Plex Media Server is a fantastic way to organize and streamline all of your media in one centralized location. With Plex, you can store your movies, TV shows, music, photos, and more on a home media server and access this content from any device.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started with Plex Media Server, from initial setup to advanced features and tips. Whether you‘re a total beginner or looking to get more out of Plex, you‘ll find this guide helpful.
What is Plex Media Server?
Plex Media Server is software that lets you store your media files like movies, TV shows, music, photos, and home videos on a centralized connected device like a computer, NAS, or NVIDIA SHIELD. This centralized storage device running Plex Server is called your "Plex Media Server".
Once set up, the Plex Media Server organizes your media library with rich metadata like posters, plots summaries, and more. You can then use the Plex app on devices like phones, tablets, streaming devices, smart TVs and more to stream content from your Plex Media Server, from anywhere.
Plex essentially works as a personal media library and streaming system for your own content. It‘s an easy way to manage and access all your media from one place.
Image: How-To Geek
Some key features and benefits of Plex Media Server include:
- Centralized media storage and organization
- Streaming media to many devices with Plex app
- Rich metadata like descriptions, posters, actors
- Transcoding media files on-the-fly for playback on any device
- Offline media syncing to mobile devices
- Live TV and DVR capabilities
- Sharing libraries with friends and family
- Tons of apps and system integrations
Next up, we‘ll go through everything you need to set up your own Plex Media Server.
Plex Media Server Setup
Setting up Plex Media Server consists of just a few steps:
- Install Plex Media Server software
- Create a Plex account and claim server
- Add media libraries
- Install Plex app on devices
I‘ll go through each step in detail below.
Install Plex Media Server Software
The first step is to install the Plex Media Server software on the device you want to use as your server. This could be:
- A Windows, Mac, or Linux PC
- A NAS (network attached storage) device
- NVIDIA SHIELD TV
- Even a Raspberry Pi
Essentially any device that can run the Plex Media Server software, store your media files, and connect to your home network can work. For most, a Windows PC or Mac is ideal.
To get started, simply:
- Go to plex.tv and download the Plex Media Server installer for your device
- Run through the installer
- The Plex Media Server software will install
Once installed, the Plex Media Server software runs in the background and is accessible through a web browser.
Create a Plex Account and Claim Server
Next, you‘ll need to create a free Plex account if you don‘t already have one. This allows you to access your Plex Media Server and libraries remotely.
Go to plex.tv and click sign up to create your account.
With your account created, sign into the Plex Media Server web app on your local network. You‘ll first be prompted to name your Plex Media Server and "claim" it to your Plex account. This links the Plex Server software to your account.
The media server claim process only takes a minute. Just name your server, ensure remote access is enabled, and you‘ll be ready to start adding media.
Add Media Libraries
Now the fun part – start adding your media! In Plex, your movies, shows, music, and photos are organized into "libraries".
For example, you may have:
- A Movies library
- A TV Shows library
- A Music library
- A Photos library
Plus any other media types you want to add.
In the Plex web app, click the "+" icon to add each new media library, and select the folder location where that media is stored on your Plex server device. Plex will then scan the folder and automatically import your movies, shows, music, etc. into libraries.
Ideally, you already have your media neatly organized into folders like
/Music etc to make adding libraries easy. Plex will do the rest!
Install Plex App on Devices
Once your media libraries are set up, install the Plex app on all the devices you want to stream from your Plex Media Server. This includes:
- Phones and tablets (iOS, Android)
- Streaming devices (Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV)
- Game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox)
- Smart TVs
- Laptops and PCs
Search for "Plex" in your device‘s app store to install. For example "Plex for Fire TV" or "Plex for iPhone".
The Plex app walks you through finding and connecting your Plex Media Server. Once connected, all your libraries and content will be available. Start streaming!
And that‘s it! With those basics done, your Plex Media Server is ready to start streaming media.
Now let‘s dig into more details…
Plex Media Server Requirements
To recap, here are the main components that go into a Plex setup:
- Plex Media Server device
- Media files
- Plex Client devices
Let‘s explore requirements and best practices for each area.
Plex Media Server Device
The Plex Media Server device is the heart of your setup – this is the computer, NAS, NVIDIA SHIELD, etc. that runs the Plex Server software and hosts your media library files.
