Quick-Start: Step by Step

There are several important steps to get Plex working in your home. This quick-start guide will get you up and running quickly, and point to important information for future reference.

Related Page: What is Plex?

Video: Getting Started with Plex

You may wish to start with this great overview video with our own Scott Olechowski:

Related Page: Getting Started with Plex on Vimeo

Plex — Server and Apps

Plex has two distinct parts:

  • Server — Store your media library in a central place
  • Apps — Players that play back media from the Server

A fully-functioning Plex system needs both a Server and at least one App. The Server includes Plex Web App which is used to manage the Server and your media library. The Plex Web App also includes a player App so a minimal Plex installation could be just the Server - but most people are sure to want to install Apps on devices around your home. There are many platforms and devices supported for media playback, so the chances are Plex has you covered.

Choose a computer for the Server

The Server has been designed to let you watch media on numerous Apps in your home or remotely over the Internet. One of the key features of the Server is the ability to send media to the various devices in a format that best suits the device. For example, a Smart Phone can be sent a lower-resolution version of a Full HD show to make it more practical for playback on the device. This process is called "transcoding" and can be quite CPU intensive in some cases.

If you install the Server on a low-powered Mac/PC/NAS device, you might notice stuttering (stop-start) playback on some or all the Apps. This is most commonly due to the CPU not being powerful enough to handle the transcoding requirements or to the number of Apps connecting to the Server at once. Some NAS devices might be so low-powered that Server transcoding is specifically disabled.

If you already have hardware you'd like use for the Server, install it and see how well it works. If you are purchasing hardware specifically to host the Server, you should research this much more thoroughly.

Note: The computer or device running your Plex Media Server will need to be powered on in order for you to access your content. If accessing remotely, it will of course also need to be connected to the internet.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > System Requirements

Download the Server

Once you've decided where you are going to install the Server, visit the Plex Downloads page and download the Server for your device.

While there, check out the list of available player Apps. Some of the Apps are downloaded from the Plex website and installed on a PC type computer, while others are downloaded and installed from a vendor's App Store. If you have a device with its own App Store, the Plex website will link you to the corresponding App Store entry.

Related Page Plex Downloads

Prepare your Media Collection

Plex identifies your media according to folder structure, filename, and the type of Library to which it is assigned. Once identified, Plex fetches information like posters, descriptions, and ratings that make media selection a rich experience. The requirements for organizing and naming files are quite flexible, but in the same way you'd probably have no idea that a movie file called GWTW.mkv was the movie "Gone with the Wind", neither will Plex.

For best matching results, you must check the Media Preparation guides and spend time ensuring your media collection is sorted and named correctly. Although the process is quite flexible, you can avoid mismatched or unrecognized media by adhering to the naming conventions right from the start.

Quick-Check if your Media Files are Named Correctly

You may already be naming and organizing your media files in a way suitable for Plex. Here are the important things:

  • Separate media into appropriate folders (e.g., Movies in a "Movies" folder, TV shows in a "TV Shows" folder, music in a "Music" folder, photos in a "Photos" folder, etc.)
  • Movies should be named as follows:
    • [Movie_Name (Release_Year)]
    • e.g.: "Avatar (2009).mp4"
  • TV shows should include season and episode numbers in the name:
    • [Show Name - sXXeYY]
    • e.g.: "Dexter s01e01.mp4"
  • Each TV Show episode file should be stored in a set of folders as follows:
    • \TV Shows\Show Name\Season\episodes
    • e.g. \TV Shows\Dexter\Season 01\Dexter s01e01.mp4
    • For TV Shows, the folder structure is important. Make sure show folders contain season folders that contain the actual episode files
  • Music content should be stored in a set of folders as follows:
    • \Music\Artist\Album\tracks
    • e.g. \Music\U2\Joshua Tree\09 - One Tree Hill.mp3

Related Page: Media Preparation

Install the Server

Once your media is named and organized, it's time to install the Server. Follow the installation instructions for your platform and install the Server. It's best to ensure the Server computer has an internet connection when first installed as it will automatically update various components.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > Installation

Launch the Server for the First Time

Once installed, launch the Server for the first time.

