Plex’s offline downloads feature is a lot more reliable than it used to be. But if you’re still having problems, we have a few fixes that might just work.
One of the big selling points of Plex Pass is offline streaming. Like Netflix or Hulu, Plex allows you to download movies, shows, or music directly to a mobile device—a killer feature for plane rides, road trips, or camping trips. But Plex’s offline downloads feature is kinda broken.
If you open the Plex support forum or visit the Plex subreddit, you’ll find plenty of complaints related to the offline downloads feature. Clearly, Plex has some work to do. But we know a few solutions that could help you fix offline downloads on your own.
Back in 2021, Plex replaced its somewhat-reliable “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, allows Plex Pass subscribers to save content from their media server directly to a playback device, such as a phone, tablet, or laptop.
In terms of features and functionality, Plex’s offline downloads system is very impressive. All downloads are kept in a single tab, and they’re organized to mirror all of your Plex libraries. Plus, this feature’s wide format compatibility reduces the need for transcoding (thereby improving download speed). And when transcoding is necessary (or enforced by the user), downloading and transcoding occur simultaneously—very smart!
Users have a lot of control over how downloads are performed. If you don’t have a ton of storage on your phone or tablet, for example, you can force Plex to convert media to a smaller file size. You can even set a limit on the amount of storage space available to Plex’s 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.
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 encountered by Plex users—every time they try to download media from their server to their phone or tablet, the download stalls or fails.
This is something that I’ve personally encountered several times. It’s a real problem. And, despite several years of bug reports, forum posts, Reddit threads, and long-form articles (like the one you’re reading), Plex’s offline downloads feature is still temperamental.
I’ve also come across some very odd problems 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 aren’t always downloaded with a show or movie, which is frustrating (this is often due to user error, but sometimes it just messes up on its own).
Now, I want to clarify something; Plex’s offline downloads feature is much more reliable than it was just one year ago. I don’t have much trouble with offline downloads anymore, and I believe that this is mainly due to improvements and bug fixes from the Plex team. That said, I also followed a lot of tips and suggestions from the Plex community, and I can confirm that some of these tips work.
I’ve seen hundreds of people complain about offline downloads on the Plex forums. And the response from Plex is usually “send us your server debug logs.” This is understandable, but it doesn’t provide an immediate fix for users. Thankfully, the Plex community is extremely helpful and has discovered several solutions to offline download problems.
Here are the most common fixes for Plex offline downloads. Bear in mind that these solutions are not guaranteed to work.
- Update 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 top right corner of the interface—if an update is available, it will tell you so. I also suggest updating the firmware on your smartphone or tablet, as recent changes to iOS and Android may improve Plex behavior.
- Leave the Plex App Open: Unlike Hulu and other streaming apps, Plex has a hard time performing background tasks, especially on iOS. Leave the Plex app open while downloading media, and don’t lock your screen. Some Plex team members 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 transcoded files) provides a more reliable download experience. This is a global preference that’s managed from your playback device (phone, tablet, etc). Open the Plex app on your playback device, navigate to Settings, select Downloads, and ensure that everything is set to “original quality.” (Note that this will eat at your phone or tablet’s storage, and some files may require transcoding if they aren’t compatible with your playback device. You may have trouble using AirPlay with downloaded media that hasn’t been transcoded.)
- Adjust Router Settings: Try changing your router’s DNS server settings, as your default settings may prevent Plex from performing DNS rebinding (I suggest using Google’s DNS; 18.104.22.168 primary and 22.214.171.124 secondary). If possible, follow Plex’s suggests for setting up your firewall, and disable DNS Rebind 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, it may fix this problem. Just open a movie or show’s details from your 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 refuse to work on your phone or tablet, try another device. This may help you narrow down the problem, though it obviously isn’t an ideal solution.
- Try Using Infuse: Some iOS users rely on Infuse for offline downloads, bypassing the Plex app. Infuse is a video playback app that supports a variety of file formats and can download media from your Plex server. Note that Infuse isn’t available on Android.
- Skip Plex Entirely: When all else fails, you can try downloading media straight 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 it requires a third-party app like Cx File Explorer on Android.)
I’ve 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 stuff will actually work for you. Plex can be a bit temperamental and unpredictable.
If you absolutely cannot get offline downloads to work, it couldn’t hurt to submit a bug report. Maybe you’ve encountered a bug that the Plex team hasn’t come across—by submitting a bug report, you could help a lot of people.
Plex has a full guide on submitting bug reports. But I’ll give you the gist of it; 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 earlier still persists.
If you manage to reproduce whatever problem you’re trying to report, download the debug log from your server. You’ll share this log on the Plex support forum (following Plex’s instructions) after double-checking that it hasn’t already been reported.
That said, there’s a good chance that someone has already reported your problem on the Plex support forum. If so, you can share your debug log in the existing discussion—just check the discussion for any solutions first.