use Plex Media Server to observe all your media

Do you will have a whole lot of movies, photos, and audio files in your computer? Do you subscribe to numerous streaming services? Would you like to view every little thing suddenly in a phenomenal scrolling experience much like Netflix? In that case, a Plex Media Server may be just what you wish.

Plex is simple-to-use software that brings together all of your several types of media, and it is also pretty easy to put in. We are going to do a deep dive into Plex’s many great features and offer a step-by-step set of instructions to get you going. Here’s every little thing it is advisable find out about methods to use Plex.

What’s Plex?

Plex is software you can use to store, locate, and access all your media in a single place. You’ll be able to organize your individual personal media files, corresponding to pictures, music, and videos, in addition to streaming services to observe movies, TV series, podcasts, and other online content. Basic Plex has no cost.

Plex has two decisions for setup. When you only need to stream third-party content, you possibly can open an account, download the app in your device of alternative, and you’re good to go. If you would like to arrange a private media server to deal with all of your files, there are a number of more steps.

What’s a Plex Media Server? Once installed and arrange, a Plex Media Server can robotically organize all of your files in your computer. It may also augment your collection of flicks, TV shows, and music with an enormous amount of related content from sources around the net, like movie posters and album art, details on forged and crew members, episode descriptions, original air dates, and rather more. In minutes, your media collection goes from being a series of files and folders to a Netflix-like experience that you simply control.

Unlike iTunes, Plex can read nearly every media file format you possibly can consider. So if you happen to’ve gotten into the habit of running your media through a converter like HandBrake (Windows, Mac) to make it compatible along with your software, you possibly can get rid of that step.

Better of all, your Plex library will also be shared with other Plex users, making it a great solution to give friends and members of the family access to your media without having to upload all of it to a third-party cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud. Though some limitations should be considered, corresponding to the ability of your Plex server and the bandwidth of your web plan, it might probably be an important solution to include others. There’s also a fun Watch Together feature, which we’ll get more into below, that permits you to watch your favorite movies and shows with friends.

And if that may not enough, Plex also operates its own ad-supported, free streaming video service referred to as Plex Free Movies and TV, which could be accessed alongside your personal media, in addition to live TV and DVR features you possibly can access with the Plex Pass subscription.

Note: Recently, Plex had an information breach. If you will have an existing account but have not logged in recently, whenever you next log in, you will likely be required to update your password.

What are the Plex requirements?

For the Plex Media Server, you have to to select a tool on which to put in and run it. Plex Media Server runs on all computers running the main operating systems in addition to NAS devices:

  • PC, Mac, Linux, or FreeBSD computer
  • 2015 Shield TV, 2015 Shield TV Pro, and 2019 Shield TV Pro — but not the 2019 Shield TV.
  • Netgear Nighthawk X10 router
  • Many popular NAS devices, corresponding to QNAP, Synology, Netgear, Drobo, and several other others

Whichever one you select, a wired network connection for each your server machine and your client device is advisable. A sufficiently fast Wi-Fi network (routers and devices that support 802.11ac are best) can work too, but you’ll need excellent signal strength to support streaming in 4K/HDR.

Because the Plex Media Server does the lion’s share of the work involved in organizing and playing back your media, a sufficiently powerful device is essential for the perfect experience. Here’s Plex’s support page that discusses the minimum requirements; it’s a great place to begin.

When you only plan to observe one video at a time and also you’re not planning to share your Plex library with other users, a reasonable NAS or a Shield TV might do the trick. Nonetheless the moment your needs grow to be more demanding, you’re probably going to need to run your server on a desktop or laptop. When you’re unsure what it’s best to use, the Plex user forums are an important place to ask questions and get advice.

So far as the Plex Client Player goes, you possibly can run the client app on nearly any device that’s on the market, so the chances are good that you simply already own a compatible one from web browsers to Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, or various smart TVs. When you’re considering of shopping for a latest streaming device anyway, we recommend the Roku Streaming Stick 4k, Apple TV 4K, or Nvidia Shield TV for the perfect Plex experience.

Those with Dolby Atmos home theater systems will want to read our methods to know if you happen to’re getting Dolby Atmos sound guide, because it comprises some considerations for Plex users who need to ensure they get Dolby Atmos support.

How do I install and use Plex?

Your Plex adventure starts by installing the Plex Media Server software in your chosen machine.

Step 1: Simply download the suitable installer and follow the instructions. Once the media server is fully installed, it should open a latest browser window, which comprises the Plex web app.

Step 2: The net app is your major way of configuring the Plex server, but it surely also doubles as a solution to have a look at your library and play your files in your computer. It can ask you to create a latest Plex account after which take you thru a setup wizard that mostly involves helping the server track down your media files.

