How to turn a Mac mini into a media server with Plex

“With the arrival of the fourth-generation Apple TV, I found myself trying out the Plex media server, and I realized that using Plex is one of the best ways to watch media on the Apple TV,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Macworld.

“You can install the Plex server software on a variety of devices: your Mac, a PC, a NAS (network attached storage device), and more,” McElhearn writes. “It’s advantageous that Plex’s server be always on, so you can start watching your movies and TV shows without having to boot your Mac. If you have a large media collection, you may want to use a Mac as a dedicated device to run Plex.”

McElhearn writes, “The Mac mini is a perfect candidate for this. Plex doesn’t need a lot of horsepower to manage and stream your media, unless it transcodes video.”

How to set it up in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Plus, you can use that Plex-ified Mac for your Time Machine backups and other things. Very useful!


    1. The problem with this is that the CPU is underpowered for transcoding (if necessary). If you have media in a format your client (aTV, SmartTV, Computer, etc.) can natively handle, you’ll be golden; otherwise you may be disappointed by this option.

      This is based on my experience with a Synology DS214play. I bought it because it supposedly had hardware transcoding ability, but one the Synology software supports it (read: not plex). Most of my media is in an MKV container with H264 (high profile 4.1)/AC3 inside, so my NAS can handle the demuxing, but even transcoding an audio stream (for example, DTS to AC3) can cause my NAS to hit 75% CPU usage. If I try to play a 1080p file that’s too high (for instance high profile 4.2) for my 3rd gen aTV to handle, it’ll peg the NAS’s CPU and stutter and basically not play.

      In any case, the point is, I 100% agree with what you’re saying, but you should think about your specific usage pattern before jumping into a NAS only solution… any cheap NAS is going to have an underpowered CPU and not be capable of any significant real-time transcoding.

      1. Honestly I run my collection off a WD 4T cloud drive I don’t think it even has a processor. I can do a playlist to my Mac and use Beamer to either one of my two old ATVs elsewhere in the house. Does a great job.

      2. This is a big reason why I went with a Mac mini. The other reasons include the need for other server and processing stuff. I’m really happy with it and ATV4 + Plex is just an absolute dream come true.

        Another option for people to consider is that Plex can be installed on many hosted servers/seedboxes. Again though, this won’t be as robust or reliable as a Mac, but it can be cheaper and may get the job done.

      3. Except that Plex now has background transcode for exactly that reason. It will transcode and cache all your movies in a variety of formats/bitrates in the background so that it doesn’t have to be done in real time.

  1. This is going back a few years, but Plex I thought was too buggy. I switched to Kodi and have been using it since then. Another option, hoping to see it come to the AppleTV as well.

    1. This has more or less already happened: Should be any time now I’d wager.

      Personally, I like the Plex model of server/client. I have many different devices and I love that there’s a Plex client for all of them. I also paid for a Plex Pass many years ago, so I have the option to pre-transcode and sync to my portable devices pretty brainlessly.

      I do agree, it used to be pretty buggy, but it’s come a long way and is quite stable now. Not saying it’s a good candidate for you and your use case, but just providing another perspective 🙂

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