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What You Need to Play Media on a Network Media Player

Be Sure You Are Ready Before Setting Up Your Network Media Player


Belkin Router showing Ethernet ports

This wifi router by Belkin, also has ports to connect a number of devices.

Photo (c) Evan Gonzalez - Licensed to About.com

You’ve decided that you are tired of crowding your friends and family around your computer to view photos.  You want to see the movies you’ve downloaded from the Internet on your big-screen TV.  You want to listen to your music away from your desk, on your full-range speakers in your living room.  

After all, this is home entertainment, not work.  Your digital media files need to be set free and enjoyed on your TV and quality music system. 

It’s time to get a network media player that retrieves the media from your computer or other network devices, then plays your movies, music and photos on your home theater.

But you need more than just a network media player to make it work. 

Here is what you’ll need:

1. A router that connects to the computers you want to include on your network. A router is a device that creates a path for all of your computers and network devices to talk to one another. The connections can be wired, wireless or both. 

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

To allow the computers and devices on your network to connect to the Internet you will also need a modem.

2. A modem from your Internet provider.  If you want to access online media, you will need a modem to connect to the Internet.  When you sign up for Internet service, your Internet provider typically installs the modem (see photo of modem).

A modem is not necessary for you to access the media on your other computers, network-attached servers or other devices within your home.  If you don’t want Internet media, you can simply use a router.

NOTE: While some modems are also routers, they are not the same. You will know it’s a router if you see more than one or two Ethernet connections on the back.  (See photo of router

3. Digital media files. You need content—photos, and/or music and movies.  

Content can come from any number of sources: 

  • Download photos and movies from your digital camera or digital camcorder. 
  • Download photos from friends and family from photo sharing websites like Picasa or from emailed photos.
  • Copy music CDs, or use a device to record from vinyl record albums or cassette tapes.
  • Download movies from the Internet, or digital versions of movies included on DVD/Blu-ray Discs. Note: digital versions of movies may be copyright-protected and may not be compatible with many network media players.

4. A place to store your media files. The content must be stored on your computer(s) or a networked attached storage (NAS). When deciding where to store your files, consider:

  • The benefit of a media server or a NAS is that you don’t have to leave your computer turned on in order to access your files.
  • If you store your files on your computer, you will also need to turn on media streaming or acquire special software:  
  • For PCs with Windows 7, choose “Turn on home media streaming” under the “Stream “ menu in your Windows Media Player.  
    • For Windows Vista, be sure you have Windows Player 11.  If you have Windows XP, you will need 3rd-party media server software.
    • For Mac you’ll need media server software like TwonkyMedia Server to make your files accessible. 
    • You can store files on other devices, including smart phones—iPhones, Android phones, and Windows Mobile phones. Apps allow access to the music, photos and movies that are saved onto the phone.

5. A connection to the router, either wireless or wired.

Connect your computers and devices to the router either with Ethernet cables or wirelessly.  Most laptops come with a built-in wireless card. For desktops and NAS devices, you will probably need to connect by means of cables.  

For Wireless Connections, All Devices and Computers Need a Wireless Adaptor 

 Network media players may have built-in wireless capabilities, but more likely, you will have to purchase a wireless “dongle”—a device that fits into your media player’s USB input. Once connected, you must open your media player’s wireless-connection setup to choose your network.  You will need to know your password, if you have one set up on your wireless router.  

If you connect devices or computers wirelessly, you must be sure they are on the same network. Sometimes, when a router is set up, people choose one network for their own use and another for guests.  For the devices to see each other and communicate, they all must be on the network of the same name.  The available networks will appear in a list of selections, both on computers and when setting up a wireless connection on a network media player.

Forego Configuration Hassles by Using a Wired Connection

The easier and more reliable way to connect is to use an Ethernet cable to connect your device or network media player to the router.  If you have a newer home with whole-home in-wall Ethernet wiring, you will simply connect your Ethernet cable to your device or computer and then plug the other end into the wall outlet.

However, if you don’t have built-in Ethernet cabling in your home, it is doubtful that you would want to add cables running from room to room.  Instead, consider a powerline Ethernet adaptor. By connecting a powerline adaptor to any wall electrical outlet, it sends data over your home’s electrical wiring as if it were Ethernet cables 

Once you have all of the hardware devices, media files, and software that you need, you are ready to set up your network media player.


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