Build a Perfect Plex Media Center HTPC
Replace multiple devices by building your own PC Plex Media Server
Plex is awesome, it offers a nice clean interface to give you quick easy access to your media library or online streaming. With the Unsupported Apps Plug-in you can get tons of Free additional channels and content. A Plex HTPC Media Center build can combine many different devices into one streamlined perfect little box.
PC Builders have been building XBMC and Plex HTPC boxes for years. With recent advances in technology computer cases have been shrinking while processors have been getting faster. Now you can build a mini small form factor sized HTPC that can stream content from Plex to an iPad or Roku plus it can automatically transcodes anything that isn't compatible to the native h.264/MP4 format required by these devices. It will even repackage streams that are compatible in different containers. A Plex Media Center HTPC build also offers many additional benefits and features.
- Inexpensive to build compared to HTPCs from a few years ago
- Much easier to setup with almost zero config compared to XBMC
- Offers recurring monthly saving and will pay for itself once you cut your cable TV bill
- Small footprint can easily be hidden away
- Silent operation
- Play any music or video file types
- Access Tons of Free movies, TV shows and more with the Plex Unsupported Apps Plug-in
A HTPC does require more setup time and it's not click and play like a Roku or Apple TV. The sheer flexibility a HTPC offers is unmatched and hard to duplicate with almost any other device.
PLEX or XBMCWhile both are pretty good our favorite media center software is Plex. XBMC setup can require a bit more tweaking and fiddling. For computer techies this is not much of a problem and once setup it works pretty well. Plex on the other hand is more a set and forget media center experience. Once you configure your server, updates are easy and you generally don't need to mess around with it much except to add plug-ins. Plex is more geared to streaming and offers some great utilities like Plex-It which will let you drop links to files you want to watch later on Roku into a queue right from your web browser.
While there are many pre-built HTPC builds that work perfectly out of the box with Plex including two of our favorites the Mac Mini and Assassin HTPC. As a PC builder, your options are almost unlimited. Here is what you need to create a great low cost Plex Server. Keep in mind while this will still end up costing more than a comparable Roku or G-Box Android XBMC streamer. It's still very much worth it if you want total flexibility that only a media center HTPC has to offer.
Case Motherboard Combo
Take a look at the highly rated Intel Next Unit of Computing Kit with HDMI, Thunderbolt, Core i3.
Memory and Hard Drive are not included so if purchasing from Amazon be sure to tick the boxes for the Crucial 8GB Kit (4GBx2) DDR3 1600 MT/s and the Crucial M500 120GB mSATA Internal Solid State Drive under Frequently Bought Together. Either a WiFi card or a USB or (Thunderbolt) to Ethernet adaptor is also required to complete the build.
This will give you a speedy package and with an 128GB SSD Drive the OS will boot very quickly. It will still hold enough videos and music specially if you only plan on streaming rather than downloading. For those that like to hang on to a large media library, plan on adding an external hard drive like the excellent WD My Passport Ultra 2TB Portable External USB 3.0 Hard Drive with Auto Backup.
Windows OS 7 works best with this box. Be sure to check out the user reviews on Amazon for helpful build instructions, tips and tweaks on the Intel Next i3.
Optional Network TV Tuner
If you plan on recording and pausing live over the Air TV channels, consider adding an Network HD tuner like one of the excellent models from HDHomeRun
Plex Server/Client Apps Downloads
Download Plex Software
Plex Server offers many different choices, for either PC, Mac, Linux or NAS. This software is free. If you want to watch Plex with your Roku you will now need to pay a one time fee to install the official Plex channel.
Free Plex Roku Channel Options:
RarPlex - FREE Roku Channel
PlexBeta (don't update or they will charge you)
DuffedPlex - Different Modded Version of Roku Plex Channel
Download and Install Plex Unsupported App Store Plug-in - Quick Guide
Warning: This Plex Plug-in gives you access to Adult content and movie channels like Let Me Watch This (1-Channel) or SS Plex.
Download and install the Windows Unsupported App Store Plug-in
How to Install Unsupported App Store on a Windows PC
Install Unsupported App Store on a Mac
Download Unsupported App Store .zip and unzip.
Place the put the .bundle file in ~/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/Plug-ins
Restart your Plex server on your Mac.
Installing other plug-ins works the same way.
Plex Server on a NAS DrivePlex Server can also be run on a NAS drive. A multi-core Intel based NAS is required to do file transcoding. QNAP and Synology both make very powerful Network Attached Storage models that have the power needed for transcoding although at a much higher price. NAS storage devices offer even more additional features and benefits.
To learn more, please read Best NAS - QNAP Vs Synology.
Build your own FREE NAS