Can you use plex without paying for a subscription? Of course you can and unless you want some of the extras, there really isn’t a huge incentive to pay for it. Plex regularly has deals for their Lifetime pass but I would suggest trying it for one month to see if the extra features are really worth it for you. I used Plex for years without the Plex Pass.
Getting the most out of Plex so that you and your family can quickly find what you want to watch takes a little tweaking. Here are my tips for getting the most out of Plex.
- Direct Play – The first big tip is to make sure that your client or player device is able to handle most types of files with either Direct Play or Direct Stream. This alone will save a lot of hassles because trying to transcode a 4k movie never works as well as you would hope. If you’re system is trying to transcode, you will most likely run into a lot of buffering issues.
Recommendations for hardware would be something like a Firestick 4k, Fire Cube, Nvidia Shield or even the latest Apple 4k. The biggest issues I’ve found is that most of the devices have limitations when it comes playing back to HD audio, subtitles or Dolby Vision. Unless you are really particular, you probably won’t notice though. Although Plex is offered on most gaming consoles, they will often not be able to direct play your files.
- File Organization – Make sure that you have your movies and TV shows named properly. This can be a big task if you haven’t been maintaining things and you have a large collection. I found that the best way to sort and label my movies with by their title and year “Movie Title (2021)”, for both the folder and for the file. I choose to use individual folders for each movie, incase you want to include extras such as Subtitles.
I found that setting up Sonarr and Radarr to be best for obtaining the correct names. Sonarr will even rename all of your TV titles for you. This helps a lot of you have obtained an entire TV series.
By making sure your names are correct, it will help Plex automatically identify the correct media as it scans things in. This is ultimately save you a lot of time in the end.
- Parent and Kids Media Folders – One of the features of a Plex Pass is the ability to add multiple users like Netflix. The best work around that I found for this was to create a Movie folder for both Kids and Parents and do the same for TV. Our collection is large enough that I don’t need to spend time scrolling through several Disney or Pixar titles to find what I want. By keeping the files in separate folders, you can use just one login and not pay for a Plex Pass. Just add a 2nd library to Plex for each and make sure to label them so that everyone knows what’s in each folder. I’ve gone a step further a seperated out Concerts as well because I wanted quick access to them from the main screen.
- Plex Auto Collections – Plex’s ability to create and maintain collections has been around for a while. It’s best to set it up as you’re creating the library in Plex. I’m sure everyone has there own preferences but for myself, I prefer to choose to Not see the movies that are part of collections and to limit collections to 2 movies or more. Just change the “Minimum automatic collection size” to 2. I don’t want to have to click into a collection and again into the movie if there is only 1 movie.
Recently Plex has added some features for creating smart collections, which is nice but those collections continue showing the movies in both the Library and the Collection. I prefer it this way as I have a couple collections based on decades and I want to be able to find these movies in both places.
- Tautulli – Tautulli is a 3rd party application will provide you with all the information that you could ever want about your media collection and playback habits. There are times when I wanted to find movies with a specific attribute such as Video Codec. With Tautulli I was able to quickly see and sort my entire movie collection and even export it to Excel if I needed to.
Hopefully these ideas help you get a little more out of Plex even if you don’t have a Plex Pass. Be sure to check our guide on Sharing Plex with family and friends. Tautulli will be a great resource once you start sharing your collection.