One of the many reasons I love my Roku player is the capability it has to stream media from my PC to my TV. Streaming media allows me to watch any movie, listen to any song, and view any picture stored on my computer directly on my TV set.
Why would I want to do that?
I don't like having to deal with media storage in regards to CD's, DVD's, thumb drives, or whatever else can store the media files for you. These files are already housed on my computer's hard drive, and using the Roku player I can access all those files from my TV for my viewing and listening pleasure.
How to do it
This isn't the step by step guide, but rather the means by which this feat is possible. The following are channels that a Roku owner can subscribe to that will allow this feature of streaming from your PC to your TV through the Roku.
- Roksbox - $15 one time fee
- Play on - $79.99 one time fee, $39.99 one year fee, $4.99 a month
- Chaneru - $10 one time fee + a processing fee
- RoConnect - $1 one time fee
Yes, the prices do vary considerably, but that is a result of a number of factors. Let's explore each of these channels to determine one that interests you.
Cost: One time $15 fee
Pros: Flawless stream, good walkthroughs and support, mutli-OS's (Win, Linux, and Mac), customizable
Cons: Medium to high difficulty to setup but with good walkthroughs, customizing is time consuming if you want to add thumbnails and info to files, limited skins. Load time, especially with movies, can be long when you have a lot of files. Separating into different folders and keeping the thumbnail size small assists in keeping load time down.
Cost: $79.99 one time fee, $39.99 year, $4.99 month (there is a dang good reason for these prices!)
Pros: Not only plays local media, but also has premium content channels like Cartoon Network, ESPN, Spike, Youtube, Comedy Central, Nick, and many more. Hence the higher price. Simple installation, great support, and the ability to use your PlayOn with other mobile media devices such as an Ipod or your PC. As for the ability to stream your own media, you do not need to purchase a license. I am running mine on an expired trial and I still have the ability to stream my content, so I guess technically the streaming from your PC ability is free.
Cons: I am not willing to fork out the money yet to test the premium content, but as for the streaming ability it seems a bit disjointed in its folder organization. I had mine organized easily and perfectly under Roksbox, but having PlayOn using the same folder system made it a bit wonky and not as clean. However, the streaming content is said to be still in beta. Also, the load time is a tad slow and it lacks the ability to customize XML files to provide media information. I like to have my content customizable and I have yet to figure this out beyond adding thumbnails.
Cost: One time fee of $10
Pros: Extremely easy installation on PC, automatically scans for media, scans iTunes library and uses XML info. Good walkthrough to assist in changing file locations.
Cons: Not very flattering in terms of looks, this includes logo to the music screen saver. Slow load time, even for pictures (I am picky with this one). You have to wait a minute for all files to be accessed and loaded. This is true of all, but Chaneru was a bit too slow for my liking.
Cost: $1 one time fee
Pros: This could easily be the best, but it isn't quite there yet. RoConnect will actually use databases (IMDB for example) and create an info sheet and generate thumbnail for you instead of having to manually do it. Obviously the cost is another. I love the look and feel of the menu and website. There is quite a bit of documentation and help available, including a facebook support page.
Cons: Uses WAMP for a server, which is not a bad thing but may require you to be a bit more familiar with technology. I experienced multiple problems, including a port problem when Skype is running. RoConnect causes my PC to freeze, and subsequently my roku player to seize up during playback of videos. I find this strange considering the file size to be well under 1gb. There are just a few kinks that if they could be worked out I would hands down use this program. It very well could be in the way RoConnect utilizes WAMP that causes the problems.
Stream on but take note!
The options are growing in terms of being able to stream content from your PC through your Roku player. The best thing about all of these options I have mentioned are the ability you have to test them out for free during a trial period. I recommend giving them all a try to really find one that fits you best.
As for me, I currently use Roksbox, but am keeping an eye on RoConnect. There is nothing more satisfying than having the ability to control your media and stream it from PC to TV.
As a final note be aware that the Roku does not have the ability to handle AVI files. So until this happens, you will need to convert video files to an MP4 format.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Jared Zane Kessie (author) from Richland, Washington on August 12, 2014:
Steve, I totally agree that Plex is now the best option for streaming movies from your PC to the Roku, or any other streaming player. At the time of the article, Plex was new and clunky to the Roku. I use primarily use Plex on all my streaming players, which also includes Apple TV and the Ouya.
Steve on August 12, 2014:
Plex was the best option for me. So simple.
Uri - Founder tvble.com on April 29, 2013:
I would like to suggest a new kind of media server - TVble.
TVble combines the power of online movie data (rotten tomatoes, the Movie db and more), the freedom of BitTorrent and the ease of use of DLNA (which enables you to consume content straight from your Smart TV)
TVble is currently in beta testing here http://www.tvble.com
johnnyvest from Salt Lake City on January 23, 2013:
Cool hub thanks for the suggestions ... i'm trying out Roksbox and it works well with my Roku (granted it works for me since i'm a computer geek and already had a webserver/media server running 24/7 so it's perfect for that).
daddy-o on June 03, 2012:
JamesG is correct. Plex is the best way to go
JamesG on March 25, 2012:
I've been using Plex (http://www.plexapp.com/) to stream from my computer to Roku. I found the setup to be very simple. I believe this setup is completely free. You have the option to stream to Android or Apple devices for an added fee.
Jared Zane Kessie (author) from Richland, Washington on January 26, 2012:
It is current as of October 2011, so only a few months old.
jmr1 on January 26, 2012:
This was very helpful, but I don't see a date on the article. Is it current?
EricLee on October 30, 2011:
We recently made the move from Dish Network to Roku for bill cut reasons. While difficult, the 2 saving graces of this have been Netflix's great selection, and the ability to add streaming from PC. One big issue to us was that the movies had to be in .mp4 format (our entire collection thus far is in xvid) so we were hesitant, but .mp4 really is a better format so we decided to make the move and have not regretted it.