Random Buffering Issues with Media Server...

Ashton

2[H]4U
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Nov 13, 2004
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2,504
Having an issue with my media server where it'll play a few videos fine, then suddenly start buffering every few seconds (even on lower resolutions)...

I'll have a tv series I ripped from BD on the server and when I sit down to watch it, everything works fine for about two hours, then, the next episode I play it will play a few seconds, buffer a few seconds, rinse and repeat. Doesn't matter if I'm watching 4k, 1080p, 720p, or even old 480p... it also seems to work fine if it's a long single-file movie, it seems like it's after so many individual files it's failing.

my first thought was that it was overheating, but temperatures were good on both CPU and GPU (it doesn't have sensors for RAM). I also thought it might be HDD related, so I took the opportunity to upgrade its 4x1tb HDDs for brand new (not used) 4x12tb drives... didn't solve the issue. Also not an issue with network congestion since there's nothing else running on the network that would use that much bandwidth (Both the server and the PC it's streaming to are hard-wired 1gbps cat-6 --- does the same streaming to WiFi and LTE) I've also disabled all non-windows services except for the media server and it's still bugging out after ~4 files.

It also does this no matter what device it's streaming to, so it's not client-side (does it with the web-client, the windows client, Android client, and the Plex App on my smart TV)

I'm running out of ideas... any suggestions?

System Specs:
Windows 10 Pro
AMD FX(tm)-8320 Eight-Core Processor @ 3.50 GHz
16gb RAM
GeForce GTX 660
4x12tb HDD
Plex Media Server
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
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May 31, 2003
Messages
2,677
You've tried most of the troubleshooting/testing I would have gone through.

Is Plex installed onto an SSD on this machine? Do you have any clients that do pure Direct Play (not Direct Stream)? I ask because if you're doing any transcoding (even direct stream + audio transcode), it will cache the program to the Plex install drive which could mean a ton of writes to your SSD. My old Plex server had a Crucial M500 and it completely shit the bed after putting an insane amount of TB in writes to it. If you're doing direct play for both video/audio, it shouldn't cache on the PC and would pass straight along to your client (which may not show issues if the SSD was the culprit).

Aside from that, if you are transcoding, I'd be curious if it's HW or CPU based (I don't know if a 660 even supports HW transcoding on Plex).
 

Ashton

2[H]4U
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Nov 13, 2004
Messages
2,504
You've tried most of the troubleshooting/testing I would have gone through.

Is Plex installed onto an SSD on this machine? Do you have any clients that do pure Direct Play (not Direct Stream)? I ask because if you're doing any transcoding (even direct stream + audio transcode), it will cache the program to the Plex install drive which could mean a ton of writes to your SSD. My old Plex server had a Crucial M500 and it completely shit the bed after putting an insane amount of TB in writes to it. If you're doing direct play for both video/audio, it shouldn't cache on the PC and would pass straight along to your client (which may not show issues if the SSD was the culprit).

Aside from that, if you are transcoding, I'd be curious if it's HW or CPU based (I don't know if a 660 even supports HW transcoding on Plex).

No SSD, but I'll have to double-check to be sure if the speed of the boot drive matches the media drive... now that I think about it, it's still running its original 1tb boot drive because for some reason when I cloned it to a 12tb drive, it refused to boot...

Not sure if clients are set to direct-play or transcode... I did lower my settings for transcoding in case that was the issue for some reason...

It's set to "use hardware acceleration when available" so no clue whether the 660 is actually transcoding anything or just sitting there doing nothing...

Also, something I saw online tickled in my brain... the validity of my windows key is questionable... it was a fully legit key, but then the server's mobo died and when I replaced it, I got an angry warning that my key was now invalid... but nothing else happened... not even the little "click here to activate windows!" overlay... I remember someone online saying that un-activated windows (which... *shrug* no clue if mine is now) will routinely slow down the PC it's on...? I assumed this was just fear-mongering to get people to not pirate windows, but in retrospect, I'm not sure...?
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
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May 31, 2003
Messages
2,677
Yeah I only mentioned it because I degraded my SSD so much that it couldn't even do 10MB/s writes, but that's not the case here.

