When Do You Need Internet Access
There are a number of situations in which you will need an “internet” connection for either your Plex Media Server or a particular Plex app you’re using.
Streaming content from an online source will, of course, require you to have an internet connection so that you can reach the source. This includes:
- Our free, ad-supported Movies & Shows streaming
- Free, ad-supported Live TV streaming
- TIDAL streaming music
- Streaming premium content available to Plex Pass subscribers, such as automatically gathered trailers and extras or lyrics
Fast User Switching
For users making use of our Plex Home feature, an internet connection is required to authenticate when using the Fast User Switching feature to quickly switch between members of your Home.
Related Page: Fast User Switching
Certain Plex Apps
In some cases, certain apps may require an internet connection to use. Some, like game consoles, rely on the corresponding game service to be available. Others have components of the app itself that have to be loaded dynamically from an internet location. Affected apps:
- Alexa Voice Control
- Android TV*
- Apple TV*
- Fire TV*
- Most “Smart TV” apps
- Plex Media Player*
- Xbox One
*Both the app and server must be signed in; cached connections can be used when internet is temporarily unavailable
Plex Media Server
The Plex Media Server generally assumes you will have an active internet connection when using it. While most things will still work fine if you temporarily don’t have a connection, some things do require an active connection. These include:
- Adding new library content (retrieving metadata, art, etc.)
- Playing some media types for the first time
- Dynamically Updated Server Components
- Downloads for Offline Use (both Mobile Sync and Cloud Sync)
- Remote Access and Granting Library Access
Using Secure Connections
If you’ve enabled secure connections for your server, then you will need an internet connection:
- To download the security certificate when you initially sign in to the Plex Media Server (see below)
- When establishing a connection from a Plex app to the server (at least the first time; most apps will cache the connection information, which can then be used even when offline)
Related Page: How to Use Secure Server Connections
Of course, any time you do a full sign in to your account in a Plex app or on your Plex Media Server itself, you’ll need a connection so that your information can be authenticated.
Related Page: Sign in to Your Plex Account
Wired vs WiFi and Other Network Information
When setting up your Plex apps and Plex Media Server on your local network, the way you set things up can affect your experience with Plex. Generally speaking:
- A wired (e.g. “ethernet”) connection will be faster and more reliable than a wireless (WiFi) connection.
- When using wireless, a faster wireless standard will usually give a better experience (e.g. 802.11ac over 802.11n).
Whenever possible, you should usually connect your devices with a wired network connection. You may be more familiar thinking of it as an “ethernet connection”. Using wired connections provides a fast connection and also avoids problems that can be common when using WiFi.
While connecting any of your player apps (a streaming device like a Roku or Apple TV, a game console, or a smart TV) with a wired connection can be beneficial, connecting your Plex Media Server that way will be the most beneficial.
These days, it’s most common to set up “gigabit” local networks, but even a slower 100Mb network will usually work well.
Wireless technology is continually getting better and current networks using the newer “802.11ac” standard can perform very well. Wireless networks are also obviously necessary when you use apps on devices such as mobile phones or tablets.
When setting up a wireless network, there are several different wireless network standards. Older types are slower, and don’t reach as far as the newer standards. The types are:
- 802.11b, 802.11g: older standards with slower speed and range
- 802.11n: newer standards with faster speeds, more robust connections, and better range
- 802.11ac: the newest standard with the fastest speeds currently available, but not as commonly used
You should definitely aim for at least a 802.11n network and if you have the choice to use 802.11ac instead, that will almost always give you a better experience (assuming your devices themselves support 802.11ac).
Tip!: When possible, you should use wired connections for devices where available and only use wireless connections when necessary.
Wireless Network Congestion
If you live close to your neighbors (such as if you live in an apartment), there might be many wireless networks all available in the same limited area. Wireless networks all operate in the same limited radio frequencies, so it’s possible for them to affect one another which can potentially impact both your network speed as well as reliability.
If you find that your network is slower than it should be, it might be congested by the other networks. There are several things that might help:
- Choose a different network channel, and consult your wireless network device’s manual for details
- If you have a 802.11n device, try using the 5GHz (instead of 2.4GHz) network
Related Page: How-To Geek: How to Find The Best Wi-Fi Channel For Your Router