Step 3: You’ll be able to store your movies, music, and other files anywhere you want, in as many alternative folders or hard drives (each locally or on network shares) and Plex will keep every little thing organized. Nonetheless, there’s one small catch: Plex has a preference for the way different file types are named.

For each form of file (movies, multi-part movies, TV shows which have multiple seasons and episodes, etc.), there’s a Plex-preferred naming style. If you will have a whole lot of files, renaming them doesn’t must be a manual process: macOS has an important, built-in file-renaming function, as does Windows 10. You’ll be able to all the time skip this step — Plex will still allow you to access and play your files even in the event that they aren’t named using Plex’s conventions, but it surely can have a tough time identifying what the file is, so it’s possible you’ll not get the entire wealthy data from the net that makes using Plex so enjoyable.

Step 4: The Plex Media Server will robotically scan the entire directories you identified through the setup process, and you possibly can select how often it scans those locations for changes. When you’re a frequent downloader of latest media, you possibly can set it in order that Plex robotically updates its library any time it detects a latest file has been added.

plex media server adds dvr feature full library

Step 5: To quickly check that every little thing is accurately, click the Home button in the net app interface. It is best to see your movies, music, and every other media you added during setup starting to populate, together with their respective poster or album art.

Step 6: In the event that they don’t look quite right at first, wait a number of minutes, as it might probably take time for Plex to search out the entire relevant info. To play a file, simply mouse over the thumbnail and click on the Play button.

Take into accout, playing a movie this fashion won’t necessarily show you what it should appear to be on a tool like an Apple TV or Roku. It’s really just meant as a solution to check that the file will indeed play.

How do I play Plex files on my TV or other devices?

As we’ve mentioned, there may be a Plex client for almost every device available on the market. You’ll generally find the one in your specific device in the net download store for that platform.

For Apple TV, for example, it’s within the App Store. For Roku, it’s considered a downloadable channel. Many devices, including smart TVs and Android TV boxes, include the Plex client pre-loaded, so there’s nothing to download. The clients are typically free, but occasionally, Plex charges a small amount to download them. A Plex Pass subscription includes free access to all clients (more on Plex Pass below).

Step 1: Whenever you start the Plex client, it should ask you for a similar Plex account you created whenever you installed the server. So long as your playback device and the Plex server are on the identical home network, it should only take a moment for the client to display the identical catalog of media files as you saw in the net app to indicate in your device.

Step 2: You’ll find an intuitive set of category links on the left side of the screen, and all your matching media files will likely be organized within the major portion of the interface. Choosing the file you would like to play brings up an info screen with descriptions and more links, plus the Play Now button.

Step 3: No media software can be complete with no search function, and Plex’s universal search does a very good job. It may find matches from amongst all your connected libraries, subscriptions, and services, including your movies, music, and TV shows, free content from Plex Movies and TV, web shows and podcasts, and Tidal.

Why won’t some media files play?

Every client device possesses different capabilities, which suggests each Plex client also possesses different capabilities. When a Plex client connects to the Plex server, it tells the server what those capabilities are. An Apple TV 4K, for example, only plays video files encoded in H.264, or MPEG-4, using the .m4v, .mp4, and .mov formats.

If the file you’re attempting to play doesn’t correspond to one among those file types, the Plex server might want to transcode it into one among the formats that the Apple TV 4K understands. Depending on the file type you’re playing and the formats supported by your client, this may take a whole lot of power on the server’s side. In case your server machine isn’t powerful enough to handle this conversion process, it’s possible you’ll be told that the movie can’t be played.

What to do

The apparent solution to cope with this problem is to be certain that your Plex server is running on a very robust computer. But not everyone desires to keep a robust PC running constantly.

When you know that you’re going to mostly need to play your files on a single TV at home, buying a more powerful client device that may handle numerous file types by itself — without having the server to transcode — is an important alternative to a costlier server machine. The Nvidia Shield TV and Shield TV Pro can play virtually every media file type, effectively eliminating the necessity for the Plex server to perform transcoding. We’ve been in a position to play 4K HDR files with Dolby Atmos on a Shield TV from a Plex server running on a WD My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 — a NAS with less computing power than even the most affordable PC.

Plex Discover info page.


Access and search all of your streaming services with Plex Discover

Plex permits you to access all of your streaming services with Plex Discover. Whenever you arrange the Plex server and app, you will be prompted to pick from an enormous list of streaming services, including the main ones you are likely subscribed to, corresponding to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.


