How you can use Plex Media Server to look at all your media

What if we advised you there was a method to home and entry all your favourite streaming content material and private media information beneath one easy-to-use platform? Certain, we’ve had platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive for years, however whereas these purposes are fairly nice for the latter (storing media), you possibly can’t get a Netflix film enjoying with Google Drive. The all-in-one leisure hub we’re alluding to is the content-hosting and streaming umbrella known as Plex.

Plex haș been round for greater than a decade, however what precisely are you able to do with Plex? Is it free? Is it tough to make use of? Does it help a number of customers? And maybe most significantly, how do you get your film and TV present downloads uploaded and streamable from anyplace on this planet?

This latter functionality is dealt with by one thing known as a Plex Media Server (which we’ll be masking intimately), but it surely’s just one element of all the Plex ecosystem. Keep on with us although, pals, for there’s heaps to find out about all issues Plex, and we’ve obtained loads of info, ideas, methods, and firsthand expertise to share.

The Plex Media Server Home tab on a web browser.

Michael Bizzaco / Digital Tendencies

What’s Plex?

Plex is software program that you need to use to retailer, find, and entry all your media in a single place. You’ll be able to manage your individual private media information, akin to photos, music, and movies, in addition to streaming providers to look at motion pictures, TV collection, podcasts, and different on-line content material. Primary Plex has no price.

Plex has two selections for setup. When you solely need to stream third-party content material, you possibly can open an account, obtain the app in your system of alternative, and you might be good to go. If you wish to arrange a private media server to accommodate all of your information, there are a number of extra steps.

What’s a Plex Media Server?

As soon as put in and arrange, a Plex Media Server can routinely manage all of your information in your pc. It may well additionally increase your assortment of flicks, TV reveals, and music with an enormous quantity of associated content material from sources across the net, like film posters and album artwork, particulars on solid and crew members, episode descriptions, authentic air dates, and rather more. In minutes, your media assortment goes from being a collection of information and folders to an expertise that appears and looks like a streaming service akin to Netflix, solely you might have management.

In contrast to iTunes, Plex can learn nearly each media file format you possibly can consider. So when you’ve gotten into the behavior of operating your media by means of a converter like HandBrake (Home windows, Mac) to make it suitable along with your software program, you are able to do away with that step.

Better of all, your Plex library may also be shared with different Plex customers, making it a perfect method to give family and friends members entry to your media with out having to add all of it to a third-party cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud. Although some limitations have to be thought-about, akin to the ability of your Plex server and the bandwidth of your web plan, it may be a good way to incorporate your mates. There’s additionally a enjoyable Watch Collectively function, which we’ll get extra into beneath, that means that you can watch your favourite motion pictures and reveals with pals.

And if that is not sufficient, Plex additionally operates its personal ad-supported, free streaming video service often called Plex Free Films and TV, which will be accessed alongside your private media, in addition to stay TV and DVR options you possibly can entry with the Plex Go subscription. There’s additionally an awesome new function for music followers known as Plexamp that we’re excited to speak about.

Plex family watching live TV.


What are the Plex necessities?

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 computer systems operating the key working programs in addition to NAS gadgets:

  • PC, Mac, Linux, or FreeBSD pc
  • 2015 Protect TV, 2015 Protect TV Professional, and 2019 Protect TV Professional — however not the 2019 Protect TV.
  • Netgear Nighthawk X10 router
  • Many common NAS gadgets, akin to QNAP, Synology, Netgear, Drobo, and several other others

Whichever one you select, a wired community connection for each your server machine and your consumer system is advisable. A sufficiently quick Wi-Fi community (routers and gadgets that help 802.11ac are finest) can work too, however you’ll want wonderful sign energy to help streaming in 4K HDR.

Because the Plex Media Server does the lion’s share of the work concerned in organizing and enjoying again your media, a sufficiently highly effective system is necessary for the perfect expertise. Right here’s Plex’s help web page that discusses the minimal necessities; it’s place to begin.

When you solely plan to look at one video at a time and also you’re not planning to share your Plex library with different customers, a cheap NAS or a Protect TV Professional would possibly do the trick. Nonetheless the second your wants turn into extra demanding, you’re in all probability going to need to run your server on a desktop or laptop computer. When you’re not sure what it’s best to use, the Plex person boards are an awesome place to ask questions and get recommendation.

So far as the Plex Consumer Participant goes, you possibly can run the consumer app on nearly any system that’s on the market, so the percentages are good that you just already personal a suitable one from net browsers to Amazon Fireplace TV, Chromecast, Roku, or numerous sensible TVs. When you’re considering of shopping for a brand new streaming system anyway, we advocate the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Apple TV 4K, or Nvidia Protect TV for the perfect Plex expertise.

