Methods to Use Plex to Handle and Play All of Your Media, In all places


Whereas many locales are slowly reopening and vaccination charges are on the rise, many people nonetheless discover ourselves at house with some additional time on our arms — and a need to get essentially the most out of our media.

If that sounds acquainted, now could be the right time to get to know Plex, the free media software program that may manage all of your collected films, TV exhibits, music, and images and current them to you on any machine, with an interface that’s each enticing and straightforward to navigate.

However that’s simply the tip of the Plex iceberg! For a deep dive into its many nice options and a step-by-step set of directions to get you going, right here’s all the things you want to know.

What’s Plex?

Your whole personal media

Plex is definitely two issues: It’s free media server software program that you simply run on a PC, Mac, or NAS drive in your house, and it’s additionally an enormous set of free consumer apps, that allow you to entry the media server’s contents from gadgets like good TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Hearth TV, gaming consoles, telephones, tablets, and far more. Collectively, these two items create a robust approach to handle and entry your media recordsdata.

As soon as put in, the Plex Media Server can robotically increase your assortment of films, TV exhibits, and music with an enormous quantity of associated content material from sources across the internet, like film posters and album artwork, particulars on solid and crew members, episode descriptions, authentic air dates, and rather more. In minutes, your media assortment goes from being a sequence of recordsdata and folders to a Netflix-like expertise that you simply management.

Not like iTunes, Plex can learn nearly each media file format you possibly can consider. So for those who’ve gotten into the behavior of working your media by a converter like HandBrake (Home windows, Mac) to make it suitable together with your software program, you are able to do away with that step.

Share the love

Your Plex library may also be shared with different Plex customers, making it a great approach to give family and friends members entry to your media with out having to add all of it to a third-party cloud service like Google Drive or iCloud. Although some limitations have to be thought of, similar to the facility of your Plex server and the bandwidth of your web plan, it may be a good way to incorporate others. We’ll focus on this in-depth later.

Watch Collectively

Plex Watch Together Feature

What as soon as appeared like a gimmick, co-watching content material on-line is now a much-in-demand exercise. Plex gives two methods for individuals to observe their favourite films and TV exhibits collectively:

On Apple gadgets (iOS, tvOS) and Android gadgets (cell, TV) you possibly can watch content material out of your library or from the Plex Films and TV on-demand service (see under) with associates from world wide. Anybody watching can play, pause, or search round throughout the session. This model of Watch Collectively is free, although it could find yourself as a Plex Cross unique sooner or later.

In case you personal a suitable Android cellphone with a Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream headset, or an Oculus Go, you should utilize the Plex VR app to co-watch films or TV exhibits with as much as 4 associates.

All of it takes place in your alternative of a digital loft residence or a drive-in theater. Whereas watching, you possibly can work together with voice and even look over at your pals’ avatars sitting on the sofa.

The VR model of Watch Collectively is free for the primary week, however then requires a Plex Cross subscription to maintain utilizing it.

Free streaming content material

Plex additionally operates its personal ad-supported free streaming video service that may be accessed alongside your private media. You’ll discover an enormous repository of films and TV exhibits on-tap, with curated lists that will help you discover one of the best ones to observe. Recognized merely as Plex Films and TV, you possibly can entry the service by the net or any Plex consumer machine — even for those who haven’t arrange a Plex Media Server.

Reside TV, DVR, and extra

With an elective Plex Cross subscription, you possibly can entry extra options like reside TV with DVR, parental controls, syncing of your favourite recordsdata to your cellphone, and wi-fi syncing of your cellphone’s images to the media server.

What are the Plex necessities?

Plex on a Mac computer

Plex Media Server

For the Plex Media Server, you have to to select a tool on which to put in and run it. Your choices are:

Whichever one you select, a wired community connection for each your server machine and your consumer machine is beneficial.  A sufficiently quick Wi-Fi community (routers and gadgets that help 802.11 AC are finest) can work too, however you’ll want wonderful sign power to help streaming in 4K/HDR.

Because the Plex Media Server does the lion’s share of the work concerned in organizing and enjoying again your media, a sufficiently highly effective machine is essential for one of the best expertise. Right here’s Plex’s help web page that discusses the minimal necessities; it’s place to start out.

In case you solely plan to observe one video at a time and also you’re not planning to share your Plex library with different customers, a cheap NAS or a Protect TV would possibly do the trick. Nonetheless the second your wants turn out to be extra demanding, you’re in all probability going to wish to run your server on a desktop or laptop computer machine.

In case you’re not sure what you need to use, the Plex person boards are an ideal place to ask questions and get recommendation.