The Discover section will now appear on the left menu, under the house navigation. When you set it up to incorporate all of the streaming services you subscribe to, in addition to a ton of other free and smaller area of interest services, you will find a way to see what’s streaming across them multi function place. They’re also neatly arranged in some helpful categories, corresponding to Trending, Recent, Coming Soon, and more. Clicking a title brings up all types of information on it, including the services it’s available on, in addition to the flexibility so as to add it to your watchlist.

Universal search

Plex’s search function brings in results from across your streaming services and ones you do not subscribe to as well. It can also pull in results from your individual personal media library, Plex’s AVOD library, trailers, theatrical releases, and more. Searching is easy and could be done using titles, actors, and directors.


The universal watchlist is a helpful tool as well, eliminating the necessity so that you can keep separate lists on each of your services — you possibly can keep them in a single place. As you browse and search, you simply add titles to your watchlist, and as they grow to be available, leave one service, and show up on one other, you will all the time know where you possibly can watch them. When you only need to see titles which are available, you possibly can filter your list using the Available to stream filter.

enable distant access and library sharing

Some of the powerful features of Plex is the flexibility to configure the Plex server for distant access. It takes a little bit of fiddling to get this arrange appropriately since you’ll need to regulate your router’s firewall settings, but once it’s configured, you’ll find a way to make use of the Plex client in your phone or tablet to stream your personal media library from anywhere on the planet — including live TV and recorded shows, if you will have that enabled.

Here’s methods to get distant access working across your Plex-powered hardware.

Step 1: First, you will need to configure your modem to send distant access requests to your router in the event that they aren’t the identical device.

Step 2: Next, configure your router to send distant access requests to the machine in your network that hosts your Plex Media Server.

Step 3: Then, configure your Plex Media Server to reply to those distant access requests.

If you would like to share your Plex library with family and friends (who don’t live with you), you’ll have to configure distant access first.

Once that’s done, tell your pals and family to create a free Plex account(s) after which inform you the e-mail they used to create it.

Step 4: Contained in the settings in your Plex Media Server, you’ll find a piece called Users and Sharing. Inside that screen, you possibly can add additional users for the individuals who live with you, in addition to giving access to friends via the Shared Libraries option.

For every Plex user you invite, you possibly can select which server (if you will have multiple) and which libraries (movies, TV, etc.) they’ll access. If you will have a Plex Pass subscription, it’s also possible to let these users download and sync your content to their devices and upload their photos to your server.

You’ll be able to see what these users are watching in real time, in addition to with the ability to see a history of what they’ve watched, throughout the Activity Dashboard in your server.

Plex Free Movies and TV

Similar in some ways to free, ad-supported services just like the Roku Channel, Plex Free Movies and TV is each an add-on to your personal Plex experience and a standalone service.

As a standalone experience, you possibly can stream Plex Free Movies and TV from the net using just your browser and a free Plex account. But if you happen to’re a Plex Media Server user, you possibly can access it through the identical interface as your private library of content — there’s no separate app to download or install.

The free, ad-supported service has a growing catalog of content from sources corresponding to Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM, Legendary, Magnolia Pictures, Lionsgate Movies, and Crackle’s library of content.

You’ll discover a always changing lineup of flicks and shows to observe. And while the choice is nothing like what you’d find on a paid service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, there are some great B-movies, Hollywood classics, and hidden gems to be discovered.

plex adds web series support shows

Web shows and podcasts

With Plex, it’s also possible to access two other forms of free streaming media: web shows and podcasts. Web shows are video episodes of various lengths created by publishers like GQ, Popular Science, and others. Podcasts are the identical idea, but for audio-only. Lots of these web shows and podcasts could be found on other services, like YouTube, but having them accessible inside Plex is slightly more convenient.

Tidal integration

If you will have a Tidal subscription, you possibly can add it to Plex. Which means that your Tidal music can now be streamed on any device that supports the Plex client. But a fair larger profit for music fans is the way in which Plex integrates Tidal along with your personal music library. As you browse the music in your server, Plex robotically finds matches from Tidal to indicate you tracks or albums you may be missing and related artists and genres.

From a music-discovery viewpoint, it’s a robust system since it’s based on the music you’re keen on — in spite of everything, you already own it.

Sonos integration

When you own Sonos wireless whole-home speakers, you possibly can add Plex as a music source in the identical way as you possibly can add Apple Music or Spotify. Doing so has two big benefits: First, Plex can robotically transcode any music files that Sonos can’t play — like hi-res FLAC files — so you possibly can enjoy your full music library.

Secondly, if you will have two Sonos systems in numerous homes, Plex allows you to access your personal music library in each locations — something Sonos can’t do by itself.

Here’s more on using Plex with Sonos.

What’s Plex Pass, and why should I get it?