Some requirements to consider for your Plex Media Server device:
Storage – Your Plex server needs enough storage space for your full media library – movies, shows, music, photos, and future growth. Many find at least 2TB is good for starters. External USB hard drives can expand storage if needed.
CPU processing power – When streaming to devices, video may need transcoding to a compatible format. This takes CPU processing power. Intel Core i3 or better is recommended, with Core i5/i7 ideal for active streaming to multiple devices.
Network connection – Your Plex server should use a wired ethernet connection if possible for best performance, especially when multiple devices are streaming. WiFi can work for smaller setups.
Always on – Your Plex server device should remain powered on 24/7 for on-demand access. Make sure sleep or hibernation is disabled.
For most home users, an older Windows PC or Mac with external USB drive makes an excellent Plex server. But you have options like NAS devices and NVIDIA SHIELD TV too.
Next up is your media. Plex works best with well-organized media files:
Movies – Store movie files in a single
Movies folder. Name files with the movie title, year, and file extension like
Movie Title (year).mp4. Plex will download metadata like descriptions and posters based on the file names.
TV shows – Make a folder called
TV with sub-folders for each show title. Within show folders, store season folders like
Season 2, etc. Then episodes like
Show Name - S01E01.mp4. Plex will match episode metadata when named correctly like this.
Music – Similarly, store music files in an organized folder structure like
Artist/Album/song.mp4. Plex will pull in album art and metadata automatically.
Take time to cleanly organize your media files first and adding your libraries into Plex will be a breeze. Plex relies on well-named files to import the right descriptions, artwork, and metadata.
Plex Client Devices
Lastly, you‘ll want dedicated devices for streaming content from your Plex Media Server. This includes:
- Media streamers like Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV
- Smart TVs
- Game consoles
Virtually any device with the Plex app installed can stream content from your Plex Media Server. The Plex ecosystem supports almost every platform imaginable.
While the Plex Media Server hosts and manages your library, Plex client devices let you easily tap into that media from anywhere. Add Plex support to all your TVs, phones, and favorite devices.
Plex Subscription Options
Plex offers premium subscription options that unlock more features, but a free Plex account gets you surprisingly far:
Plex Free – Allows full use of the Plex Media Server and apps with some limits:
- Stream media inside your home
- Limited music and photo features
- No parental controls or multi-user support
Plex Pass – Paid premium upgrade with perks like:
- Mobile sync and offline media
- Live TV streaming and DVR
- Trailers, extras, playlists
- Premium music features
- Remote streaming access
- Parental controls and managed users
For casual use, the free Plex experience is excellent. Plex Pass offers nice upgrades for power users, but isn‘t essential. You can always upgrade later!
Now let‘s walk through getting the Plex Media Server installed…
Step-by-Step Plex Media Server Setup Guide
Here is a quick step-by-step walkthrough to get Plex Media Server set up from start to finish:
1. Download and Install Plex Media Server
First, grab the Plex Media Server software from plex.tv/download and install on your device.
Run through the installation process and Plex Server will be set up. Leave the app open.
2. Create a Free Plex Account
Head to plex.tv and create a free Plex account if you don‘t already have one. This allows you to access your server remotely.
3. Name Your Server and Claim
In the Plex Media Server web app, you‘ll be prompted to name your server and link it to your Plex account. Check the box to allow remote access.
Click next and your server is now claimed and ready to go!
4. Add Media Libraries
In Plex, click the "+" icon and choose Add Library. Select the folder locations on your Plex server where your movies, TV shows, music, and other media are stored to add them.
Plex will scan the folders and automatically import your nicely organized media with descriptions, posters, and metadata!
5. Install Plex App on Devices
Finally, grab the Plex app on any streaming device, smartphone, TV, or other client device you‘ll watch from. Search "Plex" in app stores to find the right version.
Run through the setup, find your Plex server, and start streaming your libraries anywhere!
And that‘s all there is to it – your Plex Media Server is now ready to use!
Now let‘s explore some more advanced tips…
Advanced Plex Setup Tips
Here are some more helpful tips for setting up and running your Plex Media Server:
Enable Remote Access
Remote access allows you to stream Plex content outside your home over the internet. Handy for travel!
