The Pirate Box - A Portable Media Server

Ta daa


Rough summary of Wot It Does

A PirateBox is a homemade media server constructed from a hacked router flashed with the eponymous Piratebox software designed by David Darts, and then customised however you like. The PirateBox I assembled allowed any WiFi enabled device to connect to it as if it were a wifi network, and then stream a curated list of TV episodes and movies via their phone/laptop/tablet browser without having to download a thing or put up with pesky ads. I originally built it for the common room of my school when I was 17, but now I use it in college instead.

Design + Principles

(basic computer familiarity required)

Cred: David DartsIn the same way as the internet is a collection of billions of websites all linked together, the PirateBox acts as a tiny "micronet" comprised of only 3 or 4 webpages. Instead of being stored on vast racks of servers like the internet, the Piratebox microweb is contained entirely on one 32GB USB stick, which holds the handful of webpages and the films + TV media stored within them. The actual box is a hacked router, and users connect to it just like any wireless network - it shows up on their phones as a normal, unsecured network. But since the PirateBox isn't actually connected to the Internet, once connected users won't be able ot access any real websites, instead being redirected to the landing page of the media server instead. Since the files are stored as .mp4s, all modern browsers can run them in-browser with an HTML5 viewer, so users can stream their films without downloading anything. In my experience the Piratebox can handle about 15 users simultaneously without suffering serious slowdown, but I haven't tested it much.

The original project designers have their own FAQ you might also find interesting:

The PirateBox creates offline wireless networks designed for anonymous file sharing, chatting, message boarding, and media streaming. You can think of it as your very own portable offline Internet in a box! When users join the PirateBox wireless network and open a web browser, they are automatically redirected to the PirateBox welcome page. Users can anonymously chat, post images or comments on the bulletin board, watch or listen to streaming media, or upload and download files inside their web browser.

How to Actually Make It

Estimated requirements: 1 day, an Ethernet cable and £25

Lucky you, theres a fantastic guide already available on how exactly to make your own Piratebox!

The vast majority of the time I spent on this project was on the HTML/CSS user frontend. Luckily for you I am a generous soul, so I have included it here verbatim. Below is the HTML code for the index page of my own Piratebox. Just copy and paste it into the "index.html" file if you are too lazy to make your own.


If you have found a mistake, have a complaint, or for any reason wish to get in touch with me, use the email below.


jfhieronymous AT