Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at a number of media center software alternatives. Some people swear by XBMC, or swore by Boxee before it stopped developing the Boxee desktop application. In the end, I always come back to Plex.
Since our guide on How To Build A Great Media Center PC was written, Plex has matured a lot. Now, it’s not only on of the most eye-catching media center applications, it’s a easy to use solution I would recommend to most people looking to build a media center.
Plex is a dual media solution by default. There’s not one, but two Plex applications – Plex Media Server and Plex Media Center. The server application handles your media, and the Plex Media Center (or client) is used to enjoy it. If both are installed on the same computer, this makes for no remarkable story. However, by separating the two, it’s incredibly easy to access your Plex library on other computers, or even other networks.
Today, I’ll show you how to enjoy Plex on a remote computer.
1. Create a myPlex Account
myPlex is one of the most important parts of this tutorial. It’s a free ‘Plex account’ that bridges your different instances of the Plex server and client applications. These days, you’ll be asked to create a myPlex account upon installing Plex.
If you haven’t already, you can create a new myPlex account here.
2. Sign Into myPlex On Your Plex Media Server
You’ll have to make sure you’re logged into your myPlex account on your Plex Media Server. Again, this usually happens during the installation process, but you can do this manually as well.
Launch the interface for your instance of Plex Media Server by clicking the icon, or by browsing toon your media center PC. In the settings, go to myPlex and sign into your account.
3. Publish Your Plex Media Server
Still in the myPlex settings of your Plex Media Server, choose to publish your media center. If this goes without a hitch, you can skip the rest of this step, but you’ll likely be faced with an error. This is because you need to configure your router to send all traffic to port 32400 on your Internet connection to the computer on which you’ve installed the Plex Media Server. In other words, port forwarding.
In essence, you’ll need to forward port 32400 (TCP and UDP) to the local IP address of the computer on which you’ve installed the Plex Media Server. The specific steps to forward a port to your computer depend on the type of your router. James wrote up a very good primer on port forwarding and how it can help you, which also includes useful links that may help you forward the port. You’ll also need to use a static IP address for your media server computer. You can learn more about static IP addresses and how to get one.
If you’ve never before forwarded a port, this is the most intimidating step of the article. However, the articles linked above should guide you in the process. If you have a special router provided by your ISP, try contacting them for help on the subject.
4. Connect With The Plex Media Center Client
Next, you’ll want to use the Plex Media Center client to connect to the Plex Media Server application. The main advantage of separating server and client applications is that you can use as many instances of the media center client as you want.
For example, I have one instance installed on my laptop, and one on an old computer connected to my TV. This way, I can access my media on both without hassle.
Fire up the Plex client application and go to Preferences -> System. Here you can log in with your myPlex credentials.
Signing in to myPlex has a dual purpose. First, it authenticates access to your media files. Second, it allows the media center computer to find the media server computer without having to specify the IP address. In fact, you can even access your media files when you’re on another network, although this will count towards your ISP’s upload and download quota.
After logging in with myPlex, your media files should appear in the Plex client home screen. If not, you can still add the IP address to your media server computer manually, via Settings -> Network.
5. Connect With Your Browser Using Plex/Web
The preferable way to access your media from another computer is probably through the Plex client application. However, using the recently added Plex/Web feature you can even access your media from a web browser!
To do so, head to the myPlex website, select a media server and press Plex/Web in the sidebar. Alternatively, you can connect directly through your media server computer’s global IP address. Just point your browser to GLOBALIP:32400/web, where GLOBALIP needs to be replaced by your global IP address. After logging in with your myPlex credentials, you can access and start streaming your media to your browser.
What does your media center set-up look like? Let us know in the comments section below the article.