The Roku is a streaming box…and not much else. There’s no hard drive space onboard for your personal videos, and most models don’t even have a USB port for external drives. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play your own videos, listen to your own music, or browse your photo collection.
If you’re trying to get the most out of your Roku, you should learn your options for streaming local media. You have four main options: setting up a DLNA server, using Plex, using screen mirroring, or using a USB drive (on Rokus that support it).
Turn Your PC Into a DLNA Server: Works With All Rokus, Mostly Simple
The Roku Media Player is included with some Roku players, and is a free download for everyone else. This tool makes it possible to play local media over your network using the DLNA standard.
Don’t panic—it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Any computer can quickly be set up as a DLNA server, allowing any Roku on the same network to stream media from it. We’ve told you how to turn your computer into a DLNA Media Server using the options built into Windows, as well as using free software like PS3 Media Server for Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. Just hit up that guide and, once your videos are shared, open up Roku Media Player to see all your videos, music, and photos.
You can quickly browse and play any media you’ve legally acquired over the years.
It’s not the best interface in the world, but it gets the job done easily, which is why we’re recommending it first.
Plex: Works With All Rokus, Takes Some Setup
Setting up a DLNA Server is quick, but the Roku Media Player interface leaves a lot to be desired. Happily, there’s a Plex Channel for Roku.
Set up a Plex server and you can browse your media from a beautiful interface, complete with show notes and a lot more. It’s a little more involved, but the results are totally worth it if you have a library of movies and shows you’re going to access regularly.
Mirror Your Screen: Quick, But Potentially Glitchy
Does setting up servers sound like more work than you want right now? Well you can mirror your Windows or Android device’s screen to your Roku instead. This feature is enabled by default on all recent Roku devices, but you can head to Settings > System > Screen Mirroring just to check.
With this feature enabled, you can use the Miracast service built into Android and Windows to show whatever is on your device onto your TV screen, complete with audio. It’s a quick way to watch your movie, music, or photos on your TV. The downside: it doesn’t work with Apple devices, and can be glitchy depending on your Wi-Fi setup. We wouldn’t use this to watch a full-length movie, but if you’re just trying to show off a quick clip, it’s going to be the fastest option.
Plug In a USB Drive: Dead Simple, But Only Offered By Some Devices
We come at last to the simplest option: playing media from a USB stick or external hard drive. Why leave it until last? Looking at the entire Roku lineup, you’ll notice the $100 Ultra is the only model that currently offers this, and the vast majority of Roku users opt for a cheaper model than that.
But if you are a Roku user, there’s good news: you can plug in an external drive, and this popup will appear.
This will open the Roku Media Player, from which you can browse your drive and open any video, music, or photo files you have on it.
It’s quick, and it works—even if the interface isn’t perfect. Sometimes that’s all you need.