If you have a bunch of series saved on a PC or external hard drive and are looking for a way to streamline the way you watch this content, then here is the solution: Plex and a NAS.
Why it took me so long to try this combination out, I do not know.
But now that I am on the Plex-NAS train, I am stopping at all the stations to tell the world about its magnificence.
Following the installation of a Synology NAS at home, the next step was to try Plex.
The media platform describes itself as “one place to find and access all the media that matters to you – from personal media on your own server, to free and on-demand movies and shows, live TV, podcasts, and web shows, to streaming music, you can enjoy it all in one app, on any device”.
Many people have raved online about it, and stated it is a great way to watch your media on almost any device.
The Plex solution which allows this to take place is its Media Server package, which is available through the “packages” menu in the Synology NAS I have.
I installed the Plex package onto the NAS and created a Plex account at the same time through a web browser.
Once the Plex package is installed, you click “Open” in your NAS menu and it takes you to a Plex interface in a web browser.
Here you go through a Plex setup wizard and define which folders on your NAS you would like it to access.
I had a few issues with setting my Plex library up, but this was solved after searching through online forums.
In my case, there was a user account called “Plex” on the NAS which I needed to give permission to access shared folders.
You must also ensure that you label your media folders in a way which Plex likes, and this information is provided in the Plex help menus.
Once you have linked your chosen media folder on the NAS to Plex, and filled it with media, you then run a file scan to populate your Plex library.
Plex not only splits your content into groups – by series name, for example – it also breaks down each season into sub-groups. This all relies on you naming your media folders on your NAS correctly, however.
The Plex website states that the platform supports a range of media files and devices.
This includes MP4, MKV, AVI, MOV, and DIVX media. In terms of devices, macOS, Windows, Linux, Nvidia Shield, and multiple NAS devices are also covered.
A quick run through Plex using a web browser on my Windows PC showed all my content was organised and working correctly.
Plex had also automatically downloaded metadata and artwork for several of the series in my library.
This included episode descriptions and thumbnail artwork for the tiles which list each show and its seasons.
The final step in my media modernisation journey was installing the Plex app on my Samsung TV – which was easy.
It was available from the Samsung app store, and once downloaded and linked to my Plex account was accessed in the same way I would get into Netflix.
Using the app is just as simple – Plex has done a good job of laying out the user interface in a way that makes it easy for anyone to use.
The simple layout is complemented by the fact that Plex pulls images and metadata for the shows in your media library, providing you with a truly Netflix-like experience.
This was great news for me – and even better news for my partner, who can now use Netflix or Plex with the same level of ease.
The result: zero requests for technical support when trying to access locally-stored media.
It has not been all smooth sailing, however, and a couple of small hiccups have come up.
There has been an occasion where the Plex app on the TV could not access the media stored on the NAS, and I had to turn the TV on and off again.
This may be my TV’s fault, though, as it is getting on in years.
I have also had to manually “scan” my Plex library files on the NAS using my PC to ensure the content was populated in the Plex app.
Again, this issue may be on my end – as I had just downloaded content and pasted it into the NAS media folder via my PC.
The settings menu in Plex does makes allowances for automated library scans, though, and if I had waited a few minutes one of these scans would likely have run and taken care of business.
Two other points we must quickly touch on:
- Plex offers a free tier, which is what I am using. There is a premium version with more features available for a monthly subscription, which I have not investigated.
- Plex offers a bunch of movies and series you can stream for free, on any tier, which is a nice add-on.
Using Plex has been great in the few days since I installed it on my NAS, and I really wish I had done this sooner.