Getting Started with Plex Media Server

With a Plex Media Server you can stream your favorite movies and series on every screen in the house. It takes some time and effort to set up your own server, but then you have something. In this article we help you with that.

With the Plex app, you no longer have to switch between different apps for your news, podcasts, music, series or videos. Everything is combined in the app in one clear digital environment. Plex offers a fair amount of films, 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 Install Plex Media Server

Plex Media Server is available for a variety of platforms and operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and FreeBSD. The application is relatively light and runs on systems with at least an Intel Core i3 CPU and 2 GB of RAM. For this article, we will download the Windows version. When installing, click Options to choose where to install the app. The installation takes a minute; then press launch to launch 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'll see a popup trying to entice you to get a Plex Pass subscription. Such a subscription (4.99 euros per month) lets you stream on your mobile, sync media via the cloud - useful when your PC is not on - and store videos locally for offline use. Click away the message with the cross at the top right, give your media server a name and determine whether it can also be accessed outside the home. Then press Next one.

03 Set up media server

The next screen will allow you to add local folders of media to your Plex Media Server. click on Add library and select the media type (for example, movies, series or music). Scroll to the desired folder and press Add library to confirm your choice. Everything added? Then click Next one to complete the process. You may have to wait a while for all 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 use Plex Media Center. Without a subscription you can use Settings / Users do not add additional users and guests. Although all users have access to the same environment by default, everyone has their own preferences and (further) viewing history. If you choose a managed account when adding users, you can protect certain content. Think of films or series that are unsuitable for children.

05 Share media server

You also need a Plex Pass to share your media server. Through 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 will have the option to create one. As a power user, you can apply restrictions and control exactly who has access to what. If you share your media server with someone outside your network, go to Settings / Server and toggle the option Remote Access in.

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 this. For audio, mp3 and m4a are supported by default. Music in a different 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. When matching, the database of TheTVDB.com is used. For the best results, it is a good idea to organize all content neatly and to provide it with the correct names. Make it easy for Plex by, for example, formatting 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 Download 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 complete library. With the Android and iOS apps you can stream for free to, for example, a Chromecast. Before you can watch on a smartphone or tablet, you must activate the Plex app or take a Plex Pass.

08 Play media

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

Nas or Raspberry Pi as 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 with operating system Raspbian pre-installed is recommended.

09 Listen to (and watch) podcasts

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

10 Auto Subtitle

When watching foreign films and series, it is nice to have subtitles. Plex Media Server supports all common formats, including srt and smi. Although some downloaded movies and series come with subtitles, this is not obvious. That's why Plex offers the option to load subtitles automatically. Go to Settings / Agents, click on the tab Movies or Series and then Plex Movie. Put a tick in front of Opensubtitles.org and drag this option up. Also add Settings / Languages a tick for Automatically select audio and subtitle tracks.

11 More possibilities with plugins

Plugins allow you to extend the capabilities of Plex Media Server. Click in the left menu on the option Plugins and choose Install plugins. click on More… and All Available Plugins to see the full range. That is not big, 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 offerings of the service in question. Streams can be viewed locally or sent 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 Videostream, 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.

Download 12 Unofficial Plugins

Although the range of official plugins is small, there are more possibilities to extend Plex Media Server. To start with, you need the WebTools software, which you can download from Github. Place the extracted WebTools.bundle file in the folder %LOCALAPPDATA%\Plex Media Server\Plugins\ on your PC and open Plex. Bee 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 your Plex account details.

13 Plex Unsupported AppStore

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 . in the left menu UAS to click. Here you will find about 175 plug-ins from, for example, Facebook, Spotify, BitTorrent and Popcorn Time. Installation is done at the touch of a button and plug-ins automatically appear in the Plex Media Server menu of the same name. Unfortunately, not every plug-in works flawlessly, but luckily you have them removed in no time.

14 Plex Media Optimizer

The Plex Media Optimizer easily creates optimized versions of your videos. After all, you don't need a 4K resolution to watch a movie on your smartphone screen. Click the button next to the desired video More… (recognizable by three dots) and choose Optimize. After that you can select the title, save 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 film. Go to Settings / Server / Extras and check Show trailers of upcoming movies in theaters. You can do the same for films 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 download and add trailers manually. Then don't forget Local Media Assets (Movies) to tick in Settings / Server / Agents.

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