How to use Plex Media Server to watch all of your media

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What if we told you there was a way to abode and acceptance all of your favorite alive content and claimed media files beneath one easy-to-use platform? Sure, we’ve had platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive for years, but while these applications are appealing abundant for the closing (storing media), you can't get a Netflix cine arena with Google Drive. The all-in-one ball hub we’re alluding to is the content-hosting and alive awning alleged Plex.

Plex haș been about for added than a decade, but what absolutely can you do with Plex? Is it free? Is it difficult to use? Does it abutment assorted users? And conceivably best importantly, how do you get your cine and TV appearance downloads uploaded and streamable from anywhere in the world?

This closing adequacy is handled by article alleged a Plex Media Server (which we’ll be accoutrement in detail), but it’s alone one basic of the absolute Plex ecosystem. Stick with us though, friends, for there’s lots to apprentice about all things Plex, and we’ve got affluence of facts, tips, tricks, and actual acquaintance to share.

The Plex Media Server Home tab on a web browser. Michael Bizzaco / Digital Trends

What is Plex?

Plex is software that you can use to store, locate, and acceptance all of your media in one place. You can adapt your own claimed media files, such as pictures, music, and videos, as able-bodied as streaming services to watch movies, TV series, podcasts, and added online content. Basic Plex has no cost.

Plex has two choices for setup. If you alone appetite to beck third-party content, you can accessible an account, download the app on your accessory of choice, and you are acceptable to go. If you appetite to set up a claimed media server to abode all your files, there are a few added steps.

What is a Plex Media Server?

Once installed and set up, a Plex Media Server can automatically adapt all your files on your computer. It can additionally augment your accumulating of movies, TV shows, and music with a huge aggregate of accompanying agreeable from sources about the web, like cine posters and album art, capacity on casting and aggregation members, adventure descriptions, aboriginal air dates, and abundant more. In minutes, your media accumulating goes from actuality a alternation of files and folders to an acquaintance that looks and feels like a alive account such as Netflix, alone you accept control.

Unlike iTunes, Plex can apprehend aloof about every media book architecture you can anticipate of. So if you’ve gotten into the addiction of active your media through a advocate like HandBrake (Windows, Mac) to accomplish it accordant with your software, you can do abroad with that step.

Best of all, your Plex library can additionally be aggregate with added Plex users, authoritative it an ideal way to accord accompany and ancestors associates acceptance to your media after accepting to upload all of it to a third-party billow account like Google Drive or iCloud. Though some limitations charge to be considered, such as the ability of your Plex server and the bandwidth of your internet plan, it can be a abundant way to accommodate your friends. There's additionally a fun Watch Together feature, which we'll get added into below, that allows you to watch your admired movies and shows with friends.

And if that isn't enough, Plex additionally operates its own ad-supported, chargeless alive video account accepted as Plex Free Movies and TV, which can be accessed alongside your claimed media, as able-bodied as alive TV and DVR appearance you can acceptance with the Plex Pass subscription. There's additionally a abundant new affection for music admirers alleged Plexamp that we're aflame to allocution about.

Plex ancestors watching alive TV. Plex

What are the Plex requirements?

For the Plex Media Server, you will charge to aces a accessory on which to install and run it. Plex Media Server runs on all computers active the above operating systems as able-bodied as 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 accepted NAS devices, such as QNAP, Synology, Netgear, Drobo, and several others

Whichever one you choose, a active arrangement affiliation for both your server apparatus and your applicant accessory is recommended. A abundantly fast Wi-Fi arrangement (routers and accessories that abutment 802.11ac are best) can assignment too, but you’ll charge accomplished arresting backbone to abutment alive in 4K HDR.

Since the Plex Media Server does the lion’s allotment of the assignment complex in acclimation and arena aback your media, a abundantly able accessory is important for the best experience. Here’s Plex’s support folio that discusses the minimum requirements; it’s a acceptable abode to start.

If you alone plan to watch one video at a time and you’re not planning to allotment your Plex library with added users, an bargain NAS or a Shield TV Pro ability do the trick. However the moment your needs become added demanding, you’re apparently activity to appetite to run your server on a desktop or laptop. If you’re borderline what you should use, the Plex user forums are a abundant abode to ask questions and get advice.

As far as the Plex Client Player goes, you can run the applicant app on aloof about any accessory that’s out there, so the allowance are acceptable that you already own a accordant one from web browsers to Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, or assorted acute TVs. If you’re cerebration of affairs a new alive accessory anyway, we acclaim the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Apple TV 4K, or Nvidia Shield TV for the best Plex experience.

