Plex, Synology, and the dreaded “Video Unavailable”

Going to skip the usual stuff at the top here and get straight to it1: Plex is a super-cool, easy-to-use, everywhere media server. Lots of people use it, and lots of people like it. We recently moved our library from an old home-built NAS running FreeNAS to a Synology DSM box. It broke.

For whatever reason – we sat down at our TV and tried to pull up a video we’d been watching. Plex just responded with an unhelpful message “Video Unavailable: We’re unable to play this video, make sure the server is running and has access to this video”

I thought to myself “Maybe it’s because this is newly ripped stuff, and I ripped the wrong format.” I quickly discovered that most of my Plex library wouldn’t play. Stuff that played fine before. Before I’d purchased the Synology, I was concerned that there would be transcoding issues. My existing NAS seemed to do just fine, and I didn’t know what the limitations of the Synology box would be. As it turns out, the Synology’s CPU outperforms the one I had put in my FreeNAS box. So it didn’t sound like it was going to be a transcoding issue.

I came across all kinds of solutions: My wife asked me if I’d “tried turning it off and turning it back on again“, I attempted, but to no avail.  There was a suggestion that Plex needed space to writing transcoding data to. That’s what did it for me, the relevant screen in the settings:

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 9.47.40 AM

Here’s the procedure, spelled out for ya:

  1. Open the settings from your PMS web page (That’s the wrench and screw-driver)
  2. Click on “Transcoder” in the left-hand pane.
  3. Click “Show advanced settings”
  4. Set the “Transcoder temporary directory” to something that Plex has access to.

That’s what got things working in my browser again. I admit that I’m still not certain of the cause. I don’t know if Plex is normally allocated a certain amount of space to transcode in, and it just ran out, or what. But this is what solved it for me.

1 I haven’t posted anything in more than a year. I kept meaning to, but I didn’t and it took a long time to write things. And I wanted to perfect things. And, and, and. Anyway. I wanted to post this in case anyone had to deal with looking through all the existing Plex troubleshooting stuff, hoping that they would find this instead and be able to easily fix the problem 

21 comments
  1. Just had this problem with Plex on my NowTV box and after going through a load of useless info on other sites, stumbled across your page. Loaded up the PMS web page, typed the path to my media directory in the “Transcoder temporary directory” bar, saved it and it was straight back in action!!
    Great stuff!! Thanks!!

    • Which synology nas do you own please, and are you running the Plex Media Server directly on it, or from a computer on the same network?

      • We have a DS1813+. We wanted something comparable to our FreeNAS setup, which was a 4+ disk system with redundancy. It was more than I really wanted to spend, but its performance has been great. Plex runs directly on it, and does pretty well. The transcoding isn’t awesome, but it mostly fits my needs.

  2. Sorry to ask a stupid question but what do you mean by “something that Plex has access to.”? I am a monkey with computers and I don’t quite understand.

    I keep getting this message near the end of a tv show or film.

    Thanks for the help.

    • “Something Plex has access to” would be a folder/directory that Plex can write data to. If you’re able to watch most of a movie or tv show, I would guess that you’re not having the same problem as I was, but you might be having a related issue. My issue is that Plex didn’t have a place to write data to while it was dynamically transcoding the media. Because you can watch part of a video,I’d guess is that you’re running out of disk space, or something like it. Does it happen on all videos? How much disk space do you have available on the machine where Plex is running? This is just a guess, but it would be worth investigating.

      • Thanks for the reply. It might well be a problem with my machine. It was working fine the other day and now it has started giving me that message again. I will check out how much disk space I have and give my computer a general clean up.

        I have also tried your solution by saving the plex windows user directory into the temp directory box. Hopefully that will work.

        Thanks again for the speedy reply.

    • From the Plex website: “Transcoder temporary directory –
      Directory to use when transcoding temporary files for streaming. This is useful IF your PRIMARY drive has LIMITED space.”

      I haven’t tested yet, but I was getting the error, and my C drive is indeed totally full!

      Thanks for sharing this.

      for those who are unclear– here is an example of what one MIGHT type:

      D:/BLURAY/Archival

      that is the path to my folder I’ve shared with Plex. D drive -> BLURAY folder -> Archival folder

      lets hope it works!

  3. I’ve been looking for a while for this fix. I’m running a Drobo 5N. I had to install the ssh server on it first and create a directory, but once I gave the Temporary Transcoder Directory that path…. it worked.

    Thanks!

  4. Not running Plex with Synology (just straight Windows) but it took a while before I concluded that the tmp folder was insufficient for the files I was trying play. Today I was searching for something else and arrived here. This is not a small issue (google it!) – and still after two years they, Plex, cannot change the blasted message to say something more helpful such as “Insufficient temporary space to transcode the video.” Is it so difficult?

  5. https://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/201154577-Troubleshooting-Plex-It-

    I was driving my self crazy looking for the fix it was my browser the whole time.
    Everything was working then I started getting VIDEO UNAVAILABLE” error & wrg format message . I use Crome browser never tried to use anything else because I thought it was some kind of transcoder problem. So I found this link & I changed my privacy settings in Crome copy and pasted [*.]plex.tv & [*.]plexapp.com i & BOOM! it works everything is running again. Just follow the instuctions from the link very easy. The hard part was finding the link lol

    ttps://support.plex.tv/hc/en-us/articles/201154577-Troubleshooting-Plex-It-

  6. For the error coming from ROKU3: “Video Unavailable. we’re unable to play this video, make sure the server is running and has access to this video”.
    The latest PLEX update (1.0.02261-a17e99e-en-US) broke my reliable PLEX-to-ROKU movie playing. I got the error above. No manner of attempted fixes mentioned in over 8 hours of blogs fixed it. But I did four things that got me to a point where it was working: #1)Tried running the server w/in administrator profile … No JOY. #2): uninstalled the version above as administrator. Rebooted. #3): Installed old version 0.9.912.504-3e7f93c-en-US . Rebooted. No JOY. #4): Installed version 0.9.1211.1406-8403350-en-us (on top). Rebooted.
    Result: BINGOOOOOOOO ! It all works again !! Sorry PLEX but your coders didn’t do the proper change management/validation/testing thing before they puked out their work.
    But for me this worked. And I’m back in business. And do I mind using an old 2015 version? Answer depends on whether you like it working or not. 🙂

  7. Thank you so much for this. I have no idea how or why this happened, considering we watch video on it all the time, but thanks for giving me a solution for this issue. I just added a temp file and set the path for it, and it worked like a charm!

  8. Wow! You are a GENIUS 🙂 This totally works. Thank you sooo much for this solution. We have been sweating over this for 8 months and have tried everything.

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