Building a Plex server (never built before)

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j1m3n7

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Hey duders,

Long time lurker, first time poster.

I'm wanting to start a personal plex server to host my DVD/Blu-ray collection, I have a budget of around £800 and want it to be able to support maybe 3 simultaneous streams. I have around 1000 DVD's maybe 20 or so Blu-rays, so would also need to be able to rip them all. I have never built a PC before, I have upgraded graphics cards and RAM in a PC before but nothing more in depth.

Can anyone recommend any build guides (including parts lists and where to buy, I'm UK based) or decent pre-builts for this purpose.

Thanks duders.

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Garrick_Greathouse

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I've been hosting a Plex server for years now, you probably don't need as powerful hardware as you think. I don't know how easily you can find used computers in the UK, but I would look there first. My strategy was to look for the most expensive i7 machine I could afford at the time.

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aktivity

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#3  Edited By aktivity

Plex uses very little resources if your streaming without transcoding. I just took a small Dell from my office after a migration, it has a i5-3470s and 8GB ram. Attached a couple of external WD Red drives to it. Does fine on my home network with two blu-ray quality simultaneous streams, especially since I rarely have need for transcoding. If you expect a lot of transcoding, then a beefier CPU will be required (still no need for expensive high-end though). A CPU with integrated graphics might save you the need to buy a GPU.

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mikewhy

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Another option would be a NAS. They might be a better option if all you're looking for is storage + a Plex server, and not managing a whole-ass server.

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frytup

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@aktivity said:

Plex uses very little resources if your streaming without transcoding.

But depending on how you encode your media you may often find yourself transcoding. Plex likes some container formats more than others, and things like turning on subtitles will flip on transcode. I'm running an i5-2500 and often find the hardware struggling to keep up if I've got subs on or even just forward/reverse seek through the video too much.

When I get around to upgrading, I'll be going with a much more substantial CPU.

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huss

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#6  Edited By huss

I would build with parts similar to this: https://pcpartpicker.com/b/dpn7YJ

As others have said, it doesn't take a lot for a plex server. You could make it mini-itx instead, swapping out the motherboard and case. I think the other components would fit most smaller cases.

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zoofame

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For the server itself, if you haven't built a PC before you may be more comfortable getting an intel NUC (either bundled with an SSD and RAM or get one barebones and install your own). You could then hook up an external optical drive for ripping.

If you care about UHD Bluray then you need a drive that supports downgrading firmware to allow ripping with software like makeMKV. The ASUS BW-16D1HT and LG WH16NS40 or WH16NS55 are your options. You will have to run a program that will flash the firmware to a previous version that disables some of the newer copy protection (Bluray is much more aggressive about this than DVD and uses device firmware updates to circumvent ripping). These are internal SATA optical drives and would need to be connected to a desktop PC motherboard, so if you go this route you wouldn't be able to hook it up to a NUC, but you could rip on one machine and copy the files over to your server. Or simply build a small tower PC with an internal optical drive.

It's a little tricky to recommend specific CPU or GPU hardware for transcoding. Depending on the devices you stream to, the server will have to transcode either using software encoding (CPU) or try hadware encoding (GPU). If this will be a dedicated server for Plex and nothing else, you can probably get away with a lower power intel CPU that supports QuickSync or any Zen 2 or Zen 3 AMD CPU (if you can find one at MSRP).

For prices I would check pcpartpicker. They may even have a build guide for exactly this sort of thing if you search their user-provided guides. You may also want to hit up Brad and Will on their Techpod podcast. Besides emailing them, they also have a discord with people who could provide advice.

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Arjailer

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#8  Edited By Arjailer

I'm using a Raspberry Pi 4 with a 4TB USB hard drive. Works fine for DVDs ripped with MakeMKV, even when transcoding for some clients.

Doubt it'd handle Blu-ray's though, so I've not bothered ripping those.

Edit: I do the DVD ripping on my laptop and just pull the USB drive out of the Pi to copy new files to it.

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Zelyre

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@arjailer said:

I'm using a Raspberry Pi 4 with a 4TB USB hard drive. Works fine for DVDs ripped with MakeMKV, even when transcoding for some clients.

Doubt it'd handle Blu-ray's though, so I've not bothered ripping those.

Edit: I do the DVD ripping on my laptop and just pull the USB drive out of the Pi to copy new files to it.

I was going to chime in with just this.

Was running a Pi4 with an 8TB external drive. Have it pushing 720 and 1080p content including rips of my BluRays. There's no transcoding going on, though.

I have my i7 6700k doing the encoding in handbrake, then the files get written to a share on the Pi.

If OP is mostly doing DVDs, I'd start with a Pi4 and see if that does the trick. If it does, great. Didn't spend hundreds of bucks on hardware that would sit idle most of the time. If not? You're out a few bucks, but you can turn that Pi4 into an emulation machine that will go up to N64, Dreamcast, and PSX pretty well.

If more hardware is needed, low power (35w) Intel and AMD business machines can be found off lease. I snagged an i5 6500t based HP mini PC with a Win10 Pro license embedded in the BIOS for $200 USD. Sips power and is currently my Plex server and various other game servers at the same time.

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zoofame

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I really like the Pi4 as a low-risk option. As long as the client devices don't require transcoding it should work fine. Practically speaking anything should be able to play a ripped DVD using h264 in an mkv container without issue.

The trouble with the Pi is even though it's the best supported single-board computer by far, it's still reliant upon Broadcom proprietary hardware drivers and getting firm answers about what actually works vs what should work in theory for hardware accelerated video is still very hit or miss. Or the lack of sufficient I/O bandwidth if you're streaming video over a network while also doing anything intensive with the storage drive.

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Dr_Unorthadox

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Hi all,

I’m also a raspberry pi plex user. I have been running mine for about 2 weeks and noticed the pi can get quite hot. I have added in a heatsink and hoping that does the trick.

Anyone other pi users notice the same? How are you keeping it cool?

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Zelyre

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#12  Edited By Zelyre

@dr_unorthadox said:

Anyone other pi users notice the same? How are you keeping it cool?

I am using this case for my Retropi machine.

https://flirc.tv/more/raspberry-pi-4-case

Can find em on Amazon as well. Keeps my 2ghz Pi4 very cool even after hours of Dreamcast playing.

My Plex/OMV pi is in a different case. Looks nicer (I think), and is a bit cooler as it has a fan, but it was substantially more expensive and performed, fanless, worse than the flirc. But with a fan, better. And it has room for a hat.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BLQ6GQX/

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Arjailer

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I'm using a heatsink case that looks very like this one (but mines black):

https://thepihut.com/products/aluminium-armour-heatsink-case-for-raspberry-pi-4

Been using it for about a year now with no issues. It does get hot, but it's a wee computer so that's expected 👍

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zoofame

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#14  Edited By zoofame

This will sound dumb, but orienting the pi 4 vertically improves heat convection quite a bit compared to lying flat. Might be worth trying before going out and buying a bunch of additional hardware.

Source: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/thermal-testing-raspberry-pi-4/

Another power saving tip is to disable hardware you're not using like the wireless chip or HDMI output by editing your /boot/config.txt file.