Run Plex Media Server as a Windows Service with AlwaysUp

How to Run Plex Media Server as a Windows Service with AlwaysUp

Ensure that Plex starts when your computer boots and is always available to serve your media. No need to log in!

Plex Media Server is a free "digital hub" for sharing media across all your Plex-enabled devices.

To setup Plex Media Server with AlwaysUp:

  1. Download and install AlwaysUp, if necessary.

  2. Download and install the Plex Media Server, if necessary. Please make a note of where you installed it as this will be used in a later step.

  3. Start AlwaysUp.

  4. Select Application > Add to open the Add Application window:

    Add Application

  5. On the General tab:

    • In the Application field, enter the full path to the Plex Media Server executable, Plex Media Server.exe. If you installed Plex in the default location, this is:

      C:\Program Files\Plex\Plex Media Server\Plex Media Server.exe

    • Update 8/8/2014: Since Plex will be running in the background and may not be able to work through a tray icon, you probably want to add the -noninteractive flag in the Arguments field. If not, you may see a bunch of warnings like "Shell_NotifyIcon(NIM_ADD) failed: 0x0" in the Plex Media Server.log file.

    • In the Name field, enter the name that you will call the application in AlwaysUp. We have entered Plex Media Server but you can specify almost anything you like.

    Plex Media Server Windows Service: General Tab

  6. Click over to the Logon tab and enter the user name and password of the account in which you installed and configured Plex Media Server. Plex must run in this account so that it can find its settings.

    Plex Media Server Windows Service: Logon Tab

  7. Click over to the Startup tab and check the Ensure that the Windows Networking components have started box. This informs AlwaysUp that the media server needs the TCP/IP networking stack to operate.

    Plex Media Server Windows Service: Startup Tab

  8. Click the Save >> button. In a couple of seconds, an application called Plex Media Server will show up in the AlwaysUp window. It is not yet running though.

    Plex Media Server Windows Service: Created

  9. Before we start Plex as a Windows Service, we must prevent a second copy from starting when you log on. To do so:

    1. Start Plex Media Server if necessary (Start button > All Programs > Plex Media Server > Plex Media Server)

    2. Right-click on the Plex Media Server tray icon (Plex Media Server Tray Icon) and un-check Start Plex Media Server at Login if it is checked.

      Stop Plex Media Server Start at Login

  10. If Plex Media Server is running, close it now by clicking on the tray icon and selecting Exit from the menu.

    Exit Plex Media Server

    Also, open the Windows Task Manager, switch to the Processes/Details tab and ensure that all Plex executables (named like "Plex*.exe") are stopped. AlwaysUp may not be able to start Plex Media Server properly if any of its components are already running.

  11. Starting Plex as a service at this stage will run it in Session 0 - the desktop hosting all Windows Services. Plex works fine like this on Windows XP and 2003 but versions prior to 0.9.7 may run into trouble on Windows 8/7/Vista, and Server 2012/2008 where Session 0 is isolated and Plex's tray icon cannot "attach itself" to a task bar.

    If you are using Plex version or earlier, please follow steps 1-8 of this tutorial to provide a task bar in Session 0. Once complete, start the new Explorer service you created by selecting Application > Start "Explorer".

  12. To start Plex from AlwaysUp choose Application > Start "Plex Media Server". Note that you probably won't see Plex's tray icon appear as it is running in the background but media sharing should proceed normally.

    Plex Media Server Windows Service: Running

    On Windows 8.1, 8, 2012, 7, 2008 or Vista (or when connecting via RDP), choosing Tools > Switch to Session 0... will take you to Session 0 where you can interact with the Plex Media Server tray icon.

  13. That's it! Next time your computer boots, Plex Media Server will start up immediately, before anyone logs on. We encourage you to edit Plex in AlwaysUp and check out the many other settings that may be appropriate for your environment.

Plex Media Server not working properly as a Windows Service?

  • Plex Server's attempts to automatically update itself may cause problems when you are trying to run it 24/7, uninterrupted! We recommend disabling that option in the Server settings:

    Disable Plex Server Automatic Updates

  • Visit the AlwaysUp Troubleshooter - our online tool that can help you resolve the most common problems encountered when running an application as a windows service.
  • From AlwaysUp, select Application > Report Activity > Today... to bring up a HTML report detailing the interaction between AlwaysUp and your application. The AlwaysUp Event Log Messages page explains the more obscure messages.
  • Check the Plex logs for error messages. The files can be found in
    C:\Users\<your-user-name>\AppData\Local\Plex Media Server\Logs.
  • During testing on our Windows 7 computer, we encountered a peculiar situation where Plex would not run if we stopped it in AlwaysUp and started it from the Start button. The server log (C:\Users\<your-user-name>\AppData\Local\Plex Media Server\Logs\Plex Media Server.log) recorded a puzzling error - "Access denied". Fortunately we were able to resolve the issue with little fuss by running Plex as an Administrator (just once). Strange indeed.
  • Consult the AlwaysUp FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions and troubleshooting tips.
  • Contact us and we will be happy to help!

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