Plex Consumer (Participant)

You may run the Plex consumer app on nearly any machine that’s on the market, so the chances are good that you simply already personal a suitable one. However for those who’re considering of shopping for a brand new streaming machine anyway, we suggest the Roku Streaming Stick+, Apple TV 4K, or Nvidia Protect TV, for one of the best Plex expertise.

These with Dolby Atmos house theater methods might wish to learn our How To Know If You’re Getting Dolby Atmos Sound information because it accommodates some concerns for Plex customers who wish to guarantee they get Dolby Atmos help.

How do I set up and use Plex?

Plex Add Library screen

Your Plex journey begins by putting in the Plex Media Server software program in your chosen machine. Merely obtain the suitable installer and observe the directions. As soon as the media server is totally put in, it is going to open a brand new browser window, which accommodates the Plex internet app. The online app is your foremost means of configuring the Plex server, nevertheless it additionally doubles as a means to have a look at your library and play your recordsdata in your laptop. It is going to ask you to create a brand new Plex account after which take you thru a setup wizard that principally includes serving to the server monitor down your media recordsdata.

What are the file naming guidelines for Plex?

You may retailer your films, music, and different recordsdata, wherever you want, in as many alternative folders or onerous drives (each regionally, or on community shares), and Plex will maintain all the things organized. Nonetheless, there’s one small catch: Plex has a desire for how totally different file sorts are named.

For each form of file e.g. films, multipart films, TV exhibits which have a number of seasons and episodes, and so on, there’s a Plex-preferred naming model. In case you have a variety of recordsdata, renaming them doesn’t should be a guide course of: MacOS has an ideal built-in file renaming operate as does Home windows 10. You may all the time skip this step — Plex will nonetheless allow you to entry and play your recordsdata even when they aren’t named utilizing Plex’s conventions, however it could have a tough time figuring out what the file is, so chances are you’ll not get all the wealthy knowledge from the net that makes utilizing Plex so satisfying.

Scan and play

Plex Library screen

The Plex Media Server will robotically scan all the directories you recognized throughout the setup course of, and you’ll select how typically it scans these places for adjustments. In case you’re a frequent downloader of recent media, you possibly can set it in order that Plex robotically updates its library any time it detects a brand new file has been added.

To rapidly test that all the things is accurately, click on the house button within the internet app interface. You must see your films, music, and every other media you added throughout setup, starting to populate, together with their respective poster or album artwork.

In the event that they don’t look fairly proper at first, wait a couple of minutes as it will possibly take time for Plex to seek out all the related data. To play a file, merely mouse over the thumbnail, and click on the play button.

Remember, enjoying a film this manner received’t essentially present you what it is going to seem like on a tool like an Apple TV, or Roku. It’s actually simply meant as a approach to test that the file will certainly play.

How do I play Plex recordsdata on my TV or different gadgets?

Plex on a mobile device

As we’ve talked about, there’s a Plex consumer for almost each machine in the marketplace. You’ll usually discover the one in your particular machine within the on-line obtain retailer for that platform.

For Apple TV, as an example, it’s within the App Retailer. For Roku, it’s thought of a downloadable “channel.” Many gadgets, together with good TVs and Android TV packing containers, include the Plex consumer pre-loaded, so there’s nothing to obtain. The shoppers are usually free, however often Plex prices a small quantity to obtain them. A Plex Cross subscription contains free entry to all shoppers (extra on Plex Cross under).

Whenever you begin the Plex consumer, it is going to ask you for a similar Plex account you created while you put in the server. So long as your playback machine and the Plex server are on the identical house community, it ought to solely take a second for the consumer to show the identical catalog of media recordsdata as you noticed within the internet app.

You’ll discover an intuitive set of class hyperlinks on the left facet of the display, and your entire matching media recordsdata organized in the primary portion of the interface. Choosing the file you wish to play brings up an data display with descriptions and extra hyperlinks, plus the “play now” button.

No media software program can be full with no search operate and Plex’s common search does a very good job. It could discover matches from amongst your entire related libraries and companies together with your films, music, and TV exhibits, free content material from Plex Films and TV, internet exhibits and podcasts, and Tidal.

Why received’t some media recordsdata play?

Each consumer machine possesses totally different capabilities, which implies every Plex consumer additionally possesses totally different capabilities. When a Plex consumer connects to the Plex server, it tells the server what these capabilities are. An Apple TV 4K, as an example, solely performs video recordsdata encoded in H.264, or MPEG-4, utilizing the .m4v, .mp4, and .mov codecs.

If the file you’re attempting to play doesn’t correspond to a kind of file sorts, the Plex server might want to transcode it into one of many codecs that the Apple TV 4K understands. Relying on the file kind you’re enjoying, and the codecs supported by your consumer, this will take a variety of energy on the server’s facet. In case your server machine isn’t highly effective sufficient to deal with this conversion course of, chances are you’ll be informed that the film can’t be performed.

