To Plex or not to Plex

Hi everyone!

I’d like to hear your advice on media servers.

I know of Plex, but I’ve never used it and I’m trying to understand if that would work well for my user case or if I should be looking into something else entirely and in that case what.

Here’s my situation. I have:

  • a large number of personal videos (mostly recording of classes and seminars), which keeps expanding and I just can’t keep them on my Macbook Air 2015 even with the 2TB it now has and it probably makes little sense anyway.
  • quite a few fitness videos
  • downloaded films and TV series
  • some downloaded/ripped music (mostly non-DRM)

For the moment the films and TV series live on a 2010 Mac Mini Server connected directly to a non-smart TV and I never particularly felt the need to have a special interface for them, I simply click on the folder containing them in Finder, easy and old school. Having Plex might make the experience fancier, but since the mini is 12 years old, I’m not sure it’d manage the load well. I rarely need access to this folder from other devices, although I suppose it’d be nice to stream from home when on the road (holiday home), provided I have enough bandwidth in both places, which I’m not sure I do. It’d be a plus, but it’s not indispensable.

Seminars/classes and fitness, on the other hand would be good to have access to from various devices, mostly on the home network, but I would really like to be able to access them when I’m away from home too, without having to carry a physical disk around. I have a few computers lying around in my primary home, which I use for different purposes, plus one in the holiday home and I would like for all of them to have access.

Having access to music would be a bonus, but it’s not my primary purpose. I’m currently not a Spotify subscriber.

I’m not terribly interested in a beautiful interface (again a plus, but not my main objective), especially since most of this material is private and has no artwork, etc. I also do not want Plex to snoop around my files, no military secrets, but still.

I’d be happy to repurpose either my 2015 iMac or my 2010 Mini Server (if capable) as a media server, possibly with attached external SSD, but I’m not sure what software I should use, if any. I don’t want syncing, just access.
The simplest solution I could come up with is storing my files on one computer and accessing it with Jump Desktop. The alternative would be Plex, but it might be overkill or just not private enough (can I use it without internet access for local network access, for example? Blocking it with a firewall perhaps and for remote access just go through Jump Desktop?). Am I looking in the wrong direction? Do you have any alternative suggestions? I’m also open to purchasing a NAS, but I think an internal or directly attached drive would be faster and I do have computers “to spare”.

Thanks a lot for shading a bit of light onto my confused musings!

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Plex is amazing for TV, Films and Audio. I’ve even created an Audiobooks Library with a plug in.

For more personal and custom (Seminars) you will need to manually add Metadata if it’s not embedded in the files.

Your Plex info isn’t uploaded to the Cloud, it’s held on your server and your cloud based account allows you access your server from anywhere

I would recommend it, but it may struggle on a 2010 Mini


What is the total file size, we are talking about?

So far around 200 GB, but it growing fast.

I run Plex here on a 2012 mini, with media on external hard drives with a FW800 interface. The processor loafs. Using Finder to count files, I’ve got about 7500 video files totaling 4.7TB. And I have even more photos that can be viewed via Plex.

About 10% of the video files are captured broadcasts using an antenna and a HDHomeRun tuner which integrates with Plex to capture (and DVR) broadcast TV. This can all be accessed away from home. Paid for itself in two months because I could drop cable TV and still get local channels.

Very interesting, thank you so much for this info!

If you don’t like Plex’ model you could consider Jellyfin, an open source alternative.

I run Jellyfin on a mac mini in Docker, and it works very well.
If I’m not at home I access it rhough a VPN with Infuse and playback is very smooth and quick.
I’ve added the infuse appp to my Apple TV tooo and this plays the video’s on my TV

Nice thing is that Jellyfin also supports Live TV (all free channels from across the world).

I’m also a Plex pass holder, but lately I fid the service getting very bloated and “in my face” and I prefer the simpler “set and forget” alternative


Since it’s free and easy to install, maybe just try it and see if you like it. It’s simple enough to uninstall if you don’t like it.

Take a look at:

Plex user here. We have a music, home videos, TV shows, and Movies on it. Many TB of stuff and we’ve been using it for years with very few issues or downtime.

Dear everyone,

Thank you so much for all your insights.
I have downloaded both Plex and Jellyfin, Infuse looks great too.

I will probably have a bit more time to play around over the weekend, I’m still wrapping my head around what I actually want to achieve.

I’ll report back if I come to any revolutionary conclusion.

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A short follow-up question: Jellyfin or Plex would organise files and infuse would play/stream them, correct? So if I don’t need any file organisation I could just use Infuse from any of my local drives or from say Google Drive for example? So I could store everything in simple folders on my iMac and possibly Google Drive and then use infuse to play elsewhere as needed.

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I have everything dumped on two large external drives and infuse indexes them and then I can pick what to watch.
You just need to set the locations up as shares for Infuse to index it.

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Excellent, I’ll try that.

With Plex you have to manually organise your files so Plex knows what they are.

Well that puts me off!

It’s potentially not as bad as you might think. It handles folder hierarchies – you only have to give it the root folders for each category you want in the Plex interface. The only thing I found to be tricky is that for TV series you want a folder for each series, with the name of the series, and the individual episodes need to have season number and episode as part of the name so it knows which one it is. It does a database lookup for the descriptions and artwork for each show or movie and episode. If it gets one wrong you can edit to show the correct choice. This happens with movies that have had multiple titles or multiple movies with the same name.

If you are capturing OTA broadcasts, it names and sorts them automatically.

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It’s not too bad.

With Infuse I don’t need to worry about folders, it presents everything as movies / tv shows without and does a pretty good job of it.
Think I’ll stick with that :slight_smile:

I use Infuse with Plex, it’s a good app.