In Plex Server settings, go to Remote Access and make sure it says "Fully accessible outside your network". If not, you may need to enable port forwarding on your router for remote streaming.
Optimize for Direct Play
When possible, Plex can directly play media files on a device without needing to transcode video and audio. This avoids straining your CPU.
Choosing client devices that direct play your media types is ideal. For example, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV supports direct play for virtually any media file.
You can invite friends and share access to your Plex libraries. Great for families!
Under settings go to Sharing. Enter a friend‘s Plex username and choose which libraries to share. They can then enjoy your media just like you.
Enable Hardware Transcoding
If Plex needs to transcode media, having a GPU or hardware encoder will significantly speed up transcode performance over software CPU transcoding.
NVIDIA GPUs, Intel Quick Sync, and AMD AMF are examples of hardware transcoding technologies to look for.
Auto-Organize with Plex Agents
Enable library agents like TheMovieDB and TheTVDB in settings. This allows Plex to auto-fill descriptions, metadata, posters from their databases for a nice organized library.
Back Up Plex Libraries
Your Plex database with all watched history, settings, and library info can be backed up locally or to the cloud. Useful before making any major server changes.
I hope these Plex tips help take your media server to the next level!
Plex Client Device Setup
Once your Plex Media Server is set up, let‘s look at getting the Plex app installed on client devices like phones, tablets, streaming devices, smart TVs, and more.
The process of setting up the Plex app is simple on any device:
- Install Plex from your device‘s app store
- Open Plex and choose "Sign In"
- Enter your Plex account details or create a new free account
- Plex will detect servers on your local network, select yours
- Optionally set preferences for content types and libraries to display
- Start browsing and streaming your media!
Here are some quick examples and tips for popular platforms:
Fire TV – Search for "Plex for Fire" in the Amazon Appstore. Sign in, find your server, and access your libraries right on your TV.
Roku – Add the Plex channel from the Roku Channel Store. Go through setup and streaming will work just like on Fire TV.
Android and iOS – Get Plex from Google Play or the iOS App Store. Enter Plex account details, find the server, and you‘re ready to stream.
Game Consoles – Plex is available on PlayStation and Xbox systems. Just download the app in their stores and connect to start watching.
Smart TVs – Modern Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, and other smart TVs have Plex in their app stores. Get the TV-optimized Plex app and sign in.
PC and Mac – Lastly, you can download Plex for Windows and Mac for local streaming. Nice for quick access on a laptop.
And there are many other platforms supported too! Basically every device today integrates with Plex making it super flexible for all your screening needs.
Troubleshooting Plex Media Server
Plex is generally easy to set up, but issues can pop up. Here are some common problems and fixes:
Can‘t find media – Check file and folder naming conventions meet Plex‘s requirements like
/Movies/Movie Name (year).mp4. This allows Plex to identify and import files.
No remote access – Ensure remote access is enabled in settings. On your router, port forwarding for port 32400 may be required.
Buffering issues – Try upgrading to wired ethernet if on WiFi. Transcoding high bitrate 4K or HEVC media can also cause buffering if your server lacks power.
Not finding episodes – For TV shows, season and episode files must follow the
Show Name - S01E01 naming scheme. Double check files are named properly.
Metadata missing – Ensure you have a Plex Pass subscription or agents like TheMovieDB enabled in settings to download missing metadata.
Choppy playback – Direct play media whenever possible instead of transcoding. Upgrade your Plex server CPU and enable hardware transcoding if needed.
Parental controls – Manage user accounts and enable parental pin restrictions under Plex settings for safer family streaming.
See Plex‘s help docs for even more tips. But with the basics set up properly, Plex runs smoothly for most.
I hope this guide covered everything you need to get up and running with Plex Media Server! It‘s an amazing service that makes your media beautifully organized and accessible from one place.
To recap, remember to:
- Install Plex Server and create a Plex account
- Name your server and claim to your account
- Add your movie, TV show, music, and other media folders
- Get the Plex app on your streaming devices
Follow the steps in this guide and your full media library will be at your fingertips on any screen in no time! Enjoy flexible streaming with Plex.