My Plex server is installed on a PC running Windows 7. Service Pack 1 is required to run the Plex server.
For hardware, I have a quad-core intel system with 16GB of RAM. My primary HDD is a 60GB solid state and my media storage drive is a 3TB 5400 RPM SATA drive. My optical drive is a DVD/Blu-Ray reader. I am connected to my home network via ethernet. A wired connection has proven to be more reliable, and stream higher quality video to media consumptions points.
I had concerns about the 5400 RPM hard drive being able to keep up. I am using compression on the drive, and have been able to stream video at the same time as writing a new video file to the disk, AND simultaneously transcoding video from one format to another to/from that same disk.
Plex is the server, and it is almost entirely free, with the few exceptions I talk about below.
The point of Plex is to digitize all of your media and make it available wherever you want it. I have access to my Plex media library on all of my computers, on my Phone, and on every television in my house. One of the televisions has a Plex app built in, which is common on newer 'smart' tv's. For the other two, I use an Amazon Fire TV, and a Chromecast. All options work very well. I did purchase the Plex iPhone app for less than $5, which is all the money I've spent on software for this project.
Plex does offer a subscription service (which I do not use) that gives some extra capabilities such as being able to access your Plex library through the internet from any location. Subscription is not necessary.
Setting up the software is pretty straightforward and very simple. The more challenging (fun) part of getting my Plex server set up is managing the ripping and organization of my media, which I will talk about in the coming sections.