Tech

What You Need to Play Media on a Network Media Player or Streamer

Make sure you have what you need to play stored or streamed digital media

Tired of gathering friends and family around your computer to view photos or watch a video? Maybe you just want to watch the movies you downloaded or streamed from the Internet on your big screen TV or just listen to your music away from your desk, on the broadband speakers in your living room.

Time to get a network media player or media streamer (box, stick, smart TV, most Blu-ray Disc players) that can get media from the Internet, your computer, or other network-connected devices and then play your movies. , music and photos to your home theater system.

But you need more than just a compatible network media player or streaming media device to make it all work.

The back of a typical router.
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you need a router

To get started, you need a router that connects to the computers and media playback devices you want to include on your network. A router is a device that creates a path for all your computers and network devices to communicate with each other. Connections can be wired (Ethernet), wireless (Wi-Fi), or both.

While basic routers can cost less than $50, when setting up a home network to share your media, you’ll need a router that can handle high-definition video. Choose the router that best suits your needs.

Network and modem cables connected to a computer modem.

Network and modem cables connected to a computer modem.
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you need a modem

If you want to download or stream content from the Internet, you’ll also need a modem. When you sign up for Internet service, your Internet Service Provider usually installs the modem.

Although some modems are also routers, they are not the same thing. You’ll know if your router has a built-in modem if it has more than one or two Ethernet connections on the back and/or if it has built-in Wi-Fi.

However, a modem may not be necessary if you don’t need Internet access, just to access media stored on your other computers, network-connected servers, or other devices in your home.

Connecting your network media player, streamer, and storage devices to a router

Connect your computers and media players to the router with Ethernet cables or wirelessly over Wi-Fi. Most laptops have built-in Wi-Fi. For desktops and NAS devices, most of the time you’ll need to use Ethernet cables, but a growing number also come with Wi-Fi.

Network media players and media streamers usually have built-in Wi-Fi, and most also provide Ethernet connections. If yours doesn’t include Wi-Fi and you want to use that option, you’ll need to purchase a wireless “dongle,” which is a device that plugs into the USB input on your media player. Once connected, you need to open your media player’s wireless settings to choose your network. You will need to know your password if you have set one on your wireless router.

If you connect devices or computers via Wi-Fi, you need to make sure they are on the same network. Sometimes when setting up a router, users choose one network for their own use and another for guests or businesses. In order for devices to see each other and communicate, they must all be on the same named network. Available networks will appear in a list of selections, both on computers and when setting up a wireless connection on a network media player or media streamer.

Take the hassle out of setup by using a wired connection

The easiest and most reliable way to connect is to use an Ethernet cable to connect your network media player or media streamer to the router. If you have a newer home with in-wall Ethernet wiring throughout the house, all you need to do is plug your Ethernet cable into your device or computer, then plug the other end into the Ethernet wall jack.

However, if you don’t have built-in Ethernet wiring in your home, it’s unlikely you’ll want to add cables from room to room. Instead, consider a powerline Ethernet adapter. By plugging a powerline adapter into any wall outlet, you send data through your home’s electrical wiring just like Ethernet cables.

Content

Once you’ve set up your network, you need content: photos and/or music and movies to enjoy. Content can come from various sources:

  • Photos and movies downloaded from your digital camera, digital camcorder, or smartphone.
  • Uploaded photos of friends and family from photo-sharing websites like Instagram or from photos sent via email.
  • Rip music CDs or use a device to record from vinyl records or cassette tapes.
  • Download or stream movies from the Internet or digital versions of movies included on DVD/Blu-ray discs. Note: Digital versions of movies may be copyrighted and may not be compatible with some network media players.

Downloaded content storage

If you choose to download content from the Internet or want to transfer or save your own content, you need a place to store it. The best options for storing content are a PC, laptop, or NAS (network attached storage device). However, you can use your smartphone as a storage device as long as it has enough space.

Access your stored content

Once the downloaded or transferred content is stored, you can use your selected storage device as a media server that can be accessed by your compatible network media player or media streamer. Storage devices must support DLNA or UPnP, which can be further enhanced with third-party software options.

The essential

With a network media player or network-enabled media streamer (which may include a dedicated box or dongle, smart TV, or Blu-ray Disc player), you can stream content directly from the Internet and/or play still images , music, and videos that you have stored on your PC, media servers, smartphone, or other compatible devices, as long as all devices are connected to the same network and the network media player or streamer can play digital media files via those you want to access and play.

With a network media player, you can extend the reach of content access for your home theater and home entertainment experience.

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