My daughter loves my Vortexbox music server. She asked me to help her build one. She sent me her old computer, a Dell Optiplex 330 from about 2008. Not a bad machine, but out of date and slow by today's standards with a core 2 processor at 2.2Ghz, 2Gb RAM, a CD-Rom drive and 80Gb hard drive. She had recently upgraded and this box was headed for recycle.
I inspected the machine and made sure everything worked, blew out the dust bunnies and started work. I replaced the hard drive with a WD Caviar Green 2TB drive that I got locally for $79, replaced the CD-Rom with a DVD-RW drive that cost $29, replaced the CPU fan with a Thermaltake silent CPU cooler for $15 and the case fan with a 11db silent model for $12. Total parts cost including new SATA cable was less than $150. It took me less than an hour to install the new parts. (Note that you don't have to perform these sorts of upgrades, any computer with at least a P4 processor, a decent size HD and 512K of RAM will run the software.)
Next was to download the free installation ISO from Vortexbox. This is a large download, 616Mb. It includes everything you need to create a Linux-based music server, including the latest Squeezeserver software. I burned the ISO to a CD-R and was ready to install. Connected the revamped Dell to a monitor and keyboard (only required during the install of Vortexbox) and to the network via Ethernet. Set the BIOS to defaults and changed the boot sequence to look for CD first, inserted the Vortexbox installation CD and power-cycled the box. The system booted to the CD and soon I had the Vortexbox installation screen in front of me. Selected "Install" and away we go. This did everything for me: formatted the new drive (it will find and reformat any drives connected to the system so if you recycle a drive be aware it gets reformatted) installed the Linux OS, created all the necessary partitions, etc, installed the various servers software, connected to the network and downloaded any available updates, etc. The only user input that is required is to select your time zone and set a root password. Plus when it's finished in about 12 minutes and reboots, you need to be there to pull out the CD so it will boot from the hard drive.
That's it. Suddenly I had created a music server that also functions as a NAS storage location. It auto-rips CDs inserted into the drive in FLAC (and mirrors them as MP3 and/or Apple Lossless if you choose.) It automatically finds and tags album art from Gracenote, etc. It comes with a software-based player so you can control your music files directly from the server, or you can use your Squeezebox or any DLNA-enabled device to play back your library. The web-based GUI is very logical and easy to use on another computer on the network. Simple.
I slapped in a CD to test functionality. It's a bit strange while it's ripping since there is no feedback other than the sound of the CD spinning and the light on the drive. After it's finished it spits out the disk and you know it's done. I verified that the files were properly ripped in FLAC and MP3, indexed properly and that it had found the album art. It had. Squeezebox Server was automatically re-scanning for changes. Excellent.
I'm sending it out to my daughter today. She will be pleased I hope. If you have an old computer laying around, give it a try. The download is free. http://vortexbox.org/about/ If you are not a DIY person, they also sell pre-built boxes for around $500 that are genuine plug-and-play. That's what I normally use.
Highly recommended. Go for it.