The screenshot shows how hardware transcoding is verified via the dashboard.
1636656747363.png


The main suggestion I can make is if it is HW transcoding, try disabling it and use a CPU transcode to see if your results are different. Or if you're direct play/direct streaming, try to force a transcode to see if it helps the issue (if you were testing through LTE, it was likely transcoding there, so that may be moot).

Your setup sounds fine. Maybe also verify the NIC drivers are up-to-date, or try another NIC if you have one laying around. I'm not aware of windows activation issues degrading performance at all - I always thought it was mostly aesthetic features that were typically disabled from it.
 

Ashton

2[H]4U
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Nov 13, 2004
Messages
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Yeah I only mentioned it because I degraded my SSD so much that it couldn't even do 10MB/s writes, but that's not the case here.

The screenshot shows how hardware transcoding is verified via the dashboard.
View attachment 411639

The main suggestion I can make is if it is HW transcoding, try disabling it and use a CPU transcode to see if your results are different. Or if you're direct play/direct streaming, try to force a transcode to see if it helps the issue (if you were testing through LTE, it was likely transcoding there, so that may be moot).

Your setup sounds fine. Maybe also verify the NIC drivers are up-to-date, or try another NIC if you have one laying around. I'm not aware of windows activation issues degrading performance at all - I always thought it was mostly aesthetic features that were typically disabled from it.

Interesting... mine doesn't show it like that, instead, it says "play original quality" or "Play as X" (though it looks like your using the iOS/apple version while I'm using windows/android so there are bound to be some minor differences) I've tried forcing a transcode in the past (from 1080p down to 720p) and it didn't help... will try disabling hardware transcoding and see if it changes anything (since the 660 is so old it could be the bottleneck here...) may be a day or two before I get back to you on that since its only after a couple hours of watching that it starts hiccuping

have not tested it on LTE lately, the last time I streamed LTE was a single movie and it worked fine (though as I said, its usually on the 5th or so file that it starts buffering)

Just updated all drivers AND all plex clients/server, though I doubt this will help.

yeah, like I said I think the windows thing is fear mongering but a friend of mine who's an active IT guy swears its true so... too small of a sample size for me to say for sure... (and honestly, I'd rather run linux but last I tried, plex on linux does not support multiple media drives without tweaking and re-build-ing the binary, which I really dont want to go through (probably multiple times) thanks to dyslexia.... x_x)

also wondering if the CPU/memory/mobo may just be getting too old... this is a 10-year-old CPU and ram (and while the board is "new" it's more "new old stock" since it was released so long ago...) and it was _not_ one of AMD's best CPUs (I think I actually got a partial refund on it due to marketing shinanigans misrepresenting the chip)

any recommendations on a good program to really test memory/cpu and see if its performance has degraded? most of the ones I know are either really old or... questionable... with their accuracy.
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
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Yeah if you weren't on the latest version of PMS, the dash may have looked different, but the actual client won't tell you IIRC ('original quality' means you're direct stream/play though). You'd have to look on the actual Plex Server interface under activity/dashboard to see details or the Plex Dash mobile app gives plenty of info.

Plex recommends a CPU with a Passmark score of 2000 for a H264 1080p @10Mbit transcode, so that CPU should be fine as it's 2400+. As long as you're not transcoding HEVC or 4k content, it should be okay for at least 1 transcode at a time. If you're Direct Play/Direct Stream, it won't matter as the CPU won't be taxed. Could be another hardware issue/bottleneck, but nothing that stands out.

If all else fails, getting PMS logs and going to the Plex forums would probably be the best bet for advanced troubleshooting.
 

SmokeRngs

[H]ard|DCer of the Month - April 2008
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Messages
17,471
I don't have any real advice concerning the problem you're having although I would think the issue is likely a problem with Plex or something related to Plex. Maybe check to see RAM usage after several files have been played. If there is a bug or memory leak it may be filling up RAM on the server which might lead to the buffering issues. Once you stop the playback it might flush the RAM so everything looks normal and works normally again.

I'd be curious how long it has been since you tried running Plex on Linux. I've swapped from Plex to Jellyfin for a number of reasons but ran Plex on Linux for years and used multiple drives the whole time. Most of the time I was running openSUSE and more recently Manjaro on my sever. I used the version of Plex from the repos rather than compiling from source and never did anything special for the install.

