Installing Plex on a Raspberry Pi is one of the cheapest ways to create a fully-functional HTPC system.

For just the cost of a Raspberry Pi and a few accessories, you can easily stream downloaded movies and music from your digital library. You can even install third-party Plex channels on your Raspberry Pi to access additional streaming functionality.

So if you’re curious about how to set up a Raspberry Pi Plex server, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll show you how to:

  • Install Linux on your Raspberry Pi
  • Download and install a Plex Media Server Linux distro
  • Set up and use Plex with your Raspberry Pi.

The process of setting up a Raspberry Pi Plex server is not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy! Let’s start by discussing the items you’ll need to get started.

What You’ll Need

Raspberry Pi is very inexpensive (around $30) and requires little additional equipment. Here’s a list of what you’ll need to follow this guide.

Required:

  • Raspberry Pi 2 or 3
  • 8gb or larger microSD card
  • A computer with a built-in SD card reader or an external SD card reader
  • Ethernet cable/WiFi dongle (Ethernet is recommended for faster speeds)

Optional:

  • USB mouse & keyboard for navigating Linux
  • Raspberry Pi case to protect your Pi
  • microSD card adapter (depending on your built-in/USB card reader)
  • External hard drive/USB drive (to store music, movies, photos)

Installing Linux

Let’s begin by installing Raspbian NOOBS on our Raspberry Pi.

Raspbian NOOBS is an installer that can be used to install Raspbian on Raspberry Pi, as well as several other OSes like LibreELEC. It can be found at https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/.  

raspberry pi noobs
The Raspberry PI NOOBS download page. Source: Flixed.io

Download NOOBS to your PC. You will have the options of both NOOBS and NOOBS Lite. Get the standard NOOBS program. You can download the OS either using a BitTorrent client, or by downloading it as a ZIP file. The method you use is up to you, but torrenting is typically faster.

download noobs plex raspberry pi
The download options for NOOBS. Select either .ZIP or torrent to continue. Source: Flixed.io

When your download is complete, you’ll end up with the NOOBS installer on your computer.

Plex noobs raspberry pi download
The downloaded NOOBS .zip folder. Source: Flixed.io

Unzip the files to the directory of your choice.

unzip noobs install
Unzipping the NOOBS installer. Source: Flixed.io

You should see the following files:

raspbian os plex
The OS files for NOOBS/Raspbian. Source: Flixed.io

Next, you’ll need to format your SD card to prepare it for the NOOBS OS files. Depending on your operating system, the steps you’ll need to take will differ.

Formatting your SD card with Windows

If you’re using Windows, connect your SD card, then type Control Panel into your search box. Select Administrative Tools → Computer Management → Disk Management. Next, simply right-click the drive or partition and click Format. Make sure to select FAT32 as the file format and select OK to format the drive.

Formatting your SD card with macOS

If you’re on a Mac, you can use the Disk Utility to format your SD card. Connect your SD card and launch Disk Utility from Applications → Utilities. Locate the appropriate drive name in the left-hand window. Select Erase from the upper menu to format your drive.

Once your SD card has been formatted, simply drag and drop the NOOBS files onto your clean, freshly-formatted SD card.

os files raspbian noobs plex
Moving the OS files to an external drive. Source: Flixed.io

The process of moving the files may take several minutes, depending on the speed of your microSD card and SD card reader. When the transfer has finished, eject your SD card safely.

That’s it! You’re all set up with a bootable NOOBS Linux OS – and now it’s time to boot up your Raspberry Pi.

Booting Up Your Pi

Before you boot NOOBS, you’ll want to make sure you plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to your Raspberry PI.

  • Plug in your USB power cable and power on your Raspberry Pi.
  • Your Raspberry Pi will now boot. A window will appear showing different operating systems that you can select.
noobs setup screen os boot
The NOOBS setup screen. Source: Raspberry Pi.
  • We’ll be using Raspbian, so you can ignore the other options. Select the checkbox next to Raspbian and press Install in the upper-left of the window.
  • The installation process will begin. The disk will be formatted again and NOOBS will install Raspbian. This may take a while.
  • When the install process has completed, Raspbian should boot to desktop and a Graphical User Interface (GUI). If Raspbian does not boot to a GUI, you can bring up the GUI by entering startx into the command line interface.
raspbian GUI desktop
The Raspbian GUI. Source: Raspberry Pi

That’s it! You may have to enter a username and password. You can change these later, but the default credentials are username: pi password: raspberry.

Installing Plex Media Server

After connecting and setting up your WiFi dongle or Ethernet cable, you should be able to connect to the internet on your Raspberry Pi. Once you’re online, it’s time to download Plex Media Server!

We’ll be using Day2Dev’s Plex Media Server distro to accomplish this step. This Plex server is built specifically for Raspberry Pi devices running Raspbian, so it’s perfect for our needs.

Step 1: Update Raspberry Pi

It’s a good idea to update your Raspberry Pi to ensure Plex is compatible with your current OS.

Open up the Raspberry Pi CLI (Command Line Interface). You can access this CLI from the GUI by clicking the LXTerminal shortcut.

Enter the following commands into the command line.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

This will update your Raspbian installation, if necessary. Once all is up to date, continue to the next step.

