If you have a lot of locally-stored movies and TV shows, you should install Plex. It’s not open source like Kodi and some of its lesser-known competitors, but it’s much easier to set up and use – especially if you want to enjoy your content on multiple devices or when you’re away from home.
Plex really shines when used as a central hub for all of your entertainment needs. You can convert old home videos to digital format. How can you digitize old VHS tapes? Digitize old VHS tapes. It’s time to digitize your old VHS tapes! We’ll show you the hardware setup and free software you need to take your VHS tapes into the 21st century. Read More ? Let us show you how to rip your DVDs to your hard drive for free with HandBrake. Read More
Plex also boasts some extra features that add extra layers of fun. These include third-party channels, live TV, and personalized news. We will discuss them in more detail later in the guide.
If you like the sound of Plex but have no idea where to start, keep reading. This is the only Plex setup guide you’ll ever need to read.
Plex Media Server vs Plex Media Player
In this guide, we’ll be referring to two different parts of the Plex ecosystem: the server and the player. They have different functions and must be installed separately.
Plex Media Server
At least one server is required for each Plex configuration. Technically, you can install as many servers as you want, but one is enough for most people.
The server acts as the central hub for your media collection, so you need to wisely choose the device on which to run the server. If the server is unavailable (for example, if the computer hosting the server is turned off), you will not be able to view your media on other devices.
For simplicity, it is easiest to put all the media you plan on putting on the server on the same disk as the server itself, although network drives are supported if you know what you are doing.
Almost any computer can act as a server. Versions are available for Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD. You can also install the server on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive. Plex supports products from Synology, Netgear, QNAP, UNRAID, Drobo, ASUSTOR, Thecus, Seagate, Western Digital and Terramaster. It also works with Docker.
The server does not have its own graphical user interface. When you use the server to manage your content, the Plex web app is automatically activated.
Plex Media Player
The Plex Media Player is just one player; it cannot be used to read local content or display your content on other devices.
You need to install a copy of Plex Media Player on any device you think you want to use to watch content. It supports a variety of devices and operating systems. These include Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Kodi, PlayStation, Xbox, Roku, Nvidia Shield, and Sonos. Plex content is also compatible with Chromecast.
You can download a copy of the Plex Media Server and the Plex Media Player from the company’s website. You can then install both by simply following the on-screen instructions.
Setting up Plex for the first time
After you’ve installed all the necessary software, it’s time to start using Plex for the first time. You must start with the Plex Media Server.
The first time you run the program, Plex will ask you to create a new account. It’s impossible to use Plex effectively without an account, so go ahead and choose a username and password. You must also accept the Terms of Service.
The installation wizard
After you create an account, the setup wizard will start automatically.
On the first screen you have to choose a name for your server. This name will be replicated across all of your Plex apps, so select something sensible and identifiable.
You will also see two check boxes. The first, Connect to Plex , lets you stream content outside of your home network, and makes it easy for your individual Plex apps to find each other. You should enable it.
The second, Send feedback , let’s Plex collect anonymous data about your usage. If you are protecting your privacy, you should turn this option off.
Click Next and the wizard will ask you to add your media. If you have already organized your content, you can add the folders. If you haven’t already, skip this section for now. We will discuss it in more detail shortly.
Finally, you can add third-party channels. Again, we’ll cover these in more detail later in the guide, but feel free to add anything you like the look of.
That’s it, the wizard is finished. You should now be looking at the main Plex screen.
Set up Plex media players
If you have Plex apps installed on your smartphone, game consoles, or streaming devices, now is the time to fire them up.
In all cases, the app will ask you for your Plex account credentials. Assuming you’ve followed the setup wizard described above, the Plex app should automatically find your Plex server once you’ve entered your username and password.
Every Plex app works differently. Providing a detailed guide on how to use each app individually is beyond the scope of this article, but they are all fairly straightforward.
Add media to Plex
If you’ve been looking at Plex articles online for some time, you’ve seen beautiful images with endless libraries of content. The content all has cover art, plotlines, episode names, actor information and more.
Plex can add all of this metadata automatically, but you should take the time to properly organize your content before adding it to the app.
Use of the correct file naming structure
Plex is notoriously picky when it comes to naming files and folders properly.The Optimal Way To Name Media Files On Plex The Optimal Way To Name Media Files On Plex Read More
Before proceeding, make sure that all of your movies are in a separate folder tree from all of your TV shows.
Then use the guidelines below to make sure Plex can find all the correct metadata for your videos and music.
Movies can be saved as standalone files in the Movies folder or can be saved in their own subfolder. The movie itself must be called [Movie Name] (year) . For example, Jurassic Park (1993) .
