How To Setup A Headless Media Server Using Ubuntu 14.04 and Plex Software

This is a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to setup an Ubuntu-based media server. I’m gonna use a proprietary software called Plex Media Server. It’s is a software that you can use to organize and stream your media collection. It let’s you stream media to various multimedia devices like, Smart-TV, mobile phones, streaming players, and other multimedia applications (like XBMC).

It’s an awesome piece of software that you could build awesome projects upon it. In my case, I use it with my XBMC box, Android Phone and Smart-TV. You could install Plex in various supported platforms, and you could either install it with a GUI or GUI-less (headless) installation. But in this guide, I’m going to show you how to configure via command-line. I’ve chosen Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Server edition as my base-OS for this guide. If you wanted to use other OS as your Base, then you should read additional information below to know the various platforms it currently supports. If you wanted to use a Linux-based setup, and you want it headless, then read further and follow the steps enumerated below. Also, prepare yourself to be acquainted with Linux command-line.

Plex Media Server Supported Platforms

Plex’s latest version (0.9.9.12.504-3e7f93c as of July 2014) supports Windows, Mac, Linux and Free-BSD. You could build your own media server using any versions it currently supports, as your base operating system. I’ve listed down below the platforms and operating systems, that it currently supports.

  • Windows
  • Windows XP SP3
  • Windows 7 * Windows 8
  • Mac * Mac OS X 10.6.3 Snow Leopard or Later
  • Mac OS X 10.7/10.7.x Lion
  • Mac OS X 10.8/10.8.x Mountain Lion
  • Mac OS X 10.9/10.9.x Mavericks
  • Mac OS X 10.10/10.10.x Yosemite
  • Linux Ubuntu * 10.04 LTS Lucid Lynx
  • 10.10 Maverick Meerkat * 11.04 Natty Narwhal
  • 11.10 Oneric Ocelot
  • 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin
  • 12.10 Quantal Quetzal
  • 13.04 Raring Ringtail
  • 13.10 Saucy salamander
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr
  • Fedora 14 – 19 * CentOS 6 or Newer * FreeBSD 9.1

Minimum System Requirements

You also must know the hardware requirements so you could tell whether you choice of OS and hardware components have met Plex’s minimum requirements. Your choice of hardware must at least meet the minimum, to install Plex successfully. If you have higher requirements and probably wanna build a kick-ass media server, then you should go more than the minimum. Read further below to see the nominal requirements.

Standalone Implementation – No Transcoding

The nominal requirements would be enough to install and run Plex, if you don’t intend to encode and transcode media files with your machine. Also, if you don’t intend to install and run other CPU intensive applications and background services, the minimum requirements would be sufficient to start with. But in my opinion, I think it’s better to start with a more powerful CPU, with a minimum amount of memory. Because it is easier to upgrade a memory than a CPU. You just throw another stick of ram and you have an upgrade. This is not the case of CPU, you have to change the whole processor and buy another one to have an upgrade.

Note: These are just guidelines, only to give you an idea or ballpark estimate of what hardware specs your box may require. This serves as base unit, so it’s better to use more than the minimum, so long as you could and has the resources to acquire the hardware components. Requirements: * At least 1.6Ghz 2-Core processor (Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD X2 Series) * At least 1 GigaByte of Memory, if you’re on Mac or Windows * At least 512MegaByte of Memory, for Linux * Hard Drive, at least 80GB

With HD Encoding or Transoding Capability

If you wanted your Plex box to have the HD encoding or transcoding capability and at the same time, serves and stream media to several media clients, the following requirements are suggested.

Requirements:

  • For single instance 720p HD file transcoding: 2-Core 2.0GHz CPU
  • For single instance 1080p HD file transcoding: 2-Core 2.4Ghz CPU
  • For multi-instance 720p & 1080 HD file transcoding: At least 4-Core CPU
  • At least 2GigaByte of Memory
  • H.264 Capable Video Card, if you want a GPU based encoding. (More about this in my next post.)

