NAS vs. an External Drive into Windows PC

As the title suggests I’m interested in your thoughts on using an external hard drive (in my case a Seagate 8TB USB drive) into a Windows 11 PC (low end) versus a NAS. Reason I ask is two-fold, first I saw something in a JRiver Wiki that said they do not recommend external drives since they are too slow. I’m not really sure what slow/fast is here, as usual these folks assume you know all (so why have a Wiki?), but I don’t know squat … I really hate wading into the JRiver forum and worse, Audiophile Style, but you folks here are smart and mostly harmless. My thought is JRiver are more concerned with video files (most of their updates are video related) which are much larger than typical audio (not sure about DSD256). The other issue is I went and bought a NAS, Synology DS224+, on Black Friday and discovered when I went to initiate it that you either use new drives or reformat the ones you put in. Uh, no, not doing that with my 5TB NAS drive that I had used for maybe three years in a PC until I replaced the PC a short while back. To my dismay the new PC would not support another drive (power supply won’t support says Dell). Rather than mess with the computer to install the NAS drive I either stick with the external drive or buy a couple of new NAS drives (I have a preference for Seagate, but no Western Digital if I can help it). So what say you?

Note: I know there has been some similar discussion in the past, but I’m looking for a fresh take on this.

Hi, I haven’t delved into NAS, setup is fussy and complicated. Simple works for me. I don’t use a streamer with the extra switch(es) and Ethernet cables.

I use USB 3.0 Western Digital external drives with my HP Windows 11 Core i5 HTPCs. I haven’t had a problem with speed. Easier for me to deal with.

I’ve run into processing issues when using the parametric eq feature in JRiver DSP to swap left and right channels. I did this for a while to compensate for a defective USB device in my PS Audio NuWave DACs (in USB channels were swapped). This processing in JRiver couldn’t handle a 2XDSD full symphony file. It would skip musical sections.

I had to send the DACs in after calling PS Audio who confirmed the USB device defect. It was fixed under warranty but I was out the costs for insurance and shipping. I don’t know why PS Audio didn’t notify customers who registered their products with the defect affecting some serial numbers.

I’ve moved on from the NuWave DSDs, and use the same model HTPC for both my systems. My music files are in USB 3.0 external drives. I maintain backups in my living room system PC. I have two 4TB USB 3.0 HDDs and one 8TB USB 3.0 HDD connected to it. All of these have their own wall wart external power adapter. I can use JRiver DSP to resample any PCM file to DSD up to 4xDSD with no issue. I can decide if the resampling improves the sound of PCM files. If so I use it, if not I don’t. I’ve found that results vary from file to file.

I’m still on JRMC28. Unless I read in the what’s new section of the later version releases that there are improvements in the audio section, I’ll tend to pass. The only recent “improvement” I noticed I think was in MC31. It had more to do with compatibility with changes related to streaming from JRiver Cloudplay. I really don’t use JRiver Cloudplay so I passed. Prior to that I think around JRiver MC25, they improved audio, including changing their resampler and HDCD detection. When I changed PCs from Win10 to Win11, I downloaded the older MC28 from the MC28 subforum and it works with Windows 11.

I avoided the NAS route. To me, the benefits of using a NAS for two different JRiver installations didn’t outweigh the time and effort to setup, troubleshoot, and maintain the NAS. Moving from Windows 10 to Windows 11 Operating system in the NAS sounds pretty complicated if you want to keep compatibility with existing stuff.

I don’t know if this helps.


1 Like

I would use the DS224+ and put a pair of Segate Iron Wolf drives in it. Get the biggest ones you can afford. Amazon has 12TB drives for $199 each right now.
Use the current Synology DSM and format the drives BTRFS. You can use a RAID array or not. I do but many do not. As long as your backup is current (daily) you will be OK.
You can then copy the 5TB drive over to the new NAS and then use that drive for external backup later.
You can plug the external drive into the NAS USB port and do a copy from that location once everything is up and running.
Any drive will be fast enough for music. You are limited by the network bandwidth anyway so drive speed is not an issue.
Hope this helps!


Plus one here for the NAS.
So much less hassle, all your files available to anything on your LAN (including other streamers in the future), and no Windows stupid update issues to deal with corrupting your primary data copy.

@Baldy gets it spot on, only thing I would say is, with drives that big at that price, get two and choose the Mirror option (I think that is a 2-bay NAS you have?) when you format the drives :slight_smile:

I have a DS 214+ here, it’s run continuously since 2014 and not put a foot wrong.