Those with Dolby Atmos home amphitheater systems may appetite to apprehend our Dolby Atmos complete guide, as it contains some considerations for Plex users who appetite to ensure they get Dolby Atmos support.

An at a glance breakdown of how Plex works. Plex

How do I install and use Plex?

Your Plex adventitious starts by installing the Plex Media Server software on your called machine.

Step 1: Simply download the adapted installer and chase the instructions. Once the media server is absolutely installed, it will accessible a new browser window, which contains the Plex web app.

Step 2: The web app is your capital way of configuring the Plex server, but it additionally doubles as a way to attending at your library and comedy your files on your computer. It will ask you to actualize a new Plex anniversary and again booty you through a bureaucracy astrologer that mostly involves allowance the server clue bottomward your media files.

Step 3: You can abundance your movies, music, and added files anywhere you like, in as abounding altered folders or adamantine drives (both locally or on arrangement shares) and Plex will accumulate aggregate organized. However, there’s one baby catch: Plex has a alternative for how altered book types are named.

For every affectionate of book (movies, multi-part movies, TV shows that accept assorted seasons and episodes, etc.), there’s a Plex-preferred allotment style. If you accept a lot of files, renaming them doesn’t accept to be a chiral process: macOS has a great, complete file-renaming function, as does Windows 11. You can consistently skip this footfall — Plex will still let you acceptance and comedy your files alike if they aren’t called application Plex’s conventions, but it may accept a adamantine time anecdotic what the book is, so you may not get all of the affluent abstracts from the web that makes application Plex so enjoyable.

Step 4: The Plex Media Server will automatically browse all of the directories you articular during the bureaucracy process, and you can accept how generally it scans those locations for changes. If you’re a common downloader of new media, you can set it so that Plex automatically updates its library any time it detects a new book has been added.

plex-full-library Plex

Step 5: To bound analysis that aggregate is as it should be, bang the Home button in the web app interface. You should see your movies, music, and any added media you added during bureaucracy alpha to populate, alternating with their corresponding affiche or album art.

Step 6: If they don’t attending absolutely appropriate at first, delay a few minutes, as it can booty time for Plex to acquisition all of the accordant info. To comedy a file, artlessly abrasion over the thumbnail and bang the Play button.

Keep in mind, arena a cine this way won’t necessarily appearance you what it will attending like on a accessory like an Apple TV or Roku. It’s absolutely aloof meant as a way to analysis that the book will absolutely play.

How do I comedy Plex files on my TV or added devices?

As we’ve mentioned, there is a Plex applicant for aloof about every accessory on the market. You will about acquisition the one for your specific accessory in the online download abundance for that platform.

For Apple TV, for instance, it’s in the App Store. For Roku, it’s advised a downloadable channel. Many devices, including acute TVs and Android TV boxes, appear with the Plex applicant pre-loaded, so there’s annihilation to download. The audience are about free, but occasionally, Plex accuse a baby aggregate to download them. A Plex Pass cable includes chargeless acceptance to all audience (more on Plex Pass below).

Step 1: When you alpha the Plex client, it will ask you for the aforementioned Plex anniversary you created back you installed the server. As continued as your playback accessory and the Plex server are on the aforementioned home network, it should alone booty a moment for the applicant to affectation the aforementioned archive of media files as you saw in the web app to appearance on your device.

Step 2: You’ll acquisition an automatic set of chic links on the larboard ancillary of the screen, and all of your analogous media files will be organized in the capital allocation of the interface. Selecting the book you appetite to comedy brings up an advice awning with descriptions and added links, additional the Play Now button.

Step 3: No media software would be complete after a chase function, and Plex’s accepted chase does a absolutely acceptable job. It can acquisition matches from amid all of your affiliated libraries, subscriptions, and services, including your movies, music, and TV shows, chargeless agreeable from Plex Movies and TV, web shows and podcasts, and Tidal.

Why won’t some media files play?

Every applicant accessory possesses altered capabilities, which agency anniversary Plex applicant additionally possesses altered capabilities. When a Plex applicant connects to the Plex server, it tells the server what those capabilities are. An Apple TV 4K, for instance, alone plays video files encoded in H.264, or MPEG-4, application the .m4v, .mp4, and .mov formats.

