A lot of people are cutting the cord and hosting their media files locally. Instead of using streaming services where you have to pay a monthly fee, savvy network gurus are deploying Plex, Jellyfin, Emby, and other self-hosted media systems on their home network.
A home media server is a place to store all of your photos videos and music so that it is accessible to all of your devices on your network at the same time.
There are many different types of media servers. Some examples of what a home media server can be are:
- a consumer product such as a NAS,
- a service running on top of dedicated hardware like Plex on a Raspberry Pi, or
- a fully dedicated home media server. It doesn't matter which route you choose, they all do pretty much the same thing.
After setting up your home media server, you may want to watch your movies when you are away or allow others in your trusted circle of friends to consume the media you have amassed on multiple terabytes of storage.
In order to access your media from outside your home network, you need to set up a port forward in your router. This is true with all home media servers whether they have a subscription service or not. For instance, even though Plex offers Plex Pass, you still need to set up a port forward to use the features that Plex Pass offers.
Port Forwarding Your Media Server
If you want to allow remote access to your media server you can set up a port forward which will direct the correct traffic to your media server.
Port forwarding involves changing some settings in your router. You will need to log in to your router and forward the correct ports to your media server. If you are also setting up a static IP address, then you will be changing some settings in your media server as well.
Do you have to port forward your media server?
You do not have to set up a port forward in your media server. Media servers will work just fine on your home network without a port forward. The reason to set up a port forward for your media server is to allow you to access your media from outside your home network.
There are other ways to access your home media from outside your network.
You can use the following methods to access your media from outside your home network:
- Port forward in your router.
- Copy your media files to your mobile device.
- Use your media server's sync function, such as Plex Amp.
- Use a live sync service such as OneDrive or SyncThing.
The nice thing about setting up a port forward in your router to your media server is that it helps centralize the management of your media. It removes any sort of maintenance in keeping various copies up-to-date.
Steps to Forward Ports to Your Media Server
Port forwarding is set up in your router. Port forwarding directs traffic from the internet through your router to your media server.
To port forward to your media server you will need to know:
- Your router's IP address.
- The IP address of your media server.
- The port or ports that your media server is listening to.
Step 1: Set up a DHCP reservation or static IP address
Usually, routers assign IP addresses to devices on your network automatically using DHCP. These IP addresses can change when devices are rebooted, so you will need to either make a DHCP reservation in your router for your media server or set up a static IP address in your media server. This ensures that the IP address does not change when the power is cycled on your media server. Your media server will always have the same IP address, which will allow your port forwards to keep working.
Set up either a DHCP reservation in your router or a static IP address in your media server. For help setting a static IP address, visit our static IP guides.
Step 2: Log in to your router
Find your router login screen by typing the router's IP address into your web browser. You will have to log in to your router before you can set up a port forward.
You will also need to know the username and password for your router. For help recovering forgotten passwords visit our list of default router passwords.
Step 3: Find the port forwarding section in your router menu
After logging in to your router, you will need to look through the menu and find the port forwarding section. Sometimes it is found in the security section, the NAT section, under advanced features, or the section titled "apps and gaming". For detailed steps to forward ports in your specific router visit our router guides.
Step 4: Forward ports in your router to your media server
After you find the port forwarding section in your router, you will need to forward the correct ports for your media server. To find the ports that need to be forwarded for the media server that you are using, you can check our port list. First, find your media server in our list of ports, and then look for the port numbers that are required to port forward your media server.
The general process for forwarding a port is to enter both the port number you want to forward and the IP address of your media server. You are going to use the IP address that you assigned in step 1 as the target and the port number that your media server software uses.
We have software that forwards ports for you, check out Network Utilities today.
We have port forwarding guides that give detailed instructions for your specific router. Choose your media server from the list below then select your router. Our guides will give you step-by-step instructions for setting up port forwarding in your router. If you do not see your media server in the list below, try starting with our router guides.