Plex Media Server, Headless Ubuntu 14.04

Installation If you have the box that met the minimum requirements, then you may now proceed with the following procedures. Plex Media Server supports Windows, Mac, Linux and FreeBSD, but in this guide, I’m going to show how you would install it in a server edition of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. The following steps below will walk you through, on how to set things up. This is going to be a headless and standalone setup. That means, no monitor and peripherals attached. But we need to attach those during the installation and initial setup. Before you start with this guide, you must have already downloaded the latest version of Ubuntu (14.04.1 LTS as of July 2014) and burned it to a DVD disc, and your machine meets the nominal system requirements for a stand-alone PMS installation. Please read the necessary things you need for this guide, below.

Things you need:

  • Comfortable wit Linux commands
  • Putty (from http://putty.org), if you’re on Windows
  • Extra device for testing (Android or iOS device, streaming player or similar)
  • A clean and fresh hard-drive with at least 80GB free space
  • Separate hard drive for media files (optional)
  • Hardware components that meets the minimum requirements
  • A configured DHCP server This guide is broken into a two-part series. For the first part, we will install our operating system, and that would be Ubuntu server edition. The second part would be the installation of the Plex software.

Part 1: Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS Installation

For the first part, we install Ubuntu 14.04 as our base-OS. Below are the necessary procedures.

  • Step 1: Power on your machine and set your BIOS settings to boot from CD/DVD.
  • Step 2: After doing so, insert your Ubuntu DVD installer and boot from it. When your machine successfully booted up, you’ll be prompted with a menu, similar to the image shown below. Screenshot: Ubuntu 14.04.1 Installation Screen 1 Select your desired language using your keyboard’s arrow keys. Navigate and highlight your language and then press enter to activate it. In my case, I choose English.
  • Step 3: Remember that we’re setting a headless setup of Ubuntu, so we’ll setup just the core files, plus OpenSSH server. So just choose Install Ubuntu Server by highlighting it with your arrow keys, and press enter. Screenshot: Install Ubuntu Menu That should take you to the next step.
  • Step 4. At this point, you must choose your location. It is recommended to choose your real geographic location because Ubuntu will choose the most optimal mirror server for your current location. So if you choose United States, Ubuntu shall configure the apt sources list to pick the most optimal servers that are located in the U.S. Screenshot: Select Country Territory So in my case I’d choose Philippines.
  • Step 5. The next prompt will ask you if you want your keyboard be detected properly by the installer. If you have chosen a different language other than English from the previous steps, and you have a different keyboard layout other than the QWERTY layout, I suggest that you choose Yes here. You should use TAB key to select a choice from this menu. If you select YES, then you will be ask to press a series of keys. The installer will detect your keyboard layout properly depending on what keys you’ve pressed. In my case, I would choose No.
    Now, depending on your answer, if you choose NO (like I did) the installer will ask you again if what is the Country Origin of your keyboard, In my case, I should choose English US and hit enter and the installation should start. But if you choose YES to let the installer detect your keyboard, it will not ask you to select your keyboard’s Country of origin, instead it will start the installation process.
  • Step 6. After the above step, depending again on your setup, the installer will ask you to configure your network manually if it didn’t acquire a dynamic IP address. But if you have configured a DHCP server inside your network, and the installer automatically acquires an IP address, no prompt will pop-up. Network Detection Failed In case you need to configure your network manually, then you should follow the following steps.
    • 6.1: Select and activate Configure network manually. 08-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install
    • 6.2: Then the installer will prompt you to input your desired IP address. Enter your IP address, it should have the same subnet as your existing network. In my case, I have a subnet of 192.168.1.xxx, so I would input my IP like so, 192.168.1.99. Then hit enter to continue with the next step. Use TAB key to select CONTINUE. Screenshot: Configure Network Manually
    • Step 6.3: Enter a subnet mask, in my case, 255.255.255.0. 11-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install
    • Step 6.4: Enter your gateway IP address, this should be your router’s IP address. In my case, 192.168.1.1. 12-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install
    • Step 6.5: Enter you name server address, this should also be your router’s IP address. In my case, 192.168.1.1.
    • Step 6.6: Select and activate Continue button. You should be taken to the next step. You’re done with the manual network configuration.
  • Step 7: You’ll be prompted to enter your desired host name with this step, so enter your host name. This will be the name of your box/machine that you could identify from your local network. You may name it like, ubuntu-headless or any name you can think of. It could be planet names or celebrities. In my case, I’ll name it ubuntu-plex. 13-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install
  • Step 8: The next step will ask you for your domain name. But since this host will only be used inside the local network, we could just make something up. So in my case, I would name it chubbable.loc. Now we have configured our domain name. And when a domain name is attached to a host name, it makes the host name a fully qualified domain name. But this setup is just for local network. You don’t really have to register a domain name. In my case, my fully qualified domain name for my setup would be ubuntu-plex.chubbable.loc.
  • Step 9: Next, enter your name, your desired username and password.
  • Step 10: The installer will ask you if you want your home directory encrypted, since this is just a basic and simple setup, we may choose No to not encrypt home directory.
  • Step 11: Choose your time zone. If you want to choose another time zone, then you should choose NO when asked if Is this time zone correct? 18-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install In my case, it automatically selects my desired time zone, which is Asia/Manila, so I’d answer Yes.
    • Note: The installer can only select your Country automatically when your machine is connected to the Internet. It selects your Country based on your detected public IP address.