If you're wanting to swap to Linux there's no reason you can't based on the reasons you gave above. Unless they've changed it recently, Plex's setup for creating libraries and choosing directory/drives on Linux is non-intuitive and annoying but the ability to do so is there.
 

bluestang

Limp Gawd
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This is why I gave up on Plex as a whole and just use my PC with 2x10TB drives as the media share only. The NVIDIA Shield TV using the KODI app and connected to my TV does everything else.
 

Ashton

2[H]4U
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Nov 13, 2004
Messages
2,504
Yeah if you weren't on the latest version of PMS, the dash may have looked different, but the actual client won't tell you IIRC ('original quality' means you're direct stream/play though). You'd have to look on the actual Plex Server interface under activity/dashboard to see details or the Plex Dash mobile app gives plenty of info.

Amazingly, turning off hardware acceleration solved it! (I guess the 660 really was the bottleneck... or bulldozer proved once again why its a joke of a CPU) Thank you so much for all your help!!!

I'd be curious how long it has been since you tried running Plex on Linux. I've swapped from Plex to Jellyfin for a number of reasons but ran Plex on Linux for years and used multiple drives the whole time. Most of the time I was running openSUSE and more recently Manjaro on my sever. I used the version of Plex from the repos rather than compiling from source and never did anything special for the install.

If you're wanting to swap to Linux there's no reason you can't based on the reasons you gave above. Unless they've changed it recently, Plex's setup for creating libraries and choosing directory/drives on Linux is non-intuitive and annoying but the ability to do so is there.

It was probably around 2-4 years ago... (didnt realize it was that long, but thinking about life events, it was >2 years ago, probably closer to the 4 years ago mark) I was running, I think LinuxMint64 as the OS (latest build at the time) and as per the plex foum's official documentation, it required all media to be on the boot drive or for me to manually add special partitions(?) to plex's code and build the binary again... Due to the aforementioned life events I've kinda just left it running on windows since it was working. I may try migrating it to linux again sometime since I now realize how long its been and the fact plex has probably dealt with the issue since then.

This is why I gave up on Plex as a whole and just use my PC with 2x10TB drives as the media share only. The NVIDIA Shield TV using the KODI app and connected to my TV does everything else.

The main reason I've stuck with plex (I've used several different media servers over the years) is compatibility. The clients include an iphone12 (which broadcasts to a dumb-TV with a Chromecast), a note-9, a note-4, several windows PCs, a Macbook, and a Vizio Smart TV will a full surround-sound system... (Also at least once a month I'm streaming over LTE due to having to visit elderly relatives that don't have internet access and between to Sprint charging and arm-and-leg for tethering and the simplicity of plugging my Note into a TV with DEX I just use that setup instead of a full PC --- Plex is 100% compatible with Samsung's DEX)

Besides the compatibility, there's the issue of teaching a new system to my retired father who understands Plex and also likes their free online library of B-horror movies... So even if compatibility is addressed I can't really switch right now... though thanks for the recommendation - I'll keep that in mind for the future :)
 

skiddy

2[H]4U
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Glad to hear it's resolved. I know the 660 supports NVENC, but I'd imagine it's pretty limited on capabilities. I recall the 1050ti's were the cheaper GPU's of choice for Plex transcoding in recent years, but I doubt they're that affordable for what they are during these crazy GPU times.
 

bluestang

Limp Gawd
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Messages
262
Great you found a solution!


I hear ya about family members having to learn when new software/hardware comes along for my Home Theater/Music setup lol.
 

TheSlySyl

[H]ard|Gawd
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May 30, 2018
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This is why I gave up on Plex as a whole and just use my PC with 2x10TB drives as the media share only. The NVIDIA Shield TV using the KODI app and connected to my TV does everything else.
Plex does a lot more than just play videos on a single screen. I've been using PLEX as my daily music (for commutes, work, fun, etc.) for years and I like being able to stream to dozens of devices if I so choose.

Glad you figured out your problem though! I've had issues with forced subtitles recently, but that's only on very particular insanely high bitrate 4k hdr x265 rips.
 

Verge

Supreme [H]ardness
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Messages
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Glad you figured out your problem though! I've had issues with forced subtitles recently, but that's only on very particular insanely high bitrate 4k hdr x265 rips.
Really, they are good on both my shield and atv4k. I have a harder time getting an actual forced sub track and not all subs.
 
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