The Xbox One has integrated TV features and support for streaming media apps like Netflix and Hulu, but that isn’t where it ends. You can play video and music files you’ve ripped or downloaded by plugging in a USB drive or streaming them over your local network.
This is made possible by the Xbox Media Player app, which Microsoft released about nine months after the Xbox One was released. Sony also added a similar PS4 Media Player app to its console, so both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 offer this feature.
Supported File Types
The Xbox One Media Player app supports a wide variety of audio and video codecs, container formats, and image file types. It even supports album art images stored in music folders. Here’s a list of what the app supports, straight from Microsoft:
- Music, Video, and Container Formats: 3GP audio, 3GP video, 3GP2, AAC, ADTS, .asf, AVI DivX, DV AVI, AVI uncompressed, AVI Xvid, H.264 AVCHD, M-JPEG, .mkv, .mov, MP3, MPEG-PS, MPEG-2, MPEG-2 HD, MPEG-2 TS, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, MPEG-4 SP, WAV, WMA, WMA Lossless, WMA Pro, WMA Voice, WMV, WMV HD
- Picture Formats: Animated GIF, BMP, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF
In practice, almost anything you want to play or view should work fine. You’ll see an error message if you try to play something that isn’t supported.
Install the Xbox Media Player App
This app isn’t installed by default, so you’ll need to install it yourself from the Xbox Store. To launch the Xbox Store, head to My Games & Apps > Apps > Find more in the Xbox Store. Search for “media player” and install the Media Player app.
How to Play Videos and Music From a USB Drive
If you have a USB flash drive or external drive, you can use it to play videos on the Xbox One. The Xbox One supports USB 1, USB 2, and USB 3 drives. The drive must be formatted in FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS. If you have a Windows PC, your USB drive will work on your Xbox One as long as your Windows PC can read it. If you have a Mac, be sure to format the drive as exFAT and not with a Mac-only file system like HFS+.
Connect the drive to your computer and copy your video, music, or picture files onto it. Eject it from your computer and connect it to one of the USB ports on your Xbox One. There Xbox One has three USB ports you can use: Two on the back of the console, and one on the side.
Open the Media Player app and you’ll see your connected drive as an option. Select the drive and you can browse all the media files on it and play them, controlling the playback with your Xbox controller.
How to Stream Media Files From Your Computer
Alternatively, you can skip the USB drive entirely and stream a video from your computer to your Xbox One using DLNA. You could also use a network attached storage (NAS) device as a DLNA media server if you have one.
To do this, you’ll need to set up a DLNA server on your PC or Mac first. Microsoft recommends–and officially supports–Windows Media Player as a DLNA server. This feature was introduced in Windows 7, and it still works on Windows 8, 8.1, and 10. If you use a Mac, you’ll need to find a third-party DLNA server like Plex.
To activate the DLNA server included with Windows, open the Control Panel, search for “media,” and click the “Media streaming options” link under Network & Sharing Center. Click the “Turn on media streaming” button here. This makes the files available in your Music, Pictures, and Videos libraries available for streaming. (So if your video file isn’t in your Videos folder already, you’ll want to put it there now.)
Once you have a DLNA server set up, it will appear in your Xbox One’s Media Player app as an option alongside any connected USB drives, allowing you to browse and stream media files stored in your media libraries.
How to Stream Media Files With “Play To” or “Cast to Device”
You can also use the “Play To” feature to play music from your computer to your Xbox One. This feature is now called “Cast to Device” on Windows 10, but it’s still called “Play To” on the Xbox One. It also relies on DLNA in the background. However, you don’t have to set up a DLNA server. You just browse to the media files on your computer and tell Windows to play them on your Xbox One.
This feature was introduced in Windows 7, and it still works on Windows 8, 8.1, and 10.
To do this, ensure the appropriate option is enabled on your Xbox One. Head to Settings > All Settings > Preferences > Game DVR & Streaming and ensure the “Allow Play To Streaming” option is enabled.
To play music or video files on your Xbox One, just right-click them in File Explorer or Windows Explorer and use the “Cast to Device” or “Play To” menu to select your Xbox One.
A small Windows Media Player window will appear, and you can use to to manage your playlist and control playback from your computer. You can also control playback on the console itself with your Xbox One controller.
If you haven’t yet installed the Movies & TV app on your Xbox One, you’ll be prompted to do so. The page for the app on the Xbox Store will open–just select “Install” to install it. You’ll have to install the app before the “Play To” or “Cast to Device” streaming will work.