Like most folks, I like streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and a few other places instead of subscribing to cable TV. When I want to watch something in the living room, I use an older Roku set-top box to access most of the content I want to watch. Sometimes, however, I want to watch video files from other sources, usually in formats not natively supported by my Roku. In these cases, my usual streaming services don’t have the content available, leaving me two choices: watching on one of my computers, or plugging an HDMI cable in to my laptop and watching from my TV that way. For occasional viewing, that’s an alright option, but why not find something better? After all, I’d love to be able to use my laptop for something more than just streaming a video.
This is where Plex comes into the picture. Plex is a piece of software that allows you to easily catalog, host, and stream their media files from just about anywhere. As long as you properly name your files, Plex will catalog your movies, TV shows and other files and automatically add metadata like subtitles, trailers, IMDB information, and more, all from their databases. The server software and related apps work great on tons of platforms, and can allow sharing with friends and family. Note: I get nothing from Plex for writing this, I’m just a big fan.
A few of my friends use Plex to stream their media, so I figured this was a great time to set up a Plex server and document the process on my own. I’m using the Ubuntu Desktop 16.04.1 VM I created a little while ago as my host, however it’s recommended you use a standalone machine for Plex. Plex server requires only modest amounts of memory and an okay-ish processor. The storage requirements are practically set at only the size of your media collection. If you have an old desktop (or laptop), throw a copy of Ubuntu Desktop on it and follow this guide to get your own media server set up. Compared to some Windows OSs, Ubuntu (or another flavor of Linux) will free up a little more of your system’s resources for your media server. That said, you can also run Plex server on Windows, Mac, FreeBSD, and a plethora of NASs, making it a great tool for an already-existing media collection.