These with Dolby Atmos dwelling theater programs could need to learn our Dolby Atmos sound information, because it accommodates some concerns for Plex customers who need to guarantee they get Dolby Atmos help.

An at a glance breakdown of how Plex works.


How do I set up and use Plex?

Your Plex journey begins by putting in the Plex Media Server software program in your chosen machine.

Step 1: Merely obtain the suitable installer and comply with the directions. As soon as the media server is absolutely put in, it is going to open a brand new browser window, which accommodates the Plex net app.

Step 2: The online app is your fundamental method of configuring the Plex server, but it surely additionally doubles as a method to have a look at your library and play your information in your pc. It would ask you to create a brand new Plex account after which take you thru a setup wizard that principally entails serving to the server observe down your media information.

Step 3: You’ll be able to retailer your motion pictures, music, and different information anyplace you want, in as many various folders or laborious drives (each domestically or on community shares) and Plex will maintain all the things organized. Nonetheless, there’s one small catch: Plex has a choice for the way completely different file sorts are named.

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For each sort of file (motion pictures, multi-part motion pictures, TV reveals which have a number of seasons and episodes, and many others.), there’s a Plex-preferred naming type. You probably have loads of information, renaming them doesn’t need to be a handbook course of: macOS has an awesome, built-in file-renaming operate, as does Home windows 11. You’ll be able to all the time skip this step — Plex will nonetheless allow you to entry and play your information even when they aren’t named utilizing Plex’s conventions, however it could have a tough time figuring out what the file is, so you could not get the entire wealthy knowledge from the net that makes utilizing Plex so fulfilling.

Step 4: The Plex Media Server will routinely scan the entire directories you recognized throughout the setup course of, and you may select how usually it scans these places for modifications. When you’re a frequent downloader of recent media, you possibly can set it in order that Plex routinely updates its library any time it detects a brand new file has been added.



Step 5: To rapidly test that all the things is accurately, click on the Dwelling button within the net app interface. It’s best to see your motion pictures, music, and every other media you added throughout setup starting to populate, together with their respective poster or album artwork.

Step 6: In the event that they don’t look fairly proper at first, wait a couple of minutes, as it could possibly take time for Plex to search out the entire related information. To play a file, merely mouse over the thumbnail and click on the Play button.

Consider, enjoying a film this fashion received’t essentially present you what it is going to seem like on a tool like an Apple TV or Roku. It’s actually simply meant as a method to test that the file will certainly play.

How do I play Plex information on my TV or different gadgets?

As we’ve talked about, there’s a Plex consumer for almost each system available on the market. You’ll usually discover the one to your particular system within the on-line obtain retailer for that platform.

For Apple TV, for example, it’s within the App Retailer. For Roku, it’s thought-about a downloadable channel. Many gadgets, together with sensible TVs and Android TV bins, include the Plex consumer pre-loaded, so there’s nothing to obtain. The shoppers are usually free, however often, Plex fees a small quantity to obtain them. A Plex Go subscription contains free entry to all shoppers (extra on Plex Go beneath).

Step 1: If you begin the Plex consumer, it is going to ask you for a similar Plex account you created while you put in the server. So long as your playback system and the Plex server are on the identical dwelling community, it ought to solely take a second for the consumer to show the identical catalog of media information as you noticed within the net app to point out in your system.

Step 2: You’ll discover an intuitive set of class hyperlinks on the left aspect of the display screen, and all your matching media information shall be organized in the principle portion of the interface. Choosing the file you need to play brings up an information display screen with descriptions and extra hyperlinks, plus the Play Now button.

Step 3: No media software program can be full and not using a search operate, and Plex’s common search does a extremely good job. It may well discover matches from amongst all your related libraries, subscriptions, and providers, together with your motion pictures, music, and TV reveals, free content material from Plex Films and TV, net reveals and podcasts, and Tidal.

Why received’t some media information play?

Each consumer system possesses completely different capabilities, which suggests every Plex consumer additionally possesses completely different capabilities. When a Plex consumer connects to the Plex server, it tells the server what these capabilities are. An Apple TV 4K, for example, solely performs video information encoded in H.264, or MPEG-4, utilizing the .m4v, .mp4, and .mov codecs.

If the file you’re attempting to play doesn’t correspond to a type of file sorts, the Plex server might want to transcode it into one of many codecs that the Apple TV 4K understands. Relying on the file sort you’re enjoying and the codecs supported by your consumer, this could take loads of energy on the server’s aspect. In case your server machine isn’t highly effective sufficient to deal with this conversion course of, you could be advised that the film can’t be performed.

