What is Plex? Here's what you need to know about the streaming platform that can store your digital content
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  • Post published:07/04/2021
  • Post last modified:07/04/2021
  • Plex is an unconventional streaming service that allows users to share and manage their content libraries.
  • The platform boasts both media uploading and streaming capabilities, and houses free-to-watch content as well.
  • There are paid and free versions of Plex available.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Plex is a media server and streaming service, although what sets Plex apart from other services is how it allows you to access and stream all your media — including self-created media — in one place. That includes all types of media: podcasts, music, TV and movies, and games.

You can also easily share Plex with friends and family, which is one of its most popular features. 

Here’s a little bit more about Plex: what it is, what you can get out of it, and what you’ll need to pay (or not pay) to get started using the streaming platform. 

Plex is a streaming service, but it doesn’t look like Hulu or Netflix

Plex is, for all intents and purposes, a streaming service. But it operates entirely differently from the big-name services you know, like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Instead, Plex is tailor-made for tech savvy types who can furnish their own digital copies of media, and otherwise hoard digital content.

Plex allows you to host and upload your own content via its servers, and also share your server and its contents with others in an easy-to-access way. 

More specifically, there are two parts to Plex — the server and the client. The server is the device used to run your media, and the client is the device that streams that media. The Plex Media Server is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD, and even a variety of NAS platforms. 

To download the digital media platform, you first need to install the Plex Media Server on your computer or a compatible operating system, and then install the Plex app on the device(s) you plan to stream its content on (can be streaming devices and game consoles, or another computer or smartphone). 

To make an account, visit Plex.tv and sign up either through Google, Facebook, or Apple, or you can choose to enter your email address instead. 

If you already have an account, you should see “My Account” on the top-right.
Emma Witman/Business Insider

Plex also offers ad-supported on-demand content, including a partnership with Crackle

There’s also plenty of content to parse in Plex, if you don’t have your own digital library to upload. Although it’s important to note that Plex is not considered a content provider, rather the content it does host is a result of partnerships with production companies like Warner Bros.

Choose from a selection of movies.
Emma Witman/Business Insider

Plex has hosted ad-supported video-on-demand content since 2019, and in 2020, they took that a step further through a partnership with Crackle, which gave Plex users full access to Crackle’s extensive library of popular series and niche, cult-favorite films.

You can access Plex through a free or paid tier 

You can view Plex for free through the Plex Media Server (it’s media that you already own) and the Plex Web App, and essentially through any platform that is non-mobile and public (such as Amazon Fire TVs, Roku, Smart TVs, etc.). 

The mobile app can be used for free on Android and iOS, but without an in-app purchase or a Plex Pass, you will encounter viewing limitations. 

A Plex Pass grants you unlimited mobile app capabilities, and is the fully-featured premium service that can be purchased in a monthly ($4.99), yearly ($39.99), or lifetime subscription ($119.99).  

The three subscription plans, as viewed on the Plex site.
Emma Witman/Business Insider

A paid subscription unlocks Live TV and DVR capabilities, offline syncing, parental controls, and more. 

And if you want to dip your toes in Plex before committing to joining the platform, you can also peruse its live TV offerings on Plex.tv as a guest; no account needed. 

Parsing Plex is possible without being signed in — or even signed up — to the service.
Emma Witman/Business Insider

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

  • Is Plex free? Yes — here’s how to sign up for a free or paid account on the streaming and hosting platform

  • The beginner’s guide to streaming, including how it works, the pros and cons, and more

  • What is Tubi? Everything you need to know about the free streaming service

  • What is DRM? Understanding the tool publishers use to control software and file downloading or sharing

  • How to cast from Google Chrome to your TV to view videos, websites, and more on a larger screen

  • How to AirPlay content to your Apple TV and mirror your phone or computer to a TV screen

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