COVID-19 lockdown: How to share your media library with friends, family

Be a generous genius!

While the entire world’s governments are fighting the COVID-19 battle, the only way citizens could help is to stay home and not venture outdoors.

Living in a lockdown is definitely difficult, especially when you have your TV in front of you and don’t know what else to watch and pass your time. While the internet is your only saviour in such times, running out of good content is the biggest fear for all.

And it’s no secret that many of you have a bunch of movies and music stored in your laptop or desktop PCs – even backed up on external storage drives either as favourites or to watch some day. So why not share your movies and music with your friends and help them discover something new to watch or listen to for the rest of their lockdown days? You could have some old classics that could help the elderly crowd too.

Many of you have legally purchased movies and music, while there are many others who either download or torrent them from various online sources. While this article mentions how you could share them with friends over the internet, it strictly forbids piracy. This article is for educational purposes only and shows you different ways to share your data with friends and family over the internet.

Using a Synology NAS

If you happen to own a Synology NAS, you could simply start a streaming server and share all your movies, music and photo database with your friends and family. You simply need to ensure that your media/data is dumped in respective folders and paths enabled in the respective media sharing servers. Crank up the Synology NAS, and hopefully, it’s registered with Synology’s QuickConnect service so that it can be accessed over the internet. QuickConnect is completely free and you can use Synology’s own DDNS service so that your NAS can be accessed from behind your router/ISP’s firewall easily. Head to the package centre on the Synology DSM dashboard and enable Media Station, Audio Station, Photo Station and Video Station, depending on what you wanna share.

Click on the respective servers to configure the folders from where you want to share your videos, music or photos. Once done, you can now send them the link to access your server and enjoy the content. Ensure that you create new users for each person logging and assign permissions for the services and folders respectively to avoid them loiter around the rest of your personal data.

There are third-party media servers available, too, such as Plex and Logitech, but we suggest the free ones from Synology that we mentioned above. Now your friends can simply hit the website address you gave them to enjoy the content or download the respective DS apps for iOS and Android smartphones, tablets or TV.

TIP: You can also stream all your personal content to every device on your own network – you just made a streaming server using your NAS.

Using your router

Most home routers have a USB port on the rear end, which usually goes unused. Why not convert that router into a NAS for your home or stream your media collection to your friends and family?

Yes, that USB port on your router can be used for various reasons – power an external USB gadget (camera/Alexa/etc.), connect an external storage or share a printer on the local network. Let’s take an example from a Netgear router.

We have an AX8 Nighthawk that allows us to use the USB port to store and share data and media. In this case, ReadySHARE is the service that needs to be fired up, registered and configured accordingly to share/stream data and media over the local network (DLNA) or remotely over the internet using ReadySHARE or ReadyCLOUD. Create users with passwords to keep things secure.

Remote users (your family/friends) can access the data using a conventional browser or download the ReadySHARE app for iOS/Android.

Using your Desktop/Laptop

If your router does not support the media streaming/server features, or you don’t have a NAS, you could build your own NAS using any old/new desktop or laptop. Simply download FreeNAS, set it up and configure it to stream your data/media to your local devices or family/friends over the internet. Setting up FreeNAS is simple – head to freenas.org and download the latest version and get ready to build your own NAS at home.

Note: Minimum 8GB RAM and a 64-bit processor is needed for FreeNAS. Using large and multiple hard drives is a plus for data security and redundancy, if needed. FreeNAS is a separate operating system and your desktop/laptop will need to be formatted to install FreeNAS.

Using VLC

Whether you have Windows, Mac or Linux, VLC is a media playing and streaming application that is available for free. Using VLC, you can configure the tiny program to stream a single movie at a time to all your devices on the local network or over the internet. Using this mode, you can create a movie time party where everyone gathers around and watches the movie with you, but from their own homes. They can use their PC, laptop, Tablet, smartphone or TV to join into the stream. Simply download VLC, click on Media and choose Stream to broadcast it over the local or remote network. Choose the file you need to play and follow the steps ahead as it keeps asking you to configure the stream and the network options.

To play the stream, click on Media, then Open Network Stream and enter the address of the streaming PC.

Note: streaming over the local network is simple, but streaming over the internet could be an issue for you. If you have a static IP address on your broadband, you may need to configure the firewall of your PC and router to allow you to stream outside the local network and open/forward some ports too.  

So go ahead, help your friends and family kill boredom by sharing your bunch of movies and music with them. Do note, as we mentioned earlier, pirating movies, music and photos is illegal. This article is for educational purposes only and should be attempted if you own the media you want to stream/share and know the legal licensing and terms and conditions of the purchased media.