That is the question I have been trying to find out and unfortunately the answer has a bit of a yes and no answer.

First off let’s explain why I have been investigating home plugs, I have a rather complicated setup at home. I have a Windows Home Server, this stores all my media and it is situated in a cupboard downstairs off the kitchen, my main phone point is on the landing upstairs and this is where the modem / router is located. My Popcorn Hour is in the living room and the flooring in the house is solid oak.

My problem is how to connect the Windows Home Server to the router and also feed the Popcorn Hour with HD content, I hate WiFi as it is unreliable for constant data streaming and as my Wireless N Router has only one band, as soon as you connect anything that is not Wireless N certified the speed drops across the network to Wireless G so it is not an option to use Wireless.

So to the Home Plugs solution, for anyone that doesn’t know about Home Plugs you can have a read of the Wiki here.

I have three Zyxel PowerLine HomePlug AV’s, one connected to the router, one to the Windows Home Server and one for the Popcorn Hour. They are completely plug and play and simple to set up, plug them into the wall, plug in the supplied Ethernet cable and then plug the other end into the device and thats all there is to it.

As we already know streaming HD content can take up quite a lot of bandwidth and to be honest there are different types of HD content and depending on the bitrate of the files you are streaming depends on the success you will have.

I have successfully streamed high quality 1080P files with 30mbps and above variable bitrates using the 200mbps Home Plugs but every now and then I get stutters and sound drop outs, this can be very annoying and even worse if the wife and kids are sitting with you to watch a movie and it starts to freeze up, it drives me mad, so the answer to the question is yes they can handle 1080p HD streaming but not at the highest quality.

So my problem is how to get the most reliable system without having to rip my floors up or channel the walls, I have though long and hard about this and come up with one solution that will enable me to do it but it is not going to be easy.

I will leave all the components where they are, add in a gigabit switch connected to the Windows Home Server, run one cable from the gigabit switch externally over the house roof and into the living room behind the TV into the Popcorn Hour, this will enable me to have gigabit speeds from the Windows Home Server to the Popcorn Hour and the Home Plugs will only handle the internet connection to the Server and Popcorn Hour, this will provide massive bandwidth for streaming the highest bitrate content without any glitches, its my next project, I have the parts, just need to get over my fear of heights to get the ladders out and up onto the roof.

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Will let you know when it is done and how it performs and if I fall off the roof!

4 thoughts on “Home Plugs and streaming HD content from a Windows Home Server”
  1. I have a very similar setup with the router near the main phone point as this gives the best ADSL speeds. I then have the Xbox in the living room with the WHS and HTPC off in the study. These are all connected via Devolo dLAN 200 AV’s.

    Although Home Plugs work great and are so simple to install there limitation is the 100mbps LAN ports. I can see that between the Home Plugs they are running at an average of 135mbps but there is still that physical limitation of 100mbps.

    There are now Home Plugs with 1gbps ports but I’m not sure how much that will help since devices like the Xbox, PS3, etc still only have 100mbps ports in them.

  2. Do you live in a terraced house? If not, over the roof seems a bit extreme. Why not just go round the side? It’s generally a lot easier than over the roof – I did that with a connection from my study to my living room to link my home server to the media center. I also put in another router in the living room so that I could use the same hard wired connection to go to my PS3, and it works fantastically – much better than the home plugs which I used to use too.

    You’ll also find that external cable costs a lot more than internal cable, but you can cut that down by putting some shielding around it. I used some flexible hose designed for water buts to run my cable through, and it has the added advantage of offering some protection against it getting bashed outside by the window cleaner or someone like that (I definitely couldn’t afford armoured cable).

    If you do have to go up and over, why not go in through the eaves and through your loft rather than right over the top. That will protect the cable a bit from the most exposed positions.

  3. It is a terraced house so that is why I am going over the top, I will investigate the eaves option, will get the ladders out at the weekend.

  4. Hi Chris,

    I followed a similar process for a while, using in my case the Devolo 200mbps units. But i found that HD content , particularly ‘managed’ , Blu Ray or HD-DVD with high bit rates where unpredictable.

    The root cause was i was told that the home plugs effectively behave like a HUB and not a Switch, so the level of collisions rises fairly quickly. The second factor at work was when you monitored the actual bitrates available at any given time , it tended to collapse below 100mbps when the ‘network’ was busy.

    We followed the external route. The Switch was located in the loft/attic, with cable runs taken to the edge of the building , then passed out thorugh the eves, and run down behind the drain pipes, tie-wrapped on. The trick here was to use a colour of cat 5e/6 that matches your drain pipes. Then passed into the house at the nearest point close to ground level.

    This has a huge ‘WAF’ , since no nailing around the building , hidden cables , etc. First time you paint your drain pipes , the whole thing disappears and doesnt ruin the look of the house.

    Since we did it , a number of my friends have pursued it as the same soluton with almost universal success.

    Using standard Cat5e wall socket points in the loft , recreates the all important ‘patch panel’ , with the ‘pretty’ sockets in the living spaces.

    My view is dont hesitate , the 1Gbps is the way to go , and using the outside of you house , and the drain pipes , provides an excellent way to do it without the horrors of diggin holes in the walls.

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