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Before I start this new project...

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not sure if this is crazy talk or even if this is the right place to ask you guys this but...

So I'm really into emulation machines as you all and for the past five years I've been playing with Launchbox or some other frontends
(sometimes I think that I like fooling around with emulators and frontends more than actually playing games...)

Anyhow, I started to feel as every machine I make is limited and I want something eternal (or that can be easily upgraded over time)

So here is my idea but does it make any sense?
- I want to use a NAS to store terabytes worth of roms (for every system I can think of, like a videogames encyclopedia)
- Then I want to use an usb external hard drive to store launchbox (with all the images, videos and such) and all portables versions of emulators (I am not sure about this, but does every emulator have a portable version? I mean complex stuff like RPCS3 or even PCSX2 probably won't even have one?)

Should I ditch the external hard drive and store everything directly on the nas?

As you can imagine the idea is the ability to instantly play games on any computer you attach to the external drive and the nas (according to the pc's power, of course).

Thank you all!

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I think the stumbling block might be portable apps. LB is portable of course but emulators for the most part have to be installed. I may be wrong, or not totally right, about that. If  your chosen emulator lists a portable version on their site, then Bob's yer uncle. Though, I feel like it would be just asking for driver issues, file path issues, etc. Maybe I'm being a pessimist. But it's probably just as easy, with potentially fewer hassles, to simply install, say Retroarch, on every PC.

You could certainly stick some games on a portable drive for a portable game solution, maybe have a folder with BIOS files on that drive also. Maybe even another folder with the emulator installers ready to install on a new PC at a moment's notice.  But I just don't know about the emulators themselves being portable.

What I do is, my main living room gaming PC has big hard drives and that has my comprehensive collection. Of course I have stuff backed up on external drives too. For my laptop and and upstairs PC, I have a little more of a lean 'n mean curated situation, just the favorites plus maybe a select few "new to me" titles which look interesting for each platform.

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@Smilator Everything you propose can be done in theory but in practice will run into issues or if really look at situation will have different use cases anyway. An external drive or a NAS will have similar considerations. The ROMs/Games/Media are easily centralized, beyond that it gets sticky. Most emulators are portable or have a portable mode with the exception of things like pinball simulation (e.g., Visual Pinball).  But portable only in the sense that they install all needed files in one root folder and don't have to be installed on a local "C drive" along with no Windows registry or files scattered around the Windows system. However, portable mode emulators are not designed to have multiple clients opening their files at same time.  Most emulators have some sort of CFG, INI or other settings they are modifying while running the emulator.  Two clients hitting the emulator settings at same time will cause all sorts of problems/corruptions.  LB is same story there as well with XML files opened/modified while running.

Also as @usuallee76 noted you may run into differences in video types, controllers, or capability from client to client that will mean at a minimum you will have to adjust those parameters per client. So even if the setup files for the emulator are not modified you still have config files with specifics about monitor size, GPU type, controllers, that may not be same from client to client.  But you could have one "master" that you maintain and then replicate that for 90% of static installed files but the trick is knowing the 10% to adjust per client.  I think also once you start really thinking about how you will use the other clients, you will likely see they are not really going to be all the same anyway.  I have main install (high power PC, full meal deal), TV room, kids room. Each of those are subset of main "master" but they have different focus points.  For example, I wouldn't want LB to be same theme for all three. TV room want a nice large text and simple theme as well as substantially smaller game set than master (no computer based stuff). Kids, they want something "kid" like for theme and with extremely curated game set that is mostly limited to cartridge based systems. The old Intel NUC they run on won't run PS1 or new games anyway.  These setups also don't really change that much so the worry of keeping synced isn't too much a concern.  If I do have to do something, I will use FreeFileSync to mirror portions of setups from NAS to local install (which all have "G drive" mapping somewhere so my paths work wherever installed).

But ultimately, you will not be able to just take an external drive and plug it in to whatever new PC and expect it to run 100% out of the box without config updates/changes to reflect hardware on that PC. For NAS, anything directly shared with multiple clients would need to be static files and not anything the emulator (or LB) is modifying.

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Hello guys, thank you so much for the replies.

First of all I don't want to play with multiple clients at the same time, so conflicts won't be a problem I guess.

Mostly my need for this solution is because I change my computer a lot. Pretty much I have to change my work (and gaming) laptop every 1.5 years.
So I want to avoid to start over from scratch every time. Considering my laptop can play up to rpcs3 or yuzu, I don't want a dedicated machine (also my house is incredibly small). 

Yes all of your objections make a lot of sense (I actually didn't think about configs, that's how noob I am), but I'll probably give it a try and use a master configuration (that I update every time I'll change my laptop).

Still I have a doubt.
Should I put Launchbox/Launchbox Media/Emulators directly on the NAS?
Or should I use the NAS only for the roms and another little device like an external hard drive for faster load times? (I have a really old shitty nas so probably an usb hdd would be faster for loading tons of stuff like launchbox game's media)

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If you are just talking making it easy to move from new PC to new PC, then it isn't that complicated.  You just need to be consistent about where you mappings are from old to new.  Almost everything if arranged properly could just be mirrored over to new PC (if installed on local drive).  Or just get an external drive, copy the stuff there, map it to something like "G" or a letter you know won't conflict later, set everything up and will be good to go later.  You may have to mod a few things but otherwise all on there.  90% of the emulators (except pinball) install everything in whatever folder you select so there isn't anything to install from Windows perspective.

As to the LB question, again, if just moving from PC to PC you could install on C drive (with all other stuff on external), copy the LB folder from old PC to new PC, run the installer for LB on new PC which will keep all settings but make sure setup on Windows correctly, and LB will still look for games where you had them as long as paths consistent (i.e. if on local drive, NAS, or external...just pick consistent drive letter).  Or, install the whole deal on external but like said before, you will have a speed hit of varying degrees on image/scrolling depending on if you setup a cache locally or not. But it will work, my initial setup was on an external "G Drive" which had ALL emulation stuff (LB, emulators, media, games).  A NAS will work identically to external drive, just may be additional speed hit on top if slow NAS and/or network.  Local, external, or NAS ultimately all work the same as far as portability as long as make consistent choice on paths.  Difference will be on performance of LB.

Edited by sundogak
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