Jellyfin is an open source alternative for Plex, and here's how to setup a server on Windows
v and tech savvy users may be aware of what a media server is. Here is a brief explanation for those who are new to the concept.
When you install a media server program on your computer, it becomes your host server. You can connect to it from your phone and stream the media that's stored on your computer's hard drive. Think of it like YouTube or Spotify, but your computer is the server and the content that is available is based on the media files on the computer.
We're going to be taking a look at Jellyfin, a free and open source alternative for Plex. The Jellyfin server is available for Linux distros, macOS and Windows and we'll be using Windows for this guide.
Tip: check out our list of top Windows Media Center alternatives for other options.
The process is a bit long but it's fairly easy and you don't need any technical skills. I'll try to keep it as simple as possible.
You will need the following:
- A computer connected to your router. Doesn't matter if it's wired/wireless, but you will need Wi-Fi to stream content to devices that connect to the network wireless.
- A media server program (Jellyfin)
- A phone or streaming device with a client app (Jellyfin mobile app or Plex app)
How to install Jellyfin on Windows
1. Download the latest Jellyfin server from the official website.
2. Extract the archive and run Jellyfin.exe
3. A command prompt window should open and install the required services. Keep this window open, it is the server app.
4. The program opens a new browser tab, and displays the Jellyfin quick start guide.
5. Follow the on-screen instructions to setup your local server's account name and password.
6. Next, you'll be asked to add your media library. Select the folders on your computer (or a USB external HDD) which has the movies, tv shows, music, that you want to stream.
Note: Choose the appropriate category for each folder, i.e. TV shows category for your TV series folder, Movies for the movies folder. It may sound obvious, but there is a reason why you should select the corresponding category. The program pulls metadata/art from corresponding resources on the internet and displays them in the client device app.
7. You will see some extra settings while selecting the folder, but apart from selecting the language and region, most of these settings are optional. We are half-way there.
How to connect to your Jellyfin server
1. Once you have set up the media library, you'll be taken to the server's homepage. (refer to the first screenshot).
2. Click the menu icon on the left and select the "Dashboard" option. (Admin section).
3. Here you will see your server's name, version number (of Jellyfin), port number (8096) and 2 URLs; LAN Address and WAN address.
The LAN address is the local host URL i.e., To be used when your server and the client device are in the same network. (For e.g. Your home network where your PC and phone are connected to the same Wi-Fi).
The WAN address is the URL that you can use to connect to the server from a remote network. (When you're away from home and want to stream media from your server).
5. Open the client app and you'll be prompted to enter the URL of the server to connect to. Refer to step 3 to get the URL. Type it without adding the port number at the end. For e.g. I had to type 192.168.1.4
6. Enter the password you set while configuring the server to authenticate your connection.
That's all there is to it. I use the Jellyfin app on my Android phone to connect to my Jellyfin server hosted on my laptop. The mobile app syncs to the library, and I can watch the videos on my PC, on the phone.
I don't use media servers often, but when I did I used Plex. I stumbled upon Emby when looking for an alternative and then discovered it was violating the GPL. They stopped releasing the source code and then went proprietary.
You can find premium options on the official website and the same site says the program is licensed under GPL v2. The GitHub page shows the last commit was made on Sep 20, 2018. The developers confirmed at one point that only part of the app was using closed source. That definitely breaches the license.
I kept looking for alternatives and that's how I learnt about Jellyfin which is a free fork of Emby and an open source application. The development of it took a hit temporarily when Emby claimed "licensing issues" in Jellyfin's code (oh, the irony).
That made the choice easy for me, and I went with Jellyfin. I will be trying the new Plex desktop app to keep an eye on any potential improvements. ICYMI, Plex has announced the end of life for the Plex Media Player (January 30th, 2020), and is now focusing on standalone programs for macOS, Windows 7 SP1 and above.