Why do I get the "This server is not powerful enough to convert video" message?

In some cases, you may receive a "This server is not powerful enough to convert video" type message when trying to play back content. This will occur when the system running your Plex Media Server isn't capable of transcoding (converting) content. That will be the case for NAS devices that use an ARM-based processor, for instance.

Related Page: NAS Devices > NAS Devices and Limitations
Related Page: Plex Media Server > Direct Play, Direct Stream, Transcoding

There are two main situations in which you can encounter this message.

Streaming Quality Settings

Sometimes, the message may be related to your streaming video quality settings in your Plex app.

What's Happening?

In some cases, your media may actually be compatible with your Plex app, but you have your streaming video quality set such that the Plex Media Server basically says, "you've given me settings that require the video to be transcoded, but this server isn't able to transcode".

Imagine that you have a 1080p MP4 file with an average bitrate of 12Mbps. In your Plex app, you have your quality set to 4Mbps.

  • When you connect with the Plex Media Server and request to play that video, your app tells the Server "I can only handle up to 4Mbps".
  • The server compares that limitation to the media files and knows that it would need to transcode the media down to make it compatible with the 4Mbps request.
  • The Server is not capable of transcoding, so it cannot fulfill the request that you made.
  • The Plex app displays the message for you.

What Can I Do About It?

If the media you're trying to play actually is compatible with your Plex app, then you typically only need to increase the streaming video quality setting in the app so that it's higher than the actual source video quality.

If the media isn't actually compatible, though, then increasing the streaming video quality setting won't help, since the content would still need to be transcoded to be compatible.

Note: While increasing your streaming video quality setting may allow the media to play, if your network connection (particularly to a remote or shared Server) can't handle that quality, then you may experience buffering or other playback issues.

Incompatible Media

What's Happening?

In some cases, your media simply won't be natively compatible with the Plex app you're using. For instance, if you have an AVI file container with XviD video inside it, that cannot be played natively by the Plex Web App.

In situations where the media isn't compatible with your Plex app, the Plex Media Server would typically simply transcode the content to a compatible format automatically so that you could enjoy it. However, in situations where you're connected to a Plex Media Server that cannot transcode, then it won't be able to convert the content to a compatible format for you.

What Can I Do About It?

In cases where your content requires transcoding but the Plex Media Server cannot transcode, there isn't anything that the Server can do to help you here.

You may wish to manually convert the content to a compatible format (for instance, MP4 container, H.264 video, with AAC 2.0 audio) using third-party tools and another computer. Other community members in our support forums may have suggestions.

Related Page: Plex Support Forums