The apparent approach to take care of this downside is to verify your Plex server is working on a very strong laptop. However not everybody needs to maintain a robust PC working repeatedly.

If you recognize that you’ll principally wish to play your recordsdata on a single TV at house, shopping for a extra highly effective consumer machine that may deal with numerous file sorts by itself — with no need the server to transcode — is a superb different to a dearer server machine. The Nvidia Protect TV and Protect TV Professional can play nearly each media file kind, successfully eliminating the necessity for the Plex server to carry out transcoding. We’ve been in a position to play 4K HDR recordsdata, with Dolby Atmos, on a Protect TV, from a Plex server working on a WD My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 — a NAS with much less computing energy than even the most cost effective PC.

Plex Free Films and TV

Comparable in some ways to free, ad-supported companies just like the Roku Channel, Plex Free Films and TV is each an add-on to your private Plex expertise and a stand-alone service.

As a stand-alone expertise, you possibly can stream Plex Free Films and TV from the net utilizing simply your browser and a free Plex account. However for those who’re a Plex Media Server person, you possibly can entry it by the identical interface as your personal library of content material — there’s no separate app to obtain or set up.

The free, ad-supported service has a rising catalog of content material from sources similar to Warner Brothers, MGM, and Lionsgate Movies, and on Might 1, 2020, it added Crackle’s library of content material.

You’ll discover a consistently altering line-up of films and exhibits to observe. And whereas the choice is nothing like what you’d discover on a paid service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, there are some nice B-movies, Hollywood classics, and hidden gems to be found.

Net Reveals and Podcasts

Plex web shows

With Plex, you may as well entry two different kinds of free streaming media: Net Reveals and Podcasts. Net Reveals are video episodes of various lengths created by publishers like GQ, Standard Science, and others. Podcasts are the identical thought, however for audio-only. Many of those internet exhibits and podcasts may be discovered on different companies, like YouTube, however having them accessible inside Plex is a bit more handy.

Distant entry and library sharing

Plex remote access screen

One of the highly effective options of Plex is the power to configure the Plex server for distant entry. It takes a little bit of fiddling to get this arrange accurately since you’ll want to regulate your router’s firewall settings, however as soon as it’s configured, you’ll be capable of use the Plex consumer in your cellphone or pill to stream your private media library from wherever on this planet — together with reside TV and recorded exhibits when you’ve got that enabled.

Plex has an in depth set of distant entry directions so we received’t repeat them right here, nevertheless it boils down to 2 or three steps:

  • Configure your modem to ship distant entry requests to your router if they aren’t the identical machine
  • Configure your router to ship distant entry requests to the machine in your community that hosts your Plex Media Server
  • Configure your Plex Media Server to reply to these distant entry requests

If you wish to share your Plex library with family and friends (who don’t reside with you), you’ll must configure distant entry first.

As soon as that’s achieved, inform your family and friends to create a free Plex account(s) after which let you know the e-mail they used to create it.

Plex add a shared user

Contained in the settings in your Plex Media Server, you’ll discover a part referred to as Customers and Sharing. Inside that display, you possibly can add further customers for the individuals who reside with you, in addition to giving entry to associates by way of the Shared Libraries choice.

For every Plex person you invite, you possibly can select which server (when you’ve got multiple) and which libraries (films, TV, and so on) they will entry. In case you have a Plex Cross subscription, you may as well let these customers obtain and sync your content material to their gadgets, and add their images to your server.

You may see what these customers are watching in real-time in addition to having the ability to see a historical past of what they’ve watched, throughout the Exercise dashboard in your server.

Plex Arcade

Plex Arcade Library

Launched in January 2021 as an experimental function, Plex Arcade is a subscription gaming service that provides Plex customers entry to a library of basic Atari console video games. After a free seven-day trial interval, it prices $5 per 30 days or $3 per 30 days for Plex Cross customers. To make use of Plex Arcade, you’ll must have the Plex Media Server for Home windows or Mac on your private home community, and an Android (cell and TV), iOS, tvOS, or Chrome machine to run the Plex consumer.

As soon as arrange, the Plex Arcade video games present up as a brand new class throughout the regular Plex interface.

You should utilize virtually any Bluetooth controller that works together with your consumer machine, however Plex recommends the Sony DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller for one of the best outcomes.

Tidal integration

In case you have a Tidal subscription, you possibly can add it to Plex. Because of this your Tidal music can now be streamed on any machine that helps the Plex consumer. However a fair larger profit for music followers is the best way Plex integrates Tidal together with your private music library. As you browse the music in your server, Plex robotically finds matches from Tidal to indicate you tracks or albums you is perhaps lacking, and associated artists and genres.

From a music discovery viewpoint, it’s a robust system as a result of it’s based mostly on the music you’re keen on — in any case, you already personal it.

