So, you want to download a Plex Media Server on your Chromebook. Or maybe you just want to access your files using Chrome OS.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything needed to get you streaming your favorite shows in no time:
- How to set up a Plex Media Server on your Chromebook
- How to access Plex using Plex Web
- Downloading Plex as an Android app on Chrome OS
- Troubleshooting and improving performance with Plex
- And more
By the end of this tutorial, you should have everything you need to know to get Plex up and running on your device.
And if you get stuck, just post a comment and I’ll help you out!
Sound good? Let’s get you the entertainment you deserve!
In a nutshell, Plex is a self-hosted cloud media server that allows you to watch, stream, and access your videos, shows, pictures, and movies anywhere in the world.
You build a Plex Media Server and upload your shows and files to it.
Then, as long as you have an active connection, you can access your media from nearly any device.
The Media Server is free and lets you stream nearly anything on your own devices- outside of your home.
For example, you can watch your favorite season of Archer at home.
But then when you head out, you can watch it on your phone, tablet, work computer, Xbox, Roku, Fire TV, PlayStation, and of course, your Chromebook.
Plex works across both Android and Apple devices.
Is Plex free to use?
Plex is free to use! There’s a free version of Plex and a Premium version (called Plex Pass).
The free version allows you to set up a Plex Media Server, which is where all your media will be hosted for you to watch across all your devices (such as your Chromebook).
The server will either be your PC or network attached storage (NAS).
This basically lets you access your media (movies, shows, pictures, etc.) anywhere you are in the world as long as you have an active connection to the Internet.
That’s the real benefit of using Plex. It’s like a self-hosted cloud for your own digital media.
To do that, you’ll have to spend $4.99 per client app. This means each device you want to run Plex on will run you a client fee.
However, if you have a lot of devices, Plex Pass lets you subscribe unlimited devices alongside other goodies like offline synching and such.
Is Plex legal?
Yes, Plex is completely legal to use.
Plex is literally just an online media host that lets you play your files across a network.
Just like other media players (VLC or WMP), Plex allows you to stream your media, download your files, and store them in a local PC or NAS.
There’s nothing illegal about it.
Plex offers a digitized and expansive way to playback your media and an online virtual library of your favorite uploads.
But piracy isn’t
Of course, piracy is always an issue with media players and media distribution.
The software itself isn’t illegal, but how the customer uses it may be in violation of copyright law. But that’s a topic for another article.
As long as you’re legally purchasing all the media you upload and following local, state, and federal copyright laws, you should be okay.
Using Plex is no issue. It’s more of how you use it to begin with.
Features like Plex sharing which allows you to share media with other users or receive them from other servers can really get things murky.
How to set up a Plex Media Server on a Chromebook
You can set up a Plex Media Server on Chrome OS to save all your videos, music, pictures, and other media files.
You’ll need a Media Server in order to access the Plex client app.
To set up the server, use a Windows, Mac, or Linux workstation to set it up externally.
If you already have a Plex server set up , then you can skip this step and just download the Plex client on your device. Skip to the next section.
But if you haven’t yet, you’ll have to set up a Server first.
Here’s the quick-start guide from Plex.
Read it over and follow the steps to get a Media Server going.
The directions state that you can run the server on:
- Network attached storage (NAS) device
- Raspberry Pi (also works, but not listed on their website)
You can actually set up a Plex server on your Chromebook if you have Linux installed.
The Server is where all your hosted videos will be stored.
Plex’s algorithm automatically matches your uploaded content in your Media Server with titles, episode names, durations, etc.
The more people that view your server’s content, the harder the server has to work.
That’s why some people use a dedicated computer or device that’s sole job is to run a Plex server.
If you set up your Chromebook to run Plex and it’s too weak or underpowered, you’ll get serious buffering, slowness, freezing, stuttering, or your videos won’t play at all.
A Plex Media Server requires a powerful CPU to run. You’ll need a fast and beefy Chromebook to power it. This is why people use a Plex Box.
And most Chromebooks are loaded with basic, entry-level processors, which can be severely underpowered to run Plex.
So this is really up to you- if you want to try to use your Chromebook as a dedicated (or not) Plex Media Server, you can try to do so. I don’t use mine as a Plex Box. I just stream my stuff on my laptop, but I host the files on a dedicated junky Windows PC.
Here’s a quick tutorial on setting up the Plex Media Server on your Chromebook.
Step 1: Get Linux
You can download and install Linux using one of three methods:
Either one should work in theory, but if you have difficulties, go with the tried-and-true Crouton method.
Plus, not all Chromebooks have the Beta Linux feature yet.
- Linux (Beta) is easier because it’s literally turning on an option, but it’s not as fully-featured and has some compatibility issues running Linux applications.
