Instant expert - DLNA


Elliot Willson

Web Merchandiser, EHT,

DLNA - sharing content electronically

What is DLNA?

DLNA is about sharing and enjoying your saved content across all your technology at home. It gets its name from the Digital Living Network Alliance - an organisation of over 250 of the world's elite consumer electronics, personal computer and mobile organisations.

How does DLNA work?

If your TV or home cinema system is DLNA-compatible and is connected to your home network, then it'll search for other devices within range and try to connect to them. You'll then be able to scroll through the different DLNA servers and select the device which has the album, photo or video you want to play or view. As simple as that!

There are two main types of DLNA products: DLNA servers (PCs, storage devices or mobile phones), and DLNA clients (TVs and home cinema systems). You'll need one of each to stream content using DLNA.
The DLNA server is the device that sends the content to another device to play it. If you have a PC running Windows 7 then you'll have DLNA built in, and you'll be able to use Windows Media Player 11 as a media server that'll manage where the content is delivered to and what content is accessible.

A DLNA client is where the content is viewed or listened to. This is likely to be your TV, but you can also play audio on speakers or home cinema systems, and printing jobs on your home printer.

What do you need?

Look for the DLNA certificate logo on your next purchase, or whether the product is internet-enabled, as these will be easily connectable. You'll also need a home network which - if you have a wireless router - will allow you to connect without wires.

Some TVs will be DLNA-certified but will need a dongle if they don't already have Wi-Fi built in. To get it connected to the web, you'll need to either connect it via the Ethernet port (cable), or buy a wireless dongle.

What products can be used for DLNA?

Wireless Music players such as the Sonos PLAY:3 will allow you to listen to all your favourite tunes from the library on your laptop. You can add further devices too for a full-house effect! Other home cinema systems such as ones with Blu-ray will ensure that music, movies and videos are delivered at their full potential.

Similarly PCs and laptops will also allow you to watch content from other devices, as well as send downloaded films to your TV, or stream your music collection to your home cinema system.

Certain Printers,  from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Polaroid and Samsung, will enable you to print from any room and from any device, wirelessly.

Enjoy home movies, holiday snaps, downloaded TV series or recorded documentaries in comfort on your widescreen TV, handing you a wealth of great content to select from in the evenings. Smart TVs are internet-enabled, so they'll make sharing content a breeze.

What could you do with DLNA?

So, you've just got back from your family holiday and have downloaded all the videos of the kids having fun on the beach onto your PC. Your parents are visiting and want to share your holiday moments; normally, you'd have to crowd around your laptop screen, but not with DLNA. Using your TV remote, you'll be able to access files on your laptop, playing any video or photo you choose, on the large screen in your living room with great sound and a detailed picture. In comfort, with no cables, and no DVD burning!

It's a girls' night out or a boys' night in and you've all your friends coming over for a fun-packed evening. Keen to get the party started, you've downloaded the latest tunes and some old favourites to your laptop. Rather than sync with your iPod or MP3 player, or bring your laptop down to plug into your speaker system, DLNA will enable you to play your playlist from your laptop in your bedroom to your DLNA-compatible home cinema system or TV. You can even control the music using your iPhone, selecting specific tunes and controlling the volume!

You've been waiting all day to watch last week's episode of your favourite TV show stored on your DLNA certified digital hard drive recorder, but the kids have commandeered the family room for a marathon gaming-fest. Thanks to DLNA, you'll be able to retrieve the show on the TV in your bedroom - so you can enjoy catching up in peace.

You've been sent a cute multimedia photo of your son in his new football kit to your mobile phone and you want to print it out to put on your desk. Rather than save the image, email the file and print from your computer, with one touch you'll be able to print directly to your printer.

How do I start sharing content through DLNA?

Accompanying DLNA products will be software which you will need to load onto your PC or laptop in order to file share, although Windows Media Player will also work just as well. Once your TV is connected to the home network via Ethernet cable, Home Plug or wireless connection, you'll be able to locate the files you want from an on-screen guide on your TV. Keep your eye out for a 'media' button or option; this will take you to a menu where you'll be able to scroll through folders and files of the products within range.

Each menu and process is different according to which manufacturer's product you're using, so it's worth digging out the instruction manual or searching online for detailed instructions on how to get going.