In today’s world, we have media spread out across multiple devices, in multiple formats, which are generally enjoyed at multiple different times. That can be a real pain in the butt — but thankfully there are aways to consolidate all your media and then enjoy that media on any device, no matter where you are.
How? With a Plex media server. By creating a media server, you can host all your media in the same place — and then stream it to any other device that you own. That’s right — no need to convert your Blu-Ray files into a smaller format that your phone will better understand. Plex has a mobile app, apps for Windows, macOS, Xbox, PlayStation, and even Apple TV. Plex will even convert media on the fly — so it will properly play on whatever device you’re using.
Here’s how to set up Plex so you can watch any of your movies on any device.
Hardware and pre-installation information
The server is the center for all your media, and you’ll have to set it up in order to properly use Plex. Once everything is set up, Plex is a great service to use — but setting it up in the first place can take a bit of time.
The server itself can be in the form of a Mac, PC, or Linux computer. Or, if you’re particularly savvy, you can install it on a dedicated server with FreeNAS or NAS hardware. Regardless, the point is this — you need a computer that will remain constantly on. If you turn it off, you won’t be able to access the media hosted on it.
The computer shouldn’t just be any old computer — you’ll want it to have enough processing power to handle the media transcoding that might happen on the fly, and even more if you expect to be able to stream to multiple devices at any given time. Plex itself suggests that your computer have at least an Intel i3 processor with 2GB of RAM, and you can check out their full hardware recommendations here.
Another requirement you’ll want to keep in mind is that the computer needs to have enough storage space to host all of your media..
Before really installing everything, you’ll want to organize your media and put it all in the same place. Generally speaking, file management is key here. Put all your movies in one folder, your music in another, your TV shows in another, and so on. You’ll also want to make sure that the files themselves have appropriate names. Movies should just be called the title of the movie, along with perhaps the year it was released, and songs should be organized into folders and titles the name of the song. It seems obvious — but it’s important to note. Without this, you’re going to have a tough time going through all your media.
Installing Plex on the server
Next up, you’ll want to download the appropriate software for your system, which you can do here. You’ll want to make sure that you download the right version for your platform, and once you do run the installer. Once the software has installed, you’ll be asked to accept the user agreement, and then sign in to or create a Plex account.
You’ll then want to figure out if you want a standard Plex account or if you want to sign up to a premium account. While the premium service is pretty good, we recommend trying the standard version out for a bit before paying for premium.
Next up, you’ll need to name your server. It doesn’t really matter what you name it — just name it something that works for you. you can also change the name later if you want. Your account should then be created — now it’s time to start importing your media.
Importing media should be pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll give an example of importing a movie to help you figure out how to do it. First, hit the “movie” category, and name the library if you so choose. In most cases, “Movies” should be fine. Next, hit the “browse for media files” button, and navigate to the folder that houses all your movies — which you will have created before.
Once you’ve imported your media, you’ll be navigated to a control panel for your server. At this point, the media may still be updating, or you may already have all your media imported and ready to go.
Accessing your Plex server from elsewhere
Now that your Plex server is all set up, you’ll be able to access it from other devices — assuming the server is on and both devices are connected to the internet.
All you have to do is install the Plex app and log in to your account — which you can do on both iOS, Android, as well as macOS, Windows, and even smart TV devices.
That’s really all there is to it — you should now be able to access all of your media on all or most of your devices without a hiccup. Easy, right?