Migrating Plex to a New Server with Nvidia GPU Transcoding

1276 words; 7 minute(s)

Table of Contents

Migration Phases

I recently decided to migrate my server from an old OptiPlex desktop machine to a custom-built tower with better hardware in every category. In order to do this, I would need to properly migrate a full Plex installation.

The second part of this migration is that the new server uses an Nvidia GPU and does not have any integrated graphics, which requires extra work for installation, but provides much better hardware transcoding options for Plex.

Therefore, I have broken this migration down into three phases:

  1. Configure the New Server
  2. Migrate Plex Data & Devices
  3. Configure GPU Transcoding

Phase 1: Configure the New Server

Choosing an OS

In order to migrate Plex to my new server, I first needed to choose an appropriate operating system (OS) and install it on the machine. Given that I have encountered numerous issues installing other Linux distributions properly with Nvidia graphics, I chose Ubuntu Server.

The first step is to create a bootable USB with Ubuntu Server. This is easy with Etcher, an app that runs on many different platforms. Just download the Ubuntu Server .iso image, launch Etcher, and install the .iso on the USB.

Once the USB is created, insert it into my server, reboot, and click Esc (or any of the F1-12 keys) until the BIOS menu appears. Finally, launch the USB boot drive.

Booting with Nvidia

In order to install Ubuntu Server with an Nvidia Graphics card (and no integrated graphics on this device for some reason), you'll have to configure the boot menu to allow different graphics drivers to be loaded.

When booting from the USB, the machine will launch the initial installation menu. From this menu, type e to view the default command options that come with the device - it's a good idea to take a photo of this screen, so you can enter these commands on the next screen (along with adding support for Nvidia).

Finally, type Ctrl + C to enter the command line. From this command line, enter the commands found on the e screen. Remember to add nomodeset to the linux ... line so that your Nvidia device will display the installation screens properly!

Here's an example of the commands I pulled from the e screen and entered on the command line.

setparams 'Install Ubuntu Server'
linux /casper/vmlinuz quiet nomodeset ---
initrd /casper/initrd

Ubuntu Server Installation

Ubuntu Server Installation

Once the machine is rebooted, enter the e screen again and add nomodeset to the linux ... line again and press Ctrl + X to save the boot options.

The machine is now fully installed and can properly display on an external display using the Nvidia GPU.

Always remember to update and upgrade on a new installation:

sudo apt update; sudo apt upgrade -y; sudo apt autoremove -y

Phase 2: Migrate Plex Data & Devices

This phase uses the great Plex article on migrations (Move an Installation to Another System) and adds a bit more information to help with commands and context.


Source: The original server that is being replaced.
Destination: The new server.
Client: Any application that can be used to modify settings for both source/destination.

Step 01: [Client] Update Settings

Open up a Plex app and disable the Account > Library > Empty trash automatically after every scan preference for the source server.

Step 02: [Destination] Install Plex

Open up the Plex Media Server download page and copy the link for the appropriate platform.

Execute the following commands on the destination server to install Plex:

wget <url>
sudo dpkg -i <filename>
sudo systemctl stop plexmediaserver.service

Step 03: [Source] Stop Plex & Migrate Data

First, stop the Plex service so that no data is created or modified during the migration.

sudo systemctl stop plexmediaserver.service

Next, copy the data to the new server. To find where the Plex data directory is located, Plex has another excellent article available: Where is the Plex Media Server data directory located?.

There are many ways to copy the data to the new server and will largely depend on the size of the folder being copied. Personally, my data folder was ~23GB and I opted to simply use the scp command to copy the files over SSH.

This process was throttled by the old server's slow HDD and ports and took approximately 90 minutes to complete. In comparison, moving the data from the new server's home/user/ directory to the /var/.../Plex Media Server directory took 2-3 minutes.

scp -r "/var/lib/plexmediaserver/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server" [email protected]:"'/path/to/destination/'"

Step 04: [Destination] Update File Permissions

In case you move the data directory to a common area on the new server, it will have to be moved to the proper location before Plex can function properly:

mv "Plex Media Server" /var/lib/plexmediaserver/Library/Application Support/

To ensure permissions were retained properly, the server will need to show that all files and folders in the data directory are owned by plex:plex (or whichever user is running the Plex application).

sudo chown -R plex:plex "/var/lib/plexmediaserver/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server"

Finally, start the service and check the status.

sudo systemctl start plexmediaserver.service
sudo systemctl status plexmediaserver.service

Step 05: [Client] Update Libraries & Metadata

The first step - now that the new server is up and running - is to sign out of the client and sign back in. Once this is done, update any library locations, if necessary. This was unnecessary in my case since I simply moved my storage drives from the source server to the destination server.

Next, perform the following actions in the client:

  1. On the left sidebar, click More > Three-Dot Menu > Scan Library Files
  2. Enable the Account > Library > Empty trash automatically after every scan preference for the source server.
  3. On the left sidebar, click More > Three-Dot Menu > Manage Server > Empty Trash
  4. On the left sidebar, click More > Three-Dot Menu > Manage Server > Clean Bundles
  5. On the left sidebar, click More > Three-Dot Menu > Manage Server > Optimize Database

Finally, double-check the Remote Access settings to make sure no changes have caused issues with accessing the server from outside the network.

In my case, I use a single port forwarding rule in my router and needed to update the Local LAN IP Address to the new server IP address.

Router port

Phase 3: Configure GPU Transcoding

The final piece to the migration is enabling hardware transcoding so that Plex can fully utilize the new Nvidia GPU available in the server. The first step is to install Nvidia graphics drivers. This process may take a few minutes, but the commands are pretty simple:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-drivers-common
sudo ubuntu-drivers autoinstall

Finally, reboot so that the changes are loaded:

sudo reboot now

To ensure that the Nvidia graphics drivers are working properly, run the following command to view the available GPUs, statistics, and processes:

sudo nvidia-smi


Finally, enable hardware transcoding settings in the Plex application:

Plex transcoding