With the proliferation of set-top boxes like Google TV, Roku and others, as well as the popularity of Android devices, there is a growing need to share media content across a home network. It’s not the most complicated operation in the world, but it does require some setup work at the onset.
There are several solutions for setting up a media server right in your home, but perhaps the simplest solution is to use Plex. The service provides both backend (the server) and the front end, which is in the form of apps for computers, mobile devices and set-top boxes. This tutorial shows you how to setup Plex media server on Windows.
To get started, you’re going need to setup the server on a computer within your network, preferably one that is always on, as the apps won’t get media unless the server is on and connected. Head over to PlexApp and download the program. It will work with Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD and NAS.
Once you have completed the installation, it’s time to begin playing with the settings and letting the server know where to find your various media.
Clicking the app will open a dashboard window in whatever web browser you have set as your default, meaning that if you were to install it on a NAS, it’s still easy to administrate.
By default, you will have several media categories, including movies, music, photos and TV. You can easily add additional ones like home movies or music videos, or whatever you wish. To add a new category, simply click the Plus button and choose “add a section”, then give it a name.
Click on each section to begin adding your media. You will notice a folder icon in the left column, and if not, click the “options” button to reveal the column. From here, you can browse an available computer on your network to locate your files and then add them to the section. You can also change the view between tiles and list and filter content in a number of ways. You can even edit the media content.
Once you have completed adding the media, you will want to head into settings by clicking the screwdriver-wrench icon at the top right. From here, you can set things how you wish. If you frequently add new content, such as recorded TV shows, then the Library option should be your first stop.
The important part here is the Library Update Interval. If you wish to watch your new show as soon as possible, then set this to 15 minutes, which is the fastest available option.
Options also allow you to sign into your MyPlex account, enable DLNA, set network discovery, give your server a name, and much more. For most people, the default options, other than library refresh interval, should function just fine.
The End User
With your server up and running and everything set the way you want, it’s time to take care of the end-user. Plex apps are available for both Android and iOS, though, unlike the server, they aren’t free. Apps are also available for many of today’s set-top boxes, such as Roku and Google TV. If you are using the latter, then I recommend a third-party app called Serenity, which is available in the Google Play store.
When it comes to servers, there are few things simpler to setup and manage than Plex. The developers have made this as easy as possible and the dashboard has an excellent graphical user interface. The service is also always updating and improving its offerings, so you can expect good things coming in the future.