Step 2: Configure HTTPS

Next, we need to set your Raspberry Pi up to receive downloads over HTTPS. To do so, we enable the HTTPS Transport Package with the following command.

sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https

Step 3: Add the Plex repository

In the next step, we’ll add the Day2Dev repository to our trusted list by adding a “Crypt O Key” to Raspbian. Enter the following commands into your Pi.

wget -O – https://dev2day.de/pms/dev2day-pms.gpg.key  | sudo apt-key add –

This will add the Crypt O Key to your keyring, allowing you to access the Day2Dev repository.

Next, we’ll add the Day2Dev repository to our source list of packages. Enter the following command:

echo “deb https://dev2day.de/pms/ jessie main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/pms.list

After you have Day2Dev, it’s time to update the list of available packages. This ensures that we get the most recent version of Plex. Enter the following command:

sudo apt-get update

Step 4: Install Plex

Install Plex by entering the following command:

sudo apt-get install -t jessie plexmediaserver

This command points Raspbian to the location of Jessie’s Plex Media Server, and begins the download and installation process.

Step 5: Set permissions

Next, we will need to change the user of Plex to the Pi user, to avoid compatibility and permissions issues. Enter the following command to open the permissions file:

sudo nano /etc/default/plexmediaserver

Next, change the user to the following: PLEX_MEDIA_SERVER_USER=pi

You’ll need to restart Plex to save these changes. Do so with the following command:

sudo service plexmediaserver restart

Step 6: Set a static IP

The final step is to set up a static IP for your Plex media server. This will allow you to access Plex from your other computers by entering its IP address, followed by port: 32400 and /web/ into your browser of choice.

For example, if the IP address of my Raspberry Pi is set to 192.168.255.255, I could access it from my Windows PC by entering 192.168.255.255:32400/web/ on my web browser. This is very handy for administration of your Plex server. Run the following command:

hostname -I

This will provide you with your current IP address. Write it down.

Next, open your cmdline.txt file with the following command:

sudo nano /boot/cmdline.txt

Add the following line to this file. ip=MY IP (replace “MY IP with the IP that you got from running the hostname -I command)

Exit by pressing CTRL + X and then Y to save your changes. Your Raspberry Pi now has a static IP address.

The hard part is over – now you just have to set up Plex Media Server to recognize your media.

Setting Up Plex Libraries

Because Plex is set to run under the “Pi” user, it will automatically recognize external USB-based hard drives.

  • Log into Plex using your static IP address, as outlined above. In my case, this is  192.168.255.255:32400/web/. You can log into Plex using any computer that’s attached to your local network.
  • If you’re using an external USB-based hard drive, connect it to your Raspberry Pi now. It will be automatically recognized by Raspbian.
  • In the Plex web UI, navigate to Libraries on the left-hand side and select the + symbol, as seen in the below screenshot.
plex libraries settings menu
The “Libraries” section of the Plex settings menu. Source: Flixed.io
  • Next, you’ll be asked to select the type of library you’re adding. Choose the appropriate option, enter your preferred name for the library and select Next on the bottom-right.
add library plex
Here, you can select the type of library you’re creating. Select the appropriate choice. Source: Flixed.io
  • Next, you’ll be asked to browse for the media folder that contains your media. Click Browse for media folder, in the center of this screen.
plex media browser library
Select the middle button to browse and locate your media folder. Source: Flixed.io
  • A file browser will open up. Navigate to your external hard drive and find the folder that contains your selected media. Once you’ve selected the proper folder, press Add Library to add the library to your Plex media server.
library video creation plex
Here, the proper file directory has been selected. Choose “Add Library” to finalize library creation. Source: Flixed.io
  • Your Plex library will be created. Metadata will be downloaded from Plex. The process may take several minutes, depending on how many media files you’ve added. The end result should look something like this.
Plex library raspberry pi
An example of a completed Plex library. Source: Flixed.io

You can repeat this process to add other libraries, such as Music, TV Shows, Photos and more. Keep on adding libraries until all of your media has been successfully uploaded to Plex.

If you want, you can also add Plex channels to stream content from the internet. Check out these articles to get started with the process of adding Plex channels to your HTPC and extend its functionality. 

Now that you’re the proud owner of a fully-functioning Raspberry Pi powered Plex Media Server, let’s discuss the benefits of using Plex on a Raspberry Pi.

Why Run Plex Media Server On A Raspberry Pi?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the benefits of setting up Plex on a Raspberry Pi.

  • Low power consumption – Power consumption is a big factor when setting up an HTPC. While it may be tempting to use an older PC to set up Plex, older computers often draw quite a bit of power. Raspberry Pi computers, on the other hand, consume very little power.
  • Low cost – Setting up a Plex Media Server on the Raspberry Pi is the most cost-effective way to create your own HTPC setup. If you already have a mouse and keyboard, you can easily set up a fully-functional Plex installation for $100 or less.
  • You can leave your server on 24/7 – Because the Raspberry Pi consumes very little power, you can leave your Plex server on 24/7. Doing this with a larger PC may lead to high power bills and premature component wear.

For these three reasons, we think that running Plex Media Server on Raspberry Pi is a great idea. Have fun and enjoy!