Last Updated: July 7, 2014
Apple's technology for streaming media to compatible devices, AirPlay, transforms your computer or iOS device into a media hub that can send music, photos, podcasts, and videos throughout your house or office. And using it is super simple: just make sure you have at least two AirPlay-compatible devices (one needs to be the computer or iOS device) on the same Wi-Fi network and you're good to go.
It's common, though, that Apple reserves some of its best features only for its products (there's no FaceTime on PC, for instance), which may leave PC owners wondering: can you use AirPlay on Windows?
AirPlay Streaming From iTunes? Yes.
When thinking about whether it's possible to use AirPlay on Windows, it's important to understand that there are two elements to AirPlay: streaming and mirroring. Streaming is what you probably think of AirPlay as being for: sending music from your computer or iPhone to a Wi-Fi-connected speaker.
If that's all you're looking for, you're in luck Windows users: AirPlay is built into the Windows version of iTunes. All you need to do is install iTunes on Windows and have a Wi-Fi network and you're ready to stream music to compatible audio devices.
Stream Any Content Over AirPlay? Yes, With Extra Software.
One of the features of AirPlay that Apple only makes available to Macs is the ability to stream any content to an AirPlay device. It does this by embedding AirPlay at the OS level. This means that if you're running, say, Spotify in the desktop app, you can use AirPlay to send that audio to another device. This isn't possible in iTunes for Windows since you can't use Spotify from within iTunes.
You can get around this limitation by using a third-party software package called Airfoil for Windows. This free download allows you to take any audio coming into your computer and send it out to an AirPlay-compatible device.
AirPlay Receiver? Yes, With Extra Software.
Another cool, Mac-only AirPlay feature is the ability for computers to not just send media over AirPlay, but also to receive it. So, some Macs running modern versions of Mac OS X can actually function like speakers or an Apple TV: you can send audio or video from an iPhone or iPad to that Mac and have the Mac play back the content.
That's possible due to AirPlay being built into the Mac OS. AirPlay isn't built into Windows, but there are a few third-party programs that allow your Windows PC to do this:
- AirServer is a powerful tool designed for educators (but applicable to many uses) that allows a PC to receive video over AirPlay, which makes it a great tool for projecting the contents of your screen. It includes a free trial and costs anywhere from US$7.99 to $19.99, depending on your license type.
- AirPlay Client for Windows Media Center is a free download. It requires Bonjour to be installed on your PC for use (Bonjour is installed along with iTunes on Windows).
- Shairport4w is an open-source project available as a free download. Learn more about using it.
At one point, a program calledAirMediaPlayer for Windows also enabled this functionality, but its developer has removed it. No word on whether it will be returning.
AirPlay Mirroring? Yes, With Extra Software.
If you have an Apple TV, AirPlay allows you to display whatever is on your Mac or iOS device's screen on your HDTV via the Apple TV. This is another OS-level feature that's not available on Windows without extra software.
In this case, the software you want is AirParrot, a $9.99 download that enables mirroring to an Apple TV. It also allows you to mirror one program to the Apple TV while showing something else on your PC, which is not possible on Macs.