change there was all that was needed. Our shared Music folder has since grown to 90+GB with no problems whatsoever.

    So, I ask again… why all the (seemingly to me, anyways) fuss?

    1. Totally agree. This is what I do. I don't understand why you need all the steps. changing the default music library location is much more seamless too.

      1. Because if you just import the library into iTunes, you have to manually add new music to the iTunes library (unless it was purchased in iTunes) – with Firefly, everything is indexed automatically.

  4. So how is this any different than installing iTunes on my a computer and choosing to import the Music Folder from the WHS?

    1. If you import the Music folder, any music you subsequently add to that folder will need to be manually added to the iTunes library. With Firefly, it's automatically indexed.

      1. Actually Terry you are not right. If you start Itunes while pressing the shift button then select the library that you have stored on a shared directory on the server ( do this on all PCs you want iTunes to see the same library) anything that you add here will appear on all other PCs when they open iTunes as they will share the same library. I have had this working for 2 years this way and have had no problems!

        1. Hi Matt

          My point is that you still have to manually add new tracks to the *first* library, even if they're subsequently duplicated across other PC's, right?

          1. In the spirit of this just tried it – downloaded a track using Itunes on PC downstairs, went upstairs and started iTunes and the track was there. Also the other benefit is that you get all the album covers, which with the firefly route you dont seem to get ( well this was when I was trying it out 2 years back ).

          2. Let me try this – done it in the past and no problems but will try and report back.

          3. Ok – imported a track from a CD into Itunes on PC upstairs and it is showing on the iTunes on the PC downstairs. The track is stored in the shared itunes folder on the server and as both PCs look to the same library and database they both see it.

  5. Thanks Terry,
    But I also would like to play the music from my WHS. I just bought an apple airport express. No problem to play from itunes on my pc but if It goes to sleep then the music stop. So is there a simple way to stream it from WHS to my airport express?

  6. Thank you very much for the article! I currently use our ITunes on two clients (Win 7) connected to my WHS Vail Music Share as the library folder. Both clients are logged into the same Itunes account. The problem is this: When I purchase a track on client A, it gets copied to the WHS share. However, client B will not update itself with that track and I have to add it manually. Has anyone else come across this? Maybe you have a workaround or a better solution? I want to be able to buy music from either client and have it show up on the other. I am about to break down and create a custom app that will do this for me…

  7. Another nice thing about using Firefly is that, with some router port-forwarding tweaks, you can stream your music from your home server over the Internet to a remote location. You're not bound to existing on the same local area network as you are with any of the iTunes "sharing" options.

    1. This is what I was looking for. This is a night and day difference. I can't seem to find out how this works though. Can I browse songs? The screen shots of Firefly have nothing like that. All I can see is a playlist creation mechanism. I want to browse songs and pick the ones I want to play at that moment and play them remotely. Is that possible?

  8. I have a question regarding the iTunes set up available on HP WHS and I wonder if the same issues apply when using the method above. When selecting my server; all I can do is play individual songs. I can't edit tags, I can't see cover art, I can't copy the files, add to playlists… anything at all.

    Is this to be expected? I imagine if I just point to the actual folder share (as mentioned above), this would fix some things, but this isn't exactly what I want to do.

    1. That is intentional, apple do not allow edits on remote libraries. Using another PC with Home Sharing seems to be the only way to gain some privileges over another library. Of course this entails using the folder redirect method pointed out by others above.

  9. This is Brilliant! For those of us with Home built Servers, this is a must have feature. As you explained, the HP's have itunes server built into them. Unfortunately itunes server isn't something available to the public. I've read articles that involve hacks and complicated reverse engineering to install itunes directly on the WHS but this is much easier.

    The only thing I have to complain about is slow transfer speeds loading songs off the network to my itouch. The network is very fast normally, sometimes I can actually download at 99% on the gigabit lan. That's like a couple seconds for a DVD image. So I don't really understand why it takes so long to load mp3's onto an itouch using the same network. It's much slower then loading songs from local storage for some reason. Playback is fine though, I don't have any issues streaming the music.

  10. Also, yeah it's nice that the HP's have itunes server built into them but there's just no comparing the Server I built to an HP. Here's my specs.

    Cooler Master Storm Scout case (All black powder coated with stealth red LED lights)
    Gigabyte Ma790gp-UD4H motherboard (SB750 Chipset)
    AMD Phenom II X2 550 with both disabled cores unlocked @ 3600mhz
    4 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 7200 rpm drives.
    Kingston Hyper X PC8500 @ 1066mhz RAM
    Corsair 750TX Single 12v Rail Power Supply.
    2 Additional Red LED fans with on/off switch for the LED's.

    It's probably overkill for a server but it looks store bought and performs like a champ. The CPU idles at a cool 29c with the OCZ Vendetta II CPU cooler installed.

  11. If you're connected abroad using Hamachi to your WHS, you still can listen to the music stored on your WHS box, really awesome.

    And for those who have an Android phone, there is an application called DAAP, which can sync to the stream coming from the Firefly Media Server.

    BTW: I installed only the firefly media server on the WHS, without any add-ins. If I want to manage somthing, I RDP into the WHS. Firefly is always seen as a tray icon, from which exactly the same can be controlled. The first comment from Andreas on how to install svn-1737 is a must-read! This version is much better than the ones that come with the default installer.

  12. I tried this method over a year ago. The issue I had is that any music stored on my Home Server, showed up in itunes, but could not be synced to my ipod. Has this changed?

      1. So, if I jump through all these hoops and convince my kids to make the Music share their primary RIP folder, they can't get their music back onto their iPods?

        Is there any way around that, besides pointing to WHSMusic from their copy of iTunes? That creates the potential of duplicate entries in their iTunes library, and/or someone inadvertently deleting something someone else wants.

  13. Well I love this idea and tried this over the weekend, but while the server side went well, the itunes client on my Win7 pc never saw the server.. 🙁 any ideas woudl be appreciated!

  14. Umm…why is this so over-complicated?

    Open iTunes and set the media location to the UNC path of your Music on your WHS… It builds the library and you're done.

  15. Hi,

    can twonky provide the same functionality? I have this setup currently and it works well, however don't see it as a device in iTunes 🙁

    Thanks
    Tony

  16. If you point more than one iTunes client to a WHS UNC path, your iTunes library is guranteed to become corrupted.

  17. I am having problem running the bonjoure installer with remote desktop connection and signed in as administrator. Any advise?

  18. V interesting article, didn't realise you could install bonjour without iTunes. I use iHomeServer which wraps iTunes with a windows service and performs basic media management behind the scenes. For example it detects new media, changes to metadata, cover art updates etc. It also detects zombie tracks and deletes them automatically. I have this running in windows server 2008, so I suspect it will work on WHS, but I don't know.
    http://www.bizmodeller.com/iHomeServer_for_iTunes

  19. Terry:  I am a new kid here on the server block, but I followed all your directions, added Bonjour and Firefly into my WHS 2003 home made server.  But I can’t seem to add the shared library into itunes on another pc that has access to WHS?  Any hints?
    THX

  20. I’m an iTunes & WHS novice, but just started iTunes with ‘shift’, created a new library, and dragged my WHS music folder in.  It seems to work fine, or am I missing something?

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