Help with plex server.

33
Posted 26th Dec 2019Edited by:"J1240"
Looking to set up a plex server. Nothing taxing. I don’t need it to do anything but stream 1080p and it’s mostly for me so at most it would be 2 streams but more than likely just the one. I just want something that’s on 24/7 that I can access via the TV, and the tablets, phones etc, doesn’t cost the earth and is easy to use and set up

Do I grab a refurbished del from eBay with an older i5/i7? If so, which one?

Do I grab a NAS when a decent one is on offer and use that. If so which one?

Or should I grab a shield and use that?

reason I’ve not mentioned a raspberry pie is because I’ve zero idea how to set one up.

I do have a few 1tb drives I can use and an SSD to use as a windows drive should I need to. But I’ll probably grab a 4tb drive in the sales as that’s plenty big for my media library.

Thanks
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I'd get a nas with around 8 bays
J124026/12/2019 23:28

Why? Which one?


I used to use the netgear readynas. The reason I wouldn't by a pc for it is due to the fact a pc is used for loads of things. A nas is solely for something like this. It's just personal preference really. You could even go down the path of renting a server.
I use a refurbished Dell Optiplex 9020, i3 4130 @ 3.40GHz. Does the job for me. Got it tucked away, runs 24/7, usually with only 1 stream running but I did have 3 at one point!
Edited by: "McShane1" 26th Dec 2019
MonkeyMan9026/12/2019 23:34

I used to use the netgear readynas. The reason I wouldn't by a pc for it …I used to use the netgear readynas. The reason I wouldn't by a pc for it is due to the fact a pc is used for loads of things. A nas is solely for something like this. It's just personal preference really. You could even go down the path of renting a server.



Thanks but having looked at these they're on the expensive side.
Synology make nas with their own OS which has many apps in their store for example email server, vpn server etc so if you have a higher budget I would check them out
Alternativly, if you want the features of a NAS but don't want to spend £200+, just install FreeNAS.
McShane127/12/2019 00:02

Alternativly, if you want the features of a NAS but don't want to spend …Alternativly, if you want the features of a NAS but don't want to spend £200+, just install FreeNAS.



Sorry, never heard of it, what do I instal that on?
J124027/12/2019 00:13

Sorry, never heard of it, what do I instal that on?


Anything you want, so long as it has the right hardware. freenas.org/har…ts/

I tried it on my Optiplex and while it ran just fine I didn't have a clue what I was doing so just went back to running Windows.
HP Microservers are cheap and run FREENAS
Some NAS systems come a bit unstuck if transcoding is involved (if the receiving device can't play the file natively at the resolution it's saved at). A cheap ex office PC will usually do the trick as a server.

A rough "rule of thumb" it to have a benchmark of around 2000 (CPU benchmark from Passmark) per transcoded stream. If you're serving up Roku boxes or other PCs, odds are there won't be any transcoding as these will play the media natively. However, tablets/phones can sometimes put more of a strain on the server and mean there will likely need to be transcoding.

Think about how many devices are likely to access the server at once - if it's likely to be two or three at most, look for a benchmark of at least 4000-6000. That will give enough overhead to allow for all streams to be transcoded. A 3rd or 4th gen i3/5 (especially a T or S model to keep power usage down) will give a good balance between power and affordability (although my old Core2Quad is still happy at home!). 4th gen i3 will give you USB 3.0, so is better for external drives whilst giving you enough power to run the system comfortably and keeping power consumption reasonable.

Look at how big you want the system and how you want to attach storage. If you get a "full" ATX tower, you can load it up with cheap 500GB+ internal SATA drives for less than £10 (secondhand) each. You will end up using more drives than you think! If the motherboard has enough SATA ports (hopefully at least four, although some OEMs seem to think no one needs more than 3 at maximum) it should give plenty of space - if not, just add appropriate PCIe cards.

With a smaller form factor, you're generally limited to one or two internal drives and then connecting USB drives externally via USB (ideally USB 3.0 or better to allow bandwidth). Although easier than adding internal drives, you can quickly use up the USB ports on the system. Conversely, a SFF system won't be anywhere near as power hungry and can be more easily hidden away.

Also think about what's stored on each drive - if you've got multiple people watching 1080p movies from one drive, the system may struggle to get the streams through the limited bandwidth of the SATA/USB connection. Perhaps stick TV shows on one drive and movies on another (depending on your household needs)? I'd also look at having the OS and media on different drives - if Windows decides it's going to scan the drive or do random updates, it can use up huge amounts of drive resources and grind the server to a halt. If you're also (totally legally) downloading content, do you want to have it on a separate drive for scanning before putting into the library drive/s?

Also, consider a back-up drive for your media. Re-downloading terabytes of files/ripping hundreds of DVDs of lost films due to a failed drive is no fun for anyone.