  • Step 12: Choose a partitioning method. By default, Guided - use entire disk and setup LVM option is selected. I recommend to just implement it and hit enter to start partitioning. Select your hard disk and press enter to continue. In my case, I have a 80GB Sata hard disk. When asked to Write changes to disk and configure LVM, answer Yes. 19-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install Another prompt will ask you, Write the changes to disk?, answer Yes and the partitioning process should start. After this process, a prompt will ask you to configure a HTTP proxy, you may skip this by hitting Continue button and proceed with the installation.
  • Step 13: After the previous step the install process should start, you can sit back and relax while the installer applies your settings. During this process, another prompt will pop-up asking you how you would manage upgrades on your system. You should choose Install security updates automatically. Another prompt will ask you if what software to install. Since this is going to be an Ubuntu headless setup, you would select OpenSSH Server package, and you may select Samba file server as well (you can use this service later on with your media file management). To select a package, use arrow keys and space-bar to activate it and hit Continue button to continue. 26-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install In the final part of this process, another prompt will ask you if you wanted to install GRUB bootloader to the master boot record. You should answer Yes to continue. That would be it, hit Continue once more to finalize the install process. Your machine should reboot and should take you to a black-screen login prompt. Congratulations! You have now installed a GUI-less Ubuntu 14.04. You may now continue with the next phase of the server setup.

Part 2 – A: Plex Installation Procedures for Windows Platform

If you’re on windows, you need to have Putty.exe to be able to remotely connect to your headless server.

  • Step 1: Download and Install putty.exe. You can download the software from http://www.putty.org. You dont’ need to install it, just double-click the putty.exe to launch it and follow Step 2 below.

  • Step 2: Enter your Ubuntu server’s IP address. In my case it is 192.168.1.99. Fill up Save Sessions and enter something like Ubuntu Headless or My Server or any text you might want, then click save. Putty Configuration

  • Step 3: A new entry should appear right below the entry, Default Settings. Look for the entry that you’ve created from Step 2 above. Select and click Load button, then click Open button. A new window and prompt should appear. Click Yes to continue. 32-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install

  • Step 4: You should be now at the log-in prompt. Enter your username and password. The one you entered during the Ubuntu 14.04 server installation. When you’re logged in, you should see a window similar to the image shown below. 33-plex-media-server-headless-ubuntu-install