What to do

The apparent method to take care of this downside is to verify your Plex server is operating on a extremely strong pc. However not everybody needs to maintain a strong PC operating constantly.

If you already know that you’ll principally need to play your information on a single TV at dwelling, shopping for a extra highly effective consumer system that may deal with plenty of file sorts by itself — with no need the server to transcode — is a good various to a dearer server machine. The Nvidia Protect TV and Protect TV Professional can play just about each media file sort, successfully eliminating the necessity for the Plex server to carry out transcoding. We’ve been capable of play 4K HDR information with Dolby Atmos on a Protect TV from a Plex server operating on a WD My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 — a NAS with much less computing energy than even the most affordable PC.

A screengrab of the Plex Media Server.

Michael Bizzaco / Digital Tendencies

Entry and search all of your streaming providers with Plex Uncover

Plex means that you can entry all of your streaming providers with Plex Uncover. If you arrange the Plex server and app, you may be prompted to pick from a giant record of streaming providers, together with the key ones you are doubtless subscribed to, akin to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, and extra.


The Uncover part will now seem on the left menu, beneath the house navigation. When you set it as much as embody all of the streaming providers you subscribe to, in addition to a ton of different free and smaller area of interest providers, you can see what’s streaming throughout them multi functional place. They’re additionally neatly organized in some useful classes, akin to Trending, New, Coming Quickly, and extra. Clicking a title brings up every kind of information on it, together with the providers it is accessible on, in addition to the flexibility so as to add it to your watchlist.

Common search

Plex’s search operate brings in outcomes from throughout your streaming providers and ones you do not subscribe to as effectively. It would additionally pull in outcomes from your individual private media library, Plex’s AVOD library, trailers, theatrical releases, and extra. Looking is straightforward and will be finished utilizing titles, actors, and administrators.


The common watchlist is a useful software as effectively, eliminating the necessity so that you can maintain separate lists on every of your providers — you possibly can maintain them in a single place. As you browse and search, you simply add titles to your watchlist, and as they turn into accessible, depart one service, and present up on one other, you may all the time know the place you possibly can watch them. When you solely need to see titles which can be accessible, you possibly can filter your record utilizing the Accessible to stream filter.

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Plex Remote Access setup screen.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

How you can allow distant entry and library sharing

Some of the highly effective options of Plex is the flexibility to configure the Plex server for distant entry. It takes a little bit of fiddling to get this arrange accurately since you’ll want to regulate your router’s firewall settings, however as soon as it’s configured, you’ll be capable to use the Plex consumer in your telephone or pill to stream your private media library from anyplace on this planet — together with stay TV and recorded reveals, you probably have that enabled.

Here is easy methods to get distant entry working throughout your Plex-powered {hardware}.

Step 1: First, you may have to configure your modem to ship distant entry requests to your router if they don’t seem to be the identical system.

Step 2: Subsequent, configure your router to ship distant entry requests to the machine in your community that hosts your Plex Media Server.

Step 3: Then, configure your Plex Media Server to reply to these distant entry requests.

If you wish to share your Plex library with family and friends (who don’t stay with you), you’ll have to configure distant entry first.

As soon as that’s finished, inform your family and friends to create a free Plex account(s) after which let you know the e-mail they used to create it.

Plex add a shared user screen.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Step 4: Contained in the settings to your Plex Media Server, you’ll discover a part known as Customers and Sharing. Inside that display screen, you possibly can add further customers for the individuals who stay with you, in addition to giving entry to pals through the Shared Libraries choice.

For every Plex person you invite, you possibly can select which server (you probably have multiple) and which libraries (motion pictures, TV, and many others.) they’ll entry. You probably have a Plex Go subscription, you can too let these customers obtain and sync your content material to their gadgets and add their pictures to your server.

You’ll be able to see what these customers are watching in actual time, in addition to having the ability to see a historical past of what they’ve watched, throughout the Exercise Dashboard to your server.

Plex Free Movies and TV screen.

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Plex Free Films and TV

Comparable in some ways to free, ad-supported providers just like the Roku Channel, Plex Free Films and TV is each an add-on to your private Plex expertise and a standalone service.

As a standalone expertise, you possibly can stream Plex Free Films and TV from the net utilizing simply your browser and a free Plex account. However when you’re a Plex Media Server person, you possibly can entry it by means of the identical interface as your non-public library of content material — there’s no separate app to obtain or set up.

