How to Stream Media to the Xbox 360

mcpc

Wondering how to stream media to the Xbox 360 like movies or music? The Xbox 360 is a pretty powerful entertainment system along with being a good gaming platform, we’ll show you . Whether you use Windows Media Center or Microsoft’s iTunes-like Zune software, pushing your PC music and movies to the living room is a pretty simple thing to do. This how to will show you just how simple it is to stream media to the Xbox 360 from your home PC.

Difficulty: Basic
Tools:

  • A home network (wired or wireless)
  • Windows Media Center
  • Windows Media Player

Time to Install: 10 minutes

Table of Contents

Official Disclaimer:
Microsoft’s Zune and Media Center/Windows Media Player software respect digital rights management so if your library is full of ripped and pirated media there is a chance the software will not recognize or play it. This also applies to media purchased through protected stores like iTunes or Amazon. There are ways to get this content to play, but this how to will not help you circumvent or remove content protection.

Step 1: Preparations
The first step toward learning to stream media to the Xbox 360 is to make sure you have your media systems on networks that are connected. The simplest way to do this is to connect them to the same wired network. Since not everyone is using a wired connection for their PC and their Xbox 360 this can be a little more complicated. Most household network hardware (like Linksys or Netgear wireless 4-port routers) use the same network range for both the wired and wireless devices so Windows and/or MacOS should see the Xbox 360 just fine.

Also it is important to understand that the Xbox 360 does not support all of the audio and video file formats used on the Internet today. Only files on this list are completely supported by the streaming service built into the console:
Video

  • Windows Media Video (WMV) 7, WMV 8, and WMV 9
    • Maximum resolution of 1920×1080 (1080p)
    • Windows Media Audio Standard or Windows Media Audio Pro audio
    • WMV content may be Windows Media DRM-protected
  • MPEG-1 with MPEG-1 layer I or II audio
  • MPEG-2
    • Maximum resolution of 1920×1080 (1080i)
    • AC-3 or MPEG-1 layer I or II audio
    • WMV Image 1 (Photo Story 1 & 2), and WMV Image 2 (Photo Story 3)

Audio

  • Windows Media Audio (WMA) 7 through WMA 9
    • WMA Standard content may be Windows Media DRM-protected
  • WMA Professional
    • WMA Professional content may be Windows Media DRM-protected
  • WMA Lossless
    • Windows Media DRM protected WMA Lossless is not supported
  • MP3
  • Other formats that have a DirectShow decoder installed on the host computer that outputs pulse code modulation (PCM) audio

Step 2: Enabling Media Sharing on your PC (Windows 7)
Since Windows XP, there has been built in support for streaming media to the Xbox 360 through Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player 10 and 11. If you’re a Zune owner or someone who buys media through the Zune store the software you use also has in-built support for streaming media to the Xbox 360. Apple’s iTunes and AOL’s WinAmp also allow users to stream library content to media devices like the 360 with a few clicks.

For the purpose of this howto we are going to assume you are not using the Zune, iTunes or WinAmp software, and will walk you through enabling media sharing using Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center.

Enabling Windows Media sharing under Windows 7 to share your media library:

  • Click Start->Control Panel->Network and Internet
  • Select HomeGroup and Sharing Options
  • Click Change advanced sharing settings
  • Under Media streaming – click Choose media streaming options
  • Click “Turn on media streaming” ( You need administrator rights to complete this step)
  • By default, all Xbox 360 consoles on the network are allowed to connect
  • Click OK

Configure your Xbox 360 to play media:

  • In the My Xbox channel, select Video, Music, or Picture Library
  • Select your PC (You should see any PCs on your network listed by name)
  • Select an item to play it

Step 3: Enabling Xbox 360 Media Extender in Windows Media Center (Windows XP, Vista & Windows 7)
Windows Media center has in-built support for the 360 as a media extender device. assuming you’ve never gone through this process before these next steps will walk you through authorizing the Xbox 360 to act as a Windows Media Center device. Note that the 360 can only be assigned to act as a media center extender for a single PC so if you plan to use multiple PCs to share media this is not really your best option and you should follow the Media Sharing steps in section 2 of this how to.

Get the Media Center Setup Key from your Xbox 360:

  1. Turn on your Xbox 360 and make sure it is connected to the home network
  2. Press the Media Center Start button on the remote or go to My Xbox, then select Windows Media Center
  3. Advance through the on-screen instructions to obtain the 8-digit Media Center Setup Key
  4. Write down the setup key

Add the Extender to Windows Media Center:

  1. On your XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 Media Center PC, launch Windows Media Center
  2. Select Start, Windows Media Center
  3. Select Tasks-> Add Extender
  4. Proceed through the setup info and type in the 8-digit setup key from your Xbox 360
  5. Finish the Extender setup

Verify the 360 plays media:

  1. Return to your Xbox 360, you should see a message confirming the addition of the Xbox 360 as an extender
  2. Windows Media Center should start on the 360
  3. Navigate to one of your songs or videos and attempt to play

If all went well you should see or hear your shared media on your TV and Xbox 360.

Closing
Using your Xbox 360 as a home media center extends its power and lets you take advantage of the larger storage most PCs have for music and movies considering the premium you pay for even a reasonbably large Xbox 360 hard drive. Depending on the fidelity of your media you might experience network slowdown on your wireless networks so if you plan to share HD movies over wireless you will likely need a Wireless-N network or a really clean Wireless G signal. alternatively you can use a wired network to forgo those sorts of problems.

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7 Comments on How to Stream Media to the Xbox 360

dan

On July 11, 2010 at 6:16 am

It can be simplified even more than this article claims. Just download VUZE and it will not only stream media to your XBOX 360, but to PS3 or anything capable of streaming. It will convert your videos for you to the correct format as well. I used VUZE to convert movies to my iPod too.

tldr;

GET VUZE NOW! :)

Michael

On July 13, 2010 at 9:44 am

Wow! that is really complicated. There are much easier ways such using native upnp, dlna, etc, and software packages such as the one mentioned in the post above. Typical of microsoft to make thing harder than they really should be.

ps: media center extenders are so so yesterday.

Shawn Sines

On July 14, 2010 at 7:14 am

Yeah, I was trying to avoid pointing people to the pay solutions like PlayOn but I’d overlooked VUZE.. which I expect will go commercial any day and start charging a subscription like its peer applications recently have. Though you can also use WinAmp remote or other directshow compatible programs to transcode as well.

Shawn Sines

On July 14, 2010 at 7:19 am

I’m working on a how to that is not Xbox focused that also includes streaming Xvid and Divx encoded formats..

8675309

On October 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm

i find wmc/mce is the best way all you have to do is link the 360 to it & accept the networking promts & you have full access to all your catalogued media(media in monitored folders

DSM

On February 24, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Zune software + Handbrake “Normal” settings + wired connection = easy.

Marcos

On May 15, 2013 at 12:06 am

As long as your Xbox and PC are on the same network….with Windows 8 just right-click the file you want to play on your Xbox and select Play To>Xbox360.