Stream Music Over Your Home Network with Windows Media Player 12

Earlier, we walked you through how to stream Windows Media Player 12 library over the Internet, which is a great way to take your movies, music and photos with you wherever you go. But for a faster, more secure way to share media between Windows 7 machines, you can also share your Windows Media Player 12 library over your HomeGroup network. This tutorial will show you how to do just that, as well as how to allow remote control of your media player and play to a networked media device.

Connecting Your Windows 7 Machines to a HomeGroup

The most difficult aspect of this endeavor is getting your Windows 7 systems connected over your home network. Luckily, this is a topic we've already covered here at 7 Tutorials. Get the complete instructions by reading The HomeGroup Feature & How it Works. If you haven't done so already, you'll want to set up and add media to Windows Media Player 12 as well. All done? Great. Let's press on.

Setting Up Media Streaming with HomeGroup

The next step is to set up media streaming with the HomeGroup. Open Windows Media Player 12. From the Player Library, click 'Stream' and choose 'Turn on media streaming'.

If media streaming has not yet been enabled, Windows 7 will quickly brief you on the security implications of enabling media streaming. Essentially, enabling media streaming will modify your firewall settings to allow access from networked computers. For this reason, we don't recommend enabling media streaming unless you are on a secure network that you trust (i.e. avoid enabling network media streaming if you are on a public wireless network, such as at a cafe or library).

Click 'Turn on media streaming' when you're ready.

Windows 7 will then bring you to the media streaming options window. Begin by naming your media library. This is how it will be identified when other computers on the network connect to it. Next, choose 'Local network' or 'All networks' on the drop-down menu next to 'Show devices on'. This should reveal all machines that have successfully connected to the HomeGroup network. If you don't want to fiddle with individual settings, you can go ahead and click 'Allow all' and skip to the next section. This will allow all networked machines access to your media library using the default settings. If you want to modify the settings for each networked machines, move on to the next step.

You can block or allow computers individually from the drop-down menu on the right. To set up which media files other machines can access, you can change the default settings by clicking the option just below your media library's name. Alternately, you can edit the settings on each individual machine by clicking the Customize link next to the networked computer's name. Doing so will bring you to the 'Customize media streaming settings' window (below).

In the 'Customize media streaming options' window, you can choose to use the default settings or simply allow access to all of the media in your library. You can also choose to filter which media will be shown to networked machines by star rating or parental rating. Filtering content by parental rating is useful if you are sharing your media library with a family computer that children use and only want to make age appropriate content available on the network. Click OK once you're satisfied with the settings.

Your media library should now be connected to the HomeGroup. Repeat this for each machine that you want to have access to your media library.

Displaying Remote Media Libraries in the Navigation Pane

The last step is to show remote libraries in the Navigation Pane. You may see the shared libraries on other computers automatically. If so, you can skip this step. If not, go ahead and click Organize and choose 'Customize navigation pane'.

Next, choose 'Other Libraries' from the drop-down menu and check 'Show Other Libraries'. Now, make sure the boxes are checked next to the remote libraries you want to be seen in your Navigation Pane. Click OK when you're done.

Now, when you scroll down in the Navigation Pane, you should see the shared libraries under the Other Libraries heading. You can navigate the library and add songs to your playlist just like they were on your local machine.

Allowing Remote Control of Windows Media Player 12 and Play To

Another option that is handy for networked Windows 7 machines sharing a media library is remote control. With this option enabled, you can play songs to other devices on the network. For example, if you have a living room PC hooked up to your entertainment system, you can play songs from your netbook via the network using remote control and the Play to option.

Enable remote control by clicking 'Stream' and choosing 'Allow remote control of my Player'.

Note: You'll see here that we've also enabled the 'Automatically allow devices to play my media' option. This simply streamlines the setup process so you don't have to go through choosing media streaming options.

Now, to play a song to another device, simply add it to your playlist and click the 'Play to' button in the top-right. This will show a drop-down menu with the names of all the networked Windows 7 machines. Choose which one you'd like to play to and it'll bring up the 'Play to' dialogue.

In the 'Play to' window, you'll be given control over the remote device. You can play or pause songs, skip to the next song on the Play to list and even adjust the volume.

On the other remote controlled machine, the songs will begin playing in Now Playing mode by default. You can also control songs locally, if you wish to override remote control.

Conclusion

That just about wraps up media streaming over a home network. This is the best option for sharing media libraries between several computers within your home or office. With this feature, Windows Media Player 12 allows you to centralize your music, photos and videos among all of your networked PCs. It's great for controlling songs playing throughout the house during a party or choosing movies to play on a media PC in your living room from a laptop or netbook. To get the most out of your media sharing or for help with network issues, check out some of the related articles below.