How to install and configure Plex

How to install and configure Plex

Plex Media Server is a powerful multi-platform solution, dedicated to the creation and management of multimedia libraries plus support for streaming web TV, radio and hi-fi music via Tidal. The "Arcade" service dedicated to Atari video games and more has also recently been launched.

Plex uses a server / client approach to work: the server part will be installed on a supported machine (Plex supports many Qnap NAS and Synology, as well as various operating systems including Linux, MacOS and Windows), while the client part can be installed on Android and iOS smartphones, or Smart TVs or PCs. However, the Plex client is always accessible via the web interface, via a browser that supports the playback of DRM-protected content.

With today's guide we want to guide you step-by-step to the installation and configuration of Plex on a normal PC. Regarding the minimum requirements, Plex provides very practical references, indicating a minimum passmark score for the CPU, based on the resolution of the files we are going to put in our collection:

4K HDR (50Mbps, 10-bit HEVC) file: 17000 PassMark score (being transcoded to 10Mbps 1080p) 4K SDR (40Mbps, 8-bit HEVC) file: 12000 PassMark score (being transcoded to 10Mbps 1080p) 1080p (10Mbps, H.264) file: 2000 PassMark score 720p (4Mbps, H.264) file: 1500 PassMark score In real use, transcoding of files may not be necessary, which significantly reduces the hardware power required for Plex to function properly.

Our machine test is composed of an ASRock J1900-ITX motherboard, with an Intel Celeron J1900 Quad core 2GHz on board, accompanied by 6GB of DDR3 RAM memory and a 2TB disk for data storage.

Base software: Ubuntu and Samba

Although Plex can run on various operating systems, we chose Ubuntu 20.04 LTS aiming at the compromise between lightness, ease of use and support.

You can find the Ubuntu installation image by clicking here, while for installation you can consult the Canonical guide at this address. To simplify some subsequent steps, we recommend that you check the box for additional drivers and software and for automatic login when configuring the user.

Once the installation and first configuration of Ubuntu is complete, we can move on to the preparations for Plex. The first step is to enable file sharing via Samba, which will make it possible to access the server folders from a Windows PC. In Ubuntu, the operation is very simple:

Open the File Manager by clicking on the folder-shaped icon in the system tray. Select the "Video" folder and click on it with the right button.

Select the item "sharing in the local network" from the context menu, be sure to check the options as shown in the images below.

Alla request to install the "Samba" service, answer yes and when prompted enter the password chosen during installation. Repeat the procedure for the "Pictures" and "Music" folders. You can check its operation from a Windows PC by opening the explorer, clicking on "network" and entering the username and password specified when installing Ubuntu. This step will allow you to easily add files to your Media Server directly from your PC, without having to connect the monitor, mouse and keyboard to the server.

Installing Plex:

Installing Plex Media Server on Ubuntu is a quick and easy procedure, which consists of these steps:

Connect to the download section of the official site Select from the list of available versions, the one for Ubuntu 16.04 and higher

Open the file manager and from there open the Downloaded folder In an empty space, click with the right mouse button and select "open in terminal"

Start the installation with the command: sudo dpkg --install * .deb

Now you just have to wait for the end of the installation process, which usually takes a few seconds.

Plex Media Server installation via terminal When the terminal returns the prompt, it means that everything is ready . Now you can open the browser of your choice, navigate to http: // localhost: 32400 / web and complete the configuration from here, starting with the creation of a Plex account using Google, Facebook, Apple or your email and indicating to the server what are the folders containing your media.

Finalization of Plex Media Server Between the various steps, you will be offered the purchase of various levels of subscription and the download of various versions of the client for the supported platforms.

From the settings of Plex will then be able to configure the language for the interface, external access and much more, such as the parameters for video transcoding.

User experience

Our little one server is doing very well, it took a few minutes to correctly index the test media library with 10 films and 10 albums of about 8 tracks each.

Plex Media server web interface The CPU load in the local network remains low and rarely exceeds 50%, while when we connect with the smartphone in 4G, the CPU rises to 100% during a few seconds of buffering before starting playback in real time. Thanks to Plex Pass we have been able to overcome this problem by synchronizing the media from the server to the smartphone.

This guide was written using standard x86_64 hardware, but is applicable (with small differences in procedure) also on ARM platforms such as the Raspberry Pi.

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