Therefore, your folder tree should look like Movies / Jurassic Park (1993) .mp4 or Movies / Jurassic Park (1993) / Jurassic Park (1993) .mp4
TV shows use a similar approach, but with a few tweaks. Using the example of friends , your header folder structure should be TV shows / friends / season XX / .
Within each season, the individual episodes should be called [Show name] SXXEXX . For example, a video called Friends S04E12 would be Season Four Episode 12.
If the show you want to add doesn’t follow the typical season / episode format, check out Plex’s official guidelines for more information.
If your music already contains embedded metadata, you don’t need to do anything; Plex can read it. If not, use this folder tree to organize your files: Music / ArtistName – AlbumName / TrackNumber – TrackName.ext (for example, Music / The Killers – Hot Fuss / 01 – Jenny Was a friend of Mine.mp3 ) .
( Note: If you have thousands of files and renaming them all is impractical, check out FileBot. While it’s not free, the app will do most of the work for you.)
Add Movies to Plex
When you’ve successfully organized all of your media, you’re finally ready to add it to Plex. The type of media you want to add determines the method. To start, let’s watch movies.
In the left pane of the Plex interface, mouse over libraries and click the + icon.
A new window will appear. Choose Movies , hit Next , and click Browse for Media Folder to point Plex to the folder containing your movie files. At this stage, do n’t click Add Library . Instead, choose Advanced from the left pane.
The advanced options contain a few settings to keep in mind:
- Cinema Trailers: Want a movie theater-like experience or want to jump right to your content?
- country: If your films have been released in multiple countries, what information do you want to use for your metadata?
- Medium: Make sure to select The Movie Database , otherwise some metadata may not be imported correctly.
Add TV shows to Plex
The methodology for adding TV shows is the same as for adding movies, just make sure to select TV shows instead of Movies after hitting the + icon.
The advanced options are slightly different. You will not see some movie specific settings and you must make sure that you select Add tag No tags as the Medium .
Add music to Plex
As you add music, you will see an item in the left panel called options .
If you have a Plex pass, you can choose to have a Premium Plex music library on this screen . It downloads illustrations, artist biographies and album reviews. You can also create smart mixes based on a song or mood, and it adds music recognition tags to help you organize your library.
If you know that your music files have embedded metadata that is usually correct, make sure to choose Use Embedded Tags from the Advanced menu.
Add other videos to Plex
Finally, you might want to add other videos to Plex. Maybe you have home videos from yesteryear, some footage you downloaded from YouTube, or just want a way to watch all of your smartphone videos on other devices around the house.
In these cases, you have to choose Other videos . Importantly, in the Advanced menu, the Medium option is set to Personal media .
You should also make sure you have given your file a recognizable name; it’s the name that Plex will use in the app.
Correct incorrect metadata
Even if you’ve properly followed all file naming conventions and chose the right agent for each library you’ve added, sometimes the metadata can still go wrong. Fortunately, you can fix it easily.
Use the Plex interface to navigate to the TV episode of the movie you want to edit, hover over the video thumbnail and click the pen icon. It will open the metadata window.
From the panel on the left side of the window, you can edit everything from the title and storyline to the poster artwork and cast list.
Click Save Changes when you are ready to proceed.
Add subtitles to videos
You can add subtitles to both movies and TV shows. Plex uses a free subtitle database to download and add them to your video.
To download subtitles, go to Settings> Server> Agents> Movies> Plex Movie and drag the OpenSubtitles.org agent at the top of the list.
Repeat the process in Settings> Server> Agents> Shows> TheTVDB .
Then click on the gear icon. Use the drop-down menus at the bottom of the new window to choose the languages you want to download. You can select up to three.
Unfortunately, your new settings will only be applied to new content you add. To add subtitles to videos already in your library, click the three horizontal dots next to the library name in the left pane of the Plex interface, then choose Refresh All Metadata .
How to Use Subtitles on Plex: Everything You Need to Know How to Use Subtitles on Plex: Everything You Need to Know Plex supports several subtitle solutions for your media, but they’re all disabled “out of the box.” Here’s everything you need to know about using subtitles on Plex. Read More
Become a Plex Power user
If you’ve watched, you should now have a functional Plex setup. All your videos and music will be added to your Plex Media Server and you can access those files on other devices using the Plex Media Player.
But dig a little deeper, and Plex is packed with extra features that make it even more complete. Here are some features and tools that will help you become a Plex user.
Plex is free to use, but the company also offers a subscription package. The package is called Plex Pass.
