The performance was chalk and cheese to the one which led to Wednesday night's 2-1 win over AFC Bournemouth.
They were rarely in the contest, their best chance falling to Brad Potts in first-half stoppage-time when they were 2-0 down.
Patrick Bauer limping off after 20 minutes hurt them, the Forest attack pulling PNE's defence out of shape time and time again after that.
Preston North End boss provides injury update on Manchester United loanee and addresses specualtion linking them to another Red Devils youngster
Manchester United youngster being tested by Preston North End on a 'daily basis' after sparkling debut
The best fans photos from Preston North End's 4-1 win over Huddersfield Town in the Carabao Cup.
Wigan remain Championship relegation candidates but bookies' odds drift for Preston North End and Blackpool
Preston North End debutant talks making the step up, learning from Robbie Brady and Alvaro Fernandez and this only being the beginning
A soft penalty conceded by Ben Whiteman started their downfall, Lewis Grabban scoring from the spot in the 32nd minute
Jack Colback volleyed Forest's second goal four minutes before the interval after North End had only partly cleared a free-kick.
Grabban hooked home the home side's third goal with 20 minutes remaining to complete a miserable day for PNE's 1,917 travelling supporters in the away end.
North End's side had shown two changes, Potts and Daniel Johnson in for Alan Browne and Sean Maguire.
Browne had failed a late fitness test, while Maguire was left on the bench all afternoon.
Both sides made a lively start, North End having the first sight of goal when Potts fastened on to a pass from Tom Barkhuizen and saw a shot saved by keeper Brice Samba.
PNE lost Bauer after 20 minutes, the centre-half pulling up after conceding a free-kick near to the right touchline.
Bauer signalled to the benh straight away that he couldn't continue, with Jordan Storey coming on to replace him.
From the free-kick which Bauer had conceded, Ryan Yates headed wide of the far post.
Philip Zinckernagel, who caused plenty of problems in the No.10 role, cleared the bar with a shot from just outside the box.
Forest took a 32nd minute lead through a penalty which was in the soft category but are commonly given these days.
As Whiteman moved to clear the ball in the box, Brennan Johnson stuck his foot in the way and Whiteman clipped the back of Johnson's leg.
Referee Simon Hooper immediately pointed to the spot and Grabban sent Daniel Iversen the wrong way with a confident finish from 12 yards.
The home side really got on top of the game after that, Yates firing across goal and just wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
Whiteman attempted to atone for giving the penalty away,, with a shot at the other end which went straight at Samba.
Forest's second goal came four minutes before half-time.
Zinckernagel's free-kick into the box from the right channel was headed out by Storey but fell to Colback who volleyed home from 12 yards.
North End should have reduced the arrears two minutes into stoppage-time at the end of the first half.
Emil Riis' run took him down the right channel and into the box, his pull back finding the run of Potts who lacked composure and blazed a first-time shot over the bar.
A double substitution 10 minutes into the second half saw PNE change shape, Potts and Josh Earl the men to make way.
Greg Cunningham and Scott Sinclair came on as Frankie McAvoy switched to 4-3-3.
For a brief spell there was some spark from the Lilywhites, with passes finding team-mates and a bit more purpose about their play near the box.
But it was game over in the 70th minute when Forest scored their third goal.
Johnson was the creator with a jinking run down the left which carried him into the box.
His shot hit a Preston leg and spun across goal to Grabban beyond the far post, the striker hooking a shot into the net despite the best efforts of Iversen to kick clear - the referee signalling the ball had crossed the line.
Lyle Taylor could have had a fourth goal but lost his footing as he chased a ball into the box .
Forest: Samba, Spence, Worrall, McKenna, Lowe, Yates, Colback, Mighten (Lolley 63), Zinckernagel (Garner 67), Johnson, Grabban (Taylor 71). Subs (not used): Bong, Figueiredo, Ojeda, Horvath.
PNE: Iversen, van den Berg, Bauer (Storey 20), Hughes, Barkhuizen, McCann, Whiteman, Johnson, Earl (Cunningham 56), Potts (Sinclair 56), Riis. Subs (not used): Huntington, Ledson, Maguire, Hudson.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)
Attendance: 27,129 (1,917 PNE)
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here