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Using Hard Drives with a TV

There are many different ways to view content on your TV. Many TVs today allow you to stream movies directly from an external hard drive. It’s a great choice in situations such as cough, “unsupervised” kids, cough, where streaming is problematic or you prefer tighter control.
The First Things First

Before you hook up your hard disk to the TV, especially before you spend hours loading your content, it’s important to ensure that your television will accept it. Look at the user manual and the website of the manufacturer to determine the minimum specs that your drive must meet. Then compare these specifications to the hard drives you choose to use. Most TVs only allow you to use a hard disk of up to 2TB. If you have a 4TB drive, then you need to partition it into two spaces of 2TB each. Your hard drive can be formatted in many different ways. Make sure you know what file-systems are supported by your TV. Most TVs work with NTFS. This format is what Windows 10 defaults to when formatting a drive. If you own a Mac computer or Linux computer, you will need NTFS to format your drive. This can be done according to the documentation of your operating system.

Connect your Hard Disk and the TV

Take a look at the USB ports on your TV. Some TVs might have more than one USB connector. In this case, it may be labeled USB/HDD. You will use that one for your hard drive. Do not worry if only one is available, or if they aren’t specifically designated for the hard drive. Don’t worry about what you don’t have. As the TV recognizes and reads the hard disk, it will vibrate slightly when you plug it into the USB port. Depending on the case, you may be able see a light flickering between on and off. You can select your USB drive using your remote. Once you have selected your input device, the TV should display your content via the built-in file viewer. Choose the file you wish to watch and use the remote control to select it. It will begin to play.

How to Choose Compatible Files

Your TV will not recognize all types of media files. You will find information in the user manual about which file types your TV is capable of reading. If your manual has been lost, you can also check the manufacturer’s website. If all else fails you can always try a clip to verify it works. If the file doesn’t work, you can convert it into something that your TV will recognize. VLC Media Player is a free program that allows you to convert audio and video files. If the file is protected with digital rights management or DRM, it is illegal for you to make a copy.

A few Cautions

A USB port can provide enough power for an external hard disk drive, but most manufacturers recommend that a drive be connected to its own power source. There is a reason. A TV accidentally turning off can cause the drive’s power to go out. In addition, corrupted files could occur if it’s being used. The drive’s own power means that this cannot happen. This is why it’s prudent to have a backup for any file you place on that drive. It will be a real regret if this is your only copy from that once in a lifetime vacation video.

Limitations on older TVs

The majority of new HDTVs (and “smart”) TVs can be used externally, but older TVs might have some limitations. Your drive might have to be formatted using FAT32 format. If that is the case, it might only recognize TV hard drives of 32 GB or less. In this instance, you can use a USB thumbdrive to replace it. Sometimes older TVs might have trouble recognizing your USB device. Some TVs that included a USB connector in the early days were only intended to serve as diagnostic ports for technicians. You’ll need to be creative if your TV has one of the older models, or if it has HDMI inputs and no USB port.

Connecting via a Separate Device

It’s possible to use a hard drive adapter to convert your TV’s USB connection to work if it doesn’t have one. A separate device, such a Roku or PVR, is the best choice. They usually have an HDMI output for connecting to your TV and a USB connection for your hard disk. There will also be a built in file browser, which is often quite useful. This will be your best choice if you can’t bring your computer into your living area to watch a movie or clip.