UPnP (which stands for Universal Plug and Play) is a feature that allows the devices on your home network to discover each other and access certain services. Often, this is used for streaming media between devices on a network.
Tons of different devices support UPnP streaming nowadays, which is great, because it means you can rip or download media to your home computer and stream it directly to your TV—no transfer of files required.
There are a lot of different ways to set up UPnP, and it’ll vary depending on each device you use. I’ll explain how it works and how to set it up using the easiest methods I’ve used.
What You’ll Need
A UPnP-capable router. Most routers are UPnP capable, and many of them come with it enabled by default, so you probably don’t have to do anything special. (Below we’ll offer more details on enabling UPnP on your router.)
A Server Program. This is a program on your main PC that shares the media with your UPnP-capable device. There are quite a few different server programs out there, but I’ve found that just using previously mentioned XBMC, which has a UPnP server built-in, works wonders. Mac users should definitely check out the lightweight Majestic, though, and Linux users should try MediaTomb. I haven’t found anything easier to use on Windows. (Update: Many of you have mentioned the super easy-to-use PS3 Media Server in the comments, which is a simple server for Windows and Linux—and, despite its name, supports a ton of different UPnP devices. Thanks to all who shared this!)
A UPnP-capable device to stream to. This can be a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, a media center running software like XBMC, Boxee, or Plex, and even some TVs and DVD players. Check your device’s documentation to see if it supports UPnP.
Step One: Set Up Your UPnP Server
For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll use XBMC as my server, since it works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and is pretty simple to set up. As mentioned above, if you’d prefer to use a different UPnP server, you have other options, as well. If you don’t already have XBMC, grab it here.
If, for example, you want to share videos with another UPnP-capable device, just head into the Videos section of XBMC and choose “Add Source”. Tab over to Browse, navigate to the folder on your hard drive where you store your media and hit OK. That folder will now be indexed by XBMC and automatically shared to any UPnP-capable device on your network.
Step Two: Set Up Your UPnP-Capable Device (If Necessary)
Most devices should discover UPnP servers automatically, which is what makes it so easy. For example, if you have a PlayStation 3, you should just be able to navigate to the Video section and see your computer pop right up as a new source. You can then browse your shared folders right from there. If you don’t see your shared folder on your device, check the settings and make sure UPnP is enabled, as some do not come with it enabled automatically. XBMC users, for example, will have to hit “Add Source” again and choose UPnP device to detect devices on the network. Check your device’s manual if you don’t just see it pop up.
Step Three: Enjoy Your Glorious Streaming Media
That’s it! UPnP is one of the easiest ways to share media around your house, and it only takes a few minutes to set up. Remember that whenever you want to access your media, you’ll need your server program (in this case XBMC) running on your main machine.
Hopefully this helps you get started and save you the trouble of constantly transferring all those files. Enjoy your UPnP!