In terms of RAM, it's pretty much up to what you can find. 4GB will do, but 8GB would be better. Most office OEM systems only have two slots for RAM, but if you can find one with 4 slots, you could make use of cheaper, low capacity sticks.

In terms of OS, most office OEMs will come with a Windows 7/8.1/10 licence "baked in" to the motherboard. There's obviously the various Linux flavours, but if you're happier with Windows, just use that! It's also probably easier to troubleshoot than FreeNAS (I've not done much with it myself, but it was more of a pain to get support than Windows) or some of the other options, although does eat up system resources.

I completely agree that an old OEM box is the easiest solution - I'd perhaps think about using someone other than Dell due to Dell's weird proprietary connectors and form factors. Makes quick repairs a bit complex since you can't always use an "off the shelf" part and instead find the particular bit for the particular model. You shouldn't be looking at more than £50 for something with a decent CPU, 500GB HDD and 4-8GB RAM on eBay.

It also goes without saying to use ethernet to hook it to the network!
matthewwaldron27/12/2019 10:15

Some NAS systems come a bit unstuck if transcoding is involved (if the …Some NAS systems come a bit unstuck if transcoding is involved (if the receiving device can't play the file natively at the resolution it's saved at). A cheap ex office PC will usually do the trick as a server.A rough "rule of thumb" it to have a benchmark of around 2000 (CPU benchmark from Passmark) per transcoded stream. If you're serving up Roku boxes or other PCs, odds are there won't be any transcoding as these will play the media natively. However, tablets/phones can sometimes put more of a strain on the server and mean there will likely need to be transcoding.Think about how many devices are likely to access the server at once - if it's likely to be two or three at most, look for a benchmark of at least 4000-6000. That will give enough overhead to allow for all streams to be transcoded. A 3rd or 4th gen i3/5 (especially a T or S model to keep power usage down) will give a good balance between power and affordability (although my old Core2Quad is still happy at home!). 4th gen i3 will give you USB 3.0, so is better for external drives whilst giving you enough power to run the system comfortably and keeping power consumption reasonable.Look at how big you want the system and how you want to attach storage. If you get a "full" ATX tower, you can load it up with cheap 500GB+ internal SATA drives for less than £10 (secondhand) each. You will end up using more drives than you think! If the motherboard has enough SATA ports (hopefully at least four, although some OEMs seem to think no one needs more than 3 at maximum) it should give plenty of space - if not, just add appropriate PCIe cards.With a smaller form factor, you're generally limited to one or two internal drives and then connecting USB drives externally via USB (ideally USB 3.0 or better to allow bandwidth). Although easier than adding internal drives, you can quickly use up the USB ports on the system. Conversely, a SFF system won't be anywhere near as power hungry and can be more easily hidden away.Also think about what's stored on each drive - if you've got multiple people watching 1080p movies from one drive, the system may struggle to get the streams through the limited bandwidth of the SATA/USB connection. Perhaps stick TV shows on one drive and movies on another (depending on your household needs)? I'd also look at having the OS and media on different drives - if Windows decides it's going to scan the drive or do random updates, it can use up huge amounts of drive resources and grind the server to a halt. If you're also (totally legally) downloading content, do you want to have it on a separate drive for scanning before putting into the library drive/s?Also, consider a back-up drive for your media. Re-downloading terabytes of files/ripping hundreds of DVDs of lost films due to a failed drive is no fun for anyone.In terms of RAM, it's pretty much up to what you can find. 4GB will do, but 8GB would be better. Most office OEM systems only have two slots for RAM, but if you can find one with 4 slots, you could make use of cheaper, low capacity sticks.In terms of OS, most office OEMs will come with a Windows 7/8.1/10 licence "baked in" to the motherboard. There's obviously the various Linux flavours, but if you're happier with Windows, just use that! It's also probably easier to troubleshoot than FreeNAS (I've not done much with it myself, but it was more of a pain to get support than Windows) or some of the other options, although does eat up system resources.I completely agree that an old OEM box is the easiest solution - I'd perhaps think about using someone other than Dell due to Dell's weird proprietary connectors and form factors. Makes quick repairs a bit complex since you can't always use an "off the shelf" part and instead find the particular bit for the particular model. You shouldn't be looking at more than £50 for something with a decent CPU, 500GB HDD and 4-8GB RAM on eBay. It also goes without saying to use ethernet to hook it to the network!



Thank you! That’s super helpful

It’s just for usage in the house so the instances of more than one stream at the same time will be extremely rare (when I’m watching my nieces).

I also tend to keep things on separate drives as suggested. TV, movies and music are all on separate drives. I also always use a small drive just for windows for the reasons mentioned above.