- Crouton takes longer and has more steps, but it’s a standalone “desktop” version of Ubuntu Linux.
- Live Linux is just another way to get Ubuntu using a USB drive
Step 2: Download the Media Server for Linux
After you have Ubuntu installed on your system, you’ll have to download the Media Server from Plex.
Go here and download the right Server for your setup (you’ll want to grab the Linux version).
Follow the directions on the page and be sure you’re connected to the Internet on your Chromebook.
Step 3: Install the Media Server
The Media Server setup wizard will do some processing in the background which requires an active WiFi connection.
After you’ve downloaded and ran the wizard, the last step is to install and run the Media Server. It’ll go through a series of steps.
Follow the on-screen prompts and complete the installation.
Step 4: Sign in to your account (or create one)
When it’s done, you’ll be automatically brought to Plex Web to create a new account or sign in to an existing account.
Do whatever is applicable to your situation.
And that’s about it, once you go through the account creation process or sign in to your existing account, the Server is live and running.
You can upload your content and access it across your subscribed Plex devices.
Step 5: Start the Plex Server
On Linux, you can force start the Plex Media Server by using the command line:
- Press “CTRL + ALT + T” to open the Ubuntu command prompt
- Type “sudo /etc/init.d/plexmediaserver start” and hit Enter
Now you should have a running copy of the Media Server on your Chromebook to use with Plex!
Remember, your machine will have to be powerful enough to process it.
So if you start to get video playback performance problems, you may want to host your Server somewhere else.
Step 6: Upload your content!
After it’s up and running, you can log onto your Chromebook to access the Plex app and then playback your media files.
You can upload:
- And various other miscellenaous files
Check out the official documentation for detailed directions if you’ve never used Plex before- but it’s easy! Promise!
If you decide to dedicate your Chromebook to running the Server, you can still use Chrome OS at the same time by using a hotkey command.
This is pretty cool because you toggle between Ubuntu and Chrome OS all on the same device, which means you don’t need an external Windows or Mac computer.
- Toggle to Ubuntu by pressing “CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + Forward Arrow”
- Toggle to Chrome OS by pressing “CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + Back Arrow”
If you get stuck trying to set this thing up, post a comment and I’ll help you out!
After you have the Media Server up, you’re good to go.
You can use your phone, Windows PC, Mac, or whatever other device to access your Plex Server hosted on your Chromebook.
But if you’re not looking to dedicate your system to host a Server, then you must be trying to access Plex on your Chromebook, right?
Okay. So that’s what we’ll cover next.
Use the browser (Plex Web) version of Plex
This is the easiest and most straightforward way to get Plex on a Chromebook.
Using the Plex website (AKA Plex Web) allows you to access your media directly through their web app. It runs with all modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and more) and doesn’t require you to download or install any software!
(Want to get a different browser other than Chrome? Check out how to switch your Chromebook browser and get a Chrome alternative!).
Just use Plex Web!
It’s as easy as going to their official webpage and logging into your Plex Media Server.
This option is handy for users on an older Chromebook who don’t have access to the Google Play Store version of Plex or who don’t want to install anything.
Plex Web is the desktop version of Plex and you can access it by doing the following:
- Log in to your Chromebook.
- Launch Chrome Browser.
- Go to Plex Web.
- Log in to your Plex account to access your media.
- Allow scripts to be run if prompted (some Chrome extensions for privacy may block Plex Web from running)
- Start watching your shows, movies, and more!
Use the Android version
If you don’t want to use Plex Web and you have a Chromebook that’s capable of accessing the Google Play Store, you can download the Plex app as an alternative.
Chrome OS can emulate Android apps, so you’ll be downloading and installing the Android version of Plex.
For the most part, it works perfectly and the UI scales correctly.
Either way, it’s Plex.
Here’s how you can get Plex for Android on your Chromebook:
- Launch the Google Play Store by clicking on the Launcher icon (bottom-left of your screen). You can also press the Finder key on your keyboard (where “Caps Lock” is on a regular Windows keyboard).
- Look for the search field. Type in “plex” and hit Enter.
- Find the official Plex app and click on it. You should see thousands of reviews and the developer should be “Plex, Inc.” Or you can click here to access the app directly https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.plexapp.android&hl=en_US.
- Click on the big green “Install” button to add Plex to your Chromebook.
- Wait patiently like a good person as it downloads and installs.
- After it’s done, you’ll find Plex in your Chromebook’s list of apps.
- Double click on it and launch Plex.
- Sign in with your Plex Media Server username and password and you’re done! If you don’t have an account, you can click here to create one.
Plex is free to use.
What if I don’t have the Play Store?
