Turn your PC or MAC into a media centre

Your PC already plays music, and your hard drive holds every digital photo you've ever taken. And you probably watch hours of video on Hulu, Veoh, or YouTube.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could corral all that stuff within one attractive, easy-to-use interface? One that's large enough for you to see (and control) from the couch? And, hey, while we're at it, how about adding TV and DVR features to the mix?

You can do all that and more by transforming your PC into a self-contained media centre. All you need is the right software, and possibly some extra hardware, to give your machine new life as a jukebox, a high-def digital photo frame, a movie theatre, and a TiVo clone.

 

 

 

 

 

Plex

What is Plex?  

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There are certainly other apps that allow you to stream music and video from your home computer to your mobile device. Plex is unique because it also offers a media centre application you can use on your computer if you have one connected to your TV at home. More importantly, Plex offers media server apps that sit quietly in the background of your computers and lets you connect and stream from them whether they’re in use or you’re away from home. It has apps for mobile devices - iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets, and can connect to some Smart TV's.

Perhaps one of Plex’s biggest benefits is that you don’t need a third party, cloud-hosted, or managed solution to manage your music or media for you. You control the app on the computer with the media you want to watch, and then on your phone. The phone streams straight from the computer – no need to upload your music or movies to another service, or pay for storage.

Step One: Install and Configure Plex

Before you get streaming, you’ll need to install Plex on both your home computer (Windows or Mac) and your phone (Android or iOS).

Desktop: Visit Plex’s homepage to download the media centre suite for Mac or the media server for Windows.

When you install Plex on the desktop, the app asks you where you keep your music and movies the first time it starts. You can add as many folder locations or network folders as you choose, and media players like iTunes will be automatically indexed.

If you’re installing the Mac version, you’ll get dropped into the media centre side of the app while Plex indexes your music and movie collections. If you’re installing the Windows version, the app goes to the systray and waits for you to open it and add more media folders.

Install and configure the Plex Media Server

***What is a server? A server is one central computer inside your network which holds all the media. It may have an external hard drive or NAS attached which points to that media. Rather than each user downloading a copy of a movie, the server holds one copy and 'serves' it out (streams it) to any user when requested. ***

Stream media using the Plex media players 

Stream media using Plex Media players

Step Two: Configuring Remote Access and Streaming

Now you’ve set up Plex so you can stream media from your home computer to your device as long as you’re on the same network. So any device inside your home will work as along as it's connected to your wireless network.

That’s nice, but the goal is to stream your media anywhere. Here’s how to set up remote access and streaming:

Desktop: If you want access to the media indexed by the Plex Media Server when you’re travelling, there isn’t too much you’ll have to do in the desktop app or media server, but you will need to make some changes to your home network from your desktop or laptop before you can leave your home theatre behind and watch everything from your mobile device.

First of all, you’ll need to configure port forwarding on your router to allow your phone to connect to the media server on your network when you’re using Wi-Fi at the office or coffee shop, or when you’re on the train on commuting home. It's not too difficult - there is a site which offers port dforwarding guides for all brands of router and gives you instructions for specific applications you need to open thbe port for.

Plex Media Server uses both TCP and UDP ports 32400 which you need to open on your router