Minecraft has changed significantly since its inception, but one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is its capacity for online multiplayer. Players can design their own persistent worlds with space for hundreds of other people to gather and create with only a few clicks of a mouse or controller button.
Whether you’re hosting a server for a few friends or launching a massive effort to recreate your favorite TV show’s world, you have several different options for hosting your own Minecraft server. Here are a few ways you can create your own private oasis for you and your friends to play around in.
What used to be called Minecraft Realms has been rebranded and turned into Minecraft Realms Plus. Minecraft Realms technically still exists, but it’s only available for the Java version of the game.
Realms Plus is your best bet for cheap and simple hosting. It’s an official subscription-based offering straight from Mojang, and a fast and easy way to both create and manage servers without any prior knowledge of hosting. Minecraft Realms Plus server owners are essentially renting a server via Mojang, so there is a reduced degree of freedom should you choose to opt for Mojang’s hosting solution.
Realms Plus also gives users instant access to more than 50 Marketplace items, and new content is added every month. This means there will always be something to explore beyond your own server. As for the server itself, it can host 10 players at a time across console, mobile, VR, and Windows 10 devices. Your content is stored securely in a cloud server, so your friends are free to hop into the world even if you aren’t available.
Realms Plus costs $7.99 per month, but only the host needs to pay. Friends who join the server can do so for free and aren’t required to own Realms Plus subscriptions. Realms for Java users is the same, with recurring monthly payments starting at $7.99.
If you just want a quick and easy way to create an exclusive area for you and your friends to mingle, Realms Plus is your best bet, by far.
If Minecraft Realms doesn’t sound like it will fit your needs, you can go a completely alternate route and set up your own customized server. It will require at least a modicum of technical prowess, however, so be prepared to do a little tinkering.
If your version of Minecraft is up to date, the easiest way to get your friends in on the fun is to simply pause and click “Open to LAN” and then “Start LAN World” to invite other players into your game. However, there are many advantages to more permanent server options that may be appealing if you find yourself playing with others often.
If you only need to have a few friends connected at a time and don’t mind breaks in persistence, you can set up a listen server using a simple program that you can download from the same page as the game client (linked above). Save that .exe file into a folder all by itself, and then double-click to run it for the first time. The program will generate a world and configuration files, as well as text files to use as lists to either allow or block players.
Once you have the world generated, you can stop the server by typing “stop” in the commands text box and changing settings, or you can start playing. While the server software is running, you can use the direct connect button under the multiplayer menu and connect to “localhost” to join. If you want to invite your friends to play from different locations you’ll have to first identify your external IP address using a website, and set up your router to port forward. If you’re all on the same network, you can simply find your IP address and share it with your friends. This should make connecting to each other a lot simpler than it may have been otherwise.
This method of hosting a server is configurable – provided you’re willing to learn a little bit about different server parameters and how they work – but in the long term it suffers a few shortcomings. Playing on the same computer that you use to host can cause significant lag for yourself and other players if you don’t have spare RAM to use for your own client. While the amount of RAM allocated for the server can be changed, it may not be enough, and may cause your own client to become unplayable.
Home internet connections also frequently use a dynamic IP address, which may cause remote players to become disconnected when your IP address is changed by your service provider. Finally, if your computer turns off or becomes disconnected from your network, the server won’t continue to run and persistent world features will be lost.
Craftbukkit is a more hands-on option for server hosting software that is designed to accommodate a larger number of add-ons and mods. The Minecraft community creates and curates any number of game-changing and content-adding modifications, and running a number of them together can create performance issues even on high-end servers.
CraftBukkit maintains a forum of add-ons designed specifically for their server software, creating a solution for managing the effects of many add-ons together in game, without causing conflicts or reducing performance. Setting up CraftBukkit takes a little bit of Java knowledge, but you can set it up with help from the Bukkit wiki.
Bukkit is extremely customizable on the backend, and in-game. Multiple pages of server commands greet you once you’re playing, allowing you to make any number of changes to the world and the way the server operates. If you’re so inclined you can begin to browse Bukkit’s forums for mods that add anything from new blocks and vehicles to property and other kinds of portals. This works similarly to Minecraft Realms Plus number of easy Add-ons that can be implemented in-game.
Connecting to a Bukkit server is similar to connecting to a standard server, and mostly doesn’t require that users also install the mods that are running host-side. Although instructions on the site are straightforward, there are still a few hiccups in installing the server that may take a bit of troubleshooting to get resolved. Once it’s up and running, you can connect to it from another computer on the network and even run a few mods. Connecting to the server on the same computer isn’t an option, but with a bit of work it could be set up to work that way. Ideally, you would run Bukkit or the regular Minecraft server software on a remote machine to cut down on latency.
Additional paid server options
If you decide not to opt for the Minecraft Realms route, there are a number of websites that offer hosting for game-specific servers, and for a monthly fee they’ll host a server for you with a variable number of players to connect. There are many benefits to this type of server, including easy setup, consistent access, and technical support. There are more paid services available than the free offerings, and a lot of them can be found on the Minecraft forums starting at under $5 a month, with rates increasing for use of extra server software and for more allowed connections.
While setting up your own server can be complicated and require some networking and FTP knowledge, most of the paid services designed specifically for Minecraft automate the process. Setup is usually as simple as picking the number of players, deciding the type of world, then hitting go. Configuring and restarting the server is also easy thanks to web interfaces that deal with configuration files and parameters in more robust ways than a user might if they were just editing the files themselves. Some systems like Multicraft (pictured below) are implemented by hosting companies to allow users to access the controls to their servers in limited ways while leaving some configuration decisions in the hands of the host.
Connecting is a breeze with these options, as the connection IP and port are listed on the server administration page, and there are options to ban or allow players and restart the server, all conveniently located. If you’re feeling a bit more do-it-yourself, any service that offers servers with a decent amount of RAM can be fitted with a Bukkit or Minecraft server instance loaded over FTP. Amazon offers these kinds of servers with flexible memory use based on what’s needed for competitive rates, if you prefer the control over files and settings and feel comfortable not using web-based control software. You can accomplish a number of things with this kind of setup, especially since it allows for almost limitless customization.
Do you have any additional recommendations for setting up a Minecraft server? Tell us in the comments.