Help getting started with Roku devices, including setup, connecting your device to your TV, linking a Roku device to your account at my.roku.com/link, adding channels, subscribing to services, and more.
@gsgsgs Thanks for reaching out here! In order to play media from an external device, you'll need to configure a DLNA web media server and use this with supported media playback channels, such as Roku Media Player, Plex, Emby or others.
I am thinking of getting a Roku Express or Premiere, specifically for streaming media from my PC. Will Roku do this, if so are all file formats supported? Thank you in advance
Tanner provided a good resource, but since this is something I have done with a Roku for years, let me expand.
No, not all file formats or codecs are supported. For containers, you can use MKV, MP4, TS/M2TS and MOV. For video, you can use H.262 (MPEG-2), MP4 (yes, it's a codec and a container), H.264 and the Premiere supports H.265. For audio, it will depend on if you're using an AVR or plugging directly into a TV. Assuming you use an AVR, you can use AC3 (Dolby Digital), EAC3 (DD+), PCM, AAC, and DTS. Note that there are some restrictions as to containers the codecs are in, and for audio how many channels are used. For any lossless audio (Dolby trueHD/Atmos or DTS-MA/DTS:X) they are completely unsupported. Dolby Atmos contained in a DD+ stream is supported, but that is not the lossless version.
If you are connected directly to the TV, the same container and video codecs apply, but audio becomes more restricted. Your best success is with standard DD or 2 channel PCM. Any other codec will depend on what the TV will accept.
Assuming all of your media is in a supported container and uses supported codecs, you can use a Windows 10 PC to stream via DLNA and use the Roku Media Player channel as the player on the Roku. However, the Windows server functionality leaves much to be desired. It doesn't offer any metadata (synopsis, year released, actors, director, etc.), and you have no control over how it's presented. Also, it has limited ability to transcode if you add any unsupported media to your library.
For streaming media from a home computer, the best option is to use a media server designed specifically for the purpose. There are free programs that work quite well, and offer a Roku app/channel that provides a user interface more like Netflix. They will also provide transcoding for unsupported media, and in many cases can also display captions within your media the Roku by itself doesn't support. Some examples are Plex or Emby, both which offer both free and paid products. These both also offer streaming via DLNA so players that don't have a dedicated app can still be used, as long as they support DLNA.
Another option is a pure DLNA server. It doesn't offer a dedicated Roku app, but uses the Roku Media Player. Again, there are free and paid programs that offer DLNA server functionality. My personal favorite is Serviio, but I wrote the profiles that it uses for all Roku devices, so I might be a touch biased. But I don't work for them, just a satisfied user.
Roku players work very well for streaming media from a home server. But it requires either all your media being compatible or using a server product that offers transcoding for unsupported audio, video and containers. Also note that the vast majority of the media server software available (including the ones I mentioned above) are available for more than just a Windows PC. There are versions for Mac, Linux and NAS devices from many of them.
Dan Roku Stick (3600), Ultra (4640), Ultra (4670), Premiere (3920), Insignia 720p Roku TV, Sharp 4K Roku TV, Nvidia Shield, Windows 10 Pro x64 running Serviio and Plex on a wired Gigabit network.