Good evening, giffgaff members. Tonight, we'll be looking at solving a common problem: How do you get media from your PC to play on your Android tablet or smartphone?
There are two main solutions, beyond just copying the files via USB the old fashioned way: Streaming and syncing.
Streaming allows you to get started the most quickly, but requires your computer to remain on while you're streaming and it doesn't work away from home.
Syncing requires a bit more effort and takes up storage space, but ensures that you can turn off your computer and leave your home network and still play your media. Let's have a look at each in turn - you'll be up and running before you know it!
How to sync media from PC to Android
But if you're at home, surely it makes sense to use the wireless network that both devices are connected to? Enter syncing apps.
These will copy music, video or pictures from your home PC to your Android smartphone or tablet wirelessly and simply, removing the need for you to plug in your Android device and then figure out where you need to put everything.
One of the best options is a program called AirSync by doubleTwist. The app costs £4.99, but is well worth the cost of admission as it makes it much easier to access your music, photos and videos.
It's pretty simple to get started. First, visit the doubleTwist website and download the desktop app. Next, just download the AirSync by doubleTwist app on your phone or tablet from the Google Play store. You'll also need to install the free doubleTwist player. Remember that you can refund an unwanted app up to fifteen minutes after purchase, which should be enough time to give a go.
Now you'll need to launch the doubleTwist app, and go into the settings menu. If the AirSync app add-on is installed, you'll see an AirSync option here. Click on the 'Enable AirSync' toggle at the top, then tap on 'Set up AirSync'. You'll see some relatively simple instructions - launch the doubleTwist app on your Mac or PC, select your device under the 'Devices' heading in the desktop app, then enter the passcode shown on your Android device.
Once this is done, you're ready to get syncing. In the desktop app, find the music, photos or videos you want to copy across in the 'Library' view. The doubleTwist app will automatically add everything in your iTunes or Windows Media libraries, but you can also just add other files and folders by using the relevant Library menu option. Once you've got the media that you want to copy across, just select it and drag it onto your Android device in the Devices section. You can select multiple items at once to save time, of course.
Once you do this, the items will be copied wirelessly to your device. You can do things on both your Android device and your PC at this time, but you'll want to keep both on and connected to your wireless network in order to ensure everything continues working.
Once the transfer is complete, you'll be able to see the new content in your doubleTwist player on Android, by swiping to the relevant tab (Music, Videos) and selecting the content you want to play.
There are plenty of other cool bits to doubleTwist, that I won't go fully into here but you can discover for yourself. For example, you can set up automatic syncing between Android and PC, and even stream your Android media to your Xbox 360, PS3 or Apple TV to play on your HDTV.
How to stream media from PC to Android
So that's all very well and good. But what if you don't want even the hassle of copying the files at all, and you just want to stream media from your PC to your Android device?
Well, then you'll need a different set of tools. What I'm using is a Mac, Windows and Linux app called Universal Media Server, which is free. Just grab it from their download page, install it and run it.
You'll also need an Android app on the other end. Any DNLA compatible media client should work, but I'm using one called MediaHouse. Go ahead and install that too - it's free as well.
Before you get streaming, you'll have to do a tiny bit of setup. In Universal Media Server, go to the Navigation/Share Settings tab. At the bottom, you'll see the folders you're sharing. By default, this is all your folders, but you can speed things up by specifying the folders that have your media. For example, I have a second hard drive for my media, which is separated into different folders. So I added each of those folders, so that I can get to them quickly without needing to navigate across my whole computer.
You can mess around with some other settings - for example, in General Settings you can make the media server start with your computer - but in general you're fine to just leave things at the defaults.
Once you're done, go ahead and start up the MediaHouse app. You'll start in the Settings menu. You should see your Universal Media Server listed under the 'Play From' option, so go ahead and click on the server in order to select it. Now, go back and choose Browse. You'll see all of the folders that you shared earlier.
Press on your video or music to start streaming it, which you can do in your choice of media players - I prefer DICE Player or MX Player, but you can even use the default Video player or doubleTwist, depending on what's installed. Once selected, the video will begin streaming and you've achieved!
Of course, the 'Universal' part of the Universal Media Player name isn't an accident. You can use the same program to stream to games consoles and other computers, so have a look into it if that sounds useful.
I hope these instructions were useful, and now you feel adequately prepared to stream or sync as you wish. Thanks for reading and have a good one!