Sonos integration

Sonos Play:5 wireless speaker

In case you personal Sonos wi-fi whole-home audio system, you possibly can add Plex as a music supply in the identical means as you possibly can add Apple Music or Spotify. Doing so has two large benefits: First, Plex can robotically transcode any music recordsdata that Sonos can’t play — like hi-res FLAC recordsdata — so you possibly can take pleasure in your full music library.

However secondly, when you’ve got two Sonos methods in several properties, Plex helps you to entry your private music library in each places — one thing Sonos can’t do by itself.

Right here’s extra on utilizing Plex with Sonos.

What’s Plex Cross and why ought to I get it?

Plex Live TV Guide screen

A lot of Plex’s finest options can be found without cost, however there are some premium options you could solely entry when you’ve got a Plex Cross subscription. Plex Cross may be purchased on a month-to-month ($5), annual ($40), or lifetime ($120) foundation, and it entitles you to the next options:

  • Reside TV plus DVR: In case you have an HD antenna and a suitable OTA receiver, you possibly can watch and report reside TV from inside Plex. Your recording capability is restricted solely by the onerous drive house in your Plex server, and your entire recorded exhibits will probably be introduced with the identical easy-to-use interface as the remainder of your library.
  • Plex VR co-watching function: Co-watch films and TV exhibits with as much as 4 associates inside a digital residence or drive-in movie show, with voice chat too.
  • Plex Arcade at a diminished value: Usually $5 per 30 days, Plex Cross subscribers get entry to Plex Arcade for $3 per 30 days.
  • Parental controls: In case you’ve obtained kids in the home, there’s in all probability solely a subset of your media that’s appropriate for all-ages viewing. With Plex parental controls (often known as Plex Residence) you possibly can create further accounts, password defend your grasp account, and choose by score or folder, which materials is obtainable to every account.
  • Cell sync: Vital for commuters, this function helps you to wirelessly maintain copies of your favourite media in your cellphone for offline playback. It could robotically add and take away TV episodes as you watch them.
  • Premium music and photograph libraries: Get additional data added to your music (like lyrics) or images (location knowledge) for a richer expertise.
  • Digicam add: Wirelessly sync the images you are taking in your cell machine to Plex in order that they’re a snap to view on your entire Plex shoppers.
  • {Hardware}-accelerated streaming: It is a large one for individuals who need one of the best transcoding efficiency. And not using a Plex Cross, all server transcoding is dealt with by the Plex software program, however this selection helps you to use your PC’s further {hardware} energy to help in that activity, making it a lot smoother. You could possibly get away with a much less highly effective PC with this selection enabled.
  • Free entry to Plex consumer apps: By no means pay for one more consumer app once more.

What about Kodi? Might I take advantage of that as a substitute?

Kodi is a robust media heart software program interface that does lots of the identical issues as Plex. The important distinction is that it goes concerning the actions otherwise. With Kodi, there’s no server software program: All of its features are self-contained in an app you obtain and set up on a suitable machine. One limitation right here is that there are just a few varieties of suitable gadgets. Kodi doesn’t work on Roku, Amazon’s Hearth TV, or Apple TV, with no important quantity of heavy lifting to put in and use it.

Plus, with no central server managing your media assortment, every occasion of Kodi is its personal world. There isn’t a means so that you can synchronize settings from one machine to a different simply. Meaning you’ll have to arrange every Kodi machine as if it had been the primary time. Moreover, there isn’t a buyer help choice, so for those who run into any points, there’s no person to assist with troubleshooting, so you need to determine it out by yourself.

As a result of Kodi is open-source software program, there are a good quantity of third-party extras out there for it. Sadly, that features a large assortment of unofficial add-ons that may trigger you all types of issues, together with unknowingly accessing copyrighted materials.

The unofficial add-ons may depart you weak to undesirable third events, together with malware, hackers, and snoopers. If you’re contemplating putting in Kodi, we suggest wanting over our Kodi explainer to discover ways to safeguard towards cyberattacks or every other potential downside which may happen with third-party add-ons. The information gives an intensive understanding of the potential authorized ramifications of utilizing these third-party add-ons.

Nonetheless, Kodi generally is a good Plex different for those who prefer to tweak software program settings. Many customers skilled improved streaming companies and speeds once they paired Kodi with a VPN. In case you’re not a fan of sustaining a extremely related centrally managed media library that shoppers stream from, then Kodi is for you.

Plex gives quite a few perks and minimal restrictions that will help you handle and centralize your media library. It’s a flexible software that features free streaming content material, syncs throughout your gadgets with a easy login, and has comparatively few limitations, just like the shortlist of incompatible file sorts. Due to this fact, we suggest Plex for these of you who wish to manage and retrieve your media.

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