How to Get AirPlay for Your PC
By John Lister
AirPlay is an Apple system for wirelessly streaming video from Macs and iOS devices to a television screen. The system is primarily designed to work through a device called AppleTV that receives the wireless signal and is plugged in to the TV set. Although the system is based around Macs and iOS, you can use independently-developed software to use a PC in place of, or alongside, Apple devices. Different software allows you to use the PC in a different manner.
AirParrot (see Resources) is a paid application for PC and Mac. It allows you to transmit the image from your computer screen to your AppleTV and in turn display it on your television. The software also transmits the audio output of your PC. This setup means you can use your television either as a giant monitor, or play a video on your computer and watch it on your TV without having to worry about video file formats.
AirServer (see Resources) is a paid application for PC and Mac, with a free trial period available. It works in the opposite way of AirParrot, meaning you can display content from your iOS device or Mac on a PC monitor, which acts as an AirPlay receiver. In effect, your PC and monitor take the place of an AppleTV box and television. As with the standard AirPlay setup, you can choose between streaming video from AirPlay compatible apps, or mirroring the entire display from your iOS device. AirServer can mirror at a 1080p (Full HD) resolution, unlike AppleTV which is restricted to 720p.
Shairport4w (see Resources) is a free application for PC which turns your computer into an AirPlay receiver. Unlike AirServer, Shairport4w works only with audio. Its main use case is to allow your PC and speakers to play audio files that are stored on an iOS device. While this will usually be unnecessary in your own home (where you likely have the files on your PC anyway), the fact that Shairport4w can run from a USB stick means you can take it and your iOS device to a friend's house and then play your iOS music through the computer speakers, using the iOS device as a remote control.
VLC (see Resources) is a free media player available for PCs and iOS devices. It doesn't support streaming to or from a PC, but can help you play video files from your PC via Apple TV, even when the files are incompatible with the default media players on your iOS device. To use it in this way, you install VLC on your iOS device, switch on an option for Wi-Fi file transfers and then get a notification custom Web address. You then visit this address in your browser which brings up an interface for dragging-and-dropping files onto your iOS device. You can then play the file in VLC on your iOS device and use AirPlay mirroring to watch it through your Apple TV.
A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.