Is there a brand you’d suggest over Dell? I’m also happy building if it gets better results.
Edited by: "J1240" 27th Dec 2019
I've found the Lenovo stuff is pretty good - albeit they have a terrible habit of using 14 pin power supplies and odd front panel audio connections (both can be fixed with a £1 cable from eBay). To be honest, all the OEMs have pros and cons - they either use weird front panel connections that aren't properly documented, odd arrangements of internal components, motherboards that are a weird shape or non-removable I/O shields so that you can't move them into a different case.

You can repurpose almost any system from the past ten years or so into a decent server for the amount of stress you'll be putting the system under. Assuming you'd want about 5 drives (OS, films, TV shows, audio, backup) a standard ATX tower will probably have enough space for storage (just Google an interior photo to check that there's no weird layout where it will only fit two drives in a huge tower) although some of the workstations will give you a future proof CPU and a good number of drive bays.

I'd look what's on eBay/Gumtree/Facebook and find something that you can collect locally to save on postage - since it's just after Christmas, people are starting to load up their old systems and will frequently take offers to get things out of the house!
matthewwaldron27/12/2019 12:14

I've found the Lenovo stuff is pretty good - albeit they have a terrible …I've found the Lenovo stuff is pretty good - albeit they have a terrible habit of using 14 pin power supplies and odd front panel audio connections (both can be fixed with a £1 cable from eBay). To be honest, all the OEMs have pros and cons - they either use weird front panel connections that aren't properly documented, odd arrangements of internal components, motherboards that are a weird shape or non-removable I/O shields so that you can't move them into a different case.You can repurpose almost any system from the past ten years or so into a decent server for the amount of stress you'll be putting the system under. Assuming you'd want about 5 drives (OS, films, TV shows, audio, backup) a standard ATX tower will probably have enough space for storage (just Google an interior photo to check that there's no weird layout where it will only fit two drives in a huge tower) although some of the workstations will give you a future proof CPU and a good number of drive bays.I'd look what's on eBay/Gumtree/Facebook and find something that you can collect locally to save on postage - since it's just after Christmas, people are starting to load up their old systems and will frequently take offers to get things out of the house!


Thanks so much, really appreciate the advice.
matthewwaldron27/12/2019 12:14

I've found the Lenovo stuff is pretty good - albeit they have a terrible …I've found the Lenovo stuff is pretty good - albeit they have a terrible habit of using 14 pin power supplies and odd front panel audio connections (both can be fixed with a £1 cable from eBay). To be honest, all the OEMs have pros and cons - they either use weird front panel connections that aren't properly documented, odd arrangements of internal components, motherboards that are a weird shape or non-removable I/O shields so that you can't move them into a different case.You can repurpose almost any system from the past ten years or so into a decent server for the amount of stress you'll be putting the system under. Assuming you'd want about 5 drives (OS, films, TV shows, audio, backup) a standard ATX tower will probably have enough space for storage (just Google an interior photo to check that there's no weird layout where it will only fit two drives in a huge tower) although some of the workstations will give you a future proof CPU and a good number of drive bays.I'd look what's on eBay/Gumtree/Facebook and find something that you can collect locally to save on postage - since it's just after Christmas, people are starting to load up their old systems and will frequently take offers to get things out of the house!




rover.ebay.com/rov…864

Looking at the pass mark something like this would be more than enough for my needs wouldn’t it? Obviously replacing the 500gb HDD with a higher capacity.
If you are going to leave on 24/7 then I would try to avoid a PC - the running costs of 100W-250W soon add up.

I have a Rasperberry Pi set up as a plex server streaming files from hard drives attached to my router. i wasn't at all familiar with a Pi but managed to set up some software called PlexPi - was complicated at the time and now can't remember much about it - but it still works.

I previously tried to set up a Plex server on some old Netgear ReadyNas (Duo and Plus) that I have - and neither were powerful enough. You will need a decent spec'ed NAS to be able to power a Plex server.
A Raspberry Pi is just a small pc you put an os on, basically no different to a random pc off ebay setup wise. The Pi 4 has gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 as well. Personally I'd not use plex because I don't see the point in it.
dcx_badass28/12/2019 12:18

A Raspberry Pi is just a small pc you put an os on, basically no different …A Raspberry Pi is just a small pc you put an os on, basically no different to a random pc off ebay setup wise. The Pi 4 has gigabit ethernet and USB 3.0 as well. Personally I'd not use plex because I don't see the point in it.


Why? What’s a decent alternative
Van197328/12/2019 12:12

If you are going to leave on 24/7 then I would try to avoid a PC - the …If you are going to leave on 24/7 then I would try to avoid a PC - the running costs of 100W-250W soon add up.I have a Rasperberry Pi set up as a plex server streaming files from hard drives attached to my router. i wasn't at all familiar with a Pi but managed to set up some software called PlexPi - was complicated at the time and now can't remember much about it - but it still works.I previously tried to set up a Plex server on some old Netgear ReadyNas (Duo and Plus) that I have - and neither were powerful enough. You will need a decent spec'ed NAS to be able to power a Plex server.


