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While streaming movies and TV shows directly from the Internet is pretty common these days, a lot of people have both commercial and personal videos stored on their computers, mobile devices, and external drives that they’d like to watch on TV. Here are a few options for doing so.
NOTE: Although I’m talking about videos, these methods will generally work with other types of media like audio and image files. Also, there are probably other options available. If you have another one you use and like, please share it in the comments below.
Connect a USB drive to a streaming media player
The Roku Ultra and Amazon Fire TV box players have a USB port that you can plug a drive into with your media files. The Roku has its own media player channel that you can use to play the files. With the Amazon Fire TV, I recommend installing the VLC media player app.
NOTE: If your files are stored on a device that doesn’t have a power adapter separate from a USB connector, like some external hard drives, it may not have enough power to work with the player. You may be able to use a USB hub that will let you power the drive separately or you can just transfer your files to a Flash drive. I’ve used one with both my Roku and Fire TV with no problems.
Use a mobile app
Install the AllCast app on your phone or tablet and it will let you cast the media you have stored on that device to any of the Big Four streaming players—Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. The free version of the app limits you to 5 minutes of playing time, but you can upgrade to the Premium version for just $5.00.
NOTE: To use this app with the Fire TV, you’ll need to install the AllCast for Fire TV app on your player as well.
Additionally, if you have a Roku player, you can install the Roku app on your mobile device. It has a “PlayOn Roku” option that will stream your local content to your TV.
Play files through a personal media server
This is software you install on your computer that organizes all the media files on your system.
I’ve written about PlayOn before as a way to record videos from the Internet, but it also includes a media server. You can stream media from PlayOn to a Fire TV, Roku, or Chromecast as well as other devices.
Learn more about PlayOn in this T4L post. >>
Plex is a very popular media server. I haven’t used it much yet but it seems pretty easy to use as well. It’s compatible with all of the Big Four players and many other devices.
Mirror your computer or mobile device screen
With this method, you play the video on another your phone, tablet, or PC and then duplicate the display on your TV. There are all sorts of combinations and permutations of devices and lots of caveats involved, so I can’t go into all the details here, but fortunately there’s a T4L post for that! 🙂
Use iTunes Home Sharing with Apple TV
You can stream any media from your iTunes library to an Apple TV by turning on the Home Sharing feature in iTunes as long as your computer and the player are logged into the same Wi-Fi account.
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