HomeTechnologyNewsHow To Fix Plex's Broken Offline Downloads Feature – Review Geek

How To Fix Plex’s Broken Offline Downloads Feature – Review Geek

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Jason Montoya/Review Geek

Plex’s offline downloads feature is much more reliable than it used to be. But if you’re still having trouble, we have some solutions that might work.

One of the big selling points of Plex Pass is offline streaming. Just like Netflix or Hulu, Plex lets you download movies, shows, or music directly to a mobile device—a great feature for air travel, road trips, or camping trips. But Plex’s offline downloads feature is a bit broken.

If you open the Plex support forum or visit the Plex subreddit, you will find many complaints related to the offline downloads feature. Clearly, Plex has work to do. But we know of some solutions that might help you fix offline downloads on your own.

How do Plex offline downloads work?

In 2021, Plex replaced its somewhat unreliable “Sync” feature with the more robust “Downloads” system we use today. “Downloads,” which I’ll refer to as “offline downloads” for the duration of this article, allow Plex Pass subscribers to save content from their media server directly to a playback device, such as a phone, tablet or a laptop.

In terms of features and functionality, Plex’s offline download system is very impressive. All downloads are saved in a single tab and are organized to reflect all of your Plex libraries. In addition, the wide format support of this feature reduces the need for transcoding (which improves download speed). And when transcoding is required (or user-imposed), downloading and transcoding happen simultaneously – very clever!

Users have a lot of control over how downloads are done. If you don’t have a ton of storage on your phone or tablet, for example, you can force Plex to convert the media to a smaller file size. You can even set a limit on the amount of storage space available for Plex offline downloads.

Offline downloads also work for music. Of course, as a Plex Pass user, you can access your entire music library through the Plexamp app.

What’s wrong with Plex offline downloads?

Person using Mophie Powerstation Pro AC to charge laptop and phone
Hannah Stryker/Review Geek

When it works, Plex’s offline downloads feature is extremely useful. But it doesn’t always work. And unfortunately, this is one of the most common problems that Plex users face: every time they try to download media from their server to their phone or tablet, the download stops or fails.

This is something I have personally encountered. several times. It’s a real problem. And despite several years of bug reports, forum posts, Reddit threads, and lengthy articles (like the one you’re reading), Plex’s offline downloads feature is still temperamental.

I’ve also been running into some very strange issues when using offline downloads. In rare cases, Plex will incorrectly report that a download was successful, only for you to realize that it didn’t download anything. And subtitles don’t always download with a show or movie, which is frustrating (often due to user error, but sometimes it just crashes on its own).

Now, I want to clarify something; Plex’s offline downloads feature is much more reliable than it was just a year ago. I don’t have many issues with offline downloads anymore, and I think this is mostly due to improvements and bug fixes from the Plex team. That being said, I also followed a lot of tips and advice from the Plex community, and I can confirm that some of these tips work.

How to fix Plex offline downloads

Jason Montoya/Review Geek

I’ve seen hundreds of people complain about offline downloads on the Plex forums. And Plex’s response is usually “send us your server’s debug logs”. This is understandable, but it does not provide an immediate solution for users. Fortunately, the Plex community is extremely helpful and has discovered several solutions to offline download issues.

These are the most common fixes for Plex offline downloads. Please note that these solutions are not guaranteed to work.

  • Upgrade your Plex media server: It’s easy to fall behind on Plex updates and bug fixes. Open app.plex.tv and click the “Activity” button in the upper right corner of the interface; if an update is available, it will tell you. I also suggest updating the firmware on your smartphone or tablet, as recent changes to iOS and Android may improve the behavior of Plex.
  • Leave the Plex app open: Unlike Hulu and other streaming apps, Plex has a hard time performing tasks in the background, especially on iOS. Leave the Plex app open while downloading media and don’t lock the screen. Some of the Plex team suggest keeping the download screen open during this process, though I usually stream a video on Plex while downloading media as this keeps the phone unlocked.
  • Adjust download settings: Some users find that downloading original files (instead of copied files) provides a more reliable download experience. This is a global preference that is managed from your playback device (phone, tablet, etc.). Open the Plex app on your playback device, go to Settings, select Downloads, and make sure everything is set to “original quality.” (Note that this will consume your phone or tablet storage, and some files may require transcoding if they’re not supported by your playback device. You may have trouble using AirPlay with downloaded media that hasn’t downloaded.)
  • Adjust router settings– Try changing your router’s DNS server settings, as its default settings may prevent Plex from doing DNS rebinding (I suggest using Google’s DNS; 8.8.8.8 primary and 8.8.4.4 secondary). If possible, follow Plex’s suggestions to set up your firewall and disable DNS rebinding protection on your router. (These settings differ from router to router, so I can’t provide detailed instructions.)
  • subtitle problems: Downloaded media may not include subtitles. If you select your preferred subtitles in the Plex mobile app before starting a download, you can fix this issue. Just open a movie or show’s details from the Plex home screen, tap “Audio Subtitles” a few lines below the play button, and select the subtitles you want.
  • Try another playback device– If offline downloads don’t work on your phone or tablet, try another device. This can help you narrow down the problem, although it’s obviously not an ideal solution.
  • try to use infusion: Some iOS users rely on Infuse for offline downloads, bypassing the Plex app. Infuse is a video player app that supports a variety of file formats and can download media from your Plex server. Please note that Infuse is not available on Android.
  • Skip Plex Entirely: When all else fails, you can try downloading media directly from your server. You can then play that media on any phone, tablet, or computer using VLC. (To make this easier, mount your server as a network drive on your device; this is easy on Windows, macOS, and iOS, but requires a third-party app like Cx File Explorer on Android.)

I have personally tested most of these solutions. Some of them have worked for me, while others have worked for users on Reddit and the Plex support forum. But I can’t guarantee that any of this will actually work for you. Plex can be a bit temperamental and unpredictable.

Don’t be afraid to submit bug reports

Person Typing on Black Drop + Lord of the Rings Voice Keyboard
Hannah Stryker/Review Geek

If you can’t get offline downloads to work, it wouldn’t hurt to submit a bug report. Maybe you found a bug that the Plex team hasn’t caught; by submitting a bug report, you could help a lot of people.

Plex has a complete guide on how to submit bug reports. But I’ll give you the gist of this; You need to install the latest Plex Media Server update, enable debug logging, and restart your Plex server. Try downloading a movie to your smartphone or tablet to see if the problem you encountered above still persists.

If you manage to reproduce whatever issue you’re trying to report, download the debug log from your server. Will share this log on the Plex support forum (following Plex’s instructions) after verifying that it hasn’t been reported yet.

With that said, it’s very likely that someone has already reported their problem on the Plex support forum. If so, you can share your debug log in the existing discussion; first check the discussion for solutions.

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