How to Create a Plex Server

Plex is an all-in-one home media server that allows you to stream video, photo, and music to any device on your home network (or online with a Plex Pass). You can even use it as a DVR for your cable or satellite subscription and stream your favorite TV shows anywhere you go! Setting up your Plex server is pretty easy, let’s walk through it.

Please note that this guide will only cover how to set up a Plex media server on a computer running Windows 10. It will not cover instructions on how to set up your server for other system configurations. For information on how to set up Plex for other environments, please follow the instructions here.

Step 1 – Create Your Plex Account

The very first step towards creating your very own Plex home media server is to sign up for an account. To do so go to https://plex.tv/ and click on the yellow “Sign Up” button at the top right-hand corner of the screen. For mobile devices, it will be in the drop-down menu on the upper left-hand side of the screen.

Plex Media Server Sign Up

Step 2 – Download Plex and Install It

After you have finished creating your Plex account, it’s time to download the necessary software. To download Plex, visit https://www.plex.tv/media-server-downloads/.

Plex runs on several different operating systems and environments. That means that you need to choose the correct one for the device you wish to use.

Select your OS and dowlnoad Plex screenshot

After you have downloaded your software, run the installer. Once it has completed a web browser window should pop up. That browser window will prompt you to sign-in to your account. If the window does not pop up then right-click on the Plex icon in the system tray and select “Open Plex.” You can also skip the first step and create your account from this menu if you want.  Go ahead and sign in.

Once you’ve finished signing in, the system will prompt you to set up your media libraries. But do NOT set up your libraries yet. Minimize the window and head over to your file explorer. We’re going to want to configure your media folders and do a few other things before we set up media libraries and populate them using Plex.

Step 3 – Prepare Your Media for Plex

Now that you have your account made and your Plex server installed, it’s time to prepare your media folders and files for playback.  Plex supports almost every video and audio file format around (including 4K HDR video), and it can even find metadata and things like trailers, actor lists, and other more fun information help make your media more interactive. But before it can automatically search and find the correct metadata for your media, you’ll have to give it a helping hand.

First, you’ll want to make a few folders and name them things like “Movies”, “Music”, and “Photos.” Then you should organize your media files into their corresponding folder. However, the names you choose for these folders do not matter as you’ll be pointing specific Plex library types at them later. Check out the file tree below for an example of a properly set-up media folder for Plex use.

Plex file structure diagram

Screenshot taken from Plex (hope they don’t mind)

Next, make sure that all your media files are transcoded to formats that Plex can recognize. Like we said earlier, there are very few media file types out there that Plex can’t play (but there are some). For a full list of compatible and incompatible file codecs for Plex check out their official page here.

Once your files are all in recognizable formats, you need to name them according to Plex’s naming standards (found here). Plex will playback files with whatever name you give them, but naming them according to the Plex naming conventions will help their software recognize the file and to more easily download the correct metadata.

Step 4 – Create Your Media Libraries on Plex

After you’ve prepared all your media and organized it into folders, it’s time to re-open that browser window we minimized earlier to start creating your media libraries. Follow the prompts here to create your first library.

If you closed your window go to https://plex.tv/web and follow the prompts to sign back into your account. Once you’re logged back in, you can add a library to your Plex server by clicking on the “+” symbol that pops up next to the “Libraries” menu on the left-hand sidebar when you mouse over it. Then follow the onscreen prompts to create a library and point your Plex server to the corresponding media folder.

Click the + to add a new library to your Plex server

Step 5 – Allow Your Libraries to Populate and Check Your Media

After you create your libraries and point your Plex server to the corresponding media folders, you should give your server time to populate before you begin to test your media. This can take from as little as a few minutes to several hours depending on the amount of media you have.

During this time, Plex will automatically download and apply metadata to all your media files that it is able to recognize. This includes things like movie posters, TV show episode names, actor lists, trailers and more!

But, sometimes even Plex gets it wrong and will think that one of your media files is something else. When you notice metadata that looks off, then you can do a few things to get Plex back on the right path. This can happen in so many ways that we won’t begin to bore you with the details and advanced troubleshooting steps. If you’re having a hard time getting Plex to recognize any of your media, check out their article on the subject HERE (or let us know in the comments).

When you’re all done, your libraries should look something like this:

Plex example library

Step 6 – Install Plex Client Software on Home Media Sources (Optional)

While Plex will run on almost any browser by going to https://plex.tv/web/, there are also a large number of operating systems that have a Plex TV application. Often, the application is a more streamlined approach to watching your content on the devices you want (especially for devices that don’t have access to a full-fledged web browser).

To install Plex TV on a device visit Plex’s website (or the app store if your device has one) and install the matching version of the application on your device. Once you have it installed log into your Plex account and find your server (if this is your first time installing a Plex server, yours will be the only one on the list).

Step 7 – Enjoy Your Media Collection

Once you’ve fully installed your Plex server, you’re ready to start streaming your media anywhere you go (assuming you purchased a Plex Pass mentioned earlier)! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to help you sort it out!

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