Using a dedicated device like a Synology NAS drive to host your Plex media library offers a variety of advantages over using a Mac. In addition to being able to configure a large amount of storage at a low cost and freeing up your desktop or notebook from the workload, a Plex setup with a NAS drive offers features like 4K video transcoding, the ability to record TV shows for free, and much more. Read along with our detailed guide on how to set up Plex on a Synology NAS drive.
If you’re new to the idea of using a service like Plex for your media library, the big benefits are that it allows you to store and stream your personal collection of TV shows, movies, music, and other media to almost any device (in a variety of file formats). That includes Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Windows, Android, game consoles, and more. It also allows you to share your media library with others and even record free over the air TV with a compatible tuner.
Whether you’re already a Plex user or thinking about jumping in for the first time, follow along for how to get going with Plex on a Synology NAS drive (if you already have a Synology NAS device, skip below for how to install Plex).
Synology DS218+ specs
For this tutorial, I used Synology’s DS218+ NAS. This is a two-bay NAS device that is compatible with both 3.5-inch SATA HDDs as well as 2.5-inch SATA HDD and SSDs. If you don’t have one already, keep in mind that most of Synology’s NAS drives ship without storage included. Seagate offers HDDs designed for NAS devices with its IronWolf drives and Western Digital does the same with its Red series of HDDs.
The Synology DS218+ supports up to 16TB of storage with its two drive bays. If you want a NAS drive with greater storage potential, the DS918+ offers four bays supporting up to 64TB of storage. Synology also offers NAS devices with eight bays and more, but these are usually beyond what someone would need for a home media server.
The DS218+ strikes a nice balance of affordability and functionality coming in at about $300 (before storage). It includes a dual-core Intel Celeron processor, 2 GB RAM (expandable to 6 GB), and supports 4K H.264/H.265 online transcoding via Video Station and DS video.
We’ll start by covering how to get going with a brand new Synology NAS drive. If you’ve already got yours up and running skip to step 2 or whichever step you’re ready for with the links below.
How to set up Plex Media Server on a Synology NAS drive
1. How to set up your Synology NAS drive
Start by connecting your Synology NAS drive to your router with an ethernet cable. Plug in in the power cable and power on your drive (it may take a few minutes for it to connect to the internet and be ready for set up).
Here’s how the process looks through the web:
Click connect to get started. Follow the prompts to set up your account.
Next, choose how you’d like your NAS to receive updates.
Follow the prompts to set up a Synology QuickConnect account. You can drag the shortcut to your Desktop or another folder for quick access to your NAS.
Next, you can install Synology’s recommend software (called packages) or skip this step.
Choose whether you’d like to share your Synology device’s network location and you’re up and running!
Now you’ll see the main screen for your Synology NAS drive in the browser window.
2. Install Plex Media Server on your Synology NAS drive
With your Synology NAS all set up, now we’ll install the Plex Media Server software. Seen above in the top left corner, click Package Center.
Use the search box at the top to find Plex (results don’t auto-populate, so hit return after typing in “Plex”) Click Install. When the installation is complete, you’ll see Open, click it.
3. Link your Synology NAS with your Plex account
Now you’ll see the option to authorize your Synology NAS with your Plex account.
At this point, you can sign in with your Plex credentials if you are already a user, if not head to Plex.tv to create a new account. Then come back to sign here to finish setting up your Synology NAS.
You’ll see a little description of how Plex Media Server works and then you’ll be able to name your NAS drive.
Make sure to keep the box checked next to “Allow me to access my media outside my home” for remote access.
Next, you can create your first Plex library, click the Add Library button.
Choose the media type for your first library and click Next (you can create additional libraries later).
Now click Browse for Media Folder.
If you already have media on your Synology NAS, navigate to the appropriate folder and select it in the Plex set up (if you don’t have media stored on your NAS yet, keep going and we’ll cover how to add it in a bit).
You can add more libraries now or click Next to move on to finish the initial set up.
Click Done to finish setting up your Synology NAS as your Plex Media Server.
When your NAS is successfully set up as your Plex Media Server, you’ll see it in the top left corner with a green lock icon. If you already have media on your NAS and successfully set up and linked a new Plex library to the correct folder on your NAS drive, you’ll see the media begin to populate in your Plex library.
4. How to upload media to your Synology NAS drive
If you don’t have your media stored on your Synology NAS drive yet, follow along with the steps below.
Pull the Synology NAS interface back up on your web browser. Click File Station on the left-hand side.
You’ll notice a location named Plex that was automatically created during the Plex Media Server installation on your Synology NAS drive. Click that, then do a right-click on the empty window to the right to create a new folder.
Enter a folder name and click Ok (repeat the same steps to create folders for other media like Music, Photos, and more).
Now find the media you’d like to upload (from your Mac, external hard drive, or elsewhere). Drag and drop it into the folders you’ve created under Plex on your Synology NAS drive as shown below.
You can check the status of your uploads by clicking the up arrow in the top right corner of the Synology window.
When you head back to Plex, you should start seeing your media populating (as long as the Synology folder locations are matched up with what you used when setting up the Plex libraries).
For a smoother experience, head to Settings in Plex (at the top of the left sidebar) and click Library. By default, Scan my library automatically is turned off, but you may want to turn it on for Plex to update the changes on your Synology NAS as quickly as possible.
5. Create Plex libraries to access all your media from your Synology NAS
If you want to create your first Plex libraries (or create more) head back to the Plex home screen. On the left sidebar, hover over Libraries and click the “+” icon.
Follow the prompts to add a new library. Choose a media type, then click Next.
Click Browse For Media Folder.
Choose the appropriate folder to match where your media is stored on your Synology NAS drive.
When you’ve got it, click Add.
The last step, click Add Library in the bottom right corner.
Now, you’ll see the latest library added on your Plex home screen on the sidebar as well as in your other Plex client apps.
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