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In-depth Guide To Setting Up Your Plex Media Server

Plex is often regarded as the best media streaming option, and setting up your Plex media server is an excellent option for anyone who wants to create their personal Netflix service. The software allows you to stream TV shows and movies through their web service and media you already own through their streaming software.

Getting started with Plex is similar to installing and using any other software. The process entails installing their server software and then installing the necessary apps on all your other devices so they can connect to the server and you can watch your content.

Plex’s offering is unique, and we will look at how you can set up a Plex media server so you can enjoy all your content from the comfort of your home or anywhere in the world.

Setting Up and Installing the Plex Media Server

Before installing the Plex Media Server, you need a server. Plex runs on Linux, Mac, or Windows computers and servers. Some people use the computers they use for everything else, some use old computers they have lying around, and some use a dedicated computer/server. 

You can also install Plex on any compatible network-attached storage (NAS). In short, Plex works fine on most computers, servers, or network-attached storage.

Important Performance Considerations

There are important considerations to keep in mind regarding server performance. 

First, the Plex Media Server allows multiple people to view content simultaneously. The number of people doing so is directly proportional to how hard the server has to work. For example, the server has to work harder if four people are watching a video compared to two people doing the same. 

You should spec out your server depending on how many people you expect to consume content simultaneously. We put together a guide on setting up a media streaming server that can help you with this.

What is a home streaming server
Setting up a server

Second, Plex converts or transcodes some files on-the-fly as it prepares them to be viewed on certain devices depending on the bandwidth available. The transcoding process requires server resources, but it also ensures you can watch your content on all your devices, no matter the file or the size of the device.

You might notice stuttering, buffering, the inability to play media, and other playback issues if your server isn’t powerful enough to handle the transcoding or the number of users. In most cases, that means your CPU cannot keep up, so you should consider upgrading the CPU to start and then the GPU later on.

Alternatively, your Plex server hardware could be fine, but your network could be struggling to keep up. In that case, you should consider upgrading your network infrastructure.

Downloading Plex Media Server

Once you have set up your home media streaming server or decided where you install Plex Media Server, you should visit the Plex download page and install the correct server for your device.

Download options when Setting Up Your Plex Media Server

As you can see from the screenshot above, Plex makes its media server available on numerous platforms.

Installing and Running Plex Media Server

Once you have downloaded the right Plex Media Server for your operating system and device, it is time to install it. You should have an internet connection when installing and setting up your Plex media server. The reason is to allow the setup wizard to run correctly and to allow you to set up or access your Plex account during this initial process.

Installing Plex should be very familiar to you because this is something you have already done on your computer. Install the software like you would any other following the respective instructions for Windows, MacOS, or Linux.

A browser window will open and ask you to create an account or sign in on the website once the installation completes or when running the server for the first time. You will need to accept the terms and conditions and then the setup will run.

Note: Plex Media Server does not have a graphical user interface. Instead, Plex asks that you use their web app to manage the server.

Starting Your Plex Media Server and First-Time Use

By now, the browser and wizard should have launched, and you should already be logged into your Plex account. However, sometimes the browser and wizard do not launch, or you need to close the browser or shut down the computer and come back to complete the setup later.

In this section, we look at how you can launch Plex Media Server.

Note: Your server should be running before attempting to access the Plex Web App. Feel free to skip this section if the Plex Web App and Set Up Wizard launched after installation.

Launching Plex On Windows

You can choose “Launch Plex Media Server” when completing the installation process. 

completing the installation process

If you did, it should already be running. If not, you can find it in the start menu and start it like you would any other application.

Launching Plex on MacOS

To launch Plex on macOS, you will need to go into the Applications folder and find Plex Media Server. Once you locate it, double-click the icon to open the software.

Launching Plex on Linux

Linux users should use a terminal to launch the Plex Media Server. You should locate your terminal and open it. The exact way to do this will depend on your Linux distro and where you have installed third-party terminals like Hyper.

Next, you should type “sudo systemctl start Plexmediaserver” in your terminal and hit enter. You should be prompted for your password. Remember that you will not see any indications that you are entering the password into a terminal, so just enter it and then hit enter even if you do not have visual feedback.

Accessing Your Plex Media Server via the Plex Web App

The Plex Media Server also comes bundled with the Plex Web App. The Plex Web App lets you control Plex and access all your media through any browser installed on your computer.

The Plex Media Server comes with the Plex Web App, which allows you to control Plex and access your media through any browser. Again, this should launch automatically and start the Setup Wizard when the server is run for the first time.

Running The Plex Web App

Running The Hosted Plex Web App Version

You can access the Plex Web App using the version hosted on There are two ways of doing this. The first is visiting and then signing in to start watching.

The second is signing in to your account on the website. You should then click on the “Open Plex” button in the top-right corner.