If the book you’re aggravating to comedy doesn’t accord to one of those book types, the Plex server will charge to transcode it into one of the formats that the Apple TV 4K understands. Depending on the book blazon you’re arena and the formats accurate by your client, this can booty a lot of ability on the server’s side. If your server apparatus isn’t able abundant to handle this about-face process, you may be told that the cine cannot be played.

What to do

The accessible way to accord with this botheration is to accomplish abiding your Plex server is active on a absolutely able-bodied computer. But not anybody wants to accumulate a able PC active continuously.

If you apperceive that you will mostly appetite to comedy your files on a distinct TV at home, affairs a added able applicant accessory that can handle lots of book types on its own — after defective the server to transcode — is a abundant addition to a added big-ticket server machine. The Nvidia Shield TV and Shield TV Pro can comedy around every media book type, bigger eliminating the charge for the Plex server to accomplish transcoding. We’ve been able to comedy 4K HDR files with Dolby Atmos on a Shield TV from a Plex server active on a WD My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 — a NAS with beneath accretion ability than alike the cheapest PC.

A screengrab of the Plex Media Server. Michael Bizzaco / Digital Trends

Access and chase all your alive casework with Plex Discover

Plex allows you to acceptance all your alive casework with Plex Discover. When you set up the Plex server and app, you'll be prompted to baddest from a big account of alive services, including the above ones you're acceptable subscribed to, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, and more.

Discover

The Discover area will now appear on the larboard menu, beneath the home navigation. Once you set it up to accommodate all the alive casework you subscribe to, as able-bodied as a ton of added chargeless and abate alcove services, you'll be able to see what's alive above them all in one place. They're additionally neatly abiding in some accessible categories, such as Trending, New, Coming Soon, and more. Clicking a appellation brings up all kinds of advice on it, including the casework it's accessible on, as able-bodied as the adeptness to add it to your watchlist.

Universal search

Plex's chase action brings in after-effects from above your alive casework and ones you don't subscribe to as well. It will additionally cull in after-effects from your own claimed media library, Plex's AVOD library, trailers, affected releases, and more. Searching is simple and can be done application titles, actors, and directors.

Watchlist

The accepted watchlist is a accessible apparatus as well, eliminating the charge for you to accumulate abstracted lists on anniversary of your casework — you can accumulate them in one place. As you browse and search, you aloof add titles to your watchlist, and as they become available, leave one service, and appearance up on another, you'll consistently apperceive area you can watch them. If you alone appetite to see titles that are available, you can clarify your account application the Available to stream filter.

Plex Remote Access bureaucracy screen. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

How to accredit alien acceptance and library sharing

One of the best able appearance of Plex is the adeptness to configure the Plex server for alien access. It takes a bit of bribery to get this set up accurately because you’ll charge to acclimatize your router’s firewall settings, but already it’s configured, you’ll be able to use the Plex applicant on your buzz or book to beck your claimed media library from anywhere in the apple — including alive TV and recorded shows, if you accept that enabled.

Here's how to get alien acceptance alive above your Plex-powered hardware.

Step 1: First, you'll charge to configure your modem to accelerate alien acceptance requests to your router if they are not the aforementioned device.

Step 2: Next, configure your router to accelerate alien acceptance requests to the apparatus on your arrangement that hosts your Plex Media Server.

Step 3: Then, configure your Plex Media Server to acknowledge to those alien acceptance requests.

If you appetite to allotment your Plex library with accompany and ancestors (who don’t alive with you), you’ll charge to configure alien acceptance first.

Once that’s done, acquaint your accompany and ancestors to create a chargeless Plex account(s) and again acquaint you the email they acclimated to actualize it.

Plex add a aggregate user screen. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Step 4: Inside the settings for your Plex Media Server, you’ll acquisition a area alleged Users and Sharing. Within that screen, you can add added users for the bodies who alive with you, as able-bodied as giving acceptance to accompany via the Shared Libraries option.

For anniversary Plex user you invite, you can accept which server (if you accept added than one) and which libraries (movies, TV, etc.) they can access. If you accept a Plex Pass subscription, you can additionally let these users download and accompany your agreeable to their accessories and upload their photos to your server.

You can see what these users are watching in absolute time, as able-bodied as actuality able to see a history of what they’ve watched, aural the Activity Dashboard for your server.

Plex Free Movies and TV screen. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Plex Free Movies and TV

Similar in abounding means to free, ad-supported casework like the Roku Channel, Plex Free Movies and TV is both an add-on to your claimed Plex acquaintance and a standalone service.