I have a hub 3 which doesn’t have any USB ports so I can’t attach hard drives to my router.
J124028/12/2019 12:55

Why? What’s a decent alternative


Because its unnecessary bloat and gives me nothing at all over just using samba or nfs.
dcx_badass28/12/2019 13:11

Because its unnecessary bloat and gives me nothing at all over just using …Because its unnecessary bloat and gives me nothing at all over just using samba or nfs.


Thankfully I’ve never had an issue with it.
J124028/12/2019 13:16

Thankfully I’ve never had an issue with it.


Ive not had an issue with lots of things, but if it adds nothing of value why do I need it?
dcx_badass28/12/2019 13:19

Ive not had an issue with lots of things, but if it adds nothing of value …Ive not had an issue with lots of things, but if it adds nothing of value why do I need it?


Because it adds nothing of value to you doesn’t mean that will be the case for everyone.
McShane126/12/2019 23:42

I use a refurbished Dell Optiplex 9020, i3 4130 @ 3.40GHz. Does the job …I use a refurbished Dell Optiplex 9020, i3 4130 @ 3.40GHz. Does the job for me. Got it tucked away, runs 24/7, usually with only 1 stream running but I did have 3 at one point!


do you have any 4k content?
I do. Plays fine over LAN when direct playing. Wouldn't imagine the box would be able to transcode it.
McShane108/01/2020 13:41

I do. Plays fine over LAN when direct playing. Wouldn't imagine the box …I do. Plays fine over LAN when direct playing. Wouldn't imagine the box would be able to transcode it.


I'm just about to build a plex server with a dell optiplex i5 4570 so this is good to know.

Could i ask a couple more questions if it's ok?

Do you have any issues with 4k?
What client are you using?
Do you use an AVR for sound?

I'm finding that my shield is transcoding the audio (AC3 down to ACC). Shield is connected directly to my samsung 43 nu7400 tv via hdmi.

Not looking to transcode 4k, seems nigh on impossible at the moment without a crazy budget.
Edited by: "Peter9588" 8th Jan
Peter958808/01/2020 13:45

I'm just about to build a plex server with a dell optiplex i5 4570 so this …I'm just about to build a plex server with a dell optiplex i5 4570 so this is good to know.Could i ask a couple more questions if it's ok?Do you have any issues with 4k?What client are you using?Do you use an AVR for sound?I'm finding that my shield is transcoding the audio (AC3 down to ACC). Shield is connected directly to my samsung 43 nu7400 tv via hdmi.Not looking to transcode 4k, seems nigh on impossible at the moment without a crazy budget.


I've had no issues so far.

I watch directly on my NU7400 via the Plex app.

I don't use any sound equipment.
McShane108/01/2020 13:52

I've had no issues so far.I watch directly on my NU7400 via the Plex app.I …I've had no issues so far.I watch directly on my NU7400 via the Plex app.I don't use any sound equipment.


What size 4k files are you using?

I found the plex app on my nu7400 a bit flaky when playing >60gb rips.

I am running my PMS on an nvidia shield at present though, which i've not found great, hence the move to a PC.
Peter958808/01/2020 13:55

What size 4k files are you using?I found the plex app on my nu7400 a bit …What size 4k files are you using?I found the plex app on my nu7400 a bit flaky when playing >60gb rips. I am running my PMS on an nvidia shield at present though, which i've not found great, hence the move to a PC.


I can't say for sure yet but I'll be home soon and will let you know all the details of the files I use.
McShane108/01/2020 14:02

I can't say for sure yet but I'll be home soon and will let you know all …I can't say for sure yet but I'll be home soon and will let you know all the details of the files I use.


Amazing mate, thank you so much!
Peter958808/01/2020 13:55

What size 4k files are you using?I found the plex app on my nu7400 a bit …What size 4k files are you using?I found the plex app on my nu7400 a bit flaky when playing >60gb rips. I am running my PMS on an nvidia shield at present though, which i've not found great, hence the move to a PC.


So most of my 4K movies are around the 40GB mark in mp4 format with the HEVC codec. So far every one I've chucked at the Plex app on my NU7400 hasn't had any issues. Direct plays them just fine.

39624974-guJNO.jpg
McShane108/01/2020 16:43

So most of my 4K movies are around the 40GB mark in mp4 format with the …So most of my 4K movies are around the 40GB mark in mp4 format with the HEVC codec. So far every one I've chucked at the Plex app on my NU7400 hasn't had any issues. Direct plays them just fine.[Image]


Hero thanks for your help with this!
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