Windows

  • If you chose Launch Plex Media Server at the end of the installation process, it will already be running
  • If you didn't, find it in the Start menu and launch it

OS X

  • Open the Applications folder
  • Find Plex Media Server
  • Double-click it

Linux PC

For most flavors of Linux:

  • Open a Command prompt
  • Type sudo /etc/init.d/plexmediaserver start

Launch Plex Web App for the First Time

Plex Web App is the control center for Plex. On a Mac or Windows PC, you can launch the Plex Web App as follows:

  • Windows: Find the Plex icon in the Windows System Tray at the lower right of the screen. Right click the icon and choose Media Manager...
  • OS X: Locate the Plex icon (>) in your Mac's top Menu bar or right-click the Server icon in the dock and choose Media Manager...
  • The default browser will open and load Plex Web App

If the Server was installed on a Linux based PC, and you're using that PC to access Plex Web App:

  • Open a web browser
  • Type http://127.0.0.1:32400/web into the address bar
  • The browser will connect to the Server and load Plex Web App

If you installed the Server on a device like a NAS, or the Server PC is somewhere else in the house, you'll need to know the Server's internal IP Address. Once you know that IP address, on a PC in your home:

  • Open a browser window
  • Type http://server.local.ip.address:32400/web into the address bar (e.g "http://192.168.1.5:32400/web")
  • The browser will connect to the Server and load Plex Web App

In cases where you're installing Plex Media Server on a remote system, you'll need to first connect to it so that you can access it as if the system were local. Please see information in the Installation article for details.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > Installation

Complete the Setup Wizard

The first time you load Plex Web App, a Wizard will lead you through a series of steps that will set up the Server and prompt you in the creation of Libraries for your media. If you need help with the Wizard, see the specific help section for it.

Related Page: Plex Media Server > Basic Setup Wizard

Connecting your Plex Media Server

During your setup, you'll have the option to "Connect" your Plex Media Server. If you choose to leave this option enabled, your Plex Media Server will attempt to set up "Remote Access" so that you can access content when away from home or share with other users. If you only plan to use Plex while at home, it is not necessary to enable this option if you don't wish to do so.

Enabling Remote Access is usually simple to do and automatic, but in some cases it can fail due to certain network configurations. In these situations, additional work may be required.

Tip!: Whether or not you decide to enable Remote Access, you should always sign the Plex Media Server (not just Plex Web App itself) in to your Plex account.

Related Page: Sign in to Your Plex Account
Related Page: Enabling Remote Access for a Server
Related Page: Troubleshooting Remote Access

Monitor Media-Matching Progress

Once the Setup Wizard is finished, the Server will begin scanning the media collection you specified, which you can monitor in Plex Web App. An internet connection is required for the process to complete correctly. It is generally best to allow this process to complete before making any changes to settings or Library contents.

Related Page: Plex Media Server> Libraries > Matching Process

Look for Mismatched or Unmatched Media

Once the matching process has finished–which may take some time for large collections–you might notice files that have gone unmatched, or are incorrectly matched. To fix this, first check that the name and organization of the files adhere to the Media Preparation Guide. If necessary, correct the filename or folder structure and then refresh that Library. If you're sure the media files are named/organized correctly, you can fix an incorrect match using Plex Web App.

Related Page: Media Preparation
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Update or Refresh a Library
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Managing Media Items > Fix Incorrect Match

Test Media Playback with Plex Web App

The Plex Web App has a built-in player so you can watch some media without a separate App.

Related Page: Plex Media Server> Using Plex Web App > Plex Web App Player

Install Player Apps on your Devices

Depending on whether you have a PC-type computer, mobile device like a phone or tablet, a Smart TV, or device like a Roku that you want to use as a player, you'll need to either download an installer from the Plex website or visit the device App store. When on the Plex Downloads page, check the list of apps and follow the instructions for your preferred device. Once installed:

  • Make sure the Server is accessible on your local network
  • Make sure the player device is connected to the same network as the Server
  • Launch the App and ensure the media Libraries appear
  • Select some media and play it!