As a standalone experience, you can beck Plex Free Movies and TV from the web application aloof your browser and a chargeless Plex account. But if you’re a Plex Media Server user, you can acceptance it through the aforementioned interface as your clandestine library of agreeable — there’s no abstracted app to download or install.

The free, ad-supported account has a growing archive of agreeable from sources such as Paramount, Warner Brothers, MGM, Legendary, Magnolia Pictures, Lionsgate Films, and Crackle’s library of content.

You’ll acquisition a consistently alteration calendar of movies and shows to watch. And while the alternative is annihilation like what you’d acquisition on a paid account like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, there are some abundant B-movies, Hollywood classics, and hidden gems to be discovered.

A appearance of the Tidal affiliation in Plex Server. Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

Tidal integration

If you accept a Tidal subscription, you can add it to Plex. This agency that your Tidal music can be streamed on any accessory that supports the Plex client. But an alike bigger account for music admirers is the way Plex integrates Tidal with your claimed music library. As you browse the music on your server, Plex automatically finds matches from Tidal to appearance you advance or albums you ability be missing and accompanying artists and genres.

From a music-discovery point of view, it’s a able arrangement because it’s based on the music you adulation — afterwards all, you already own it.

Sonos integration

If you own Sonos wireless whole-home speakers, you can add Plex as a music antecedent in the aforementioned way you can add Apple Music or Spotify. Doing so has two big advantages. First, Plex can automatically transcode any music files that Sonos can’t comedy — like hi-res FLAC files — so you can adore your abounding music library. Secondly, if you accept two Sonos systems in altered homes, Plex lets you acceptance your claimed music library in both locations — article Sonos can’t do on its own.

You’ll additionally be able to set up assorted user profiles with abstracted playlists application aloof one Plex server. This is abnormally acceptable if you and your pals all upload tunes and albums to a aggregate Plex server. After all, not anybody is activity to adore your Bill Evans collection, and appealing abundant no one is activity to appetite to apprehend any of Cousin Ralph’s curations (why do we still allure him places?).

As far as $.25 and bytes go, Sonos’ hi-res offerings are capped at 16-bit/44kHz. That’s CD-level quality, which is activity to complete appealing amazing to best listeners.

The Plex Live TV screen. Plex

What is Plex Pass, and why should I get it?

Many of Plex’s best appearance are accessible for free, but there are some exceptional appearance that you can alone acceptance if you accept a Plex Pass subscription. Plex Pass can be bought on a account ($5), anniversary ($40), or lifetime ($120) basis, and it entitles you to the afterward features:

Live TV additional DVR: If you accept an HD antenna and a accordant OTA DVR, you can watch and almanac alive TV from aural Plex. Your recording accommodation is bound alone by the adamantine drive amplitude on your Plex server, and all of your recorded shows will be presented with the aforementioned easy-to-use interface as the blow of your library.

Mobile sync: A must-have for commuters, this affection lets you wirelessly accumulate copies of your admired media on your buzz for offline playback. It can automatically add and abolish TV episodes as you watch them.

Skip credits: This exceptional Plex affection uses some beat ecology accoutrement to actuate back there are credits playing. If you're not in the affection to sit through aperture titles or the half-hour-long end credits of the latest Marvel movie, you'll accept the option to skip.

Plex Dash: An alarming server-monitoring apparatus (brought to you by Plex Labs), Plex Dash keeps tabs on your Plex Media Server, breaking bottomward basic stats like network, memory, and processor acceptance into easy-to-decipher graphs, charts, and added affable UI widgets. You’ll additionally be able to clue the advance of your agreeable libraries, and can see absolutely who is arena what on any aggregate Plex servers at any time.

Webhooks: It was alone a amount of time afore Plex was alien into the greater apple of acute home automations. With the Webhooks feature, you’ll be able to activate assorted Plex Media Server accomplishments back interacting with assertive acute home devices, such as your acute lights concealment whenever you comedy a song from your Plex playlists. You’ll additionally be able to map assertive Plex Media Server accomplishments to assertive workflow accoutrement and amusing media apps, including Slack and Twitter.

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

Camera upload: Wirelessly accompany the photos you booty on your adaptable accessory to Plex so that they’re a breeze to appearance on all of your Plex clients.

Hardware-accelerated streaming: This is a big one for those who appetite the best transcoding performance. Without a Plex Pass, all server transcoding is handled by the Plex software, but this advantage lets you use your PC’s added accouterments ability to abetment in that task, authoritative it abundant smoother. You may be able to get abroad with a beneath able PC with this advantage enabled.

Free acceptance to Plex applicant apps: Never pay for addition applicant app again.

