There are a few software options to stream content to the TV, just to name a few, XBMC, Windows Media Center and MythTV (Linux based). As cool and functional as they are none of them support remote streaming as Plex Media Server does. It is based on a client-server architecture or act as a middle tier server. The content is centralized and served from the Plex Media Server within your local network as easily as from a remote connection over the internet. Moreover, Plex clients are not limited to PCs or laptops, there are Plex app for the most popular mobile platforms and streaming devices.

Let’s get started.

Prerequisite.

Per Plex, Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2.4 GHz or better, 2GB RAM.
For this tutorial, Microsoft Windows 7.

Steps Overview.

  • Download and install Plex.
  • Server configuration.
  • Client side settings.
  • Server side settings.
  • How to share Plex Libraries.
  • Plex Clients.

Download and install Plex

From the browser, go to the Plex download section and click on “COMPUTER”.

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Select “Windows” and proceed to download the English version.

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Locate the downloaded file and run the installer. Once the “Plex Media Server” is successfully installed, “launch” the configuration process.

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Accept the “Plex Terms of Service”.

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You should get two web browser sessions, one asking you to login your Plex account and the other to start the Plex setup.

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If you do not get the Plex setup page, in the notification area, look for the Plex icon. Right click and click on “Media Manager…”

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You will be presented with the option to “Sign Up” or login. Creating one will allow you to access and/or share your local content over an internet connection. It can be skipped for now.

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Plex server configuration

The Plex server is identified by the “Friendly Name” (#1). By default, the computer name or hostname is used. It can be renamed to something more descriptive.

“Send feedback” is optional. Click “Next” (#2).

The email field (#3) is optional, click “Next” (#4).

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Click “+ Add Section”.

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To add a library, select one of the media type (#1) and click “Next”.

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I started with “Movies” (#1), click “Next” (#2).

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Browse to the folder containing the movie files. Click “Add” (#2)


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Repeat the same steps for the other media types.

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Pick the channels you would like to install, or “Skip” it. You can always add them later.

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That completes the Plex Setup.

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Depending on “Dashboard” settings, the UI would look like something below.

Click on the tools icon (#1) to access the settings page.
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Client side settings.

The “Web” settings area manages the client side of Plex. If you have more than one client, you will need to adjust the settings on each of your clients.

Web settings > General.

“Play Theme Music”, works mostly with TV shows. When a show is selected, the TV show soundtrack theme will play (in loop) automatically in the background.

“Show Unwatched Icons”, helps with keeping track between already watched and unwatched episodes.

“Enable Keyboard Shortcuts”, hit “?” to get the list of the available shortcuts.

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Web > Dashboard

Manage the dashboard or “Home” display content. The order can be rearranged or toggled ON/OFF.

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Web > Search.

“Search Shared Libraries” only libraries have been shared with you. Searches will go through the internet connection, keep that in mind in case of “slowness”.

“Search Channels” is self explanatory.

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Web > Player.

“Streaming quality” affects three types, actually really two types of streaming, local and remote.

“Local Quality” can be set to the maximum speed available since the content is served within your local network.

“Remote Quality” affects remote connection, streaming over the internet. The upload speed depends on your internet service subscription. For instance, “Blast! Internet” is my internet package with Comcast, I can’t remember the exact speed, so I ran a speedtest via “testmy.net”. The result is 40 Mbps, down / 10 Mbps up. Since Plex streams my local content to my remote connection, 10 Mbps is my maximum throughput. At any rate, the Plex player will adjust the stream quality based on the available throughput.

“Channel Quality” is the same as “Remote”, since the channels content are pushed from your local network to the remote Plex client.

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Server side settings.

The server settings only affect the Plex server side

Server > General

Rename your Plex server name if needed.

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Web > Connect

This feature requires a Plex account and some port forwarding. By default, the Plex listens on port 32400. You could keep the same port Plex on. Try to hit “connect” first, with UPnP, port forwarding at the router level may not be needed. However, I always recommend against using default port value when the service is associated with a public interface. In my setup, I chose a random port, between 20,000 and 40,000 for the public interface and setup a port forwarding to the default Plex port, 32400.

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Server > Library

“Library” defines how your local content will be updated.
Ideally, you would want to “Update my Library automatically”. However, automatically infers that there is a process at the OS level to notify Plex service about files changes. It may work if the local content is stored locally (as on the same host than Plex Media Server). Running Windows 7 and having the local on a networked share, the “Update my library automatically” does not work. I set it to scan my library every 6 hours, but most of the time I manually force a folder scan.

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Server > Channels

iTunes support

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How to share Plex Libraries.

Log on your web based Plex account and select “Server”.

Enter the username or the email address (#1) of the person you want to share your local content with. You can share all your content (#2) or selected libraries (#3). Click on “SHARE”. An email will be sent to that account, and the account owner will need to acknowledge the email. Sharing your account does not give you automatic access to the other person’s library. The other party will need to go through the same process to share his or her local media.

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Once the sharing process is complete, it will look like something like the screenshot below. On the left side, display from Plex account. On the right side, view from the Plex player.

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Plex Clients.

A client is needed to connect to the Plex Server and play the content. Computer based clients and Chromecast are free, Apps (Android, iOS, Windows 8 and set top boxes) costs $4.99.

“Plex Home Theater” is ideal for HTPC, available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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Plex Home Theater. (Credit: Plex)

Plex Android version ($4.99).how to plex.step .027

Plex Chrome App (Free) is ideal for all the Chromebooks.

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Plex from Windows Store ($4.99)how to plex.step .029

Conclusion.

Plex Media Center is a great complement to your set top boxes, such as the Amazon Fire TV, the Roku and the Chromcast for instance, since those generally do not provide a good option for streaming local content to the TV. I have used PCs, laptops connected to the TV, Boxee, XMBC and SubSonic. At this time, Plex covers all my streaming needs at home as well as when I am on the road.

Filed in Computers. Read more about streaming.

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