Lots of Plex’s best features can be found without spending a dime, but there are some premium features you can only access if you will have a Plex Pass subscription. Plex Pass could be bought on a monthly ($5), annual ($40), or lifetime ($120) basis, and it entitles you to the next features:

Live TV plus DVR: If you will have an HD antenna and a compatible OTA receiver, you possibly can watch and record live TV from inside Plex. Your recording capability is restricted only by the harddrive space in your Plex server, and all your recorded shows will likely be presented with the identical easy-to-use interface as the remainder of your library.

Mobile sync: A must have for commuters, this feature allows you to wirelessly keep copies of your favorite media in your phone for offline playback. It may robotically add and take away TV episodes as you watch them.

Premium music and photo libraries: Get extra info added to your music (like lyrics you can use for karaoke) or photos (location data) for a richer experience.

Camera upload: Wirelessly sync the photos you are taking in your mobile device to Plex in order that they’re a snap to view on all your Plex clients.

Hardware-accelerated streaming: It is a big one for individuals who want the perfect transcoding performance. And not using a Plex Pass, all server transcoding is handled by the Plex software, but this feature allows you to use your PC’s additional hardware power to help in that task, making it much smoother. It’s possible you’ll find a way to get away with a less powerful PC with this feature enabled.

Free access to Plex client apps: Never pay for an additional client app again.

Download: Bring all of your favorite movies or music with you. No Web is required.

Watch Together

While it once gave the impression of a gimmick, co-watching content online is now a much-in-demand activity. Plex’s Watch Together feature allows users to observe their favorite movies and TV shows with friends. Watch Together is supported on the next devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android mobile
  • Android TV / Google TV
  • Apple TV
  • iOS
  • PlayStation 5
  • Plex HTPC
  • Portal from Facebook
  • Roku
  • Smart TVs: LG, Samsung, VIZIO
  • Web App
  • Xbox

Step 1: To start out Watch Together, select a movie or show you would like to watch in your Plex app, after which select the Three dots / more button, followed by Watch Together.

Step 2: Once the Watch Together session goes, you possibly can then select the chums you would like to affix you. It is advisable to already be friends to ask someone, but you possibly can simply send them a friend request on Plex. It’s possible you’ll have to restart the app if you happen to each just accepted the friend request.

Step 3: A Watch Together session will now appear on the highest of your app’s home screen. Once chosen, you’ll enter the Lobby and see all the chums who’ve joined and whose status is Ready. You may as well just select the Start button to begin immediately.

Step 4: Any user within the session can pause, start, fast forward, or reward the content. This can adjust the playback for all users within the Watch Together session.

What about Kodi versus Plex? Could I take advantage of that as an alternative?

Within the Kodi versus Plex battle, there are some big differences.

Kodi is a robust media center software interface that does lots of the same things as Plex. The critical difference is that it goes in regards to the actions otherwise. With Kodi, there’s no server software — all of its functions are self-contained in an app you download and install on a compatible device. One limitation here is that there are only a number of sorts of compatible devices. Kodi doesn’t work on Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, or Apple TV with no significant amount of heavy lifting to put in and use it.

Plus, with no central server managing your media collection, each instance of Kodi is its own world. There isn’t any way so that you can synchronize settings from one device to a different easily. Which means you should have to establish each Kodi device as if it were the primary time. Moreover, there isn’t a customer support option, so if you happen to run into any issues, there’s no person to assist with troubleshooting, so you will have to figure it out on your individual.

Because Kodi is open-source software, there are a good amount of third-party extras available for it. Unfortunately, that features a big collection of unofficial add-ons that could cause you all kinds of problems, including unknowingly accessing copyrighted material.

The unofficial add-ons may leave you vulnerable to undesirable third parties, including malware, hackers, and snoopers. When you are considering installing Kodi, we recommend looking over our Kodi explainer to learn methods to safeguard against cyberattacks or every other potential problem that may occur with third-party add-ons. The guide provides a radical understanding of the possible legal ramifications of using those third-party add-ons.

Still, Kodi could be a great Plex alternative if you happen to wish to tweak software settings. Many users experienced improved streaming services and speeds after they paired Kodi with a VPN. When you’re not a fan of maintaining a highly connected, centrally managed media library that clients stream from, then Kodi is for you.

Plex provides quite a few perks and minimal restrictions to enable you to manage and centralize your media library. It’s a flexible application that features free streaming content, syncs across your devices with a straightforward login, and has relatively few limitations, just like the shortlist of incompatible file types. Due to this fact, we recommend Plex for those of you who want to arrange and retrieve your media. It is best to now be acquainted with methods to use Plex.

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