How to Stream Movies, TV Shows, and Your Own Media With Plex

Learn how this unique personal streaming service works

Like Netflix or Hulu, the Plex streaming service offers thousands of movies, shows, sporting events, documentaries, and more. But Plex's real claim to fame is letting users stream their own digital media libraries to almost any internet-connected device. Stream your DVD and Blu-ray movie collection and all your personal videos, music, and photos.

Here's a look at what you need to do to get started streaming movies, TV shows, and your own digital media with Plex.

Plex is perfect for anyone who owns a lot of movies on DVD and Blu-ray, and it's even better if you've already digitized your media collection.

A woman using Plex on her phone, with a laptop running Plex Media Server.
Westend61 / Getty

How to Get Started With Plex's Basic Service

When you create a free account at the Plex website, you immediately have access to a variety of movies and TV shows, web shows, news sources, podcasts, and music through the Tidal music service. Here's how to get started using Plex's basic service.

  1. Go to the Plex website and select Sign Up from the top right.

    Plex website home page
  2. Fill in your email address and password and select Create Free Account.

    Create a free account with the Plex streaming service
  3. Select Launch from the top right to start accessing Plex's free streaming content.

    Select Launch to start accessing Plex's free content
  4. From the menu on the left, explore free movies, TV, web shows, news, podcasts, and music.

    Explore Plex movies, TV, web shows, news, podcasts, and music
  5. To stream Plex content on other internet-connected devices, log in to your Plex account on that device, select your account icon from the top right, and then select Get Plex Apps from the dropdown menu.

    Select Plex Apps from the account dropdown menu
  6. Select the Apps and Devices tab, and then select and download the app on your device's platform.

    From Apps and Devices, select the right app for your streaming device

    Plex apps work with a wide variety of internet-connected devices, including Android and iOS devices, Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Sonos, TiVo, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

  7. Optionally, select Go Premium from the top right of the main page to upgrade to Plex Pass and get a slew of additional features. Plex Pass costs $4.99 monthly, $39.99 yearly, and $119.99 for lifetime use.

You'll need Plex Pass to stream and record live television and stream to multiple mobile devices. Without Plex Pass, you'll pay a one-time fee per mobile device to enable streaming.

Using Plex With Your Digitized Media Collection

What makes Plex special is its ability to stream a user's own digital library, including digitized DVDs and Blu-Rays, home videos, music, photos, and more.

To use Plex to stream your media, you need a digitized media collection, a computer that meets Plex's specifications for streaming music and video, and a home network. You also need a broadband internet connection with decent upload speeds if you want to stream through Plex when you're away from home. Most importantly, you'll need the Plex Media Server software.

Plex Media Server

Plex Media Server is the software that integrates your digital library with the Plex platform, allowing you to stream your content. Once Plex Media Server is up and running on your computer, stream to your phone, game console, other computers and laptops, and most television streaming devices, such as Apple TV, Roku, and Android TV.

Digitizing Your Movies and Music to Use with Plex

If you have a library of DVDs, Blu-rays, and CDs, convert them to a digital format to stream them with Plex. Tools such as Handbrake and other DVD-ripper programs make this process easy.

The easiest way to digitize your music collection is to use iTunes or Windows Media Player. With these programs, whenever you have a CD inserted into your computer's disc drive, you can convert it into digital music files.

How to Stream Your Media With Plex

Here's how to use the My Media feature of the Plex streaming service.

  1. Create a free Plex account as shown above, or log in to your Plex account and navigate to the home page.

    Navigate to the Plex home page
  2. From the left menu, select the plus sign (+) to open the Add Your Media to Plex page.

    Select the plus sign to open the Add your Media to Plex page
  3. Select Get Plex Media Server and the Downloads page will open.

    Select Get Plex Media Server and the Downloads page will open.
  4. On the Plex Media Server tab, choose your platform and select Download.

    On the Plex Media Server tab, choose your platform

    This is where you store the digital media files you'll be streaming with Plex.

  5. Open the downloaded file, and then open the Plex Media Server application.

    Open Plex Media Server after you download the application
  6. The application will open in a browser window, and you'll be asked to sign in to your Plex account.

    You'll be asked to sign in to your Plex account
  7. Read through the How Plex Works page and then select Got It.

    Read through the How Plex Works page and then select Got It.

    You may be prompted optionally to sign up for Plex Pass. Close out of this window if you don't want to do that right now.

  8. Plex will detect available servers. Name the server and place a check next to Allow me to access my media outside my home. Select Next.

    Plex will detect available servers
  9. Select Library to add a media library, and then select Add Library.

    Select Add Library to add a media library

    Anytime you want to add a new library of digital media files, go to Libraries in the left menu and select the plus sign (+).

  10. In the Add Library menu, select the library type you want to add, then click Next.

    A screenshot of adding a media library to Plex.

    To organize your media library, create separate libraries for different genres of movies, TV shows, and music by entering a unique name before clicking Next.

  11. On the next screen, select Browse for Media Folder, and locate the media folder that you want to import. Once you've located the folder, select Add Library.

    A screenshot of adding a media library to Plex.
  12. Repeat these steps to add all of your movies, TV shows, music, photos, and other media files to Plex.

Streaming Your Media With Plex

Once you have Plex Media Center installed on your computer, and the Plex app installed on your devices, you're ready to stream. Make sure your computer is powered on and connected to the internet, and you'll be able to stream to any of your devices whenever you want.

Screenshot of the Plex web player.

Streaming with Plex works best on high-speed home networks. If your home internet connection can upload data at a high enough speed, use Plex to stream outside your home network.