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

You’ll discover a continually altering lineup of flicks and reveals to look at. And whereas the choice is nothing like what you’d discover on a paid service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, there are some nice B-movies, Hollywood classics, and hidden gems to be found.

A view of the Tidal integration in Plex Server.

Derek Malcolm / Digital Tendencies

Tidal integration

You probably have a Tidal subscription, you possibly can add it to Plex. Which means that your Tidal music will be streamed on any system that helps the Plex consumer. However a good greater profit for music followers is the best way Plex integrates Tidal along with your private music library. As you browse the music in your server, Plex routinely finds matches from Tidal to point out you tracks or albums you is perhaps lacking and associated artists and genres.

From a music-discovery viewpoint, it’s a strong system as a result of it’s based mostly on the music you’re keen on — in any case, you already personal it.

Sonos integration

When you personal Sonos wi-fi whole-home audio system, you possibly can add Plex as a music supply in the identical method you possibly can add Apple Music or Spotify. Doing so has two large benefits. First, Plex can routinely transcode any music information that Sonos can’t play — like hi-res FLAC information — so you possibly can get pleasure from your full music library. Secondly, you probably have two Sonos programs in several properties, Plex helps you to entry your private music library in each places — one thing Sonos can’t do by itself.

You’ll additionally be capable to arrange a number of person profiles with separate playlists utilizing only one Plex server. That is particularly handy when you and your friends all add tunes and albums to a shared Plex server. In spite of everything, not everybody goes to get pleasure from your Invoice Evans assortment, and just about nobody goes to need to hear any of Cousin Ralph’s curations (why will we nonetheless invite him locations?).

So far as bits and bytes go, Sonos’ hi-res choices are capped at 16-bit/44kHz. That’s CD-level high quality, which goes to sound fairly large to most listeners.

The Plex Live TV screen.


What’s Plex Go, and why ought to I get it?

Lots of Plex’s finest options can be found without spending a dime, however there are some premium options that you could solely entry you probably have a Plex Go subscription. Plex Go will be purchased on a month-to-month ($5), annual ($40), or lifetime ($120) foundation, and it entitles you to the next options:

Stay TV plus DVR: You probably have an HD antenna and a suitable OTA DVR, you possibly can watch and file stay TV from inside Plex. Your recording capability is restricted solely by the laborious drive house in your Plex server, and all your recorded reveals shall be introduced with the identical easy-to-use interface as the remainder of your library.

Cellular sync: Essential for commuters, this function helps you to wirelessly maintain copies of your favourite media in your telephone for offline playback. It may well routinely add and take away TV episodes as you watch them.

Skip credit: This premium Plex function makes use of some superior monitoring instruments to find out when there are credit enjoying. When you’re not within the temper to take a seat by means of opening titles or the half-hour-long finish credit of the newest Marvel film, you may have the choice to skip.

Plex Sprint: An superior server-monitoring software (delivered to you by Plex Labs), Plex Sprint retains tabs in your Plex Media Server, breaking down very important stats like community, reminiscence, and processor utilization into easy-to-decipher graphs, charts, and different pleasant UI widgets. You’ll additionally be capable to observe the expansion of your content material libraries, and might see precisely who’s enjoying what on any shared Plex servers at any time.

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Webhooks: It was solely a matter of time earlier than Plex was launched into the better world of sensible dwelling automations. With the Webhooks function, you’ll be capable to set off numerous Plex Media Server actions when interacting with sure sensible dwelling gadgets, akin to your sensible lights dimming everytime you play a music out of your Plex playlists. You’ll additionally be capable to map sure Plex Media Server actions to sure workflow instruments and social media apps, together with Slack and Twitter.

Premium music and picture libraries: Get further information added to your music (like lyrics that you need to use for karaoke) or pictures (location knowledge) for a richer expertise.

Digicam add: Wirelessly sync the pictures you’re taking in your cellular system to Plex in order that they’re a snap to view on all your Plex shoppers.

{Hardware}-accelerated streaming: This can be a large one for individuals who need the perfect transcoding efficiency. And not using a Plex Go, all server transcoding is dealt with by the Plex software program, however this selection helps you to use your PC’s further {hardware} energy to help in that activity, making it a lot smoother. You might be able to get away with a much less highly effective PC with this selection enabled.

Free entry to Plex consumer apps: By no means pay for one more consumer app once more.

Obtain: Convey all of your favourite motion pictures or music with you. No Web is required.

A person listening to music with the Audioengine B-Fi.


Plexamp: A complete new method to get pleasure from your music

As a part of your Plex expertise, the corporate additionally gives a terrific music-listening and curation software known as Plexamp. Launched a number of years in the past, Plexamp was as soon as a paywalled function for Plex Go customers solely, however now it’s completely free for anybody with a Plex account.

