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Share and Stream Digital Media Between Windows 7 Machines On Your Home Network

One of the cool new features in Windows 7 is the ability to stream digital media to different computers throughout your house. Here we will show you how to set up Windows Media Player in Windows 7 to share and stream videos, music, and other digital media to Windows 7 machines.

To stream video to another computer on your home network they will all need to be running Windows 7 with Windows Media Player 12. In our example we will stream video from a computer running Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) to another machine running Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) which are part of the same Homegroup.

Setup Streaming

The first thing you’ll want to do is turn on media streaming. Type media streaming into the search box in the Start menu and select Media streaming options.

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Now select your media streaming options. Choose a name for the media library, and make sure all the computers on your network you want to have access are allowed. If both computers are part of a Homegroup, everything is shared by default anyway, but you might want to double check. Or you might want to block certain computers from the streaming options.

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You can also choose some custom settings if you want. For instance, maybe you want certain computers to only have access to music or certain files with a particular rating. For this demonstration we are opening everything up, but if you want to control what other users access, keep these settings in mind.

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Now open up Windows Media Player and in Library view click on Stream and check Automatically allow devices to play my media.

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To be able to play content on one machine over to another we need to enable Allow remote control of my Player. This makes it so your computer is a remote control of sorts.

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Then click Allow remote control on this network when the dialog box comes up.

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Because we are making everything wide open to all computers, we need to enable the above settings on both computers. If you have multiple computers on your network you can set them all up to share their libraries too. Now when you go into Windows Media Player under the Library view you’ll see Other Libraries and will see the other computers on your network.

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Stream To a Machine

Now comes the cool part…playing video or music from the library of one machine to another machine. Make sure the machine you want to play the media to has WMP up and running. Right-click a media file and select Play to from the context menu and select the machine to play it to. In this example we only have one other machine to choose from, and playing an X-files episode from the library in WMP.

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Then you’ll see the Play To controller with the media listed. From here you can control the playback and volume.

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Then the video starts playing through WMP on the other machine.

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You aren’t just limited to playing digital media from WMP either. Here we’re in a video directory where we have season 2 of Star Trek DS9. Select the episodes to play, right-click and Play To…

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Playing music files to another machine…

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Pictures too…

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Again from the Play To control you can switch the order of the files and skip to others.

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You can simply drag and drop other files that you want to add into it as well.

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Conclusion

This is a great way to play your digital files from one location to another. You might have a bunch of movies or music on a laptop in your bedroom, and want to play them to your media center in the living room. The combinations are essentially limitless. Playback on other machines is generally smooth provided you have a decent home network with Gigabit speed,which most new routers and machines are capable of. You can definitely stream video over a wireless connection, but make sure it’s a fast connection. If wireless speeds are too slow…setup computers on the network wired with CAT5e cable wherever possible.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 01/26/10

Comments (13)

  1. Justin

    So lame. so much easier to do this without doing it this way nor with windows 7, or the crappy WMP 12 (Which is complete junk)

    Gomplayer or Klite player = the Best. Includes all codecs for videos and audio, unlike Windows Media Player 12.

  2. 216

    Useful info

  3. Chris

    Justin: Gomplayer and Klite player are great substitues for WMP on XP or Vista machines, no doubt, but It doesn’t sound like you have really auditioned WMP 12 on Windows 7. It does a pretty good job with DivX and XviD codecs and sharing and streaming (the real point of this article) are super easy for novices to setup and use. I keep Kmedia player around for MKV and subtitle support but we stream music and video back and forth in our house with Win 7/WMP all the time with no muss or fuss.
    I don’t agree with the article’s Gigabit ethernet recommendation though. 100mbit wired is just fine for a home setup, unless you have lots of other traffic across your LAN, and most don’t.
    Even wireless G should work for all but HD video, unless, once again, you have lots of other traffic or problems with your setup. People might want to check that out before running out and dumping a bundle on wired gigabit. I changed the channel on my neighbor’s wireless setup based on a scan with inSSIDer of the neighborhood’s WiFi signals and they went from horrible speeds to great speed in a matter of minutes. It seems that wireless gateways aren’t always the best at picking an unused channel…

  4. GTRoberts

    Query – should the media streaming stay “turned on” ?? that is, every time I start up my laptop, the media streaming option is always turned off and I have to turn it back on again.

  5. CBen

    Very helpful article. I can stream to any of the four computer in my home, but each WMP window is individual…..how do I stream to all computers simultaneously by clicking one play button? It’s just not possible to keep them in sync when I’m clicking 4 play buttons.

  6. Rebecca

    HELP! I don’t even understand what I am reading here.
    Let me tell you what I want to do and someone tell me if it is possible.
    I have Windows 7. I want to subscribe to YESNetwork (Yankee baseball network) which I will pay for….. have the Yankees baseball games stream to my pc then someway, somehow get the stream onto my tv.
    Can that be done…………..????

  7. arnold

    I am looking for the same answer as CBen.

    how can i have one central computer “playing” the music, and have all my other computers recieving what i play and relaying that out to the speakers in each room. More like being able to turn speakers on and off via the central room!

    hoping for a reply that doesn’t start with – wmp can’t do that. (which i think is actually the answer)

  8. Mark

    Great article !!!

    But I can’t manage to make it work. I followed all the steps, but the play to controller keeps saying “Contacting media server” (as in your picture) and then thats it, no music, no video, nothing.

    Can you please help me make it work !

  9. PaulL

    Came here for an answer to GTRoberts’s question. How the heck do I turn this on permanently? Very annoying to put my laptop to sleep or log off and have to constantly reopen windows media player and turn the streaming back on just so i can access this on my home network via xbox (i’m not even online)

  10. Joe

    hi! I tried to turn on the media streaming and after clicking on the turn on button cursor becomes the blue toroid, computer thinks I don’t know what and then like nothing happened. Streaming is not on.
    I’m running win 7 ultimate
    Anything else that should be configured?
    thanks in advance

  11. Jose

    hi! I tried to turn on the media streaming and after clicking on the turn on button cursor becomes the blue toroid, computer thinks I don’t know what and then like nothing happened. Streaming is not on.
    I’m running win 7 ultimate
    Anything else that should be configured?
    thanks in advance

  12. MOH3N

    Great!
    Thanks

  13. amixx

    i dont have a “play to” option -_-, it just isnt there. am i doing something wrong? please help

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