How to stream media from your external storage drive

Are you one of those people who have terabytes worth of Movies and TV Shows backed up on your drives in Blu-ray / 1080p quality hoping that one day you would revisit them? Well, I was and although half of that content is now available on Netflix, a small part of me still wants to do a re-run of The Wire. But, I am a lazy couch potato who wouldn’t even go through the trouble of attaching my 2TB drive to my laptop and start binging. Nah Nah, I want the comfort of my couch while having the picture quality of my TV and until then The Wire can remain wired to my external storage drive!

Plex Media Server

But, I had had enough of myself and finally went on searching for ‘How to stream content directly from my storage drive’ and voila! I discovered Plex. Plex makes a media server out of any media files you give it and will present them to you in a Netflix-like user interface, ready to stream on any device connected to your Wifi. The best thing about plex is the way it organizes your media. It will get all info about the title from the internet, their thumbnails, ratings, synopsis. It looks neat!

Coming to how to actually set it up, you have to download and install Plex Media Server.Plex Media Server – https://www.plex.tv/media-server-downloads/#plex-media-server

Once installed, go to your browser and type ‘localhost:32400’ in the address bar. You would be able to see Plex, it will prompt for a signup, and then, you will be guided through the server setup.

How to load your content on Plex

The first step on the screen would be to give a name to your server. You can leave it as it is if you want and then click on Next.

The next step would be to add files to your plex library. Click on ‘Add Library’.

Select the type of the library (If you would be loading movie files then select ‘Movies’, and so on).

You can then click on ‘Browse for media folder’ and then select your folder on the external storage drive.

You can keep repeating this process for your TV Shows and Music folders as well. Once you are all done, click on ‘Next’. Lastly, it will ask if you want to stream this content outside of your Wifi (that is, internet access of your content via your login), and then click on ‘Done’.

Now Plex will sync all the content from your folders into the server (which will take some time, you can check on the top right, it there’s something spinning, it means the sync is going on).

Meanwhile, you must have landed on your media server homepage where you will find all your content properly organized. You can find your libraries on the left panel if want to see only Movies or only TV Shows. Your server is now ready to stream.

How to stream from your Plex Media Server

Plex has 2 applications, one to make your content available for streaming (Plex Media Server, which you only need on the machine where you have attached your storage) and one that allows you to watch content (Plex, which you can install on any device you want). Download and install the Plex app on your device.Plex App – https://www.plex.tv/media-server-downloads/#plex-app

Once you start the app, you have to log in to access your content and then you will land on page that looks like this.

This isn’t your content, it is just Plex’s online content. Your server can be found on the ‘More’ section on the left panel. You will be able to see all your content just like you did while setting up the server (if you can’t find your server, make sure you have connected to the same Wifi and are logged in with the same credentials). That’s it, now you can watch all your content on any device, you can even cast it to your TV if you want to! (provided your TV supports casting or you have a Chromecast).NOTE: Remember that the machine where you have connected the external drive must be switched on and should have Plex media server application running if you want to stream content. Plex does not upload content on the internet, the content is coming straight from your storage drive to your device.

Wait for a second, so you are telling me that I have to keep my PC / laptop running anytime I want to stream content? (Yes, you have to). But there is a way to avoid that if you already own (or are willing to own) a Raspberry Pi. In which case you can set up your Plex Media Server on it, reducing your power consumption (from ~100 Watts to ~4 Watts). Here’s how to do thatHow to setup Plex Media Server on your Raspberry Pi

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