Get started with Plex Media Server

With a Plex Media Server you can stream your favorite movies and series from every room in the house. Setting up such a server takes some effort, but then you also have something. In this article we will discuss how to install a Plex Media Server.

With the Plex app, you no longer have to switch between different apps for your news, podcasts, music, series or videos. In the app everything is combined in one clear digital environment. Plex offers a fair amount of movies, series, documentaries and web series for free.

So it pays to take a look at the possibilities of Plex. Once you have decided to use the app, it is wise to set up your own server.

01 Installing Plex Media Server

Plex Media Server is available for various platforms and operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD. The application is relatively light and works on systems with at least an Intel Core i3 CPU and 2 GB ram. For this article we will download the Windows version . Click on Options during installation to choose where you want to install the app. The installation takes a minute; then press Launch to start Plex Media Server. Log in with your Plex account or create a new one with your Google account, Facebook or your email address.

02 Free or paid

Once logged in you can set up your Plex Media Server. At the start, you will see a pop-up trying to trick you into taking a Plex Pass subscription. Such a subscription (4.99 euros per month) lets you stream on your mobile, synchronize media via the cloud – handy if your PC is not on – and save videos locally for offline use. Click away the message with the cross in the top right corner, give your media server a name and determine whether it can also be accessed outside the home. Then press Next .

03 Setting up the media server

In the next screen you can add local folders of media to your Plex Media Server. Click Add library and select the media type (for example movies, series or music). Scroll to the folder you want and press Add Library to confirm your choice. Everything added? Then click Next to complete the process. You may have to wait a while for all of the material to be indexed. Plex automatically adds information, movie posters and (album) covers for a nice and complete overview.

04 Parental Controls

While a Plex Pass is not required for most features, a paid account is useful if multiple people are using Plex Media Center. Without a subscription, you are not allowed to add additional users and guests via Settings / Users . Although all users have standard access to the same environment, everyone has their own preferences and (further) viewing history. If you choose a managed account when adding users, you can block certain content. Think of films or series that are unsuitable for children.

05 Sharing media server

You also need a Plex Pass to share your media server. Via Settings / Users / Friends you have the option to invite users to your library. If there is no Plex account linked to your friend’s email address, they have the option to create one. As a main user you can apply restrictions and determine exactly who has access to what. If you are sharing your media server with someone outside your network, go to Settings / Server and enable the Remote Access option .

Plex and 4K

Plex Media Server supports many file formats; for video, for example, popular formats such as mkv, mp4, mov and avi. Videos in 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) with the H.264 (avc) or H.265 (hevc) codec are also supported, provided your computer is powerful enough to decode them. In addition, Plex works with 3D and multichannel audio (ac3, eac3, dts), although it depends on your equipment whether you can use it. For audio, mp3 and m4a are supported by default. Music in another format (flac or alac) will be converted automatically. More information can be found here .

06 Folder structure

When indexing movies and series, Plex Media Server does its best to retrieve the correct information, posters and subtitles. The database of TheTVDB.com is used for matching. For the best result, it is a good idea to neatly organize all content and provide it with the correct names. Make the Plex easy by for example categorizing the 22nd episode of the ninth season of Modern Family as TV Series / Modern Family / Season 09 / Modern Family – s09e22.mkv . Provide the corresponding subtitles with the same structure: Modern Family – s09e22.eng.srt .

07 Downloading apps

After setting up the media server, it’s time to download Plex Player on the devices you want to use for streaming. Plex is available for Android (TV), iOS, Apple TV, Xbox and PlayStation, among others. After you log in with your Plex account you have direct access to your entire library. With the Android and iOS apps you can stream for free to, for example, a Chromecast . You connect the Chromecast to your television using a regular HDMI cable. You can then cast yourself with a special cast button in an app. Before you can watch on a smartphone or tablet, you must activate the Plex app or take a Plex Pass.

08 Playing media

Whether you’re using the desktop version, the mobile app, or Plex on your smart TV, media playback is much the same. In the Android and iOS apps, the main screen shows recently viewed and added media, and you can switch between movies, music, and photos at the bottom. The More button gives access to other media types, such as news and podcasts. While streaming, in addition to the usual playback controls, you also have the option of switching audio track and subtitles, and adjusting the video quality. The latter is useful if you suffer from a slow internet connection.

