How to Get Plex on Your Apple TV

One more reason to use your Apple TV

Plex is a program that runs on many devices and operating systems that allows for video sharing. The application streams video content across multiple devices.

After you set up Plex on your computer and attach it to your media library, you can access your videos, music, and photos from anywhere. Plex plays content on local network devices, including smart TV boxes like the Apple TV.

Plex works best on the fourth generation of Apple TV. Still, with a bit of effort, you can get Plex working on a third-generation Apple TV.

Identify Your Apple TV Model

Third-generation Apple TVs and earlier do not ship with the Plex app, and you cannot install additional apps on the device. However, if you're willing to do a little software hacking, you should be able to get Plex to run on an older Apple TV. Use the PlexConnect workaround to run Plex on a third-generation Apple TV, but it is challenging to get it running.

If you have a fourth-generation or newer Apple TV, use the tvOS App Store to download the Plex app for Apple TV.

Visual comparison of third-generation and fourth-generation Apple TV.

Apple, Inc.

It's not easy to tell the difference between the two Apple TVs at a glance. Both are small black boxes with rounded edges. The fourth-generation Apple TV (2015) came with the black touch-sensitive Siri remote, and the third-generation Apple TV came with a silver remote with a control wheel.

If you can't determine which is which, use Apple's guide to identifying your Apple TV.

Install Plex on a Fourth-Generation Apple TV or Later

Compared with the procedure for installing Plex on a third-generation Apple TV, the process for a fourth-generation and later Apple TV is simple.

  1. Open the App Store app on your Apple TV. Search for the Plex app and download it to your Apple TV.

  2. Open the Plex app. Follow the on-screen instructions to connect to your Plex account using the provided link and four-digit code.

  3. Select your Plex server from the list and start streaming content.

Install Plex on a Third-Generation Apple TV

The installation procedure for the third-generation Apple TV is more complicated. Before starting, read the installation process from start to finish to gauge your comfort level.

It requires configuring your host device (PC or Mac), your network, and your Apple TV. We'll use Python scripts to duplicate an existing Apple TV application then trick it into playing Plex's content. It's a clever workaround, but it's not plug-and-play.

Install Plex Connect on Your Server

Before you get started, you'll need to set up a couple of things correctly:

  • Ensure your Apple TV has supported firmware (versions 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 6.x, and 7.x are supported).
  • Install Python 2.7.x on the machine that runs your Plex server. Python 3 will not work. Python 2.7 is installed on Mac computers. On Windows, download and install Python 2.7.15 or later.
  • Set a static IP address for your Plex Media Server device and your Apple TV. The easiest way to do this is through DCHP reservations on your router.

Also, install the latest version of Plex Media Server on your server device. You can update Plex Media Server through the update page on your Plex server.

When everything is ready, install the PlexConnect client on your server machine. Broadly, you'll need to download PlexConnect, get a security certificate for it, and launch the daemon.

Install PlexConnect on Mac

Here's how to install it on a Mac.

  1. Download and unzip the PlexConnect archive from GitHub.

  2. Move the PlexConnect folder to /Applications/ on your Mac.

  3. Create and install an SSL certificate for your Apple TV. It's a multi-step process, so follow this guide on creating SSL certificates for the Apple TV to set it up.

  4. Run the following command in Terminal to start the PlexConnect daemon:

    sudo "/Applications/PlexConnect/PlexConnect.py"

    Plex will now run.

Install PlexConnect on Windows

Here's how to install it on a Windows PC.

  1. Download and unzip the PlexConnect files.

  2. Move the PlexConnect folder to the Program Files folder. Use C:\Program Files (x86) if exists or C:\Program Files otherwise.

  3. Generate the SSL certificate by following this guide to creating Windows SSL certificates.

  4. Open the PlexConnect folder in Explorer and double-click the PlexConnect.py file to launch it. When asked to approve the application by UAC, click Allow Access.

Set Apple TV DNS Settings

Now that PlexConnect runs on your server, configure the Apple TV. The DNS settings need to be changed to point at your PlexConnect machine.

DNS Configuration screen from Apple TV
Plex
  1. If your Apple TV is connected over Wi-Fi, go to Settings > General > Network > Wi-Fi. Select your Wi-Fi network's name from the menu.

    If your Apple TV is connected over Ethernet, navigate to Settings > General > Network > Ethernet.

  2. Change the DNS settings from Automatic to Manual.

  3. Enter your Plex server's IP address, which you set up earlier using DHCP reservations. If you don't recall the IP address, you can find it in your router configuration.

Install the SSL Certificate on Your Apple TV

The SSL certificate allows your Plex server and your Apple TV to communicate over HTTPS. While HTTPS is a more secure protocol than HTTP, that's not the primary concern. Apple TVs no longer communicate over unencrypted HTTP connections, so an SSL certificate is required.

  1. Navigate to the Apple TV's Settings menu.

  2. Select General > Send Data to Apple and choose No.

  3. With Send Data To Apple still selected, press the Play button (not the normal Select button) on the remote. It starts the process of adding a profile to your Apple TV.

  4. In the dialog box, enter http://trailers.apple.com/trailers.cer exactly.

Stream With PlexConnect

With Plex Connect running on your server, you can now access Plex on your Apple TV. Open the Trailers app on your Apple TV, and you'll connect to the Plex application.

Automatically Run PlexConnect at Startup

By default, you'll need to launch PlexConnect.py every time your server restarts manually. If you want to make it run at startup either as a daemon on macOS or a Windows service, that's possible. Follow the instructions below.

Windows

To run PlexConnect.py as a service on startup, install PyWin32. This extension of the Windows operating system allows Python scripts to be called without user input, among other things.

You can install PyWin32 by either downloading it from Github and building from source or through pip. If you have Python 2.7.9 or later, pip is automatically installed. To install PyWin32 with pip, run the following command in a CMD window:

pip install pywin32

If pip isn't installed, update your version of Python to a more modern version. If you cannot update your version of Python, build the utility from the source following the instructions on PyWin32's Github page. You can also install pip separately.

With PyWin32 up and running, it's time to configure PlexConnect.py as a service. First, make sure PlexConnect is not currently running. If there is a CMD window running PlexConnect, use the Ctrl+C keyboard shortcut to shut it down.

Open the PlexConnect directory in your Program Files folder and navigate to the Support\Win folder. There you will find four bat files that you can use to install and uninstall PlexConnect as a service and start and stop the service once it is installed. Run the install.bat file to install PlexConnect.py as a service.

mac

If PlexConnect is running, quit it by selecting its Terminal window and pressing the Ctrl+C keyboard shortcut.

Once PlexConnect is no longer running, open a new Terminal window and execute the following command:

cd "/Applications/PlexConnect/support/OSX"

sudo ./install.bash

These commands load PlexConnect.py as a launch daemon, which starts each time your Mac boots up.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you run into trouble while installing Plex on your third-generation Apple TV, check out the PlexConnect documentation on Github. You can also try the Plex forums for problems not covered by the install documentation.

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