Yes having all the music (or movies which I have none) in one place is a huge benefit for the reasons you say. I have had my music on a PC before and it was a disaster to try and keep up with.

I have a DS1522 as my primary with 4x 8TB Iron Wolf in mirror RAID as you suggest.

My DS218 got bumped to backup service so I just use the two 8TB’s there as a JBOD.

I have a 16 TB USB external drive as backup to that NAS. Primary overkill but hey look where we hang out. :grin:


Thanks for the replies! I’ve marked Baldy’s as the solution since it was pretty specific. I do agree with Boom_Boom though, keep it simple. I’m going to hold off for a few days and watch the price of drives. The 12TB one’s that Baldy pointed out were a great deal, but … the seller was Autocare Depot! For NAS drives? Turns out its a subsidiary of NewEgg which is where I got the Synology. There was a review which indicated the drives were not factory fresh so I’ll probably skip that one since it may be NewEgg returns.

If anyone else has words of wisdom, please pass on!

I use a NAS and yes it’s recommended for a few reasons, but to operate it safely, with those recommended functions and updated, one has to be IT affine I’d say. It can be more or less plug&play but doesn’t have to.

If you care for backups also when using external drives, the main annoying thing you will notice with them is that they go in standby every xx minutes and when you then want to play a track, it takes several seconds until it starts. Speed might be an issue with DXD or DSD256 files, not sure, but I rather think not.

I just know QNAP NAS and can say they have a great US support which gets remotely on your PC to help you in case…

1 Like

With Synology you can force the drives to be on all the time if needed or wanted.
Also here is a great place to get instructional vids:


Yes, same with QNAP. Those better NAS hard drives are made for continuous operation anyway, it would stress them more to stop and start frequently I guess.


Coupla things… easiest stuff first…

1 - Central vs PC storage. Do you want to share your files with other PCs in your home? If so, a NAS or a disk attached to your router (more on this later) is the easiest best way. Think about it… I use a NAS for centralized backup of all my PCs and to distribute music and photos… PCs are in my home theater, keyboard setup, work laptop, and Her PC. So… a centralized backup and distribution system is important in my world.

2 - If Central, what kind of setup? NASs are my choice because I am protected by disk failure (RAID 5). (I do backup my NAS - I have quadruple redundancy because I am a paranoid nut. Also I set my NAS to spin down the disks after two hours of non-use thus extending the life of the drives.) Another option for centralized storage, is take your disk drive with your data and buy a case that has a USB port on it. Your home router most likely (all now?) has a USB port or two that can support a disk drive. In the router software, you can set it up as a common, shared drive on your home network. This is a cheap setup. Read more here:

3 - Speed requirements. Putting music files on a drive external to your PC or on a network (see above) is no issue… but I recommend not using wireless (more below) and I use a direct Ethernet connection to my router. It is how I feed my DirectStream DAC (NAS->PC->DAC) I never had a problem and that goes back many years when drives and networks were slow. My player, Foobar, has a buffer size slider so I can increase the buffer on my PC to avoid stream juddering. Again, no issue now but check to see if your player has this functionality. What this does is if your network or disk drives are being hit by multiple users, you may get juddering, so the PC stores up a few seconds of music in case of an interruption.

  1. If your PC is not a speedy one, I found the more hard drives you attach to it can slow it down a bit. I once, just for chuckles, installed a bunch of small spinners that were gathering dust on my shelf and found it slowed my machine down. For reasons only known to Microsoft engineers, the operating system would randomly decide to " check " on each drive before it would do anthing else. Sheesh.

  2. Wireless is evil. Make sure you are running the faster 5G LAN wireless else you may have juddering problems. Further, if you have many devices sharing the bandwidth or your signal strength to your PC is not super… you get degradation of throughput performance. If there is nothing you can do and must go wireless, maybe direct connect of your drive to the PC is best way.

So, in summery, if you are going to share files over your network or want a common place to backup files from multiple PCs, a NAS is the best way by far. If your world revolves around only one PC, it is cheaper to plug that drive into that machine… either internally or via a little USB 3.0 box. However, you still need a backup solution and therefore more drives… hence you may as well get a NAS.