Nas or Raspberry Pi as a media server

You are not tied to a PC to run a Plex Media Server: a NAS or Raspberry Pi can also run the app. If you want to use a nas for more than just media storage, it is important to check whether your model is supported. The nas must be powerful enough to convert and play large files. Check out Plex ‘s support page for more information. The cheap and energy-efficient Raspberry Pi is also ideal for running a media server. A Raspberry Pi 3 or 4 with the Raspbian operating system pre-installed is recommended.

09 Listen to (and watch) podcasts

Plex also offers the option to listen to podcasts. You can find the option in the main menu of both the desktop app and the mobile version. At the moment there are mainly English language podcasts to choose from in categories like news, politics, culture and comedy. You can search the offer and add podcasts to your favorites.

10 Automatic subtitles

When watching foreign films and series it is nice to have subtitles . Plex Media Server supports all common formats, including srt and smi. Although subtitles are included with some downloaded films and series, this is not self-evident. That’s why Plex offers the option to automatically load subtitles. Go to Settings / Agents , click the Movies or Series tab and then Plex Movie . Place a check in front of Opensubtitles.org and drag this option upwards. Also under Settings / Languages, check the Automatically select audio and subtitle tracks .

11 More possibilities with plug-ins

With plug-ins you can expand the possibilities of Plex Media Server. In the left menu, click on the Plugins option and choose Install Plugins . Click on More… and All Available Plug-ins to see the full range. That is not great, but in addition to well-known names such as Twitch and Vimeo, you will also find Dutch options such as NPO, NOS, Dumpert, RTL XL and MovieMeter. They are simple in design and provide quick access to the media offering of the relevant service. You can watch streams locally or send them to another screen.

Stream with a browser extension

Do you have a Chromecast or a television with Android TV? Then you can also use the Chrome extension Videostream to stream your favorite movies and series. It is available for free in the Chrome Web Store and can be used directly from your browser. There is also a separate app available for Windows and macOS, although you still need Chrome for that. From Video Stream, choose a device to cast to and the video you want to stream. Almost all popular file formats (such as mkv, mp4 and avi) and subtitles are supported. The Premium version ($ 1.49 per month) loads subtitles automatically and is ad-free.

12 Download unofficial plug-ins

Although the range of official plug-ins is small, there are more options for extending Plex Media Server. To get started, you need the WebTools software, downloadable from Github . Place the extracted WebTools.bundle file in the % LOCALAPPDATA% \ Plex Media Server \ Plug-ins \ folder on your PC and open Plex. In Plugins , WebTools will appear as your new option. Launch it and open the channel by pasting the suggested link into your browser window. Then log in with the details of your Plex account.

13 Plex UnsupportedAppStore

WebTools gives you several options. This way you can consult logs and manage subtitles. You can open the so-called UnsupportedAppStore with plug-ins by clicking on UAS in the left menu . Here you will find about 175 plugins from, for example, Facebook, Spotify, BitTorrent and Popcorn Time. Installation is done with the push of a button and plug-ins automatically appear in the menu of the same name of Plex Media Server. Unfortunately, not every plugin works flawlessly, but luckily you have removed them in no time.

14 Plex Media Optimizer

The Plex Media Optimizer easily creates optimized versions of your videos. After all, you don’t need 4K resolution to watch a movie on your smartphone screen. Click on the More… button for the desired video (recognizable by three dots) and choose Optimize . After this you can select the title, storage location and quality. Converting a 6 GB file takes about ten minutes and the converted version can be found under Settings / Server / Optimized Versions . Plex automatically plays the correct version on a mobile device.

15 Create a cinema feeling

For the real cinema feeling, you can play trailers before each movie. Go to Settings / Server / Extras and tick Show trailers of upcoming movies in theaters . You can do the same for movies that will be released on blu-ray soon. You do need a Plex Pass for this position. If you don’t have a subscription, you can always manually download and add trailers. Don’t forget to tick Local Media Assets (Movies) in Settings / Server / Agents .

If you want to take the cinema feeling to the next level, you can consider transforming your living room into a home cinema. But what are the best televisions, speaker sets, projectors and receivers of the moment? In this article we will discuss some options.

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