Launching Plex after signing in on their website

Doing so will launch the web app in your browser. The web app runs locally in your browser and accesses content from inside the browser.

Note: If you are using the hosted Plex Web App, none of your content passes through the website. All communication flows between your browser and Plex Media Server directly. You should also enable Remote Access on your server to watch and manage content when away from home.

Running The Local Plex Web App on a Browser

The local version of the Plex Web app that comes bundled with Plex Media Server allows you to manage your server and access all your content without an internet connection.

To access the Plex Web App directly on a local network, you can enter the following IP address:


The address you enter should look something like this:

You can also use a local host address to access the Plex Web App if you open it on the computer where the server is installed. The local address is or http://localhost:32400/web.

If you are on Linux, open your terminal, type ifconfig, and hit enter to find your local IP address. If you are on Windows or Mac, follow this guide to find your local IP address.

Launching the Plex Web App on Mac or Windows

To launch the Plex Web App, follow the following instructions:

Windows: You should see the Plex icon (>) in the Windows System tray located on the lower-right side of the screen. Right-click it and then click “Open Plex”

macOS: Clock the Plex icon located in the top menu bar to open Plex. You can also right-click the Plex Media Server icon from the macOS dock and then click “Open Plex”

Doing either above will open your default browser and load the Plex Web App. 

Launching the Plex Web App on Linux

If you are setting up your Plex Media Server on a Linux PC or other Linux-based operating system and computers access the Plex Web App, you can access the app using a browser.

Once you open the browser, navigate to the address or http://localhost:32400/web. The browser should connect to the server and then load the Plex Web App.

Launching the Plex Web App on Network Attached Storage (NAS)

If you are using a NAS or a separate PC, you should use the internal or LAN IP address to access the Plex Web App. You can find your local or LAN IP address as discussed above. You can then use the http://server.local.ip.address:32400/web or localhost URLs to connect to the server and load the Plex Web App.

Note:  You should always start your Plex Media Server before launching the Plex Web App. It is also always best to sign in to your account when using your Plex Media Server and Plex Web App to ensure everything works as expected.

Completing Setting Up Your Plex Media Server

The Setup Wizard

The setup wizard will be running and lead you through a series of steps to help you name your server, set up your media libraries, and complete everything else you need to ensure everything works as expected.

Preparing and Organizing Your Media

Preparing and organizing your media is a crucial step when setting up your Plex media server, so every user should know how to add media to Plex. Remember, you will create libraries for the different types of media you would like to access, such as your TV shows, movies, and music, when setting up your Plex media server.

Create libraries when Setting Up Your Plex Media Server

Once you create these libraries, Plex will identify the content within them and then identify and match the different types of media content like TV shows and movies. The software will then gather additional information about the media, including movie casts, poster artwork, TV episode descriptions, and additional metadata to make your collection and libraries more complete.

You should follow Plex’s media presentation guidelines to get the best results. They say you should have folders for each type of content. For example, you can have folders for movies, TV shows, music, and so on. 

You should also have single folders for each type and piece of media, labeled so that it is easy for Plex to identify the content within the folder. Let’s say you have a movies folder in your server’s storage. Let’s also say you already own a legal copy of the movies Avatar and Batman Begins.

You can have two folders, one named Avatar and the other Batman Begins, and then posters and subtitle files within the specific folder. You could end up with a folder that looks something like this:

Plex movies folder

Courtesy Plex. 

The metadata, folders, and filenames are usually structured correctly for files you have purchased or ripped so Plex will have an easy time adding metadata for them. You can also correct any issues that come up as Plex creates this additional metadata.

Note: You cannot legally play video content purchased from Google Play, iTunes, or Amazon on Plex because it is protected by DRM (digital rights management).

Test Media Playback with Plex Web App

Once you have set up everything correctly, you should try browsing the media and playing some of it. If you cannot access the content or if the Plex media server not opening, Plex has comprehensive guides and support to help you troubleshoot any issues you encounter.

Installing Plex Apps

You can download Plex Apps for numerous devices as you can see from the following screenshot:

plex app downloads

You can also download the Plex App for your devices from their respective App Store.  Plex also provides instructions for making their client apps work on different devices, including how to activate Plex on your Smart TV.

Network Connectivity

Once you have downloaded and installed the respective app, ensure your devices are on the same local network as the server. If they are, everything should work, and you should be able to browse and play all your media.

You should set up remote access if you are trying to access the content outside your home network.

Using Plex Through Remote Access

The Plex Media Server will try to set up Remote Access for you when you set everything up. The automatic setup works for most users in most cases, but it can fail due to network configurations. If you have any issues, you can check out the awesome resources, guides, and troubleshooting information Plex provides.

Setting Up Your Plex Media Server: Conclusion

Following the guide above should make setting up your Plex media server easy. You can explore additional options like Plex’s paid plans for additional functionality and features once you have set everything up, especially if you want to use a mobile device to access your content.

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