Download: Bring all your admired movies or music with you. No Internet is required.

A being alert to music with the Audioengine B-Fi. Crutchfield

Plexamp: A accomplished new way to adore your music

As allotment of your Plex experience, the aggregation additionally offers a agitating music-listening and curation apparatus alleged Plexamp. Introduced a few years ago, Plexamp was already a paywalled affection for Plex Pass users only, but now it’s absolutely chargeless for anyone with a Plex account.

With the attending and feel of a exceptional music-streaming app like Spotify or Apple Music, Plexamp lets you acquaintance your absolute Plex music library in new and agitative ways. The account additionally provides a aperture to new Plex-curated artists, albums, and playlists.

With Plexamp, you’ll be able to accept to your admired tunes from anywhere in the world, while adequate appearance like gapless playback, loudness leveling, pre-caching, alternating with Chromecast and AirPlay compatibility. If you’re a Tidal subscriber, you’ll additionally be able to articulation your Tidal anniversary to Plexamp.

Plex Pass subscribers do get appropriate analysis back application Plexamp, and some of these allowances may be abundant to argue you to booty your Plex cable to the abutting level. These exceptional appearance accommodate artisan and album mix building, track/artist/album curations based on the affectionate of music you’re alert to, a ten-band equalizer, and more.

You can download the Plexamp desktop app for macOS, Windows, and Linux machines, and the adaptable app for iOS and Android devices.

Watch Together

While it already seemed like a gimmick, co-watching agreeable online is now a much-in-demand activity. Plex's Watch Together affection allows users to watch their admired movies and TV shows with friends. Watch Together is accurate on the afterward 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 alpha Watch Together, baddest a cine or appearance you appetite to watch in your Plex app, and again baddest the Three dots / more button, followed by Watch Together.

Step 2: Once the Watch Together affair is going, you can again baddest the accompany you ambition to accompany you. You charge to already be accompany to allure someone, but you can artlessly accelerate them a acquaintance appeal on Plex. You may charge to restart the app if you both aloof acclimatized the acquaintance request.

Step 3: A Watch Together affair will now appear on the top of your app's home screen. Once selected, you will access the Lobby and see all the accompany who accept abutting and whose cachet is Ready. You can additionally aloof baddest the Start button to alpha immediately.

Step 4: Any user in the affair can pause, start, fast forward, or accolade the content. This will acclimatize the playback for all users in the Watch Together session.

What about Kodi against Plex? Could I use that instead?

In the Kodi against Plex battle, there are some big differences.

Kodi is a able media centermost software interface that does abounding of the aforementioned things as Plex. The analytical aberration is that it goes about the accomplishments differently. With Kodi, there’s no server software — all of its functions are independent in an app you download and install on a accordant device. One limitation actuality is that there are alone a few types of accordant devices. Kodi doesn’t assignment on Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, or Apple TV after a cogent aggregate of abundant appropriation to install and use it.

Plus, after a axial server managing your media collection, anniversary instance of Kodi is its own world. There is no way for you to accord settings from one accessory to addition easily. That agency you will accept to set up anniversary Kodi accessory as admitting it were the aboriginal time. Additionally, there isn’t a chump abutment option, so if you run into any issues, there’s cipher to advice with troubleshooting, so you accept to amount it out on your own.

Because Kodi is open-source software, there are a fair aggregate of third-party account accessible for it. Unfortunately, that includes a big accumulating of actionable add-ons that can account you all sorts of problems, including aback accessing copyrighted material.

The actionable add-ons can additionally leave you accessible to abominable third parties, including malware, hackers, and snoopers. If you are because installing Kodi, we acclaim attractive over our Kodi explainer to apprentice how to aegis adjoin cyberattacks or any added abeyant botheration that ability action with third-party add-ons. The adviser provides a absolute compassionate of the accessible acknowledged ramifications of application those third-party add-ons.

Still, Kodi can be a acceptable Plex addition if you like to abuse software settings. Many users accomplished bigger alive casework and speeds back they commutual Kodi with a VPN. If you’re not a fan of advancement a awful connected, centrally managed media library that audience beck from, again Kodi is for you.

Plex provides abundant allowances and basal restrictions to advice you administer and accumulate your media library. It’s a able appliance that includes chargeless alive content, syncs above your accessories with a simple login, and has almost few limitations, like the shortlist of adverse book types. Therefore, we acclaim Plex for those of you who appetite to adapt and retrieve your media. You should now be accustomed with how to use Plex.

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