Install and configure Plex Media Server
To get Plex up and streaming, run the installer for Plex Media Server and walk through the standard installation steps. When its finished, the program will launch in the background, and will create an icon in your system tray. To open the configuration menu, right-click the icon for it and choose Media Manager. This will open the Plex Media Server configuration app in your Web browser. Click through the first two steps of the configurator, which should require no input from you.
The third stage of the configurator permits you to set up your media library. You start with a completely empty library, and add individual sections to it by clicking the Add a Section button. In each instance, youll select a broad category for the section that youre adding (Movies, TV Shows, Music, or whatever), and then specify one or more file locations that Plex will scan for media. If you wish, you can create more than one section of the same category (you could have sections for Movies and Foreign Movies, for example).
When youve created your sections and added all your associated media file locations to Plex Media Server, click Next. The program will ask you if you'd like to add any channelsPlex slang for online streaming media sources, such as YouTube and Revision3and if you want to create a free MyPlex account.
Streaming your media
With the Plex Media Server set up, you're ready to use it. You can stream your media to any supported device on the same local network, or across the Internet by connecting to your MyPlex account.
The most full-featured option is to use the free Plex desktop client, running on a PC or Mac. If you didnt download it previously, you can snag it through Plexs downloads page, where youll also find clients available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7, priced at $5 a pop. Plex is also available for the Roku streaming set-top box, for Google TV, and for select HDTVs from LG and Samsung. There's even a Plex Windows 8 app.
Finally, an exceptional browser client is available for Plex. It lets you browse, search, and stream your media from any client, anywhere, without having to install anything. To check out the Web client (or if you want to play media from any computer running Plex Media Server), return to the system tray Media Manager that you used earlier to configure Plex. Click any media section to browse and play your videos or music.
Unfortunately, the Plex Browser client is a new feature; and if you want to use it on any computer other than the one where your Plex Media Server is installed, youll have to sign up for the $4-per-month PlexPass service. PlexPass gives you early access to new Plex features, including the browser client, as well as PlexSync, for saving Plex media to your iOS device for offline viewing. Once youre signed up with a PlexPass, you can access your media collection from any Internet-connected device using the Plex Browser client.
Getting Plex to work isnt always easy. The software can be a little finicky during configuration, and problems without obvious sources or solutions occasionally crop up. One catch-all solution that frequently works is to erase your user/AppData/Local/Plex Media folder, and rerun the Media Manager. This amounts to pressing the factory default switch on Plex, so plan accordingly.
Your PCs hardware, your router, and your media files themselves can cause problems, too. The best resources for solving any problem you may encounter are the Plex FAQ and the very active Plex Forums. Need an answer immediately? A Plex support chat room filled with helpful souls appears to be active at all hours of the day.
This story, "Meet Plex, the media streamer that will make you forget Netflix and Hulu" was originally published by PCWorld.