How to play movies from your PC on your Vizio Smart TV

If you were to thumb through the manual of your new Vizio Smart TV, you might come to the conclusion that you cannot play video files stored on your computer’s hard drive on your TV.  The only mention of playing external media involves plugging in a usb drive, and that is limited to photos and music.

After several searches of the internet, I was becoming convinced it couldn’t be done. I read discussions of potentially making a widget for Plex, a popular media server, but no one had written one yet.  My experiments with a couple of different media servers went nowhere.

What the manual doesn’t tell you, and what I now know,  is that your TV is capable of displaying media streamed from a DLNA-compliant media server. I stumbled across a post here suggesting that if a DLNA media server was present, it would show under the “Media” menu (which was only mentioned in the manual with regards to playing music off a usb drive).

I looked up the wikipedia entry for DLNA media servers, and noticed the PS3 Media Server was listed. I had read a recommendation of this server as being one that “just works”, and so I downloaded and ran it.

PS3 Media Server - Main Screen

PS3 Media Server – Main Screen

Once the server was running, I checked the Media app on the TV, and sure enough my computer was listed. Clicking on the computer name, you have the choice of Photo, Music, or Video… I chose video.

By default it was sharing my entire PC, at the “My Computer” level. That was no good, so on the “Navigation/Share Settings” tab I added my video directory as a shared folder. I pressed Save at the top of the screen, and restarted the server. It now correctly restricted sharing to only the one folder.

PS3 Media Server - Specify Shared Folder

PS3 Media Server – Specify Shared Folder

From then on, it “just worked”. Clicking on a video file played the movie almost immediately, and the play, pause, fast forward and rewind buttons on my Vizio remote all worked. Video and Audio quality were both excellent, given the source file.

Some notes about this tip…

  • I use Windows XP at home because I’m a cheap bastard, and I don’t see  a point in upgrading until I upgrade my hardware as well.  I understand some or all Windows 7 systems have a media server built in. If you have Windows 7, fire up your computer, and check the Media item in your TV. You may not need PS3 Media Server at all.
  • I believe that for a DLNA media server to work, you must have your PC and TV connected through a DLNA compliant router. I have the excellent Asus RT-N66U, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s worth the money for the speed, range, and extra features.
  • As always, your mileage may vary.

I hope this post helps others searching for a way to play video files from their PC on their Vizio TV.

PS3 Media Server homepage

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