How to Use Plex Media Server Without Internet Access
Internet connectivity is the heart of the Plex Media Server experience, but that doesn’t mean there are times (like during local outages or while vacationing away from reliable internet access) you need to go without Plex. Read on as we show you how to tweak things (and why it’s important to set things up before you need offline access).
One of the things people love the most about Plex is how streamlined the experience is—and that streamlining is centered around their Plex accounts, access to the remote Plex central server, and how that ties all their settings and user experience together. But for that experience to work, your computer needs to phone home to Plex and authenticate. If it can’t, well, the whole system grinds to a halt.
Thankfully, there are two easy ways around the problem: tweaking how Plex uses the authentication system and, in special cases, falling back on the DLNA system as a backup. We recommend setting both up, as described in the sections below, to ensure you’re never left high and dry.
Before we proceed, there are two very important caveats. First and foremost, you must make these changes in advance. You have to be online and logged into your Plex account to make changes to your local Plex Media Server. There is no way around this. If you want to access your Plex Media Server when the internet is down, you must make the changes now before the server is offline.
Second, If you are using the Plex Home system, a premium feature that comes with the Plex Pass that allows you to set up user profiles for people in your home, there is no way to use that system offline with a Plex client. You can only use DLNA-capable clients (as described in the second section below) in the event of an internet outage, so skip down to those instructions.
Trick One: Disable Plex Authentication on Your Local Network
The first order of business is to hop into your Plex Media Server via the web-based control panel, located, by default, at
https://%5Byour local servers IP]:32400 . Click on the wrench icon in the upper right corner to access your Settings menu.
Within the Settings menu, click on the “Server” tab and, in addition, click on the “Show Advanced” button if you haven’t already enabled the advanced view in the past.
Select “Network” from the left-hand navigation bar.
Scroll down the “Network” settings page until you see the entry for “List of IP addresses and networks that are allowed without auth”.
You can populate the box with two different types of entries. You can enter individual IP addresses separated by commas, or you can designate a whole block of IP addresses using a netmask. We’d recommend against using the individual IP address trick unless you have a pressing reason to do so, as it requires that every device on your network that you wish to give offline access to Plex have a static IP address and that you enter all of them here.
A much easier way to approach it is to use a netmask, which is, simply, a way to specify multiple addresses. For example, if your local network uses IP addresses with the format 10.0.0.x, then you would want to enter:
This says, in netmask lingo, “all addresses from 10.0.0.1 to 10.0.0.254”, which will encompass every available address on your local network.
If your local network uses 192.168.1.x, then you’d enter:
..and so on.
Make sure to save your changes, and you’re set. Your local Plex server will stay open for business even without an active internet connection to phone home.
Trick Two: Use DLNA Apps as a Fallback
In addition to disabling local authorization, as we did in the last section, there is an additional trick we want to take advantage of. There are some Plex clients that, despite our changes on the Plex server, still won’t work without authorization from the main Plex server. As of this tutorial, one of the more prominent examples of this problem is the official Plex app for Apple TV—even if you set up the IP configuration like we just did, the Apple TV client freaks out if it can’t access the internet.
To play it extra, extra, safe, we’re going to tap into a great fallback system: DLNA. DLNA is an older standard that allows local devices on your network to connect to each other for media access. By default, Plex should have DLNA turned on, but let’s confirm just to play it safe. In the same “Server” settings we accessed in the previous section, look for “DLNA” in the sidebar and select it.
In the DLNA section, ensure that “Enable the DLNA server” is checked.
Although using Plex Media Server as a DLNA server doesn’t give you the full Plex experience, it does give you access to all your media. Any DLNA-capable media player or client on your local network will automatically detect your Plex server and you’ll be able to access your media.
If, for example, you have an Apple TV and you’re frustrated that the main Plex app doesn’t work without internet access, you can still access the movies and shows on your Plex server with a DLNA-compatible app, like VLC. In fact, in our tutorial on using VLC with your Apple TV, you can even see our Plex media server in some of the screenshots, courtesy of the DLNA integration.
After checking to ensure DLNA is on, take a moment to go through your favorite apps and even the manuals for your smart TV and media receivers to look for any mention of “DLNA” or “UPnP”. Read up on how those features work and test them out with your Plex Media Server so when the internet goes out, you’ll be ready to go.
That’s all there is to it: with two little tweaks to your Plex Media Server software you’re not ready to access your media even if the internet is down or you’ve packed up your entire Plex installation to a cabin far from civilization.
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