You've no doubt already fine-tuned your existing audio setup, but why stop at optimising the audio potential of just one PC? Connecting all your computers and audio devices on a wireless network does away with the hassle of transferring CDs between machines and re-downloading files.

Streaming media across a network used to require expensive and complex hardware. Not so today. Windows Media Player (WMP) 11.0 and iTunes have facilities for sharing music libraries. We'll show you how to use these services to set up a free media-streaming network.

Stream music with Windows Media Player 11.0

1. To stream music using Windows Media Player (WMP) 11.0, click the arrow under Library and select Media Sharing. You may receive a warning that ‘This is a public network that needs to be made private’. If so, click Networking and alter the settings accordingly.

WMP step 1

2. In the Media Sharing dialog box that pops up, tick the box for ‘Find media that others are sharing’ or ‘Share my media’. Click ok. Allowing others to access your music this way only lets them listen to it over a network – they can’t copy your files or get at your computer.

WMP step 2

3. The next screen lists the devices that are connected to your network: select the one you wish to share your files with, then click Allow. Click Customize if you want to specify the media types that will be shared from your libraries – for example, pictures, video or music.

WMP step 3
4. If your other device is a Windows Vista PC, listening to music from a shared library is a simple process. Click the Library arrow and select Media Sharing, Find media. The Library panel will display any shared libraries, and you can click on any files that you wish to play. 

WMP step 4

>> NEXT PAGE: Stream music with Apple iTunes

Stream music with Apple iTunes

1. Apple’s iTunes can also be used to share files across a network, including any music that you have purchased from the iTunes Store. For the latter, however, the particular file you wish to share must be authorised for up to five computers to play it at a time.

iTunes step 1

2. To start sharing, click Edit, Preferences and select the Sharing tab. In the dialog box that appears, tick the box for ‘Share my library on my local network’. You can now share either the entire library or stream individual file types. You can also specify a password for accessing your media files if you wish.

iTunes step 2

3. For sharing to take place, the computer on which the library is stored must be switched on and iTunes must be running. On the second PC, open iTunes and go to Edit, Preferences. Select ‘Look for shared libraries’ and click ok. iTunes will then search the network for shared media.

iTunes step 3

4. As well as media streaming across a network, you can share your playlists with other iTunes users by creating an iMix. Select the playlist you want to share and then click File, ‘Create an iMix’. Once you sign into your account, this will be uploaded with previews of tracks held on the iTunes store.

iTunes step 4