Turn your old laptop into a Plex server

Family enjoying Plex

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Table of Contents

If you have just retired your old laptop or if you already have one collecting dust in the closet, then you might want to give it another life by turning it into a Plex server.


Plex allows you to collect and unify all your media, be it movies or TV Shows on one server and allows you to stream it from almost any device you could think of, e.g phone, laptop, Smart TV, Xbox.


Compared to traditional streaming apps like Netflix or Disney+ that have limited quality due to compression and whatnot, Plex allows you to stream your own Bluray discs at full quality without any compression whatsoever.


For our example, we would use and 12-year-old HP laptop that has a second-gen i5 and 320GB HDD. Though that is definitely not a lot for a media server, it’s just enough if you just want to try things out. Of course, you can always upgrade it down the line.


Here’s what you will need

  1. The laptop itself

This one is a bit self-explanatory, also makes sure that your laptop has at least 4GB RAM

  1. Ethernet cable (Recommended)

To ensure that you have a stable connection while streaming your media over the network, we highly recommend you you use an Ethernet cable with your laptop.


  1. A USB flash drive (Optional)

As long as you don’t plan to install Linux or downgrade your Windows install, you should be fine without a USB flash drive.


Installing Plex Media Server on your Windows laptop

Though there’s no doubt that Linux is lightweight compared to Windows, just to make the process easier, we recommend installing it on Windows. 


If you are running Windows 10 on your old laptop, we recommend installing an SSD or downgrading to an even older version of Windows, such as Windows 8.1, to ensure a smoother experience.

Ready? Let’s begin.


Step 1: Remove all unnecessary programs

Since the only purpose of this Windows laptop would be to serve as a Plex server, remove anything that you won’t use from your old laptop. This could be unnecessary games, apps, and other miscellaneous apps.


Though Plex itself is not as demanding when you are direct playing content, it’s better to give Plex as much breathing room as you can so it can work without hiccups on an old laptop.


Step 2: Download the Plex Media Server app

Go to Plex download page and download the Plex media server app and open it.

Plex download page


Step 3: Go through the usual windows program install process

Plex install wizard


Step 4: Click on ‘Finish,’ Plex should automatically open in your browser

If for some reason Plex doesn’t open up automatically, you can right-click on the Plex icon on the right side of your taskbar and open it.

Finishing the Plex install wizard


Step 5: You would be greeted by Plex intro screen. Click on ‘Got it’

Plex introduction splash screen

Step 6: Add your Libraries

Add new library to Plex


If you haven’t already, categorize your media into the following three folders: Music, TV Shows & Movies.

If you have home videos or photos,  you can also add them. But for now, we will only focus on the main three media forms.

We have added one file in every folder, so one movie, one TV show, and one music album.


Step 7: Select your Library type and click on add folders

Select library type in add library menu


Step 8: Browse for your file location and select it, then click on ‘add library’

Add folder to your library

choosing folders

Click on add library


Step 9: Click on Finish, and customize your media layout.

Clicking on finish to finish setup


We would suggest you skip this and directly click on Finish setup, we will change this later on.

Click on finish setup


Step 10: You will be greeted by the Plex Dashboard

Plex dashboard

Don’t worry if you don’t see your media at first. Click on ‘more,’ and you will see your server.


Since I already have a home server, I have created a test server for demonstration purposes. 


You will see the 3 media sections that we made earlier. And we can pin this to our main Plex dashboard by clicking on 3 dots and pinning your library.

Clicking on sidebar on the movie section


Step 11: Enjoy!

That’s it! Now you can download the Plex app on your client devices and stream content from your newly made Plex server.



Can you use a Chromebook as a Plex Server?

Unfortunately, you can’t use your Chromebook as a Plex Server. Plex has not made a server app for Chrome OS, and hence it’s not possible to turn your Chromebook into a Plex server.


Besides, Chromebooks have limited storage expandability options. So even if you manage to make a server on your Chromebook, you won’t be able to expand it down the line.


Is 4GB RAM enough for a Plex Server?

4GB RAM should be enough as long as you don’t run anything else than Plex Server itself. And it’s the minimum we would recommend.


Does it cost money to run a Plex Server?

It doesn’t cost enough money to run a Plex Server. Considering you are running a Plex Server on a laptop, it would already be power efficient. 


Though Plex can cost you if you plan to buy the Plex Pass, which allows you other features such as downloading your content on portable devices, hardware encoding, etc.



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