6 UPnP/DLNA Servers For Streaming Media To Your Devices [Cross-Platform]

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dlna serverUPnP stands for “universal plug and play” and provides a set of standards for the hassle-free sharing of media without the need for manual setup. In essence, UPnP devices are able to see and communicate with one another, and one of the best uses for this technology to stream media around the house.

DLNA is an acronym for “Digital Network Living Alliance” and was established by Sony in 2003 to further define (some might say restrict) the sharing of such media. In order to make use of UPnP and DLNA-compliant devices you will need a client (known as a renderer) such as a PlayStation 3 or Smart TV and a server which can be hardware-based like a NAS drive or software-based as a service that runs on a PC.

In order to stream to your console or other UPnP renderer you will want a free DLNA server which controls playback. Here is the MakeUseOf list of free UPnP servers for this purpose.

A Quick Note

Not all DLNA/UPnP devices work with all servers, and this is often down to the client (i.e. Smart TV, games console) than it is the server. Some servers include workarounds to extend support for devices such as this. The rule of thumb is to test servers with your devices – if you find one that fulfills the needs of your household then you should probably stick with it.

If a particular DLNA server doesn’t seem to like one of your devices then you should probably try another until you find one that does. You might also want to look into a server that transcodes media for compatibility, but ensure your hardware can handle the task.

Serviio (Windows, Mac, Linux)

dlna server

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Serviio is a premium UPnP DNLA-compliant media server with a generous free option. The pro version of the DLNA server requires a one-off fee of $25 for access to the MediaBrowser web-based player, API for online access to your media and the ability to control access to shared content. For home users looking to stream their personal connections over a local network, Serviio is a great choice.

Android users can download ServiiDroid, which provides access to the Serviio console on Android devices (and more importantly does not require Pro). Users who do decide to drop $25 can access their media from anywhere via the ServiiGo Android application for the viewing of media away from your local network.

TVMOBiLi (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

free dlna media servers

TVMOBiLi is another premium streamer with decent free option, though it takes a different approach to Serviio. For TVMOBiLi, there are no restrictions over the use of features, and the whole media server is open for use until a user streams over 10GB of data. At this point you must purchase (either at $1.50 monthly fee or a one-off payment of $30) in order to continue use.

Users automatically get a free trial of the premium “unlimited” mode upon installing TVMOBiLi, which gives you a month to decide whether it fits the bill and works with your clients or not. The service claims to support a vast array of media clients and has decent support documentation for a server up and running and resolving any issues.

XBMC (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux + More)

free dlna media servers

One of the most powerful media centres out there with a huge range of add-ons and open source grunt behind it, XBMC can function both as a DLNA-compliant UPnP server and a client for receiving streams. If you’re a regular reader then you’ll surely know that we’re rather fond of XBMC at MakeUseOf, with the latest release being faster and prettier than ever.

Setup of this DLNA server is as easy as enabling “Share video and music libraries via UPnP” in Network under System in XBMC’s main menu. From then on, your libraries will be easily discoverable on the local network. It’s really that easy!

PS3MediaServer (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

free dlna media servers

Designed to make the most of the PS3’s abilities as a media streamer, PS3MediaServer isn’t strictly limited to Sony’s console in terms of compatibility and has some compatibility with other clients. This is a mature project, with a number of plugins available for streaming from sources such as Grooveshark and SoundCloud as well as some on-demand TV providers.

The blog side of things hasn’t been updated for a few years but the forum community is still very much alive, offering help and tips on getting the server up and running with your devices. There’s a little more tinkering involved here, but if you’ve got a PS3 and would like to use the same streamer for multiple clients then it’s a good option.

MediaTomb (Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD)

best free dlna media servers

Another completely free DLNA server with transcoding ability, MediaTomb is a highly extensible UPnP solution with binaries for OS X, FreeBSD and a large range of Linux distributions. One of the best things about MediaTomb is the documentation, with detailed instructions about getting devices such as the PS3 and DLNA-enabled TVs working.

The server is configured via a web interface, which provides a straightforward way to manage your media. If you run into problems that the Wiki or FAQ can’t solve then there’s an active forum on which to ask for help.

LXiMediaCenter (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

dlna server

LXiMediaCenter is a UPnP server that always transcodes video, regardless of whether it is in a compatible format or not. This means the requirements for running it are relatively high compared to some of the other servers on this list – so it’s not ideal for older machines. It also uses high quality encoding, so a wired Ethernet or 802.11n connection comes highly recommended.

There are binaries available for Windows, OS X and a number of Linux distributions, making setup easy when coupled with the quick setup guide. The project is still in beta, and thus has not been tested as extensively as some others but it might suit those of you who value high quality streaming with the hardware to support it.

Conclusion

There are more UPnP compliant DLNA servers for the job, but these are some of the easiest to setup and most effective servers available. Don’t forget that much of the troubles encountered by DLNA clients is down to the clients themselves – much of the time due to not supporting the filetype attempting to be streamed (in which case transcoding is required). Let us know what you use, which you’ve found works best and whether premium options like TVersity are really worth it in the comments, below.

