Roon Core on a headless server: differences between Linux and Windows PC? E.g. auto log on and updates?

I’d like to understand the differences between running Roon Core on a headless PC running Linux vs a headless PC running Windows 10 (the Home, not the Server version).
The main uses would be to run Roon Core and a Plex server.

As for Windows, Roon explains that the software cannot run as a service, but requires the user to be logged in. The recommendation is to set up automatic login; however, security-wise it wouldn’t be ideal - for example
"the password is stored in the registry in plain text. The specific registry key that stores this value can be remotely read by the Authenticated Users group. "

  • Is there a way to set up automatic login but then lock the PC immediately after login?

  • How about updates (both to Windows and to Roon)? Can the PC run updates automatically, reboot and automatically log you in, or is a lot of user intervention required?

  • Is there a way to get periodic notifications on the status of the PC, a bit like most NAS would email you with updates on the health of the disk and on new updates?

How about Linux, instead?

  • Is any specific distribution recommended?
  • Linux doesn’t require automatic logon like Windows does, right? I think the answer is “no” because I am running Roon Core on a Synology NAS
  • Are updates (again, both to Roon and the OS) smoother than in Windows?
  • Any other specific differences / pros / cons?

“The main uses would be to run Roon Core and a Plex server.”

I’m on the same boat… going to set up a NUC…

But, at the end of the day the easiest way seems to be (for my skills) to go with ROCK and leave Plex working on my nas.

You can do all this on Linux no problems, I can’t talk to windows as my house is a windows free zone. Linux is meant to run with no GUI so there is nothing odd about what you are trying to do.

I used Ubuntu Server 18.04.3 LTS (Long Term Support) when you stick in you usb and boot select the minimal install and then add ssh (its a tick box). Adding Roon via the command line took 10 mins after the regular install. Plex is also supported.

Correct, you power on the machine and the Linux OS will start the required processes at boot time if you are logged in or not.

For updates to the OS:

  • You can either set Ubuntu to take OS updates automatically
  • You can login to the command line and update from there
  • You can install a web GUI like Cockpit and use that to monitor and manage your server

For Roon you update via the Roon GUI.

Cockpit is easy to install and gives you web access that looks like this:-

If you had updates to apply a button would be shown on this screen.

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The answer to all your questions regarding Windows is yes and in my, admittedly limited, experience you may get better performance too.

How would you set Windows to lock the PC immediately after the automatic log in?

When you say better performance, do you mean you get better performance in Windows or in Linux?

You can ensure remote registry access is disabled and set the screen timeout to 1 minute to lock the OS after startup. I do this very thing.

Possibly better performance in Windows.

W10H is a desktop OS. It’s not optimized to run background server processes. You have to search for and tweak energy saving options or the system might fall asleep, slowdown or shutdown network connections, turn-off storage and peripheral devices and/or just greatly reduce processor speed when it thinks it’s not in use.

Just set the auto lock time to the minimum available?

I guess auto-update is still the default. With auto-login enabled, a user gets automatically logged in after restarts.

Maybe with third-party monitoring software installed?

Keep in mind that W10H is a desktop OS. That means that Microsoft assumes that a user is sitting in front of the system and is using it. If no user activity is detected (for a given time period), the system is considered to be not in use and the OS can therefore do anything it wants to do with the system including running updates and reboot, running disk checks/defragmentation jobs, running content indexing jobs, running virus/malware scans, reduce speeds and/or turn of subsystems to save energy or just send the system to sleep or turn it off.

ROCK is a locked down OS/Roon distribution. It’s not possible to install additional software. So no Plex server on the same machine.

For the kind of use I have in mind, what would be the differences between Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu desktop and Ubuntu Core? I understand the Intel NUCs are Ubuntu-certified, butonly for the core and desktop versions of the OS

That’s interesting. Do you mean both Plex and Roon or mostly Roon will perform better in Windows? May I ask if this is your experience or something specifically mentioned by the Roon developers (eg some optimisation in their code)?

You want server.
Desktop is not for headless use.
Core is for IoT type apps and everything is a “snap” you don’t want that.

