Person holding a Roku remote
Corbin Davenport / How-To Geek
Enable the built-in media streaming feature on Windows 10 or Windows 11 using "Media streaming options" under Control Panel's Network and Sharing Center. You can also install a third-party app like Plex, Jellyfin, Kodi, or Universal Media Server to turn your computer into a DLNA media server.

DLNA media streaming lets you stream video and audio to a huge range of devices, from smart TVs to set-top boxes and even game consoles. For this to work, you’ll need to enable or install a DLNA media streamer on your computer.

What is DLNA?

DLNA stands for “Digital Living Network Alliance” and it is used to describe a group of technology companies that worked together to establish a set of interoperability guidelines between 2003 and 2017 when the organization was dissolved. Within the context of streaming, DLNA is used to denote a commonly-agreed upon standard for local media streaming across a network.

This may also be referred to as universal plug and play (UPnP) streaming. UPnP is the networking protocol that the DLNA servers and clients use to discover one another, while DLNA certifications refer to a whole class of devices incorporating servers, players, renderers, controllers, and even printers.

This feature is also known as Play To or UPnP AV.

The important thing to note is that if a device advertises DLNA compliance, or that it is capable of streaming using DLNA or UPnP streaming, you can use it to natively play back media from a DLNA server.

DLNA logo

What You Need to Use DLNA Streaming

Many boxes you plug into your TV, including the Roku, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and even some smart TVs themselves offer DLNA (“Digital Living Network Alliance”) streaming support. They can stream video files and music over the network from your PC—as long as you set up a DLNA server on the PC first.

Using UPNP is easier than you might think, as the server software you’ll need is built into Windows. There are also third-party DLNA servers with more features, and you can run them on any operating system. It’s up to you which method you want to choose—we’ll cover both and give you a variety of options for third-party DLNA streaming servers. Here’s how to set up DLNA on your machine.

Enable the DLNA Media Server Built Into Windows

There are many different pieces of software that can function as DLNA servers, but if you use Windows then you don’t necessarily need to install anything special to get started. To enable the DLNA server built into Windows 10 and 11, open the Control Panel and search for “media” using the search box at the top right corner of the window. Click the “Media streaming options” link under Network and Sharing Center.

Search for "media" in Control Panel

Click the “Turn on media streaming” button to enable the media-streaming server.

Enable Windows Media Streaming in Control Panel

Although this Control Panel doesn’t mention the term “DLNA” at all, the media streaming feature in Windows is a DLNA-compliant media server.

You can now customize your streaming settings. The default settings allow all devices on your local network to access the media files in your media libraries, and that’s fine if you’re on a local network with only devices you trust. You probably don’t need to adjust these.

Customize Windows Media Streaming settings

This window doesn’t actually tell you how to add video, music, and picture files that can be streamed over the network. However, the media streaming feature depends on your Windows libraries.

If you want to stream video, music, or picture files, add them to the Videos, Music, or Pictures libraries. You don’t have to move the files to the current library folders—you can add new folders to the libraries. On Windows 10 and Windows 11, you’ll need to unhide the libraries to access them.

RELATED: How to Bring Libraries Back on Windows 8.1 and 10's File Explorer

Unhide your media libraries on Windows 11

Once you have, either copy the media files you want to stream to your libraries or add folders containing media files to complete the DLNA Windows setup process.

For example, if you have a bunch of videos at D:\TV Shows\, you could right-click the Videos library, select “Properties,” click “Add,” and add the D:\TV Shows\ folder to your Videos library. The files would still be stored at D:\TV Shows\, but they’d be visible in your Videos library and available for streaming from other devices.

Add folders to your video library in Windows 11

You can now access the DLNA media player on your other device—for example, VLC for Apple TV, the Roku Media Player, PS4 Media Player, or Xbox One Media Player apps all include this feature

On a Roku, you must first install the Roku Media Player channel and open it. DLNA servers on your local network will appear in the list, so you can select your computer and stream media files from it. Most smart TVs will list available DLNA servers as separate inputs when browsing sources, just make sure you’re connected to your local network first.

In addition to browsing your shared media library from the device, you can use the Play To feature to find media on your computer and start playing it directly on the networked device. Or use the DLNA media-streaming features to share media between your PCs.

RELATED: How to Watch Local Video Files on Your Roku

Install Plex, Jellyfin, Kodi, or Universal Media Server

The Windows DLNA server is the easiest and fastest one to set up, but it’s not necessarily the best option. Due to the way DLNA works, you can only stream certain types of media codecs, for example. If you have other types of media, it just won’t work.

Other DLNA servers improve this by offering real-time transcoding. If you try to play an unsupported file, they’ll transcode it on-the-fly, streaming the video in a supported format to your DLNA device.

Many different media servers support DLNA, including the immensely popular Plex Media Server. Set up Plex on your computer (or a Plex alternative) and use Plex DLNA streaming on another device to access your media. Plex’s own media player offers more features, but DLNA streaming allows you to access your Plex library on devices that don’t have a Plex client or web browser, but do offer DLNA support.

Enable DLNA server within Plex settings

RELATED: How to Set Up Plex (and Watch Your Movies on Any Device)

Jellyfin is a free open-source Plex alternative that works in much the same way, also offering DLNA media streaming. It too features a DLNA media server that broadcasts your library to devices that lack a Jellyfin client app. Alternatively, if you use the media center app Kodi you can also enable DLNA media streaming under Settings > Services > UPnP/DLNA.

Kodi DLNA/UPnP server

RELATED: Why Jellyfin Is the Plex Alternative You've Been Waiting For

If you’d rather just run a DLNA server on your computer, consider Universal Media Server. The project is based on the now-discontinued PS3 Media Server and is available for Windows, macOS, Linux and as a Docker container. It boasts a large number of features including a web interface, online media streaming, and transcoding.

Universal Media Server running on macOS

A Fine Solution for Local Streaming

When you think of streaming video or audio, you probably imagine services like Netflix and Spotify. Though hosting your own media server and streaming over a local network seems less relevant than it once did, DLNA ensures excellent compatibility between computers running media servers and the client devices on which the media is consumed.

This standard’s strength is still its wide ecosystem of supported devices. Even though it’s not always an ideal solution, it’s useful to be able to link a wide variety of devices together without any third-party apps.

Almost all of the best smart TVs will support the standard, though most will have their own app stores and can use services like Plex natively. Some even have AirPlay built in, which you can also use to stream content directly to your TV locally.

The Best TVs of 2023

Samsung S95B
Best TV Overall
Samsung S95B
Hisense U6H
Best Budget TV
Hisense U6H
Samsung QN900B
Best 8K TV
Samsung QN900B
Best Gaming TV
Sony A95K
Best TV for Movies
Sony A95K
TCL 6-Series R635
Best Roku TV
TCL 6-Series R635
Hisense U8H
Hisense U8H
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Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He has covered a wide range of topics including Apple, security, productivity tips, gaming and more for publications like How-To Geek, Zapier, and MakeUseOf.
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