Roku XS + External Hardrive = Personal Infinite On-Demand Player

Heads up, I’m about to dish out is one of my tech secrets. If you’ve read my posts, you already know about the Roku Player. What I haven’t written about is the different models. There are three, and one of them has a USB port. This little port in the side of most computers that you can connect flash drives to; they’re used for syncing or transferring data files. (I’ll get to why this is so powerful in a second.) If you cough up $100 for the best one, you get the standard apps like Netflix or Hulu, but with the USB port, you can put personal videos on a flash drive and watch them on your TV – but wait, it gets better.

Recently, I upgraded from flash drives to hard drives. Let me put it this way, I couldn’t fit the entire first season of Mad Men, Fringe or Sex and the City on a single flash drive. This is because most flash drives cap their capacity at about 4 GB (gigabytes). So I got a two terabyte external hard drive from Amazon (because, where else?) and, completely on faith, attempted to plug it into my Roku.

Get this, it totally worked! It virtually transformed my Roku Player into a personal infinite on-demand player!  If you want to find a hard drive that’s right for you, search for ‘external hard drives‘ on Amazon.com. Better yet, try out Google Shopping. On Google Shopping, it will aggregate several online retail services and compare prices and technical details.

The only trick about it is the format of the videos. All the content (movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc.) must be in MP4 format. There’s plenty of software that you can get from sites like CNET.com. They also have a lot of cool downloads that are helpful in a bind.

Let me tell you all you need to know about video formatting. Videos are all “written” in a specific language. Some computers can read all these languages, but Roku works best with MP4. This format is very popular, so you most often won’t have problems putting your videos on Roku using the external hard drive or flash drive method.

Here’s a crash course in video conversion. One of the best ways to format your videos to MP4 (this is the best way to watch them using an external hard drive on a Roku) is a program called Handbrake. This will allow you to take DVDs in your collection and “rip” the video from it. Ripping is the term used to describe when you “rip” a movie from a source, most often, DVDs or music. When it comes to videos downloaded from iTunes, those are most often already in MP4 format, so don’t worry about that (if you have a problem with this, let me know, and I’ll find out the easiest, effective way for you, and post it here). If you’re dealing with other formats that need conversion, try this software called ReduxEncoder. This is another one of my best kept tech secrets. That little gem will take most, if not all, video files and covert them to any of a variety of video formats, one of which, is MP4 (the one you want). I’ve used it for years, and use it to convert huge batches of video to make them compatible with the Roku Player.

Now, instead of being limited to the selection of content provided by Hulu or Netflix, I can open the door to my entire video library using this method. Now I can watch that first season of Dawson’s Creek my friend lent me years ago (because who has a DVD player anymore?) on my TV! Salvation.

If you want to know more, or have questions, feel free to comment here or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy watching! Until next time… stay tuned!

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