Top Tip for a NAS: Use RAID 5 and make sure you configure it to send you an email should a disk fail. My buddy lost all of his photos from various family trips… he installed a NAS in his home but never logged into it to check its logs… lost a drive and didn’t know it, then lost a 2nd and that was game over. He said he didn;t check it for two years.

Iron Wolf drives: Yep, for NASs… and I had one fail after 3 months. Got it replaced under warrenty but the process was painful and took a full five weeks of processing… I am not saying iron wolf drives are bad, but it was what it was.

Bruce in Philly


Just to give another response. I use a 1TB, 2TB 5TB and a 6TB external hard drive. I can use two at a time attached to the PC except for the 6 TB one even with its wall wart power supply my HP i5 PC doesn’t like having it and another external hard drive attached to it at the same time.

I use JRiver 31 and stream the files wirelessly to a Comcast modem/router and never have any issues with speed. From the modem/router the files go to either an Oppo 105D or a PS Audio DAC Sr. via Ethernet.

1 Like

I setup a 4 bay Synology 9xx nas for this purpose a few years ago to replace my nuc but it sounded awful, it sounded very bright and I promptly turned it off and not used it since. Should I have fitted SSD rather than HD and also fit the extended ram buffer module?

I ran SSD drives inside my streamers. Everybody said too noisy! Use a NAS instead! So I built a five bay Raid 6 Synology NAS with an M2 drive for the input and another M2 drive on the output. (Speedy caching don’t you know). IronWolf drives. Spendy stuff! Like half the cost of a good power cable. (3K)

Everyone then said Don’t use a NAS! Too noisy! Use an Internal SSD! LOL

I can listen to either, I prefer the NAS both for the sound I hear and the glory of Raid 6. I still back everything up eight different ways including offsite. No cloud backup though. I love Dropbox for what I use it for but that’s it for Cloud use for me.

Unfortunately the NAS does nothing at all for vinyl playback.


I use a Pentium i5 NUC as my primary music source, it has a new 2tb SSD drive, and I play from that, its good. My Synology single bay nas is just used as 1 off 2 backups. I use Audirvana

Thanks Peter. I remember those days. Not fondly. Audirvana was particularly horrible. Ewe!

I am sorry to hear this. I have no clue how that NAS could affect the sound, I really don’t. It is just a storage medium.

I am amazed at what can cause a sound difference, if I could not hear these differences, I would not be on this forum nor spending gazillions on this crazy equipment and systems… but… I honestly have no clue how storage can affect the sound… it is just so far upstream from the DAC and goes through so much more stuff… maybe, just maybe… can you move the NAS and plug it into the exact same circuit at your PC or maybe the DAC? Maybe there is some sort of loop in your home.

Bruce in Philly

1 Like

While I don’t know the answer to this (though I’m certain it’s not 42), in the past some folks here and elsewhere have said a NAS is a “quieter” environment for a storage drive. I know NAS use a much simpler computer and there are fewer processes running at a given time so, theoretically, there should be less noise. I’ll leave it at that.


Thanks Bruce, I’ve got over it now :wink: I suspect it’s down to 2 things 1, physical disk vibration. 2, cheap psu power regulation.

Excellent post. I’ve been using my laptop to connect with the MK1 DAC via USB for quite sometime. Looking at all the alternatives and the absolutely mind numbing variations in equipment, software, terminologies and pro’s vs con’s, your post was a textbook example breaking it down for novice’s, such as myself.
Many thanks.

Just to add a few more comments about our computer-based lives…

Computing is part of how we live now, and trying to save money can be a bit foolish. I get asked often for help trying to speed up old computers and such… and I just say “no” now. I am amazed at how many smart people don’t back up their drives. Solid state drives are way way more dependable than spinners but, in time, will fail. You can’t beat entropy. Spend the money, get a fast machine, get extra drives for backups, get a NAS if you have a multiple PC environment. Just do it, it is how we live now and it is important.

Cloud backup is getting cheaper now so look into this. I don’t do cloud backup (yet, I will someday) as my storage needs are pretty huge and I have it sussed with a NAS (four drives in RAID 5) (actually I have two NASs, but that is a story for another day), and a few really big spinners that I use to backup that NAS… these spinners snap into a caddy so I can take the drives offsite and I only have them “on” when I do the backups. Not an automated approach, but again, it is just part of our digital lives now. BTW, cloud backup is not a way to distribute music, photos, and other files around your home… the performance is not there.

Bruce in Philly