Watching digital movies stored on your computer can be convenient, but it lacks the big-screen experience of seeing them on your super-sized living room TV. So, if you're sick of squinting over your movies and photos on a tiny computer screen, you'll need a way of sending them to your TV. Thankfully this isn't as hard as it used to be, but it's still not a one-button exercise. That's why we're here to help.
Where do I start?
Ideally you'll have a Smart TV that supports DLNA, the standard for sharing digital multimedia between devices set by the Digital Living Network Alliance. If your TV supports DLNA, it'll be listed in the TV's specifications, or it may even be listed on the box or the TV itself. Then all you'll need is Windows Media Player running, which is included with Microsoft Windows on your PC.
If you have an Apple computer you'll need DLNA server software (like Twonky or Serviio which cost around $15 to $25 respectively). Once the software has found all the files on your computer the TV should also be able to find and play them.
How do I get connected?
The simplest method is to connect a Smart TV to your PC with an ethernet cable. Unfortunately, running metres of cable around the house is unlikely to win you any favours with your family or your housemates.
This method – as the name suggests – uses no wires. Hooray! However, most computers will need a wireless (Wi-Fi) router connected to broadcast the signal, and the Smart TV has to able to connect via Wi-Fi as well. It's possible to buy a Wi-Fi dongle for some TVs, but you'll need to check your TV specifications to make sure.
Wi-Fi can't send data to the TV as fast as an ethernet cable, so some HD video content may not play smoothly. Wi-Fi should be set up with network security enabled on your TV too, so you'll unfortunately need to deal with yet another password.
Can I connect without a Smart TV?
If your TV doesn't have DLNA, you'll need another device to act as a go-between from your computer to the TV. DLNA can be a found in a number of devices like media streamers, some Blu-ray or DVD players, game consoles like Sony PS3 or Xbox 360, Apple TV, Fetch boxes or even an up-to-date AV receiver.
You connect the device of your choice to the PC in the same way as you would a Smart TV, and then connect it to your not-so-smart TV. Connecting your media hub this way is usually pretty simple, and for an added bonus, you can use an older (or cheaper) TV.
How your files are displayed may vary from product to product, which may cause some confusion if you have a couple of DLNA-enabled devices. Some extra wiring will be needed between the device and the TV. Remember, you'll only have access to your files if all the devices are up and running. Also, if you go for this option, consider that you'll have yet another device and remote control to deal with too.
What about a dedicated streamer/hub?
These devices are designed to get your movies and photos from computer to TV with a minimum of fuss. Media hubs are slightly different to streamers in that they include some built-in file storage, so you can keep the media you want to view most often accessible directly from the hub, even if the computer is turned off.
Our media hubs test has more detail on how they perform, and you can get also the lowdown on what you download from our streaming TV and movies test.