Laptop as Music Server - Wear?

Interested in user's thoughts or opinions on the degree of wear that using a Laptop as a music server that is on (but not necessarily is use) 24/7. Perhaps my biggest concern is the issue of mechanical wear as well as physical due to heat. For the sake of discussion, assume a USB or FW external HDD holding the files.

I'm considering this for a Squeezebox based system. Install Squeezecenter on the laptop with file access, hard network cable to main system (it exists in my residence) then wireless to Squeezebox/PS Audio DL III.

Playing back and serving music files is not particularly cpu-intensive (the heat generated by the cpu being a very sensitive function of what it is doing), and in fact is essentially negligible in that respect if the music is stored uncompressed (so that the cpu does not have to de-compress it during playback).

So given that the files will be on an external drive, pretty much everything in the laptop will probably be little more stressed than it would be if you left the laptop simply idling 24/7. Yes the RAM memory, the chipset that interfaces to it, and various other devices on the motherboard will be processing data continuously while you are serving music, but none of that will contribute significantly to heat, and it won't contribute to mechanical wear at all.

And as far as running a laptop 24/7 under idling or near-idling conditions, there are a significant number of experienced and knowledgeable computer users who would argue that that is actually healthier for the machine than turning it on and off one or two or three times a day, because the thermal stresses of warmup are avoided. There is no conclusive proof of that, and I don't particularly believe it, but the point is that, at least as far as I am aware, there is no conclusive evidence that 24/7 operation will necessarily shorten a laptop's longevity.

So I think that the one possibly significant issue will be mechanical wear and tear on the external drive, which will be a function of how much it is used. Predicting hard drive longevity, as you probably realize, is very hit or miss, and anecdotal indications tend to be all over the map. But with hard drive costs being as low as they are these days, why worry? Just make sure, of course, that your files are properly backed up.

So that you can properly calibrate my response, I'll mention that I am a moderator on a computer-related forum on the web.

-- Al
I would think you'll be just fine, though I'm no expert like
Al. I stream movies from my laptop over the network from
time to time. No problems, no failures as yet. It's been on
most of the time for about a year now.
All of my PCs including laptop stay on 24/7. How about using
an eSATA hard drive over the USB or FireWire? That's if your
laptop has an eSATA port?

I've read it is much faster at data transfer theoretically,
up to 3 Gbps per second verses USB 2.0 of 480 Mbps or
FireWire's 800 Mbps. This may come in handy when you need to
transfer large music files.

Another plus using eSATA quoted from a webpage is
"Unlike USB and FireWire interfaces, eSATA does not
have to translate data between the interface and the
computer. This enhances data transfer speeds, while saving
computer processor resources and eliminating the need for an
extra off-load chip."

If your laptop doesn't have an esata port. You can buy a PCI
card to add on to it.

The new USB 3.0 through put, due out next year will be
faster and bi directional at 5 Gbps.

If you want to get elaborate, you could run your entire
operating system off the external eSATA HD. The majority of
the wear and tear would be on it and not the internal. Just
thinking out loud now. lol

The FIT is so small you can Velcro it to the back of your monitor. Stick a 500GB or 750GB 2.5" laptop drive in it an under full load it only draws about 6 watts.

I put a 30GB OCZ SSD in it as the boot drive. The reason for this is that there are no moving parts which makes it 100% silent while idling and it also generates less heat. My music resides on 2 external 500GB laptop drives; again less heat and noise. Under full load with all three drive "spinning" it draws about 8-9 watts. I've had no problems with it serving 5 simultaneous streams to computers and squeezeboxes around the house. I run it headless and it sits on a shelf above my main PC. I control squeezecenter from my main PC and on the occasional time I need to do maintenance on the OS, I just unplug the monitor and keyboard/mouse from my PC and plug it into the fit.

In the past I used a FlipStart PC as a music server. Again, I had all my music residing on external hard drives. The problem I had with the Flipstart was that the fan it in made a small amount of noise while idling and even more noise while serving music. In addition, I had to keep it in a place where it was assessable to do maintenance. Finally, under full load it drew about 35 watts with all drives spinning.
This Fit PC2 . . . worthy of a look. At one point I was considering an MSI Wind dual core Atom PC (not the laptop version). This Fit PC2 smaller yet . . . sheesh!

It's just I had the laptop sitting quite a bit of time when it wasn't being used for recording my keyboard work. That and a bit of use as a basic PC for relaxing outdoor work. Else, it sits unused.

But the size & economy of these smaller units is something to consider. thanks
I like the concept of the Fit-PC2. I wish one could put OS X on it. That's where my music is now and that's what my less-than-ultra-computer-savvy wife deigns to use. I assume that's not an option...
I was using an MSI Wind Nettop for about 6 months(both the single core and dual core version). The Wind worked fine once I changed the stock fan for a quieter unit. However, under full load it did tend to get a bit noisy. Two reasons for changing to the Fit was the size (think phonebook) and power draw (18 watts under load for single core, 22 watts for dual core). Most people wouldn't think twice about 22 watt power draw but I'm trying to as green as possible. I guesstimate that the Wind was costing about $6 a month to leave on all the time; the Fit cost less than $2. The big advantage the Wind has over the Fit is ram; the Wind can be fitted with up to 2GB and the Fit is limited to 1GB.

One of the Poster above mentioned E-SATA. I've only seen E-SATA on a few top of the line Gaming "Laptops" which are way overkill for a music server. While E-SATA is a lot faster than USB2.0 it's not required for serving music. The one place that you're really going to notice the difference is at backup time. Backing up my music library on my main PC using E-SATA takes under two hours. Backing up using USB2.0 takes 12-14 hours.

It's been a long time since I've seen a laptop computer with a PCI slot. However, many laptops have PCMCIA slots and E-SATA cards are available. A lot of the newer laptops/notebooks are using the smaller Express Card slots which are smaller than PCMCIA. Express Card E-SATA cards are available.
"Backing up my music library on my main PC using E-SATA
takes under two hours. Backing up using USB2.0 takes 12-14

This is good to know! Just ordered a new 1 TB eSATA/USB
drive ($70 after $20 rebate) to use with my system. I have a
little more than 400 Gbs of Music and Movies that I need to
transfer to it. I plan to use it with eSATA port instead of
USB 2.0.

I'm hoping it helps with my streaming of movies more than
music. Since the movie files are massive by comparison, some
as large as 8 Gbs! Just 43 minutes of Blue Planet Blu ray on
hard drive is 5 Gbs!

That Fit PC is one neat little unit! That would make a great
little music server. Just not enough processing power for Hi
def movies in my opinion.
With laptop price under $500, I don't think cost is a concern.

As for data transfer rate, I have my music stored in NAS and retrieve them wireless using 802.11g and still fast enough. In fact, I can upload/download music files simultaneously w/o issue.

Storing files in NAS has the added benefit of automatic backup. Buffalo NAS has RAID and I prefer having redundancy than larger space, I don't have to worry about HD crashing. Also, I can put the noise making HD away from my listening room.
I wouldn't use a laptop to STORE files, but you could use one as your interface, server. Laptop components run too hot and are too unreliable for long term file storage. You need a desktop or NAS for that, preferably with enterprise grade 3.5" drives and ventilation. Also, if your laptop requires replacement it would be a chore to retrieve your library.

The best solution will be to have a small silent, solid state drive based device (HTPC, notebook, tablet, ect) in the listening room (the drives are too small and expensive to be of much use right now) and then a network attached drive or drives for the files.