How To Use a Roku Device Without Wi-Fi
It’s natural to assume that your Roku device will only work when it’s connected to a Wi-Fi connection. The device prompts you to set that connection up as soon as you plug it in, and every streaming channel needs an internet connection to run.
But what if you have a weak Wi-Fi connection, or your device is in a room that can’t access the connection you use for the rest of the house? In that case, you need some Wi-Fi alternatives that allow you to run a Roku device without a wireless connection.
The Methods for Using a Roku Device Without Wi-Fi
Before getting into the various methods for using Roku devices without Wi-Fi, it’s important to point out that several of these options aren’t perfect. Some will only offer limited access to your device, with others requiring physical wiring or a different type of wireless connection. Still, each gets you up and running on Roku (to some degree) without Wi-Fi.
Method 1 – Mirror Your Phone Screen Using a Mobile Hotspot
If your wireless router isn’t doing its job, your phone can make a serviceable substitute as long as you’re connected to an appropriate mobile hotspot. Ideally, you’ll have at least a 4G connection for this, as 3G connections only offer speeds up to 3Mbps. That may be enough to use a few channels, especially those that offer 720p playback, but you may find that stuttering and buffering become issues.
Assuming you have a strong enough mobile connection, you’ll start by turning your phone into a mobile hotspot. Android users do the following:
- Head to the “Settings” app and select “Connection & Sharing.”
- Go to “Portable hotspot” and turn on the “Portable Hotspot” toggle.
- Enable WPA2 password protection to turn your new hotspot into a private internet connection.
Users of iPhones and iPads can turn their devices into mobile hotspots using the following method:
- Navigate to “Settings” and tap “Cellular.”
- Choose “Personal Hotspot or Settings.”
- Toggle on the “Allow Others to Join” option.
With your mobile hotspot created, you’re ready to use your mobile device (and its network data) to stream via your Roku device:
- Use your Roku remote to navigate to “Settings” and select “Network.”
- Choose “Wireless (Wi-Fi).”
- Navigate back to “Settings” and choose “System.”
- Select “Screen Mirroring” and choose the native screen mirroring service that comes with your phone.
- Use your phone’s screen mirroring tool to choose your Roku device.
- Go back to your Roku device and accept the request to mirror your screen.
- Select “Proceed Anyway” when your Roku device asks if you want to continue using RokuCast without a Wi-Fi connection.
Now, you can stream content from your phone to your Roku device using screen mirroring. You’ll also be using the mobile hotspot you created, meaning no Wi-Fi is necessary.
Method 2 – Connect via an Ethernet Cable
An Ethernet cable is a great wire to get an uninterrupted internet connection flowing to your Roku device, assuming the device has an Ethernet port. Walls and ceilings won’t restrict the signal your device receives, often leading to superior performance when running streaming apps.
Setting up an Ethernet connection for your Roku device is straightforward:
- Connect your Ethernet cable to your router and run the other end to your Roku device.
- Turn the Roku device on and navigate to the “Settings” menu using your remote.
- Head to “Network” and select “Wired.”
- Follow the on-screen prompts to set up your new Ethernet connection.
As great as Ethernet is for offering uninterrupted and stronger connections, it comes with the downside of having to run a cable from your router to your Roku device. That can be a hassle. For instance, you’ll need a very long cable if you want to use a Roku device in a bedroom when your router is in the sitting room. Some Wi-Fi extenders and boosters feature Ethernet sockets, which can be a useful solution if the extender isn’t powerful enough to provide strong Wi-Fi to your Roku device.
Finally, not all Roku devices have Ethernet ports, though most have USB ports. You may find you can use a third-party USB-connected Ethernet port with your Roku device, though compatibility varies.
Method 3 – Use the Roku Media Player App
This method requires you to have an initial internet connection (either through Wi-Fi or Ethernet) so you can download the Roku Media Player app from the Roku Channel Store. Once you have the app, you’ll be able to play content via a USB drive, assuming your Roku device has the relevant port, or using a Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) local area network (LAN).
If you go down the USB route, the drive needs to be formatted with one of the following file systems:
Assuming that’s the case, follow these steps to play content using a USB drive:
- Plug your USB drive into your Roku device using the device’s USB port.
- Accept the prompt to launch the Roku Media Player app.
- Navigate to “All” in the Roku Media Player’s main dashboard.
- Select your USB drive from the options to access the content it contains.
Setting up a DLNA is more complicated. There are only a few DLNA servers, with each having its own processes for creating a DLNA. The following are servers you may be able to link to your Roku device:
- Windows Media Player
- Windows Media Center
Head to the support site for your chosen server to learn how to set it up for use with your Roku device. From there, you can play content stored on the DLNA server via its associated software on your Roku device.
Regardless of the option you choose, you’re limited to what’s stored on a USB drive or local server when playing content using this method. You won’t have access to any streaming channels because they require an internet connection. It’s also worth noting that Roku devices are only compatible with the following file formats:
No Wi-Fi Doesn’t Stop Your Roku Experience
It’s fair to say that your options are fairly limited, and somewhat cumbersome, if you want full access to your Roku device and its channels without Wi-Fi. Screen mirroring via a mobile hotspot works well enough, though you’ll eat through your network data allowance and may find that varying speeds affect your experience. Using an Ethernet cable may offer a stronger internet connection than Wi-Fi (great for 4K streaming), though it comes with the caveat of running wires from your modem to your device.
If you’re considering one of these options, why is Wi-Fi not the right choice for your Roku needs? Do you think Roku needs to offer more offline channels for people to watch? Let us know in the comments section below.