Install Plex Software Using SSH In Windows – Do the steps below. Let’s download the latest Debian package (.deb file) for our OS (Operating System).
  • Step 1: Fire-up your browser and head over to plex.tv/downloads. Then click COMPUTER button, a pop-up window should open.
  • Step 2: Click Linux tab and scroll further below, right-click on 64-BIT button just below the Ubuntu text and select Copy link location. Minimize the window and switch-back to your Putty session.
  • Step 3: Type-in wget and then space. Then paste what you have just copied (copy link location) in the Putty.exe window. To do this, just right-click on it to paste, then hit enter. It should download the latest version of Plex software. Wait for it to finish then proceed to the next step.
  • Step 4: After downloading the file, install it by using the following command: sudo dpkg -i plexmediaserver_0.9.9.12.504-3e7f93c_amd64.deb and hit enter. You’ll be prompted to enter your password, enter your password and hit enter.

Note: When you type your secret-pass, your screen won’t print it.

Installation should start when you typed-in your pass-phrase correctly.

TIP: Noticed that the Plex software installer has a very long file name, to help you out a little bit, you may do the following: Type sudo dpkg -i then space, then type plex, and then hit Tab key. It should auto-completes the file-name.

  • Step 5: If you encountered an error during install process, do this: type sudo apt-get install -f and hit enter. When ask if you want to continue, answer y and hit enter. Installation should resume.
  • Step 6: After the above installation step, we now test the server and see if Plex was installed properly. So let’s do that now and fire-up a browser. To access Plex’s web-based control panel, you would type-in your server’s IP address plus port number, then directory name manage The format is like this:
    ip-address:port-number/manage
    
    

    So you would type like this in your browser’s address bar:

    192.168.1.99:32400/manage
    
    

    Substitute 192.168.1.99 with your machine’s IP address. Port Number 32400 is Plex’s default port it listens to, for web administration.

    If you see a web-page similar to the image below, then you have setup Plex media server correctly. Now click

    Agree button to accept the software terms of service. Screenshot: Plex Media Server Admin Web Interface At this point, you can now configure and administer your server remotely from any machine within your local network. You’ll be using a lot of command-line syntaxes when you configure your Linux server and when you add or install additional modules/packages to it.

Part 2 – B: Installation procedures for Ubuntu-based Platform:

Installing Plex Media Server from an Ubuntu-based OS (Ubuntu Deskop or Linux Mint) is very similar to the steps we’ve taken previously. The only difference is, we don’t need to download

Putty.exe or similar software. We only need to open a terminal and type in… ssh user-name@192.168.1.99. A window will pop-up asking you if you wanted to continue, just type yes and hit enter. You could now move on and follow the procedures from “To Install Plex Using SSH In Windows” above. Sample Screen From LinuxMint Command Prompt:


Tip: You could copy-paste an applicable command to a command-line. To paste a copied text or snippet to a Linux terminal, click middle mouse button.

That’s a Wrap

This is my “How-to” guide on how to setup a headless media server with Ubuntu 14.04 & Plex Media Server software. I hope you find this post helpful. Installation wasn’t that difficult, but in case you’ve gone through issues and wasn’t able to follow the guide or stuck on certain part, just feel free to ask and I’d be happy to help you. Just put your comments and questions below. But wait, your Linux server won’t be called a Media Server, without media files added to it. So we have to copy files to it and add those files to Plex’s Media Library. I’m going to write a “howto” for this, so checkout my next post on how to add files in your newly configured headless media server.

Chubbable

Hi, I'm Chubby! That's what my friends call me. I'm a tech savvy dude who is passionate in learning stuffs by himself. I post stuffs that I recently learned and also stuffs that I'm very knowledgeable of. I also post articles here to serve as my own reference and knowledge base archiving.

  • Spencer Colson

    Great walkthrough. Perfect level of detail. I had an issue with using this on an Intel NUC with EFI boot loader. After changing it to legacy boot and reinstalling, everything worked perfectly. Thanks.

    • Hi Spencer,

      Thanks for reporting the issue, I don’t have yet an EFI capable board. I plan of investigating the issue as soon as I get my hands on those capable motherboards.

  • daniel gatti

    hi,
    can you help me? I don’t know if install Plex or XBMC, i only want to cast videos(with subtitutles) easyly from pc and android. Which one u recommend? Thanks

    • Daniel,

      You only need to have Plex installed.