If you don’t have access to Google Play, you may either have an older Chromebook that’s not scheduled to get the update or the update is still pending.
How do I check to see if I’ll get the Android update?
You can check this list to see if your specific model is on there and the current status.
The list tells you where the Chromium team stands for your Chromebook. If you see your device on there, chances are that the Android update is still “Planned.”
Devices where the update is already rolled out to are labeled as “Stable Channel.”
But my Chromebook isn’t on the list!
This means that the update isn’t planned for your device, sadly. Sorry.
This was decided by the Chrome OS team and the update was probably halted because of hardware requirements to run the apps.
You can either buy a newer Chromebook that can run Android apps, or you can do more research to see if there are any workarounds.
My Chromebook is scheduled to get the Android update, but I don’t want to wait!
You can actually force the update and get the Play Store early. Just follow the steps in this tutorial and if you do all the steps right, you can download the update.
Then you can run Plex without waiting until Google rolls out the update for Chrome OS.
The Play Store is blocked on my Chromebook
There are multiple reasons why this happens:
- If you’re using a Chromebook borrowed from work or school, your admin team probably blocked specific apps or the Play Store entirely.
- If you’re using a managed Chromebook, there’s no way to circumvent this block other than asking them for permission.
- And lastly, if you bought a used device and it’s still enrolled into a network, you’ll want to contact the seller and get a refund because the device is tied to that network (or was never unenrolled correctly).
You can also try to unenroll your Chromebook from a network.
There’s no easy to way to disable the block. It really depends on the restriction settings set by the admin.
How to download media from Plex for offline use (free)
You can sync your Plex Media Server so you can access your media offline.
Both free and paid users can utilize this feature. It allows you to download a local copy to your device so you can watch media even without a WiFi connection.
However, it doesn’t transcode your media so you’ll end up with huge file sizes. Since most Chromebooks are only 16GB, you’ll want to watch your SSD closely.
Download files to your Chromebook
To download media for offline use, just log in to your Plex account.
As long as you’re the owner of your Plex Media Server, you can download whatever you’d like.
You can’t download media that was shared with you- you can only download files you host on your own server.
This method is free and you don’t need to be a Plex Premium user to use it.
- Find the media you want to download for offline use
- Hover over the media thumbnail and click on the “menu” icon
- A menu will pop up. Click on “Download” to start the process
- You’ll get a copy of the original file in its full file size and native resolution directly on your Chromebook.
- Repeat the process for any other media file you wish to download
Save files for offline viewing
Note that this doesn’t sync the file to your other devices.
You’re literally just downloading a copy to your laptop. If it’s in a weird video format that your Chromebook won’t recognize, you won’t be able to play it.
This method will let you download your files locally on your Chromebook for later viewing.
If you’re a paid user, you can use Plex to download files on your mobile apps or other devices.
Plex performance on a Chromebook
Plex runs smoothly and has no issues using the Plex Web app that I’ve come across.
Since it’s literally a webpage, there’s nothing to really conflict with compatibility and Chrome OS. It runs just like any other site.
I was able to access my Media Server smoothly without any hiccups. Playing back high-definition, 1080p movies isn’t possible because my display only goes up to 720p.
Watching in HD
However, I’d imagine that full HD Chromebooks will be able to render and play 1080p movies without any problems.
Downloading for offline use and synching locally both worked as expected.
If you don’t like Chrome or you prefer another browser, you can get Linux and change your Chromebook’s browser.
Or if you’re traveling/business type who prefers to download your media for offline viewing, you may want to get VLC on your Chromebook so you can play more video formats.
Hosting a Plex Media Server with a Chromebook
As for hosting a Media Server with a Chromebook, I personally haven’t tried it yet. I’d assume that the CPU for my device is way too weak to actually process and transcode the videos.
But I was able to find various reports from other Chrome users online that transformed their Chromebook into a dedicated Plex Media Server, so it’s definitely possible!
Just follow the directions at the start of this tutorial.
You may still have questions about using Plex or getting it installed on your device.
Here are some handy resources you can check out:
If none of these answer your questions, leave a comment below and I’ll help you out ASAP!
Did you get Plex up and running on Chrome OS?
By now, you should have everything you need to know to get Plex on your Chromebook.
The software works well through both the web app (Plex Web) and through the Play Store app (Android version).
Either one should suit you just fine, depending on how you intend to use the software.
Whether you’re looking to watch movies online or download and sync them locally on your Chromebook for offline usage, the choice is yours.
Plex really is a lot easier to use in my opinion compared to other alternatives like Kodi or Terrarium TV.
If you have any questions, post your comment below! Or if you found this useful, let me know also =].
Consider telling a fellow Chromebook user!
Thanks for reading!