How to Set Up a Media Server With Windows 7

by Jeff Grundy Google

    Modern wireless technology not only allows you connect to the Internet without cables or wires, but also lets you share or stream music and video between various devices. With Windows 7, you can stream your favorite music and videos to your TV, a PC in another room, a wireless amplifier or speaker system or even to remote computers and devices over the Internet. Setting up a media server to stream content may seem a little daunting at first. However, with a little planning and basic networking knowledge, configuring a media server in Windows 7 and streaming your content is relatively simple.

    Network Requirements

    It is possible to stream media from one Windows 7 computer to another using an old-fashioned Ethernet cable and router or hub. However, to take advantage of all the benefits Media Service has to offer, you will need a wireless network. That means, at a minimum, you'll need a wireless router and computers or devices with Wi-Fi adapters installed. The actual computer you use to serve media throughout the network does not require a wireless adapter or card. In fact, connecting the server to the wireless router via an Ethernet cable provides better streaming performance to other wireless computers and devices on the network. Nevertheless, for computers, smartphones, gaming consoles to which you want stream media, using wireless adapters will provide you with much more flexibility. Many smartphones and laptops, and some gaming consoles, include built-in wireless adapters. However, if you want to add Wi-Fi capability to a desktop computer or gaming console, you may need to purchase and install a USB wireless adapter dongle. Installing one on a Windows 7 system is simple, though, and requires no more than plugging the adapter or dongle into an empty USB port and then waiting for the operating system to detect and configure it automatically. If you want to stream media from the server to a TV wirelessly, you'll need a digital media player device connected to the Wi-Fi router and the television. You can even stream media to your home entertainment system if you have a high-end audio/video receiver with a network adapter.

    Configuring the Server

    Configuring the computer you want to use as a media server to stream content over the network is relatively simple and generally requires little more than a few mouse clicks. To begin configuring your Windows 7 media server, you must turn on the feature in Windows Media Player. You can turn on streaming in Windows Media Player by simply launching the program, clicking "Stream" on the toolbar and then selecting the "Turn on Media Streaming" option. Afterwards, a window pops up and asks you to confirm that you want to turn on the feature and prompt you to select the type of media you want to share and stream on the network. After you select the types of media to stream, just click the "OK" button and your media is ready for sharing and streaming over the local network.

    Configuring Remote Computers and Devices

    Once you configure your media server computer, accessing music and videos on it from other computers on the network is relatively easy. Nevertheless, you'll need to connect the computers or devices to the local network before you can do so. After you enable Wi-Fi on a networked computer and connect to the router, or connect via an Ethernet cable, you can access media on the server directly from Windows Media Player. Open Windows Media Player on the networked computer and open Libraries from the navigation pane. If you click the "Other Libraries" link, the network name of the media server computer appears. You can then click the network name of the server and browse the machine for media you want to play on the connected PC. If you want to stream media to a Windows-compatible digital media receiver connected to a TV, a smartphone or a receiver, you can use the "Play to" feature in Windows Media Player. Connect the smartphone, Wi-Fi receiver or other wireless device to the router and let it obtain an IP address. After you connect the wireless device to the router, simply click the "Play To" button on the Play tab in Windows Media Player and select the device to which you want to stream content. If the device supports Windows Media Streaming, the player app on the device should open and begin playing the stream automatically.

    Internet Streaming

    When configuring media streaming in Windows 7, you can also choose to allow remote connections if you want to stream content to computers or portable devices over the Internet. However, if you choose to stream content over the Internet, you'll need to set up a dynamic Domain Name System service for your router and network so you can access the server computer using a "www.mymediaserver.com" type address in the remote computer or device's Web browser. Setting up dynamic DNS is relatively simple, and several services such as DynDND, FreeDNS and No-IP allow you to do so free of charge (links in Resources). Windows 7 also supports the use of Windows Live ID to enable sharing only for authorized remote users logged in valid accounts linked for use with your media server computer. You should exercise caution when allowing streaming over the Internet, though, and ensure that you use strong passwords and router encryption. Failure to use strong passwords or router encryption could allow hackers or other unauthorized persons to access the media server computer and other systems connected to the network.

    About the Author

    Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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