Plex began its life more than a decade ago as media center software for folks that wanted to plug their PC or Mac into a TV.

Since then, Plex has evolved into tool that you can use to organize and play your personal media or online video whether you’re using a computer, smartphone, tablet, game console, or media streamer (like a Roku or an Apple TV).

One thing you won’t be able to do much longer? Get a TV-friendly user interface. Plex is pulling the plug on its HTPC features.

Update: Responding to feedback, Plex has announced it’ll continue to offer bug fixes for Plex Media Player in TV mode, bring new HTPC-like features to streaming devices, and investigate ways to continue supporting HTPCs. 

The original article continues below. 

It’s a phased rollout — Plex says it’ll continue to support the Plex Media Player with HTPC support until January 30, 2020. After that time it’ll no longer receive updates, but it might continue to work for a while.

Meanwhile Plex is urging folks who want to run Plex on a computer to download the new Plex desktop app for Windows or Mac, which will be continuously updated.

For now the new app looks a lot like the old Plex Media Player… with a few small differences. First, there’s no HTPC user interface. And second the “sync” feature has been replaced by “downloads,” making it easier to show that you can download content from a Plex server with a single click for watching offline.

Note that while Plex is free, some features require a Plex Pass subscription, and the ability to download is one of those features.

Overall Plex is trying to paint the end of HTPC support as a good thing, since it’ll allow the company to focus on supporting desktop, mobile, and streaming apps moving forward.

It’s not a move that will affect me very much — I used to be a die-hard HTPC enthusiast, but a few years ago I went all-in on media streamers. I don’t pay for cable TV, but I’ve got a Roku TV in the living room and subscriptions to a few streaming services. Plus, I set up a Plex server on my NAS (network-attached storage device) and use that to stream local media to my Roku.

The setup consumes less power and requires less fiddling than my old HTPC. While I don’t get to watch much live TV this way, I don’t really miss it… and if I did I could hook up my HDHomeRun TV tuner and set up the Plex DVR feature for over-the-air broadcasts or sign up for a streaming TV service.

That said, I know there are still folks who prefer plugging a PC into their TVs. So here are a few Plex alternatives that still have HTPC features:

If you don’t plan to unplug your PC from your TV, now might be a good time to check one of those options out.

In other news, the Plex team is also giving up on the Windows Store. The new Plex desktop app isn’t distributed in Microsoft’s app store, and the old app is no longer listed in the store.

I suspect this announcement will annoy far fewer people.


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10 replies on “Plex launches new desktop app, exits the Windows Store and kills HTPC support (updated)”

  1. You’re dumb and self-centered if you believe this affects “far fewer people”. Go to the plex forums before continuing to run your mouth

  2. you’re dumb and self-centered then. Go to the plex forums before commenting further on what you believe people are thinking about this

  3. Maybe I’m getting too cynical, but I have never, and will never use Plex. Its such a convoluted solution. And I absolutely loathe service-based software. Especially when it involves cloud-services or collecting user metadata.

    You have files on your computer, and you want to stream them to a device plugged into your TV? Make a shared folder on your network, put your movies in it, and setup Kodi on a device of your choice (you can get something as cheap as $10 or $20 that can run Kodi), locate the shared folder in Kodi and set it to be your media folder. Done. Its a simple Client/Server setup that only needed free software.

    Plex uses an unnecessary amount of CPU power to perform its live transcoding feature (if you need it). It is also a subscription based software. It isn’t just a simple client/server relationship. The software communicates with their central server. They have actively-updated records of all the files you are holding, all the hardware you use, and also your lat/long coordinates (not joking). They are a metadata-focused company. They’re like the Facebook of their own niche.

    I’m not saying they’re a honeypot organization, but there wouldn’t be anything stopping a lawfirm from buying them up, partnering with Disney, WB, and Universal, and using all their user data to sue the poop out of everyone using it with pirated content.

