Connect Your PC To Your HDTV

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Set Up a UPnP Server to Stream Over Your Network

If you can't move your PC into your living room, you might be able to use your home network to stream video to your HDTV with minimal fuss. To do that, you'll need a UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) media-server app for your PC, and a way to connect your TV to the network (either via built-in Wi-Fi/ethernet or through a separate set-top box).

Streaming Hulu Plus with the Roku.
Not only can you leave your PC at your desk, but you can also avoid worrying about codec problems or video file format support--UPnP server apps handle the video decoding on your PC, so adding support for new video formats is much easier.

Keep in mind that if you're streaming lots of HD video, you'll probably need to stick to a wired network. Wi-Fi is prone to dropped frames and buffering delays, but if all your devices are on 802.11n Wi-Fi, you might be able to get away with it.

To set everything up, first you'll need to connect your TV to your network. Newer TVs usually have an ethernet port or a Wi-Fi adapter that lets you access Internet-connected functions as well as local media. If your TV can't connect to your network, you'll need to hook it up to something that can--either a set-top box such as a Roku or an Apple TV, or a modern game console (Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3), will work fine. What you're looking for is a device that supports "UPnP media streaming"--if the specs say "DLNA Certified," even better.

Next, you'll need an app for your PC that can share the video across the network. Windows 7 supports this function out of the box--just search for "media streaming options" from the Start menu.

From there, you can select which devices on your network you want to allow to access your media, set sharing options based on how you've rated each song or movie, and more. Once you've configured things, you should be able to access all your media from your TV via your set-top box of choice.

Unfortunately, Windows 7's built-in media sharing doesn't always work as well as it should. I found that with certain set-top boxes, a DVD rip or 720p TV capture that looked excellent on my PC would typically look pixelated and heavily artifacted when I used Windows 7's media function. Also, for some reason not all of my videos, shared folders, or library contents showed up when I used Windows media sharing.

PS3 Media Server isn't just for your PS3.
Instead, I opted for the PS3 Media Server app (PC/Mac/Linux), which, despite the name, worked just fine with my Xbox 360 and various set-top boxes. Not only is it free and easy to set up, but it also supports transcoding--a feature that lets your PC convert your audio and video to a different format as you're watching it, in case your streaming device doesn't support the codec your media uses.

Just download, install, and launch PS3 Media Server, and click the Navigation/Share Settings tab. At the bottom of the window you'll see an icon with a folder and a large green "+" on it. Click it, select the folder(s) you wish to share, click Save at the top, and click Restart HTTP server.

Once PS3 Media Server is finished reloading, you should be able to access your media from your set-top box or TV's media-sharing menus.

If you own a network-attached storage drive or a router with a USB port, such as the Belkin Play Max, you may not even need to use a PC to host your videos--the device might have a built-in UPnP server setting. In that case, all you would have to do is configure it using the included software, and copy the videos over to the NAS drive (or plug a USB drive into the router's USB port).

That's it! Now all you need for movie night is to set up some home-automation apps on your PC for the popcorn and the lights, and you're set.

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