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How to Setup the Ultimate Home Media Server with Plex Software

Would you enjoy having Netflix-like access to your personal media libraries? Does the idea of a personal media server make you happy? Did you cut your cable cord years ago?

In case you haven't heard of Plex, it is a service that allows you to turn your computer into a media share that you can access anywhere. With a little setup time and software, you can create your own media streaming service.

 

Setup a Home Media Server

 

This post will teach you how to prep your files, install the software and enjoy your media on all your devices. We'll even tell you how to use Plex to share your selected media with friends and family, even if they aren't in your home.

 

Choose Your Hardware

Plex server is compatible with the following operating systems: Windows, Linux, OSX, and FreeBSD. It will also run on some Network Attached Storage or NAS devices. For simplicity's sake, we are going to concentrate on non-NAS installations. You can find extensive documentation for any device on the Plex.tv website.

 

Consider the following when choosing your Plex server setup:

1. The computer you select should always be on. There's no point in hosting your media server on a machine that limits availability to your library.

2. One really cool thing about Plex is that it transcodes your media to fit the screens of all its client devices. This ability does require processing power, though, so you'll want your server to have at least an Intel i3, or similar processor and 2 Gb of RAM.

3. Storage space. Plex serves off the same computer that the media resides on, so it should be big enough to hold what you have and hold what you'll add in the future.

 

Once you have chosen your hardware, make sure it has a good internet connection and a browser installed on it. The Plex server is not a standalone application, but rather a web-based configuration panel.

 

Prep Your Files

Once you've chosen your hardware, it's important to organize your media on the drive. Plex's recommended directory structure works well, but there are several ways to accomplish your media organization. Whether you choose to keep all of the same types of media in common folders or create a folder for each movie, this step is crucial to a good Plex experience.

Some people choose to create a directory for the movie file because they like to keep trailers and cover art alongside the main file. Here is a good resource that explains how to use the Internet Movie Database for accurate file naming conventions.

 

Download the Plex Installer

Next, download the Plex Media Server installer for your operating system. The setup is virtually the same for each platform. Run the installer and upon completion, it should launch the web application for you to begin your setup. If it doesn't, you can manually navigate to the service by pointing your browser at http://127.0.0.1:32400/.

Follow the prompts to sign up for a new account. Plex offers options for free use and a paid service called Plex Pass premium. You can use it without paying for a while to see if you enjoy it and go from there, or of course, dive right into the premium features.

 

Start Your Installation

From here, there are a few steps within the Plex server setup to follow:

Name Your Server

Plex will use the default computer name of the machine you have chosen to use for your server. You don't have to change it, but an intuitive name may help your friends and family distinguish it from other network devices.

Add Your Libraries

Plex will organize your media into libraries sorted by type:

  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Music
  • Photos
  • Other Videos

The Plex server setup window will display a menu on the left where you can choose from the library types listed above. You can then change the name of your library and the language it will use to download descriptions and other information from IMDb. You may add as few or as many libraries as you like--if you only want to be able to access movies, just populate that library.

Add Your Folders

Hopefully, you have organized your media so you can browse for your folders efficiently. If you can't, the Plex server can. You can add multiple folders to each library; Plex keeps a database of files and locations so it can find your media easily when you access it.

Choose Your Access Level

After you've added all the media types you want into the Plex console and click next, you'll see a screen that asks whether you'd like to add media streaming outside your home network and send anonymous usage data to Plex. These options are both checked by default and unless you plan to only access your media when you are at home, there is no reason to uncheck them.

 

Once You've Clicked Done

Once you've completed the Plex setup, you will see the user interface that shows you your libraries, your management options, and other online content that you can access through Plex. You will also see a "recently added" section, but since everything is recently added, that won't be useful to you right away.

This console is not how you will access and enjoy your libraries. Now it's time to download the client apps for the devices you will use to access your server. It's a good idea to check your connectivity on a device away from home, so take your phone or tablet out and take a test drive.

Launch the client app on your device and sign in using the credentials you used during your Plex server setup. From there you can choose to stay in trial mode or click the activate button and pay a small fee to enjoy full-length movies. One of the slickest features of the client is the ability to pause a video on one device and continue watching on another.

 

If You Need to Troubleshoot

Most Plex setups install smoothly. Once in a while, a network or router may experience some difficulties accessing from a remote location.

If you experience this, we encourage you to use our tutorials to try and fix your issue or feel free to ask our tech support team for help. We want you to enjoy your internet experience as much as you do.

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