5 Reasons Why You Don’t Actually Need a Plex Pass 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Actually Need a Plex Pass If you have a lot of locally stored media on your computer, Plex is a must-have piece of software. But do you actually have to pay for a Plex Pass? Let’s find out … Read More We will discuss some of these in more detail in this section.
The additional features include:
- Automatic photo tagging for scene and place recognition
- Live TV
- DVR capabilities for recording live TV
- Access to Plex Cloud (removes the need for an always-on server)
- Mobile sync for offline viewing
- Parental supervision
- Music lyrics
- Support for multiple users
- And much more
You can buy a Plex pass for $ 4.99 / month, $ 39.99 / year, or $ 119.99 for a lifetime subscription.
Plex Live TV has been supporting Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex has added live TV channels to its service, but what exactly is Plex Live TV? We’ve got everything you need to know about this exciting new cord cutter option. Read more . As noted in the previous section, you will need a Plex pass to enjoy the feature. You can use it to watch over-the-air channels for free. What can you watch using a TV antenna? What can you watch with a TV antenna? What if there was a cheap, legal way to access many of the major networks? You would probably put it on. Well, it turns out there is! Step forward to the trusted TV antenna. Find out more near you.
You can watch live TV with the Plex app for Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, iOS and Roku. It is also supported by the web app.
To get started, you need a DVR tuner and an antenna. Plex supports many DVR tuners, including models from HDHomeRun, Hauppauge, AVerMedia and DVBLogic. Most Plex enthusiasts are in favor of HDHomeRun.
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Plex works with any antenna, but the quality can vary significantly between manufacturers. Two of the most popular are Mohu Leaf and HD Frequency.
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To set up live TV, go to Settings> Server> Live TV & DVR and select Set up DVR . The wizard will scan your network for the DVR receiver. Then choose Scan channels to see what’s available in your area. Finally, enter your zip code to download the appropriate Electronic Program Guide (EPG).
You should see a link to the program guide below Manage in the left panel of the primary Plex interface.
In the fall of 2017, Plex followed up on its live TV announcement with the introduction of a personalized news service. Plex News Should Help Keep String Cutters Happy Plex News Should Help Keep Cord Cutters Happy Plex has launched Plex News, which consists of news excerpts from a range of sources across the political spectrum. Keep up to date with what’s happening in the world. Read more . The feature is available on the Plex Media Player for Amazon Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, iOS, and Roku.
Content is available from several world-renowned news companies, including Sky News, DW, the Financial Times, Euronews, and IGN.
You will see a link called News in the main library list. Click the button and a video will start playing. You can browse news categories using the scroll bar below the video.
For each video you can either Follow or Mute both the channel and the topic. Using these buttons often can help you quickly teach Plex about the type of content that interests you.
If you’re using a TV app, you can do personalization to further customize your experience. You can add a zip code to receive local news and edit the categories you want to watch.
Third party channels
Plex also supports an extensive library of external channels. Some can be installed through the main Plex client; others rely on the unsupported App Store.
To install an external channel, go to Online Content> Channels in the panel on the left side of the Plex interface.
Then choose Install Channels in the top right corner of the screen . You can use the categories on the left to browse what’s available. Click on a channel’s thumbnail and select Install to add a channel to your Plex installation.
We’ve covered some of the best Plex channels.20 Unofficial Plex Channels You Should Install Right Now 20 Unofficial Plex Channels You Should Install Now The unsupported AppStore lets you unlock new Plex content to watch. Here are the best unofficial Plex channels to install. Read More
The Plex It! With bookmarklet, you can pull videos from other websites and add them to the Watch Later list of your Plex account. You can watch the added videos from Plex; you don’t have to go back to the original site.
The bookmarklet also allows you to “throw” a video from a site to a Plex app and recommend a video to other Plex users in your account.
Visit to Plex It! To install Watch later>? and follow the instructions on the screen. The process is slightly different depending on the browser and operating system you are using.
What else do you want to know?
If you’ve followed this guide closely, you should now have a solid understanding of what Plex is, how it can help you, and how to set it up.
Of course, there are many more tools, features, and tricks we haven’t covered.8 Plextricks And Tips You Really Need To Know 8 Plextricks And Tips You Really Need To Know Plex is an amazing piece of software. Simply put, it allows you to stream your media from anywhere in the world, on any device, whenever you want. But there is so much more than that … Read More Some are only valuable to power users, and some are only useful if you’re using a multi-user Plex server.
Nevertheless, if you have any problems, we must help you. So, if you’re struggling with any aspect of Plex, get in touch with the comments below. And don’t forget to let us know what you think about Plex. How do you rate it? And would you recommend it to your friends?