Windows Media Player 12 has one very cool feature which allows you to play your entire media library from any Windows 7 machine over the Internet. That means everything: songs, videos, photos, even purchased media. This is useful for when you want to enjoy your Windows Media Player 12 library at the office, on your laptop or simply from another computer in your home. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to get it all up and running.
Step 1: Allow Internet Access to Home Media
The first step is to allow Internet access to home media on the computer where you keep your media files. Obviously, you're host machine should be connected to the Internet and you should already have some folders added to your Music, Pictures or Videos Libraries. (See: Libraries - A Great Feature of Windows 7 to learn how to include folders in your Libraries.)
Once that's taken care of, fire up Windows Media Player 12 and go to your Player Library view. If that term is new to you, too, check out Windows Media Player 12 Menus & Views Explained. From the Player Library, click Stream and choose 'Allow Internet access to home media'.
On the next window, choose 'Link an Online ID'. You'll be granting access to your computer's files over the Internet, so you'll want to ensure that only authorized users will be able to connect to your machine. An Online ID provides a secure method for allowing you to access your home media from the Internet by linking it to a username and password.
Clicking on 'Link an Online ID' will bring you to a Control Panel window that lets you set up an online ID provider. Once you link an online ID to your Windows 7 user account, you will be able to access files and information on other computers on the network, including Windows Media Player 12. If you've already linked an online ID to your user account, you can go ahead and skip this step. For more benefits of linking an online ID, check out Microsoft's website.
Before you add an online ID, you'll have to install some online ID provider software. Click 'Add an online ID provider' to be taken to Microsoft's website where you can download an '.msi' file that allows you to link your Windows Live ID with your Windows user account. Follow the instructions on the web page to add Windows Live as an online ID provider for Windows 7.
Note: this online ID provider software simply lets you link one of your online accounts (such as the one you use for email and instant messaging) to your Windows 7 user accounts. For now, you can only link your Windows Live account, but there are plans to roll out other online ID providers (such as Google, OpenID or Facebook).
After you've added an online ID provider, you should see it as a choice under 'Online ID Provider'. Click Link online ID' and you'll be prompted to enter your credentials. If you have a Hotmail or Windows Live Mail account or purchased Microsoft software online, you should already have a Windows Live account linked to your email address. If you don't have a Windows Live ID, go ahead and sign up and then return to this step.
Once you've done so, you should see your online ID listed under 'Online ID Provider'. If you want to change this at any point, click 'Update credentials'. If you'd like to unlink that computer from your online ID (for example, if you got canned and were turning in a company computer), click 'Remove Linked ID'.
After you've done this, go ahead and repeat this exact process on the other computer(s).
Step 2: Refreshing Connections and Viewing Other Libraries on Remote Hosts
Once both computers have Internet access to home media enabled and Windows Live IDs linked, the next step is to make sure that you can view the remote hosts and Other Libraries on the computer that you're using. Begin by clicking Stream once again and clicking 'Internet access to home media' just as we did in the beginning of step one. (Note: If you can already see your remote host in the Navigation Pane, then you can skip this section.)
Now that you have Internet access to home media allowed, you'll see a few extra options in the 'Internet access to home media' window. Click 'Diagnose connections'.
In the 'Diagnose connections' window, you'll be able to see all of your activate connections. If you don't see the name of your remote host, then you need to hit the Refresh button. Once you do, it should pull up your remote host (as long as you've set it up to allow Internet access to home media and it's turned on and connected to the Internet). After this is done, click Close.
There's one last step that may be required once you've refreshed your connections. Go back to the Player Library and click Organize and choose 'Customize navigation pane'.
In the next window, click the drop-down menu and choose 'Other Libraries'. Next, check the boxes next to 'Show Other Libraries' and the box next to the name of your remote host. Click OK when you're done.
Step 3: Playing Songs from your Windows Media Player 12 library via the Internet
Now, you're remote hosts media library should show up in your Navigation Pane just like your local library. Scroll down until you see the name of you remote hosts and expand it. Navigate the remote library and choose a song and play it just like normal. If you're still a bit rusty on navigating Windows Media Player 12 and playing songs, check out our other tutorial, How to Play Music in Windows Media Player 12.
Troubleshooting: Port Forwarding - What to Do in Case of Issues
If you're still having trouble accessing your home media library via the Internet, you may need to set up port forwarding on your remote host. This process varies from computer-to-computer and the directions will be different for each brand and model of router. The definitive guide for port forwarding for nearly every router under the sun is PortForward.com.
However, before you go, there is some information in Windows Media Player 12 that will help you with the tutorials over at Portforward.com. Go back into 'Diagnose connections' and click 'Port forwarding information'.
In the next screen, you'll see a list of all the ports you'll have to open up in order to make this all work. Write these down and apply them to the instructions you'll find over at Portforward.com.
With Windows Media Player 12, you can share your media library via the Internet, giving you immediate access to all of your songs, videos and photos from any computer that runs Windows 7 and has Internet access. Of course, as you can imagine, this does pose a moderate security threat, but with the help of a linked Online ID, you can hinder the efforts of unauthorized users and hackers.
If you want to share libraries over your home network, you can do this as well and it's a bit easier and more secure. Stay tuned for a step-by-step tutorial on how to achieve this more secure, faster method of sharing media between Windows 7 machines. For now, why not check out some of our other great Windows 7 tutorials below.