  • Lou

    First – just want to say thanks! Great instructions that are easy to follow. I am a newbie. However, I ran into a problem w/ the Ubuntu install. After logging into Ubuntu, I got the following error message: “no talloc stackframe at ../source3/param/loadparm.C:4864, leaking memory” I googled it and gleaned that it was from a Samba bug. I redid the whole installation, this time not installing Samba and I got a good login. My question is will I need Samba at some point or can it be left out? Looking ahead, I will follow your blogs for the Media Server install and loading the media and didn’t see any reference to Samba so was hoping I might not need it. At the end of the media load blog, you mention additional posts for firewall and remote access. Are those live yet? Thanks for your help!

    • Hey there Lou!

      You may need samba if you need to load/add files to your headless media server from another source, that is, through network. If that would be the case, you need to install/setup samba server on your headless media server and share a specific media folder. Then, from another machine, which has the media files you wanted to transfer, map the shared folder and drop your files. You need write permission to be able to do that. About firewall and remote access, I don’t have a dedicated post about those yet. Kinda busy nowadays.

  • Viet

    awesome post! followed it at installed plex on ubuntu server virtual machine EASY!!

  • Tom Worthen

    Once the headless server is set up and running, can I remove the video card to save power? What else can I do to minimize the server’s power consumption?

    • NO you can’t, unless you have an integrated graphic card or on-board video card. Else, you can’t boot up your box.

      Basically, a headless means no monitor attached and you don’t use a UI or Desktop Environment. You control your box with terminal commands.

  • EDA

    Wonderful write-up. Thanks!

    Question…that I can’t find the answer to anywhere: How to output audio from the Linux (Ubuntu Server) Plex MediaServer box itself.

    I’ve got a Ubuntu Server 14.04.3 LTS running on RAID1 with Plex Meda server up and running fine. Streaming to various clients works great…but…
    I’d like to also connect the headless server to an aux-in of a stereo and have the server itself stream to that stereo. After much web-researching, I can’t seem to get any tips on how to achieve this. Basically the server’s own “client” would show up as one of my possible targets for streaming music to.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated. 🙂

    — EDA / Timinski

    • Hi! That may not be possible because you don’t have a client app running on the Ubuntu Server itself. How should you playback a file? You can’t just do that easily. You actually have to SSH into your server or login directly to the machine, install some commandline player and play a song. That way, the output is on the server itself.

      But one thing flashed to my mind, is using Kodi to accomplish what you want. Install Kodi and enable UPnP. You could either access it from a UPnP capable device and playback a file and output from the Server itself.

      I’ve written a Kodi install guide here:

      https://chubbable.com/step-step-guide-install-xbmc-13-1-gotham-ubuntu-14-04-lts-server

  • EDA

    Wonderful write-up. Thanks!

    Question…that I can’t find the answer to anywhere: How to output audio from the Linux (Ubuntu Server) Plex MediaServer box itself.

    I’ve got a Ubuntu Server 14.04.3 LTS running on RAID1 with Plex Meda server up and running fine. Streaming to various clients works great…but…
    I’d like to also connect the headless server to an aux-in of a stereo and have the server itself stream to that stereo. After much web-researching, I can’t seem to get any tips on how to achieve this. Basically the server’s own “client” would show up as one of my possible targets for streaming music to.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated. 🙂

    — EDA / Timinski

    • Hi! That may not be possible because you don’t have a client app running on the Ubuntu Server itself. How should you playback a file? You can’t just do that easily. You actually have to SSH into your server or login directly to the machine, install some commandline player and play a song. That way, the output is on the server itself.

      But one thing flashed to my mind, is using Kodi to accomplish what you want. Install Kodi and enable UPnP. You could either access it from a UPnP capable device and playback a file and output from the Server itself.

      I’ve written a Kodi install guide here:

      https://chubbable.com/step-step-guide-install-xbmc-13-1-gotham-ubuntu-14-04-lts-server