With the feel and appear of a premium music-streaming app like Spotify or Apple Music, Plexamp helps you to expertise your whole Plex music library in new and thrilling methods. The service additionally supplies a gateway to new Plex-curated artists, albums, and playlists.

With Plexamp, you’ll be capable to hearken to your favourite tunes from anyplace on this planet, whereas having fun with options like gapless playback, loudness leveling, pre-caching, together with Chromecast and AirPlay compatibility. When you’re a Tidal subscriber, you’ll additionally be capable to hyperlink your Tidal account to Plexamp.

Plex Go subscribers do get particular therapy when utilizing Plexamp, and a few of these perks could also be sufficient to persuade you to take your Plex subscription to the subsequent stage. These premium options embody artist and album combine constructing, observe/artist/album curations based mostly on the sort of music you’re listening to, a ten-band equalizer, and extra.

You’ll be able to obtain the Plexamp desktop app for macOS, Home windows, and Linux machines, and the cellular app for iOS and Android gadgets.

Watch Collectively

Whereas it as soon as appeared like a gimmick, co-watching content material on-line is now a much-in-demand exercise. Plex’s Watch Collectively function permits customers to look at their favourite motion pictures and TV reveals with pals. Watch Collectively is supported on the next gadgets:

  • Amazon Fireplace TV
  • Android cellular
  • Android TV / Google TV
  • Apple TV
  • iOS
  • PlayStation 5
  • Plex HTPC
  • Portal from Fb
  • Roku
  • Good TVs: LG, Samsung, VIZIO
  • Net App
  • Xbox

Step 1: To start out Watch Collectively, choose a film or present you need to watch in your Plex app, after which choose the Three dots / extra button, adopted by Watch Collectively.

Step 2: As soon as the Watch Collectively session goes, you possibly can then choose the buddies you want to be part of you. It’s essential to already be pals to ask somebody, however you possibly can merely ship them a pal request on Plex. You might have to restart the app when you each simply accepted the pal request.

Step 3: A Watch Collectively session will now seem on the highest of your app’s dwelling display screen. As soon as chosen, you’ll enter the Foyer and see all the buddies who’ve joined and whose standing is Prepared. It’s also possible to simply choose the Begin button to begin instantly.

Step 4: Any person within the session can pause, begin, quick ahead, or reward the content material. It will regulate the playback for all customers within the Watch Collectively session.

What about Kodi versus Plex? May I exploit that as a substitute?

Within the Kodi versus Plex battle, there are some large variations.

Kodi is a strong media heart software program interface that does lots of the identical issues as Plex. The vital distinction is that it goes concerning the actions in a different way. With Kodi, there’s no server software program — all of its features are self-contained in an app you obtain and set up on a suitable system. One limitation right here is that there are only some forms of suitable gadgets. Kodi doesn’t work on Roku, Amazon’s Fireplace TV, or Apple TV and not using a vital quantity of heavy lifting to put in and use it.

Plus, and not using a central server managing your media assortment, every occasion of Kodi is its personal world. There isn’t a method so that you can synchronize settings from one system to a different simply. Meaning you’ll have to arrange every Kodi system as if it had been the primary time. Moreover, there isn’t a buyer help choice, so when you run into any points, there’s no one to assist with troubleshooting, so you need to determine it out by yourself.

As a result of Kodi is open-source software program, there are a good quantity of third-party extras accessible for it. Sadly, that features a large assortment of unofficial add-ons that may trigger you all types of issues, together with unknowingly accessing copyrighted materials.

The unofficial add-ons may also depart you weak to undesirable third events, together with malware, hackers, and snoopers. If you’re contemplating putting in Kodi, we advocate wanting over our Kodi explainer to learn to safeguard towards cyberattacks or every other potential downside which may happen with third-party add-ons. The information supplies a radical understanding of the potential authorized ramifications of utilizing these third-party add-ons.

Nonetheless, Kodi generally is a good Plex various when you wish to tweak software program settings. Many customers skilled improved streaming providers and speeds once they paired Kodi with a VPN. When you’re not a fan of sustaining a extremely related, centrally managed media library that shoppers stream from, then Kodi is for you.

Plex supplies quite a few perks and minimal restrictions that can assist you handle and centralize your media library. It’s a flexible software that features free streaming content material, syncs throughout your gadgets with a easy login, and has comparatively few limitations, just like the shortlist of incompatible file sorts. Due to this fact, we advocate Plex for these of you who need to manage and retrieve your media. It’s best to now be conversant in easy methods to use Plex.