How To: Stream movies wirelessly from a computer to a TV

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TV Movies

The influx of smart devices can most easily be observed through the progress of televisions. Previously, most people thought of their TVs as nothing more than a display and everything after that was extra. To watch movies on demand, for instance, you had to connect a DVD/Blu-Ray player and play content from there. Nowadays, the TV has the potential of providing completely different experiences, especially when you look at the wider “living room entertainment” concept. In this post we will be taking a look at the different ways you can use to stream movies from your computer to your TV without connecting the two with a cable.

DLNA

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and its eponymous tech promised to change the future of the living room experience and, in some ways, it did accomplish that. Though services like Netflix are now considered kings of the movie streaming market, DLNA-enabled devices are still an extremely popular choice for home media streaming. This technology is embedded into a huge range of devices and many people do not even know about it. For instance, DLNA is included in the vast majority of smart TVs, in modern Blu-Ray players, in most (Android) smartphones and in gaming consoles including the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4.

Universal Media Server

To stream content with this technology, all you have to do is set up a server in your computer which can be accomplished with a ton of apps and services including Windows Media Player and Universal Media Server.

  • For WMP: Click on the Stream dropdown menu and select the “Automatically allow devices to play my media” option. You should also click on the “Turn on media streaming” option in case you need to configure additional settings for the server. To add more sources, click on the Organize menu and select the “manage Libraries” option. Select the appropriate type (Music, Pictures, Videos) and then select your desired folders via the Library Locations window.
  • For UMS: All you have to do is install and run the app in your PC and it will automatically gather content from every area of your PC. Since this may list a lot of undesirable items, it is generally a good idea to set up specific folders. To do that, go to the Navigation/Share Settings tab, remove all the drives and press on the Folder icon to browse your computer and select the specific folders which contain your multimedia files. Whenever you make a change to UMS, it is a good idea to click on the “Restart Server” button located at the top too.

Once you have actually set up a DLNA server, open the interface of your DLNA-enabled device and your PC should appear on the listed of connected devices. The exact area differs depending on the device but it should be very easy to find. For instance, Smart TVs will simply show your PC in their network list whereas your console will need a media player app (the native ones work just fine) to find and play multimedia content from the network.

Streaming sticks and boxes

Chromecast 1st + 2st Gen
2nd and 1st Chromecast Generations

When my friends and I finally decided to buy a Chromecast for our living room, the way we watched movies changed completely. No longer did we have to connect our laptops to the TV and mess around with cables as everything we wanted was a few clicks/taps away as Google’s tiny little stick streamed content from a variety of sources including Netflix in our Android devices and Chrome in our laptops.

Apple TV
Apple TV 4

Of course, you do not have to buy a Chromecast to enjoy the same functionality. Those who are heavily invested into the wider Google ecosystem can enjoy additional features with Google’s product but there are a lot of similar devices nowadays that do almost the same thing with slight differences depending on the device. For instance, owners of iOS/OS X devices should instead turn to Apple TV, a set-top box that allows  users to not only stream content directly from services like Netflix and iTunes but also to stream content from other devices. Here are some basic guidelines for the most popular devices of this kind:

  • Apple TV: OS X users can stream content and mirror their devices through AirPlay without much of a setup. However, a third-party app is highly advised in order to get the best quality and performance. There are several options out there, including Plex and AirParrot depending on what you want to do. I would suggest downloading the free Plex Media Server app and then grabbing the Plex app from the Apple TV Store. You will need to set up Plex by adding your multimedia content but everything will be free so the trade is worth it.
  • Roku: The Roku set-top box also offers a huge range of options including Plex. The setup process is mostly the same as the one for Apple TV though you will have to select the Plex channel on Roku instead of downloading a dedicated app.
  • Fire TV/Stick: Amazon’s streaming devices support Miracast, a WiFi-based technology designed specifically for mirroring content. To enable it, go to Settings > Display and Sounds > Enable Display Mirroring. Then, use your second, Miracast-enabled device to connect and share multimedia content. Miracast-enabled devices include many modern Windows 8.1+ laptops and a ton of Android smartphones starting from 4.2 Jelly Bean.
  • Chromecast: The easiest way to stream content with Chromecast is to get the Google Cast extension for Chrome. The browser allows you to drag and drop multimedia files onto it and you can then click on a single button to share with the Chromecast. Another option is to use Plex’s web interface and cast items directly from the web server, a viable choice because it will completely eliminate any lag by streaming content directly from the Plex Media Server.

Troubleshooting

Streaming movies from your computer to a TV is absolutely amazing but many give up early as the process can be extremely frustrating at times. If you are one of the lucky few, setting up a server and then playing content from your PC will work immediately, otherwise you will be left in sheer confusion over what has gone wrong. It all depends on the devices and services you are using so feel free to drop a comment down below and I will try to help as soon as possible.