The new Apple TV is pretty cool on its own, and we believe that it’s a good purchase if you’re looking to buy or upgrade to a new streaming device. But what if you want to play a video file from your computer on your TV?
The good news is, with a simple $5 app, you can turn your Apple TV into a very capable video streaming device that will play virtually any TV shows or movies you have stored on your PC or Mac.
Install Air Video HD on Your Apple TV
The first thing you will need to do is install the Air Video HD app on your Apple TV. To do this, first open the app store and search for it. The Siri Remote might make this a little annoying, but you should be able to find it with just a few letters.
As we mentioned, the app itself will set you back $4.99, but considering what it can do, we think it’s well worth it.
When you first open Air Video HD, you will almost certainly get an error telling you no computers were found.
This is because you need to install the Air Video HD Server on your computer, too.
Install Air Video Server HD on Your Computers
In order to stream video content to your Apple TV, you will first need to install the Air Video Server HD application on your PC or Mac (Linux support is coming soon). We’ll be using the Windows version in this guide, but the two are nearly identical.
Install the application like you would any other, then start it up. The server will start running automatically.
You will immediately see a bunch of options and settings but you can probably safely ignore everything for the time being. Right now, we’re most concerned about adding a location or locations to get things started.
Click the “Add” button and you will be prompted to select a directory. Browse to the location where your media is stored on your PC or Mac, choose the folder(s) you want to add and click “OK”.
Now, you will see your locations in the “Shared Folders”. In our example, we’ve only added one location for the sake of simplicity, but you can obviously add as many as you want.
At this point, you can close the server application and it will continue to run in the background. If you need to access it in the future, you can do so by clicking the icon in the system tray on Windows or in the menu bar on OS X.
Find Your Computer on Your Apple TV
With the server up and running and our locations added, it’s time to go back to the Apple TV and access our content. Remember earlier when it told us it couldn’t find any computers? You should now be able to see your server(s) on Air Video HD’s connections screen.
Go ahead and click on one of them (if you have more than one running) and browse to the content you want to view. Of course, if you have more than one location added, you will see all of them. As we said earlier, we only added one to keep things simple.
That then is all there is to it. When you click on a title, it will begin playing and you can operate in the same way you do other video content using the Siri Remote’s play/pause button as well as the touch pad surface to fast forward and rewind.
Just remember, you can only access this content so long as the host computer is on and the Air Video Server application is running. If you don’t see your shared folder(s) when you open the Air Video HD application on your Apple TV, then you should first check to make sure the computer from where you’re streaming your files is on or hasn’t gone to sleep.
What’s Up With All Those Settings?
Before we conclude today, we want to take just a few minutes to run through the various configuration settings you will see when you start the server software.
First, at the top of the server screen you will see two options: one to stop the server (if it is running) or start it (if it is stopped), and a button to check the server status.
The server status will show you three tabs. The Network tab will display important information such as the local IP address, port, as well as external port and IP if you want to allow your server to be accessed from the Internet.
The Session tab will show you any connected users and playback sessions, and finally the Conversion tab will display information on any files that are currently being converted.
Below the top section are the Remote Access options. If your server is accessible from the Internet, you can enable or disable it here.
Additionally, you can configure whether you want to set up single or multi user mode. If you choose the latter, then you can assign user accounts to persons in your household.
Below these options is a button to “invalidate passwords saved on devices”. All this basically means is that if you give a user access and later need to revoke it, you can quickly do so by clicking that button.
Finally, if you have file formats that first need to be converted before they can be streamed, then you can see where the conversion folder information is, and if necessary, you can change its location.
The remaining “Other Options” give you the ability to start the server software when you log into your account, as well as set the server to listen on a custom port.
More than likely, you will not have to mess with this last option, the remaining two “experimental” items, or any of the three buttons located on the right side of the server window.
As you can see, turning your Apple TV into a video streaming powerhouse is dead simple and cheap, so if you have a bunch of files residing on your trusty old PC or Mac, then you no longer need to futz with attaching it directly to your TV via an HDMI cable.
Now, all you need to do is fire up your Apple TV and pick the title you want to view with the Air Video HD app. With that said, please let us know if you found this article helpful by leaving your feedback in our discussion forum.