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Comments (36)
  • Scottfree

    No mention of Media Browser? Unfortunately the “holy trinity” of media servers does not seem to exist. Combining a top notch local library, fully functioning “play to” support with ff/rr/next/prev. ideally available from the both caster and your remote control. Add a wide selection of WORKING “channels”.

    Plex has the best selection of channels, but who cares if you have lots of channels that don’t work. The claimed “compatibility check” is meaningless with major channels like CBS frustratingly incompatible, using flash or silverlight with no transcoding so no dlna. Add that even working channels are painfully slow and almost never populate smoothly, making them more a frustration than a function.

    So far Media Browser is the closest, a better web gui than Plex. “play to” support (needs ff/rr though) if MB had more than just the bare minimum of channels then they would be the run away winner.

    And ALL these servers should be modular broken into bite size pieces, ideally light enough to be run on a router or nas, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve absent mindedly rebooted only to go dough.. I was streaming from my local machine..

  • justwally

    I tend to use older, slower hardware (Core2 Duo), and have tried MediaTomb and XBMC and PS3MediaServer. Been using PS3MediaServer solidly for 3-years across Samsung smart TV’s, Android devices (with BubbleUPnP Player), iPhones, Amazon TV, and Chromecast. Last year I added BubbleUPnP Media Server to the PS3MediaServer mix and things only got better. More control, more options, more awesome. I only use Linux, FWIW.

  • Junior Yong

    I like Serviio.
    It is simpe and works perfectly good with
    ArkMC DLNA appication
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arkudadigital.arkmc.gm
    on my Galaxy Tab.
    Serviio is easy to manage and it works fast.

  • Kristof

    OK, I’ve been using PS3MediaServer for few months now and I found few issues. In general it works OK with my Sony BR player but doesn’t like my Samsung TV. I cannot make the subs working on my TV and it takes me back to the menu in the middle of movie without touching any buttons. I mostly watch mkv videos which are supported by Samsung TV and play fine straight from HDD.
    Still searching for a good server – Dennis, please don’t suggest anything :)

  • Andy H

    For any Windows users out there, give Mezzmo a try. I’ve been using it for several years and it is rock solid with all my devices in my home (Samsung TV, Samsung Blu-ray player, Android tablet and iPhone).

    • Dennis Volodomanov

      And if you like Mezzmo, give KooRaRoo a try as well :) It’s got more features, it’s faster to deliver folders and files to your devices and more actively developed.

    • Tim Brookes

      Judging by the number of posts you have made about this I think it now counts as aggressively promoting your own product. You’ve posted a good number of times trying to get people to buy your streamer and I think that’s enough now.

      Simply adding “try this lol it’s great!” to every other comment we get on this article is a bit cheap and… spammy you know?

      Your product also does not really meet the “decent free option” we try to feature here at MakeUseOf – all of the products on this page are free indefinitely, some with certain restrictions. Yours has a 30-day free trial, and then costs $40 which is quite different.

    • Dennis Volodomanov

      Ok, point taken – thanks :) I certainly don’t want to give my product a bad image because of this, so I’m sorry and I won’t do this again. Basically just wanted to get it going.

    • Claudio Camino

      DLNA is a messy spec, it’s an awful thing (non-programmers cannot imagine how this is a mess). All is about tweaking for particular renderers, this is awful and this encourage to bad programming. So, every renderers manufacturer only implements partial support, while providing their own unique features beyond the spec

      There are a lot of available free media servers not mentionned here. Most of these projects are handled by one developper only, so we are dependant of their spare time & their will. As a result, a lot of them has not been updated since many months or years.

      As an example, i’m using minidlna under FreeBSD, which is a lightweight and lightning fast solution without transcoding capabilities (which fit my needs). This is the fastest server among tons i’ve tested, it’s open source and written in C, has great features for Samsung renderers, but it is not designed for the average user and it is deeply written for *nix systems (it can be compiled for windows using cygwin).

      Kooraroo is a good product with many good ideas, well designed but far to be perfect (too expensive, unstable GUI, bad GUI translations, windows only, not open source).

      As a result of years of testing such products at home (while developping mine for my own usage only), an “ideal” DLNA server would probably be a product combining the best of that : lightweight and written in C, multiplatform, open source, as compliant as possible with existing renderers (with tunables), with an enhanced WebGUI only, and providing tuning on each file & each renderer (like Kooraroo does). For me, this would be a mix between minidlna (fast, light, open source, written in C), Plex (great WebGUI), serviio (multiplatform), and kooraroo (deeply tunable).

      LXiMedia is also a good idea because even incredibly small computer boxes getting more and more powerful every day, but there is yet a lot of work to do on the project. But IMHO, transcoding all content in real time to fit each particular renderer capabilities is really a good idea to get rid of the DLNA mess (and this allows to handle for many unsupported features like embedded’s subtitles selection & audio track selection)

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.