Plex server on dell dimension 4500 (520mb RAM)

May 5, 2018

I have an old dell dimension 4500 with 520mb RAM. I want to run 24/7 a plex server on that pc, and i want to copy movies to that pc over network, not with a usb or whatever. Is this possible


In general, Plex Media Server doesn’t require large amounts of RAM. 2GB of RAM is typically more than sufficient and some installs (particularly Linux-based installs) can often happily run with even less. Of course, more RAM won’t hurt you and will certainly be helpful if you’re also doing other things on the computer.

Will it run? Maybe.
Will it suck? Yes.
What OS are you putting in this?

Just because it exists and looks like a PC, does not mean it is a useful PC.

Try it.
See what happens.

Just don't even try. It's an ancient machine, is extremely slow (and far to low end for a plex server in terms of cpu), consumes A LOT of power even in idle and would require you to upgrade it to even consider running plex on it.

You can just get a cheap used pc from ebay that is good enough instead of spending any money on a 15 year old pc.
As stated above, the Dell Dimension 4500 used the old (notorious) P4 series of processors. It will probably burn around 100 Watts at idle. If you pay the U.S. average electricity rate of 12 cents/kWh, then every Watt used by a device left on 24/7 will cost you about $1 per year. So your 100 Watt Plex server will cost you about $100/yr to leave on.

Just buy a used Core i laptop off eBay, maybe even one with a broken screen or keyboard (as long as you can use an external monitor and keyboard to configure it), preferably with an Ethernet port. Those typically only use 3-8 Watts at idle. And anything that's i3 or better should have enough horsepower to transcode 1080p video (I'm not even sure the P4 is powerful enough to transcode). Movies can be stored on its internal HDD. If you need more storage, you can swap the HDD for a larger newer model, or plug in an external USB HDD.

Edit: To copy movies to it over the network, you'll need to enable network sharing on your plex server. If it's running Windows, just share the Plex media folders with an account and password of your choosing. if it's running Linux, you'll need to install and configure Samba - that's the package which allows Windows network shares. (I mention Linux because my Plex server runs on a Linux virtual machine with 1 GB of RAM and typically only uses about 500 MB.)

I've tried it before on a pi 3 and it's not great. I've had to install a small cooler and it was better but by the time I got it to work nicely I was already 80$ in. I could've easily gotten a old i3 desktop or laptop from ebay that would've been way better for a round the same price or payed 20$ more and went for an i5 model.

One of the major features of Plex is transcoding. That's when your playback device (e.g. a smart TV) doesn't support the video format of the movie file. When that happens, Plex will convert the movie file in real-time into a format the playback device supports. This will become more important since h.265 is rapidly becoming the new video standard, while many older devices can only decode h.264 video.

Transcoding takes a significant amount of processing power. That's why I recommended a Core i3 as a minimum. An ARM processor like the Raspberry Pi won't have enough power to transcode in real-time. (The other option is to reencode your entire video library into an older, more universal video format. But that can take hours per video, and slightly degrades video quality.)