Jellyfin is an open source alternative for Plex, and here's how to setup a server on Windows - gHacks Tech News

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.

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 4

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

How to install Jellyfin on Windows

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.

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 2

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.

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 3

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.

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 3a

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).

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 5

2. Click the menu icon on the left and select the "Dashboard" option. (Admin section).

How to install Jellyfin on Windows 6

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).

4. Download the Jellyfin client app on the device that you want to use for streaming: Android phone (Google Playstore) or Android TV (Amazon FireStick, Google Chromecast) or Kodi.

How to connect to Jellyfin 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

How to connect to Jellyfin server 2

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.

Closing Words

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.

Summary
software image
Author Rating
1star1star1star1star1star
5 based on 6 votes
Software Name
Jellyfin
Operating System
Windows, macOS, Linux, Android
Software Category
Multimedia
Price
Free
Landing Page
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Comments

  1. Dan Jenkins said on August 24, 2019 at 2:22 pm
    Reply

    Thank you for bringing Jellyfin to my attention.
    I had been looking for a media server for in-house
    use for a client, without licensing issues.

    Great article.

  2. Chris said on August 24, 2019 at 2:54 pm
    Reply

    Apparently there’s no uninstaller. You have to do it manually. (Windows)

    1. Anonymous said on August 26, 2019 at 1:28 am
      Reply

      There’s a PR for an official installer/uninstaller on windows up right now. Next major version should have one.

  3. Tommi Raulahti said on August 24, 2019 at 4:27 pm
    Reply

    I have Kodi and Plex both running side by side and they are like a hand and a glove. Working perfectly together when each of them are providing it’s own features I like. But together, this combo is unbeatable.

    Alternative solution only because it’s open source isn’t excuse to replace my current setup. Functionality over “licensing issues”. I’m watching my media, not my license.

    This is probably a good starting point for someone who doesn’t have a solution and is looking for something to play with. For rest of us… not so much.

    1. Pablo said on August 25, 2019 at 9:41 am
      Reply

      Tommi, how do you have it set up? Where are you running Kodi? Where are you running the Plex Server? Which Plex clients do you use? How do you connect Kodi and Plex? Do you use the official Plex Kodi add-on?
      I’m interested in setting up a similar system, that’s why I’m asking all these questions.
      Thanks in advance!

  4. Kent said on August 24, 2019 at 4:36 pm
    Reply

    This is why I support ghacks, I need more reviews of good Linux and open-source apps and I need a good media center for my tv and movies on my new Windows-replacement server, running MX Linux, for my TV.
    I would have appreciated a little bit more on functionality. Perhaps all that needs be said is “it’s exactly like emby or Plex” but I can’t always remember exactly how those worked.

    1. Pat said on August 24, 2019 at 7:58 pm
      Reply

      What I like about Plex is that I don’t have to think about how it works. It just does. I can concentrate on my libraries.

  5. bob said on August 24, 2019 at 8:31 pm
    Reply

    One word: Emby

    1. ^^^ look at this dingus ^^^ said on August 25, 2019 at 1:24 pm
      Reply

      Obviously didn’t read the entire article.

  6. Alex said on August 25, 2019 at 1:00 pm
    Reply

    It could be interesting to see how it works in a Raspberry pi

  7. Craig said on August 25, 2019 at 3:53 pm
    Reply

    What’s the point of this? Plex is free to use, I’ve been using it for years. The paid portion allow you to watch movies/listen to music on your phone. Then again who watches movies on their phone? People use Spotify/Apple music to listen on their phone. The free Plex does so much, is rock solid stable, run by a company and not a bunch of free time coders and it runs on smart TVs, Roku, Apple TV, etc. I really don’t get why someone would waste their time cloning Plex.

    1. Jeff said on August 25, 2019 at 7:01 pm
      Reply

      Your main point still stands, but Jellyfin is more of a clone of Emby. It looks like Emby, acts like Emby, but doesn’t have any of the client apps that Emby has.

    2. Wes said on August 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm
      Reply

      The big thing for me is because its open source and NOT run by a company. The company can change things anytime and we may lose the functionality or they may begin collecting data or trying to control how we use the software/media. Jellyfin is the start of something great. It may not have everything that plex has yet, but since it is open source, others can contribute to it and improve it. Its the evolution of software. Nobody can add to Plex but the company. that is not so with Jellyfin. Features can be added and it can be made even better than the alternatives. It is very likely the people ‘wasting’ their time are doing it because they enjoy it. I waste my time all the time doing things I enjoy :)

    3. Hyperion said on August 25, 2019 at 11:02 pm
      Reply

      You don’t need to pay to access Plex on your phone,or any internet capable device. I use my phone for music all the time and never bought the pass. Have watched movies on it too which comes in handy when your two year old stuck in hospital on their birthday

  8. dmacleo said on August 25, 2019 at 5:41 pm
    Reply

    I run serviio, plex (lifetime plex pass) and emby to serve to wdtv units, pcs, and roku boxes. I had tried jellyfin, its not bad. I used mediaportal for years.
    but when all is said and done emby (I have lifetime premiere) just works best for me. but it is darned nice to have choices.

  9. Ballwatcher said on August 25, 2019 at 5:53 pm
    Reply

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I hadn’t heard of it before. I’ve been a loyal plex user for years and I’m wondering if you could elaborate a bit more about the differences between the two? Why should I run jellyfin instead of plex?

  10. Ballwatcher said on August 25, 2019 at 5:57 pm
    Reply

    Also the plex users link in the first paragraph is redirecting to a word press login page.

  11. Jeff said on August 25, 2019 at 6:52 pm
    Reply

    Their website doesn’t seem to mention any TV streaming apps. Does it work with Roku or any device with a hand held remote?

  12. Gene said on August 25, 2019 at 11:08 pm
    Reply

    I am a plexpass member also, and I just cant stand how they cant get their act together regarding the UI, they are always changing it and making it more complicated. I have some older family members who have a hard time now just finding the movies or tv shows section. They are really blowing it FAST.

  13. Jim said on August 26, 2019 at 4:36 am
    Reply

    Very promising, but since there’s no Roku app, it’s not for me. I’ll stick with Plex and my lifetime Plex Pass.

  14. Mountainking said on August 26, 2019 at 7:21 am
    Reply

    That is great! Thanks for pointing this out!

  15. Jon said on August 26, 2019 at 10:44 pm
    Reply

    Is there a way to use Jellyfin for live TV/DVR like Plex on my Nvidia Shield?

  16. zorba said on August 27, 2019 at 2:34 am
    Reply

    Why bother with media servers? Simply use Windows shared folders, or Linux SMB shares, with media files and play them over LAN on Kodi, VLC, etc. Am I missing something?

  17. Dave said on August 30, 2019 at 3:07 pm
    Reply

    I almost gave up on this install, just wouldn’t work and not really any hints why. Turned out I had an old version of Emby still running, after I removed it, worked fine.

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