On the performance question, there are threads on here about Linux vs Windows vs Mac, but nothing is proven and there are many users asserting things as facts based on counters in the GUI that the dev team say should not be used for such purposes. Its likely that whatever you choose performance is going to be just fine.

All this is very intriguing.
I’m changing ideas every other day… reading your posts is forcing me to give a chanche to Ubuntu Server + Roon + Plex…
But it seems not so easy

I was running Roon on a Windows PC and moved to ROCK on a NUC about 6 months ago; best thing I ever did. It runs 24/7 without problems and I use a combination of tablet, phone and PC (with music stored on a NAS) to manage my music. I have a lot of surround sound music and my PC wouldn’t link to my AVR and the NUC allows me to play SS music via Roon. I don’t have the skills to use Linux so the ROCK option was great. Mind you, still took me a few hours and reading lots of threads to get it working as I didn’t find the Roon guidance as simple as it is supposed to be.

Roon is using .NET from Microsoft on Windows for library management. On Linux (and Mac OS X?) they have to use the open-source implementation of .NET called Mono which is not as performant as the original. They already managed to use the original .NET for their Nucleus(+) and in ROCK. Maybe this will be possible for generic Linux installations too in the future but nothing is announced so far and so might never happen at all.

Good point, thanks. To elaborate on that, do you mean that, with the proper settings, Windows 10 Home can be made to work as a headless Roon Core and Plex Server? Or that Windows Server would be better? I am just afraid that Windows Server would be overkill, both in terms of complexity and cost. Plus not all NUCs work with Windows Server

Indeed I wasn’t talking about ROCK, because I know it’s a locked down OS for Roon; I was talking about a generic Linux distribution (maybe Ubuntu) on which to run Roon Core and Plex server.

I see, thanks. However, the Ubuntu website mentions that only the desktop and the core versions are certified as compatible with the NUCs. May I ask what kind of computers you installed Ubuntu server on? The NUCs seem an interesting choice because they’re so compact; I know very little about Linux and the last thing I want to do is spend days setting it up because some drivers aren’t working!

I run Windows 10 Pro as a Roon/HQP server. I use Pro because it has RDP which allows me to access the desktop via my iPad. I’ve deleted a lot of bloatware, closed unnecessary services and configured the power to Server so it is never throttled. I turn it on and off as I am listening. The only continuing issue I have is that it will stutter playback when it wants to autoupdate. A restart fixes that but it can be annoying.

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If you are referring to my thread about ROCK Vs Windows performance. I have not asserted anything as fact. I have reported my finding and have asked Roon and other experienced users for their thoughts.

My personal experience is that Windows 10 performs better than than ROCK (which is Linux based). I have not stated anywhere that this is true across the board.

Ubuntu server will work just fine with the NUC.

No offense meant @Tim_Rhodes I don’t recall who had made the comment, I just recall a thread where the mod was having to do a fair amount of refereeing. Clearly Mac vs Windows vs Linux is a hot topic.

I agree with @andybob that W10Pro is better suited for the job than W10H, but still one has to figure out and tweak the system to behave itself. While one might find some generic advice in the internet, there might be system/component specific tweaks as well which one has to figure out somehow should there be problems. Update: Windows Server has its caveats too and is of no help for the Roon Server does not run as a service issue that needs to be addressed by using auto-login. If Roon and Plex are your only needs, then a generic Linux (server) installation seems to be the way to go in my opinion. The use of Windows shines primarily if one wants/has to use hardware that only works (to it’s full intent) with Windows drivers.

The post/answer you referring to isn’t addressed to you.

Both applications depend on a media library that has to be stored somewhere. If a user is unfamiliar with Linux or just want things work and don’t want to mess around (too much) with OS settings and configurations, using a suitably powerful NAS as a headless server might be a solution too that has the added benefit of also including the needed storage. Having the library on local storage might have some benefits over accessing it remotely (Goodbye NAS, hello USB drive).

PS: I’m using a QNAP NAS as a media server that runs Roon Server and some extensions, Plex Server, Calibre and Calibre-Web.