Have you been watching movies via Plex and encountered the error “there was a problem playing this item?” The problem is common among users using the app for the first time.
It can also occur if you are using the Plex Media Server 0.9.17.X and above. In other cases, the issue arises when you try to play specific files such as MKV.
When this happens, it means you cannot watch a movie on Plex. However, the good news is that you can fix this Plex error in several ways.
Solutions to the “problem playing this item” error on Plex
Read on for a detailed explanation of these solutions.
Method #1: Delete old devices
The advantage of using Plex is that you can link several devices to your account. These can include Plex Cloud, Plex Web, Plex for Roku, and Plex for Android among others.
If you are using many devices, the media player may stop working if there is a device conflict. A conflict occurs when all devices are using the same server resources – memory, interrupt request, etc., or running at the same time.
Read: Best channels on Plex
In other cases, the Plex not working error can occur when your account has multiples of the same devices. For example, a web browser is listed several times on the account. That means each browser is an independent instance.
Although the media player can know which entry to use, you should remove it to avoid conflicts and errors in the future. The following steps show how to delete or remove old accounts.
- Sign in to your Plex account
- Open Devices list
- Locate the devices you have added to your account
- Click on the red X to delete the specific devices from your account
- Confirm deletion
If you remove a device, you will need to sign in again to your account on the device so that you can restore access to Plex.
Method #2: Change transcoder settings
For the Plex Server to run optimally, it requires high processing power. Processing power allows the server to transcode files and stream videos simultaneously. That also means you need a higher CPU power to change media file formats on the fly.
To fix the Plex unable to play media error, you need to change your transcoding settings. Plex automatically transcodes files.
But to match the performance of your CPU, you must change the default settings. The best way of doing this is to reduce the quality of transcoded files to free some CPU space. Change the settings by following the procedure below.
- Go to Home Menu
- Select Settings and then Transcoder
At the Transcoder tab, change the Transcoder quality by clicking on the drop-down menu. You can choose from the four qualities listed. These include:
- Automatic – the option will allow the Plex Server to select the quality automatically
- Make my CPU hurt – the option allows for the best quality of images. It will slow down transcodes and encourage a higher CPU usage.
- Prefer higher quality encoding – the option will allow for slower transcodes but at a higher quality
- Prefer high-speed encoding – the option will allow for faster transcodes but at a lower quality
If your option is automatic and you are getting the error, try playing around with the other three to notice the changes.
Method #3: Downgrade the server
The Plex “there was a problem playing this item” error sometimes occurs when you upgrade the media server to a new version.
When you upgrade the server on Windows, some files fail to play. To fix this issue and continue watching your shows, consider downgrading the media server to a previous version.
If you are using a Windows OS, open the Plex Media Server folder at %LOCALAPPDATA%\Plex Media Server. For OSX, locate the folder at (~/Library/Application Support/Plex Media Server/).
Both locations have an updates folder where PMS is installed. They contain previous updates of the server. Choose any version you wish to install to downgrade the server to an earlier version.
Method #4: Add AC3 codec to Plex
When you encounter the plex problem playing media, you may be using a media format that is not available for direct playback. Plex uses playback systems for Smart TVs provided by device manufacturers.
Unsupported formats in a video will have their audios transcoded to AC3 automatically. But if the AC3 codec is not generated properly, then you will have a problem playing items.
To fix this error, you need to add AC3 codec to Plex. The following steps show how to do it.
- Download a video file using a web browser
- Add the file to your Plex Library
- Play the video file – By playing the file, it should be able to generate the AC3 codec. The codec is always generated when you play the media player.
Play the video stream again. The changes should apply by now.
Hopefully, this guide has enabled you to fix the error on Plex. If not, contact customer support for troubleshooting. They will be able to determine what is causing the error and help you to fix it. But first, go through the steps above for a quick resolution.