How to stream games from your gaming PC

How to stream games from your gaming PC

Cloud gaming is great, but did you know you can use your own PC to play games on your phone or tablet? Remote access lets you control your PC from afar, meaning you can stream desktop games to a TV in the living room without needing a long cable or paying for a cloud gaming service. If you already have a great gaming PC and a fast internet connection, consider setting it up for remote access so you can take your gaming with you on the go.

What is remote access?

A diagram showing how a client and host PC interact.

Credit: Valve

Remote access sends and receives media data and inputs to connect the client to the host.

Remote access works by sending the host PC’s audio and visual data to the client device, and then receiving input from the client device and acting on it. For example, you connect a controller to a Chromebook, and the controller’s inputs are transferred to the desktop PC you have remote access to. This is how cloud gaming services work – the difference is that the PCs are in a data center, not in your house.

What do I need to stream my desktop?

A TV, screen, tablet and phone all showing the same game.

Credit: Google

Remote access allows you to use your PC on your phone, tablet and even your TV.

Because remote access requires sending and retrieving data, it is best used with a strong Internet connection. Many remote desktop apps recommend speeds of 15 Mbps or better, but you need a minimum of 5 Mbps.

There are a number of ways to set up your desktop for remote access, but the easiest way would be to use a remote access application built specifically for gaming, one that prioritizes low latency, high frame rate and resolution, multiplayer options, and low/stuttering streams. Many remote access apps are aimed at IT assistance, file sharing, or business use, so they won’t be as easy to use for gaming.

Which remote access apps target games?

A tablet with a game library on the screen, and a phone with a game on the screen.

Credit: Moonlight / Valve

The best remote access apps for games prioritize low latency and high refresh rates.

Some great free apps for remote game streaming are Steam Remote Play, Moonlight, and Parsec. There are many other remote access applications out there, but they are either more expensive or best suited for different tasks on a remote desktop.

Of the three above, Parsec is the easiest and most powerful to set up, as it supports 4K 60Hz resolution and has a simple user interface. Steam Remote Play and Moonlight are great options if you already have a Steam account and/or an Nvidia graphics card, but they require a bit more legwork to set up on both the host and client side.

Setting up the host PC

A desktop PC and a monitor on a desk.

Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

To use the host PC as a server, it must stay on – don’t put it to sleep!

Before you start remote streaming, make sure your PC is ready for it. First: use a wired Ethernet connection if possible, and make sure your internet speeds are 15 Mbps or higher. When you have access to your PC, it must remain on and always signed in to your Windows account, otherwise you won’t be able to wake it remotely. It would be a good idea to turn off auto-sleep (and auto-hibernate if you’re comfortable with that), and you’ll need to disable auto-restart before you’re done remotely accessing it. Finally, make sure you’re always logged into the remote access program you choose.

Setting up Parsec

A screenshot from the Parsec home page.

Credit: Parsec

Parsec uses open source libraries to bring a multi-functional remote access app to life.

Parsec is quite easy to use. First, download it to your host PC (it only works with Windows and macOS). Check it in the settings menu Hosting is activated and Stay awake is activated, and that the correct screen is registered if you have more than one screen. Finally, go to Computers and press the share button. It will give you an optional URL if you want to access your PC from a web browser.

On the client, you have two ways to access the host: through the Parsec app (available for Windows, macOS, Android, Ubuntu Linux, and Raspberry Pi), or through a web browser (the only option for iOS). On the app, all you have to do is log in, wait for the host PC to show up Computers, and press the connect button. For web access, copy the generated URL from the host and open the link in the client’s browser – no login required.

When you use Parsec, you get remote access to your PC desktop in its entirety. It will be as if you were using Windows on your client device. To play games, launch them as you normally would on your desktop.

If you play with mouse and keyboard, there is nothing else you need to do. However, if you are using a touch screen or game controller, you may need to configure the game to interpret the inputs correctly. Touch capability is built into Parsec on the mobile apps, while you can download a game controller driver here.

Setting up Moonlight

Screenshot of Moonlight's homepage.

Credit: Moonlight

Moonlight is an open source project that extends GeForce Experience’s capabilities.

Moonlight requires the most work of the three methods to get it running at first, and you can only host from PCs with an Nvidia GeForce graphics card. However, it supports the most client devices compared to Parsec and Steam Remote Play.

Before you download Moonlight, download GeForce Experience. In GeForce Experience, go to Settings > Shieldand turn on Game Stream. (Gamestream is Nvidia’s first-party remote access software that streams from the host PC to Nvidia Shield devices). Now download and install Moonlight on your host PC and client device. The easiest way to pair the two is to let them both use your home network, where you can connect them via PIN verification.

To stream over an Internet connection, you must download the Moonlight Internet Hosting Tool on the host PC before connecting to the client. Then run Moonlight Internet Streaming Tester to confirm that it works.

Moonlight runs on top of GeForce Experience, so a lot of host-side configuration will happen through it rather than Moonlight directly. GeForce Experience should automatically detect games installed on your PC, but in case it doesn’t, you can manually add them to the games list. IN Settings > Shieldclick Addopen the folder containing the desired program and click OK.

If you want to remotely stream your entire desktop, go to Settings > Shield > Addadd the path C:\windows\system32\mstsc.exe in Open file box.

For example, Moonlight lets you set up a VPN, stream HDR content and forward ports. The Github wiki is full of guides if you feel like tinkering.

Setting up Steam Remote Play

A drawing of friends playing a game on a TV.

Credit: Valve

Steam Remote Play allows you to play your Steam games seamlessly from a variety of devices.

Steam Remote Play’s biggest advantage is its multiplayer support. You can stream your PC while your friends play with you. You also do not need to download anything extra on the host PC.

To get started, open Steam on your host PC. Download the Steam Link app on the client PC (it’s available on Windows, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Android, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV and Raspberry Pi, but not Linux). Log in to Steam at Steam Link, and from there start the game you want to play remotely. If the game you want to play is not available on Steam, you can exit the Big Picture Mode overlay, minimize Steam, and then click the game’s launcher. You also don’t need to add the non-steam game to your library for this to work!

To play remotely with friends, when connecting to a multiplayer game with Steam Link, invite your friends using the game overlay. Keyboard, mouse, and most popular controllers are supported in Steam Remote Play without additional setup, but if your controller isn’t supported, you can download a driver or emulator that converts the inputs to XInput or DirectInput on the host PC.

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