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Shows that don’t exist anymore showing up. Shows you wish would show up that don’t. Movie posters from the remake, instead of the original. If your media center is a mess, here’s how to clean it up.

All-in-one media center software is great, in that it can scan your many files and offer things like cover art and episode summaries. But this can get annoying, quickly, if the wrong information shows up – or if a show refuses to import. Here are some tips for keeping things clean.

This article was written with XBMC in mind, but most of it should apply to other media center software – particularly software like Plex, which is built on XBMC. Let’s get started.

Rename Your Files So They Actually Show Up

You’ve added the folder containing your movies and TV shows to your new media center software, but only half of them are showing up. What gives? Basically: your media folder is a mess.

xbmc-library

Remember the early days of MP3 files, when the stuff you downloaded didn’t necessary come with ID3 tags? Or included misspelled artists, or even the wrong one? That was a pain to clean up, and this is kind of like that. The solution for TV shows and movies? Rename your files.

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Don’t worry: it’s easy to do with the right software. First I’ll explain what needs to happen, and why.

HTPC software – such as XBMC and Plex – shows artwork, summaries and more about your TV shows and movies. In order to do this, the software needs to know what’s in the files. This is typically done using the name of the file, and if you got them from torrent sites, your files are probably named inconsistently. Some of your TV shows, for example, are labelled with “201” to represent season 2 episode one, while others actually spell out “season 2 episode 1”. DVD ripping software didn’t offer a standard way to name files, so we all made our own up, and no software could detect every possible variation.

xbmc-media-center-library-multi-cd

So how should TV show episodes be named? In XBMC, and a lot of similar software, like this:

Name Of Show - S01E01 - Name of Episode

“Name Of Show” is the exact name of the show in question, as found on TheTVDB.com. The “S” refers to the season, and is followed by two-digits (ie, season 1 is 01, season 2 is 02, and so on). The “E” refers to the episode number, and should also be followed by two digits as shown above. You can (optionally) also include the name of the episode after this.

Note that, in some cases, two shows with the same name exist (e.g. Battlestar Galactica or The Newsroom). In these cases you’ll likely need to include a year after the name of the show (e.g. Battlestar Galactica 2003 or The Newsroom 2012).

Movies work this way no matter what: you need the exact name of the movie followed by the year, in brackets.

Name of Movies (2013)

So now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to manually rename all of your files, right? Nope.

Automatically Re-Name Files With FileBot

Of course, manually re-naming all of your TV shows would be a huge pain – which is why software like FileBot exists. This software automatically renames your TV shows and movies FileBot Makes Managing Your Movies, TV Shows and Other Media Files A Breeze FileBot Makes Managing Your Movies, TV Shows and Other Media Files A Breeze Quickly rename your video files, find subtitles and so much more. If you use your computer to watch TV shows, or any kind of video, you should really check out FileBot. For TV episodes in... Read More . Just drag a folder full of episodes into the window. The software can check TheTVDB for the correct information, asking you in case of duplicates, and will propose a proper naming scheme:

Tweak if something looks wrong, or just tell FileBot to go ahead and rename. It’s a huge time saver, and can also be used to download subtitles. It’s a must-have if you maintain a media center library.

Properly Name Multi-File Movies

In ancient times (2003 or so) DVD ripping software offered to split rips of long movies into 700mb parts, so they could fit on CDs. This can be annoying with modern media centers, because the result is usually a movie being added to your media center multiple times. Here’s the solution for XBMC users.

First, create a folder with the proper name for your movie, as outlined above. Put all the parts in this folder. Give all three parts the same name as the folder, but with “CD#” after the year. For example:

Name of Movie (2013) CD1
Name of Movie (2013) CD2
Name of Movie (2013) CD3

That’s it! XBMC will now treat your multi-file movie as a single movie.

multi-file-movie-media-center-library

Read about file stacking on the XBMC wiki if you want more specific information, but the above tip should work for most purposes.

Find Duplicate Files

Is your hard drive unreasonably full? You might have duplicate copies of your favourite shows or movies. This could be because you left a copy in your “Downloads” folder, or you may have copied the same folder to two different directories.

DupeGuru, shown above, is a great tool for the job. We’ve outlined tools for finding duplicate files Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools Delete Duplicate Files Quickly With These Tools One of the fastest ways to clog up your hard drive is to store duplicate files. Most of the time, you probably aren’t even aware that you have duplicate files. They come from a variety... Read More , though, so feel free to try out a couple different options.

Clean Your Library

You’ve renamed your files, you’ve removed duplicates, and you’ve deleted a few shows you don’t want to watch again. The result is a bunch of files that no longer exist, still showing up in your library. Do you need to start from scratch?

No. In XBMC there’s a “clean library” function, which you can find in the settings under “Videos”.

xbmc-clean-library

Running this can take a while, so don’t do it if you want to watch something in the next ten minutes. The option removes all library entries pointing to missing files.

What Did I Miss?

I could go on. There’s an extensive list of supplement tools over on the XBMC wiki, and it’s well worth checking out. Or, if you want even more XBMC tips and tricks, I suggest checking out the MakeUseOf XBMC manual. You can even download a copy, if you want.

But there are no doubt even more tips for keeping a clean library out there. Leave any you know of in the comments below, okay?

Image Credits: Sam Via Flickr

  1. marrio
    April 18, 2014 at 4:18 am

    I use sickbeard and plex ftw.

  2. likefunbutnot
    April 18, 2014 at 1:38 am

    You didn't mention TheRenamer, which can be handy for dealing with huge folders of random media files.

    Bulk renaming tools should be used very carefully, and probably only in small batches of files. It's very easy to have something go wrong and files marked for deletion, renamed or filed incorrectly.

    You also don't talk about organization beyond file renaming, and that might be missing a valuable point. I have a few tens of terabytes of content stored locally and the luxury of having symbolic links to handle grouping as its most appropriate for the front-end I'm using, but only thing I do think is a very good idea is to segregate child-appropriate content from content for more mature viewers.

    Plex in particular doesn't have much in the way of direct parental controls. You can make your kids a Plex login of their own and only share kid-safe libraries of content and that's really a good idea. If they just share the same username as mom and dad and/or use the client default of login-less access to LAN-local servers, they're going to see everything that mom and dad see. That is perhaps not the best option. You really want to force login and to configure your Plex Media Server to disallow access without one (also, for the kid that has a tablet or STB of their own, that makes it really easy to yank their ability to use it as a punishment).

    I actually don't know what options XBMC offers for parental control, other than the fact that someone makes an add-on for it. But XBMC add-ons break from time to time and it's not something I'd call perfectly reliable.

    The author also neglects to mention the possibility of dealing with a local DLNA-A/V source (Mezzmo, Serviio, WD TV Live et al), rather than a media center-like Front End. DLNA presents user interface challenges that are very different from Plex or XBMC because it's designed to be used by simple devices with limited input capabilities. Since DLNA is so simple, it's actually better to use the folder structure on your server to filter content as much as possible, to minimize the likelihood of page after page of scrolling. It might be entirely reasonable to dump all your movies in a movie folder when using Plex, but using Mezzmo with an Sony Smart TV, it's probably better to have nested folders like Movies - Comedies - 90s so that the process of navigating to the right movie also dramatically shortens the number of options that will need to be examined.

    • Justin P
      April 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for the exceptional comment, I just learned a lot. I hope everyone who reads the article goes thought this...

  3. You_Watch_Me_Huh
    April 17, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Are you stalking me?

    • stalker
      April 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      yes

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