    1. For just my own viewing, your solution is fairly close to what I use. But for everyone else, Plex makes it almost idiot-proof for my kids, my parents, and my siblings to view my media collection with appropriate restrictions on the little ones and no having to worry did I apply ACLs correctly to prevent accidental deletion or my mother having to explain to my father how they’re able to connect to my server across town. Plex may have it’s faults (the Android app) but in general, it’s pretty decent. Honestly, Plex is so good, my ex-wife coughed up full-price for the lifetime Plex Pass 2yrs ago for me.

    2. Kodi is ass compared to Plex. Also, plex pass is cheap and more robust than these faux $10 devices you claim to know about. Bitch please… “convoluted solution”? It’s easier than running Kodi. Trust me.. I ran Kodi for years… and even before it was named Kodi. Plex set up and maintenance is 100x easier. STFU “GRAAAAANT” <- bitch name

    3. Once upon a time I did things the way you describe: network storage with standalone players. For a local solution it was okay… ish. Keeping database and viewing information synced across all players was a pain in the arse. Worse was using mobile devices with this option. Ever try watching a 1080P 10bit HEVC encoded movie on an old Android tablet? Plex solved that, and also let me watch things away from home without having to set up VPNs.

      You say that Plex is a convoluted solution: it is not. For me, the server runs on the same machine that is my network storage. Setting the Plex clients to use original content minimizes transcoding overhead. It is a simple Client/Server setup, and Plex itself is free.

      The PlexPass does give users more features, and that requires payment. Subscription is one method, but I preferred buying a one-time Lifetime PlexPass.

      You seem to misunderstand how Plex works. The database of your files is held locally, and it is possible to run Plex without an internet connection. For travel to places without internet, I have a WD My Passport Wireless Pro: it has a built in Plex server that does exactly this. That said, when Plex is online there some metadata transfer, but it isn’t your whole database.

      You also seem to misunderstand how the law works. Sure a lawfirm could buy the Plex company, but there is no way the Plex software can absolutely accurately determine (to a legal standard) that content is actually pirated or if the user actually has legal physical media that has been format-shifted. Secondly, depending on jurisdiction, simply being in possession of infringing media is not illegal, it is the act of distributing it that is. Finally, there is this thing called PROBABLE CAUSE: media companies must legally file a subpoena to get that information, and in order to do that they first must have probable cause you’ve done something wrong. Trying to sidestep that process, by getting information directly from the Plex company without probable cause, is a surefire way to get the ‘evidence’ deemed invalid and have their lawsuit tossed. The theory that Plex metadata will somehow end in you being sued is absurd. Plex would never do that: not only would it be very shakey legal ground, but it would kill their company overnight.

      1. The ‘legal company zips up violators’ goes back to the honeypotted torrents. The old LimeWire peer records fingered miscreants stealing from record label’s deals. The new way would be to have (say) fingerprinted filenames or sizes or some other NAS-reported characteristic to convince a tech-jaundiced judge that a warrant is needed. That’s how I would author this conspiracy theory, anyway.

        1. Warrants are only issued to law enforcement, and are not used in civil cases (such as Copyright Infringement). Even then Warrants must pass the Probable Cause test.
          In many jurisdictions, possession of an (allegedly) infringing file is not an offence. It is the act of sharing it that is the offence.
          A judge is going to want to see a plaintiff meet a fairly high burden of proof before issuing a subpoena. Presenting evidence that was gained without a subpoena to support issuing a subpoena will raise serious questions from even a tech-jaundiced judge.
          It is one thing to observe public behavior and used that observation as the basis to file a lawsuit. It is a very different thing to have access to data that is not public (in this case Plex metadata) and attempt to file a lawsuit on that information without first getting a subpoena or some kind of legal discovery.
          If it really were as easy as your conspiracy theory makes out, media companies would have attempted it long before now.

  4. Plex just keeps finding ways to annoy and alienate their core users. I applaud their creativity in doing so.

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