Stream Audio Wirelessly

Stream audio wirelessly

  • Which? shows you how to set up and use wireless streaming
  • Set your computer up to share media
  • Set up a Windows Media Player music library
  • Ensure your firewall allows media sharing

Piping music from room to room was once a luxury that we associated with the futuristic houses of the rich and famous. But with a wireless network, it’s easy to share your entire music library with computers and other devices around your home. We show you how to set up and use wireless streaming.

1Set up wireless network

For the purposes of this How To, we’re going to assume that you already have a wireless network in place.

If you haven’t set up a wireless network yet, find out how to set up a wireless network here and return to this page once you’re done.

2Stream to network players

Streaming step two

You can also stream to dedicated network players like the Squeezebox

With your network correctly configured, music – and, indeed photos and video – can be streamed from your PC to other computers on your network

It’s also possible to stream media to dedicated network players, such as the Squeezebox, which is a wireless-capable device that can be plugged into a hi-fi or amplifier, allowing you to bypass your computer and listen to your music library through your living room entertainment system or kitchen speakers instead.

If you have a games console, such as a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, these can be configured to stream media to your TV or hi-fi, too.

Precise setup procedures for these devices will vary, so check the manufacturer’s instructions.

3Set computer to share media

You need Windows Media Player 11 for this step to work.

You need Windows Media Player 11 for this step to work.

The first thing to do is set your computer up to share media. Both Windows Media Player 11 and iTunes 8 have media sharing capabilities built into them. We’ll be focussing on Windows Media Player (WMP) here, since more devices are compatible with it.

Windows Media Player comes built in to all PCs, so it doesn’t matter whether you have Windows XP or Vista.

You will, however, need WMP version 11 for this to work. Download it for free from Microsoft if necessary.

Make sure all the other computers, consoles and streaming devices are switched on and connected to your network.

Then, on the PC that houses all your digital music, open WMP by going to Start > All Programs > Windows Media Player.

4Set up Windows Media Player

How to set up your Windows Media Player music library

How to set up your Windows Media Player music library

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to set up a Windows Media Player music library. 

Move your mouse over the Library button on the top toolbar and a small down-arrow will appear.

Click this and select More Options from the list. Under where it says ‘Update library by monitoring folders’ click the Monitor Folders button. 

In the Add to Library box that opens, you should see that the standard My Music, My Pictures and My Video folders (labelled just ‘Music’, ‘Pictures’ and ‘Videos’ in Vista) are already included.

Click Add and browse for any other folders you’d like to include.

Click OK > OK. It may take WMP some time to add the contents of new folders to your library.

5Media sharing

Make sure the types of media you want to share are checked

Make sure the types of media you want to share are checked

Click the down arrow under the Library toolbar button again and this time select Media Sharing from the menu that appears.

Under Sharing settings, make sure there’s a tick in the ‘Share my media to’ box.

Click the Settings box and type a name in the box under where it says ‘Share media as’ – My Media, for example. Make sure the types of media you want to share are checked. You can customise the Star rating and Parental rating settings if you wish.

Click OK.

6Streaming to computers or other devices

A green tick will appear over any computer or device that your PC is set to share with

A green tick will appear over any computer or device that your PC is set to share with

Back in the Media Sharing dialogue box, you should see all the other computers and streaming devices on your network in the box under where it says ‘Share my media to’.

If there’s nothing there, check to make sure the other devices are switched on and connected to the network correctly.

To allow streaming to a particular computer or device, click once on the icon that represents it and then click the Allow button underneath.

A green tick will appear over any computer or device that your PC is set to share with.

Click OK when you’re done.

7Set firewall to allow sharing

Make sure your firewall is set to allow file sharing

Make sure your firewall is set to allow file sharing

You may need to make sure that your firewall is set to allow media sharing.

The procedure for doing this will vary depending which firewall you use, but users of Windows Firewall should go to Start > Control Panel > Security Center > Windows Firewall > Execptions (Windows XP) or Start > Control Panel > Security > Allow a program through Windows Firewall (Windows Vista) and make sure there’s a tick next to where it says ‘Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service’.

Click OK.

Windows Vista users should also click on Start > Network and then click on where it says ‘Network and Sharing Center’ in the top toolbar. In the dialogue box that opens, make sure that both Media Sharing and Network discovery are set to ‘On’. These settings should be the same for the PC that houses your music collection as well as any PCs that are sharing it.

8Launch Windows Media Player on all PCs

Under Sharing settings, make sure there’s a tick in the ‘Find media that others are sharing’ box

Under Sharing settings, make sure there’s a tick in the ‘Find media that others are sharing’ box

Go to each of your other PCs in turn and launch Windows Media Player.

Click the down arrow under the Library toolbar button and this time select Media Sharing from the menu.

Under Sharing settings, make sure there’s a tick in the ‘Find media that others are sharing’ box > click OK.

Now click the Library toolbar button and look in the left-hand column. You should see a subhead with the same name as the one you game to your shared media library in step 5.

Click on this, then click on the Artist icon to list your shared music library by artist name.

Double-click on any track to play.

9Other network devices

Those using other network devices, such as the Squeezebox or a games console, should refer to their manufacturer’s instructions to finish setting up streaming.

As a general rule, however, most such devices will automatically detect your shared library, assuming your network settings are correctly configured and you have set up Windows Media Player sharing as per the above instructions.