Nik keeps his PC downstairs. But he wants to watch videos stored on that PC on an HDTV that's upstairs. What's the simplest way to do that?
There's actually an open standard for sharing media files across a home network. It's called the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), and you probably already have everything you need to use it.
First, some definitions: The device that sends the stream--such as a PC--is the DLNA server. The device that receives the stream--such as an HDTV or something connected to the TV--is the DLNA renderer (I really hate that term; player or receiver would be much friendlier). Both devices must be on the same network.
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Setting up a DLNA server on Windows
Assuming that your PC is running a current version of Windows, it can serve your media without additional software. Windows Media Player is, amongst other things, a DLNA server.
But you have to set it up: In WMP 12, select Stream > Turn on media streaming.
This brings up the 'Media streaming options' dialog box, where you're asked once again to Turn on media streaming. That brings you to another dialog box that allows you to control what devices on the network can receive the stream.
Don't worry about that dialog box at the moment. Just click OK. You may want to return to it at another time.
You can also find DLNA servers for other operating systems, including Android, iOS, Mac OS X, and Linux. Consumer network-attached storage (NAS) systems almost always contain DLNA server software as well.
Set up DLNA compatible media players
Chances are you already have a DLNA renderer, as well. The vast majority of network-capable HDTVs, Blu-ray players, and game consoles can render DLNA.
Check your device's home screen for music, pictures, and video options. When you select one of these, you'll likely get a list of DLNA servers currently running on the home network. If not, check the manual for DLNA support.
With the right apps, you can turn a Chromecast or a Roku into a DLNA renderer.
If you have a Chromecast and an Android phone, download the free Android app BubbleUPnP. The app's setup wizard will recommend installing its own server on your PC, but you don't have to.
Select the server you want to look for media files on. When you select a media file, BubbleUPnP will bring up a list of player apps on your Android device. Select AllCast to send the stream to your Chromecast and, through that, your TV.
Things are much simpler with a Roku. Just download the Roku Media Player channel, and you'll have clear and simple access to the media on your PC.