Nintendo’s Wii U has apps for watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and all kinds of other streaming video. But Nintendo doesn’t offer an app that will play media files from an external drive or media server. Here’s a little trick that will let you stream videos from your home network to your TV with your Wii U.
This trick works thanks to the Wii U’s web browser, which includes support for streaming MP4 files. With a media server app on your computer, and you can use your Wii U to play videos back on the TV or gamepad.
First, you’ll need to install a media server program on your Windows PC, Mac, or Linux system.
There are quite a few options here. At one point, there was an app named VidiiU intended just for the Wii U that quite a few people recommended. However, its website is down and the official Twitter account advises that it’s no longer actively developed. There are still quite a few guides on the web pointing people towards this software, but we’d skip it.
While it isn’t the only option, we recommend Plex for this. It’s still one of the best programs out there for setting up a home media server. Plex provides a nice web interface that you can access not just from the Wii U, but from your other computers, as well as apps for your smartphone, tablet, and streaming boxes like the Roku. Best of all, it can automatically transcode media files to the MP4 format the Wii U supports, so you don’t need to worry about converting your movies to a compatible format — Plex will do all the heavy lifting automatically. There’s a premium version of Plex, but it isn’t necessary — you can do all this for free.
Download and install the Plex Media Server to your computer. After you do, you’ll be prompted to create a free account and go through the basic setup process. Point Plex at your media library — in other words, the folder on your computer containing all those video files you want to watch on your Wii U.
Now, grab your Wii U’s gamepad and tap the Home button to head to the home screen. Tap the “Internet Browser” icon to load the web browser — it’s that blue, globe-shaped icon at the bottom of the screen, in the center.
Tap the “Enter URL” field at the top of the screen and enter to the following address:
Despite the web address, your connection won’t really be going “through” Plex’s servers. You’ll be taken to the Plex sign-in page and, after you sign it, you’ll be pointed at your local media server. The videos will stream entirely over your local network, from your PC to your Wii U, and won’t use any Internet bandwidth.
If you don’t have an internet connection, you can also directly connect to the PC running Plex. You’ll need to check your computer’s local IP address to do this. Once you have, you’ll type an address in the form: http://[IP address]:32400/web
So, if the IP address of the computer running the Plex server is 192.168.0.100, you’d type:
However you connect, Plex’s web interface will appear on your screen. You can browse your media library from here. Tap a video to see more information, and then tap that video again to start playing it.
While watching a video, you’ll get touch controls on your gamepad. The video will appear on your TV, too, of course. You can choose to either mirror the video on the gamepad or just look at controls on the gamepad.
The gamepad makes a capable remote and will let you easily control playback on the touch screen, which helps make up for the lack of an official Plex app – -something PlayStation and Xbox consoles offer.
When you want to watch a video, just put it on your computer in the library folder monitored by Plex. As long as your computer remains on the entire time, you can head to your Wii U, open the web browser, and visit your Plex server at that address. You can then watch those videos and stream them over the network without messing with any USB drives or SD cards.
For easier access in the future, you might want to bookmark your Plex server’s address in the Wii U’s Internet browser.
The Wii U includes an entire “Wii mode” operating system, so you could jailbreak that Wii mode environment and install homebrew apps to use it as a media center. But that’s not a good idea — Wii mode is limited to a lower screen resolution, while the Wii U can output in 1080p. You’re better off with the media-server-and-web-browser solution above.
Image Credit: ze_bear on Flickr