Plex and Roku - Do I have this right?
December 1, 2016 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Is this the correct setup for getting Roku and Plex to work in harmony?

I have a USB external hard drive with all sorts of videos and photos. I'm looking at buying a refurb'd Roku 4 (4400), which includes a USB port. (We have a Roku Streaming Stick at the moment and want to stick with Roku since we are familiar with it and like the simplicity.)

The confusing part to me is Plex. I get that I need to install a Plex channel on he Roku and point it to a server with my files. That's what the external hard drive is for, and that's what will be connected to the Roku 4's USB port.

But where do I install Plex Media Server? On the hard drive? If so, how do you install the Plex Media Server on an external hard drive?

Thanks in advance. And yes, I saw they've added Plex Cloud, but I'd rather not take the chance since I have some torrented content.
posted by zooropa to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Nope not right.

The external USB drive needs to be attached to a computer and the Media Server run on that. A laptop will suffice. Roku will then pull files off the server.

You don't need Plex though the Roku Media Player with a USB Drive should work fine you just might not get all the art etc.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:22 PM on December 1, 2016


I know that Plex supports network-attached storage (NAS), but unfortunately it doesn't read directly off of hard drives plugged directly into a streaming set-top box. In any case, it's a lot easier to tag and maintain the contents of your various Plex libraries by keeping your files on your home PC and installing the server there. Your Roku Plex channel can then connect to your server and stream your content straight to your TV.

In any case, here's my home setup:

1) My five-year-old Lenovo V570 laptop (Windows 10) with the current version of Plex Server installed, connected to home network via Wi-Fi.
(This is my everyday-use laptop, so it's by no means a dedicated server. I just keep Plex running in the background, since it's pretty lightweight and doesn't bog down the rest of the system AFAICT.)

2) Roku 2 with Plex app installed.
(Once you get Plex set up on your PC and pointed at your various file libraries, you should see an entry for your server name in the top-corner menu on the Roku Plex app. It should auto-recognize your server as the only one on your network, but you may need to specifically select it.)

In order to get all of your various files and things (particularly TV shows) properly recognized by Roku's interface, you may need to fiddle with a few settings here or there, but by and large Roku is pretty good about recognizing things by file name. There's definitely a learning curve to organizing your library on Roku, but it's really nice once you have it all set up.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:01 AM on December 2, 2016


Strange Interlude -- does your laptop need a dedicated, static IP address for the server to work right? Or can it be used on a standard cable Internet connection?
posted by zooropa at 6:36 AM on December 2, 2016


What I have done: installed plex on my pc, let it know about my Roku machine. It works "most of the time". It has bugs, but it's freeware.


You don't need Plex though the Roku Media Player with a USB Drive should work fine you just might not get all the art etc.
I did not know you could do that. Thanks bitdamaged!
posted by james33 at 6:52 AM on December 2, 2016


Yeah Plex needs a server running on a PC/Mac type device that has the video files on its hard drive or external USB stick. Then the Roku Plex client will play video over the network from the server. The server doesn't need a static IP address, the Roku client will auto-discover it if it's on your same home network as your server. (You can also have servers elsewhere on the Internet, that requires static configuration.)

If you just want to play some video files on a USB stick you probably don't need Plex at all. Just plug it into the Roku and go. Plex is great, but it's a fairly complex video library sort of system, on par with iTunes in complexity.
posted by Nelson at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2016


zooropa: "does your laptop need a dedicated, static IP address for the server to work right? Or can it be used on a standard cable Internet connection?"

So no static address is required. The Plex App will search the local network for Plex Servers.
posted by zinon at 10:16 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


With Plex you can playback ripped DVD .mkv files, whereas the Roku USB player doesn't know what to do with them (at least last time I tried, which was admittedly a while ago). The Roku USB player needed files split out to .mp4.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:55 PM on December 2, 2016


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