How to Play USB on a TV

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Connect USB hardware to your television system.
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If you're looking to play a USB on your TV, it's likely you can do so through either the TV's native software or using a workaround with another piece of technology. Almost every television released these days is a "smart" TV of some type, and these are usually equipped to play content from a wider range of sources than traditional sets. This includes files on a USB stick or hard drive, provided they're in a format supported by your set. In most cases, this won't be an issue, but you may need to do a little research if you run into problems.


Checking Your TV’s Capability

Physically inspect your TV for a USB port. If you have a modern TV, there will almost certainly be a USB port somewhere on the unit. There's a small chance that it has a USB port that is used entirely for maintenance purposes, but it's highly likely that if you have a flat-screen TV with a USB port, you can play content from a USB.

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If you find a USB port but are unsure of its purpose, or if you can't find one but believe that one should be there, check with the manufacturer of your set. Sony, Panasonic, Philips and Samsung all have pages on their websites dedicated to playing content through USB, including supported file types and potential problems you may encounter.


Formatting the USB (if Necessary)

If you have a USB port (and support) on your television set, but the TV still doesn't recognize the USB device, the USB device may be in the wrong format. For example, Philips TVs only support USB drives formatted in FAT or DOS format, while Samsung sets support exFAT and NTFS systems in addition to these. Check the website of the manufacturer of your TV.

If you need to reformat your USB, connect it to your computer and locate it in the file manager. Note that formatting the USB deletes all the content currently on it, so copy any files you want to keep to another location first. Right-click the USB drive and then click "Format." Choose an appropriate option under "File System" before selecting "Start."


Play a USB on a TV

If your TV and USB drive are compatible, you can complete the process easily. Insert the USB drive into the port, and you will see a pop-up, or you can navigate to the option that says something like "Browse Media," "Browse USB" or similar. In some cases, you need to press the "Source" button on your remote and navigate to "USB Device" (or similar).

From this point, you browse your USB drive in the way you ordinarily would on a computer and select the file you want to play. If your file won't play, it is probably in an unsupported format. This may be difficult to address, but you can try an appropriate conversion tool or attempt to obtain the same file in a different format.


Alternative Approaches

If your TV doesn't have a USB port or you run into other issues, there are some alternative methods you can use. For example, gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 may be able to play content from your USB using the Media Player app. Other media devices, such as Roku, can usually play USB files from their browsers. You can also play the content on a laptop and connect it to the TV using an HDMI port. The method you use depends on the devices you own, but there are many alternatives to directly playing the content on your TV.