Serving Plex Media to Legacy Devices via DLNA

In this month’s sponsored Plex video, I explore an older feature of Plex that connects your media to legacy devices like old TVs and media players through Plex’s support for DLNA. This makes it possible to browse and consume media from your Plex server while making use of all of the metadata stored in your Plex libraries.

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) was established in 2003 by a group of technology companies aiming to create a standardized framework for sharing digital media across devices. DLNA has been widely adopted by manufacturers and software developers in the decades since.

The process begins with enabling the DLNA server function within the Plex web app’s server settings. Once activated, the Plex server can communicate with any DLNA-compatible device on the network, making it discoverable to a wide range of electronics, regardless of their manufacture date.

I conducted a demonstration using DLNA Browser on a Windows laptop to mimic the experience on a TV or audio device. The interface presented options to explore video, music, or photo libraries stored on the Plex server. One key point is that DLNA does not incorporate authentication, which means all shared media on the Plex server becomes accessible to anyone on the same network.

For video playback, Plex’s DLNA server allows browsing by key metadata points like genres, directors, actors, etc. You can of course also just browse media alphabetically and even dive into the folders stored on your server. The server will assign playback history to the main user on the server but will not store playback progress.

The music playback functionality through DLNA stands out, especially for high-quality audio files. Modern audio devices that don’t have support for a Plex client, including my home theater receiver, can access and play lossless audio files directly from the Plex server, complete with album art and metadata. This feature is particularly valuable for audiophiles with extensive digital music libraries. Unlike video playback history is not stored, however.

Despite its benefits, DLNA integration isn’t without challenges. Older devices may struggle with newer media formats, requiring manual configuration for transcoding—a process that ensures media compatibility but may demand a more technical setup.

DLNA is not just limited to legacy devices either. One viewer wrote in to tell me they use it with their Meta Quest headset to access their media. Many modern televisions will also pick up your Plex media server and present it within the native TV interface too.

Plex’s DLNA feature can bridge between past and present technology, offering a practical solution for extending the life of older devices through access to modern digital media libraries.