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Get started with Plex

To get started with Plex, you need a PC to use as a media server. I use my kids' computer for media storage. They use it mostly for word processing, so the machine's resources are generally freed up. It has an Intel Core i3-6100, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and roughly 12TB of storage. 

The first thing you need to do is install the Plex media server software on whatever PC you're going to use. Pointing it to and managing the different media libraries was simple. Once I signed into Plex on both my TV and my PC, voilà, all my video and music appeared, nicely organized. Plex also collects metadata and presents it attractively, with writeups, actor details, and more, not unlike how Netflix displays the same info. If there's something that Plex isn't automatically finding and organizing, you can manually match it to their database.

I did learn that you need to make sure your shows are using one of few different naming styles, such as including S01E01, etc. in the file name to make sure that they're picked up correctly as individual ordered episodes. Also, having a folder for movies and a folder for shows is necessary for Plex to accurately collect and categorize your media. Well done, Plex, you've taken a collection of files and made them simple and easy enough for even my family to navigate and play!

Not only does Plex handle local playback of media, it also allows for legal remote streaming and downloading, and it includes a library-sharing feature. You can send out an email invitation to allow friends and family remote access to your collection, and you can decide which libraries and collections each of them can see. This is huge, because this way, family members aren't wasting time and energy collecting the same media files. Are you and your sibling both enormous soap opera fans (you know who you are)? Now only one of you needs to set that up, and then you can both stream your stories to your houses and watch together, at a time that's convenient for both you. 

Just make sure you have unlimited data caps if you're going to be sending and receiving many hours of video. I know some ISPs still think it's 2001 and have implemented bizarrely low data caps, especially in the U.S.. Also, consider that for remote streaming, you need to have sufficient upload speeds to handle whatever quality video you're trying to watch.