How To Use an Amazon Fire TV Stick on a Laptop
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a handy piece of streaming technology with a lot of features and an extremely portable form factor; you can literally put the whole thing, power supply and all, into a pants pocket and head out the door. Because of the popularity of the Fire TV Stick, and its ability to work on just about any TV with an HDMI port, the question is sometimes asked: is it possible to use an Amazon Fire TV Stick to stream video onto a laptop?
People who travel usually have a laptop computer that goes with them, and taking the Fire TV Stick along on the journey seems like a no-brainer, right? You could just plug the Fire TV Stick into the laptop anywhere you have WiFi and enjoy all your favorite programs. Unfortunately, there are some serious obstacles in the path of anyone who wants to try this. The answer to the question is basically no…but with a couple of possible hacks. In this article, I’ll show you why (for the most part) you can’t use an Amazon Fire TV Stick with a laptop, and I’ll also explain the two possible routes you can take to get a different answer.
Why it (mostly) can’t be done
The Amazon Fire Stick uses HDMI to connect to your TV and stream content to the screen. Most newer laptops also have HDMI to connect to external monitors, so the two should connect and just work right? Wrong. The Amazon Fire Stick is a broadcast device which has HDMI output. The laptop’s HDMI port is also a broadcast output to be able to send signals to external screens and mirror the laptop screen elsewhere. As both are broadcast ports, they both send the signal and are not configured to receive them. Even if your laptop’s HDMI port was magically changed to an input port, it still wouldn’t work – the laptop’s HDMI port is connected to the graphics card, not to the built-in monitor. There’s just no hardware path to carry your HDMI signal to the laptop screen. This means that you cannot use your Amazon Fire Stick with an ordinary laptop.
So is it hopeless? No. There are two different things you can do. One of them requires some finagling and hardware combinations, and requires you to spend about $175. The other one requires you to buy a whole new laptop…and not a Best Buy $100 special laptop, either.
Option 1: Elgato HD60S + ViewHD HDMI Splitter
The Elgato HD60 S is a neat little box that you can use to take an HDMI output from a game console or similar device, and stream it to a PC or laptop via USB-C. The Elgato unit comes with software that you can use to put the input from that USB-C cable onto the laptop screen. However, handling video streams in this way requires something in the way of a monster computer. You’ll need either a MacBook running Sierra, or a Windows 10 64-bit PC. You’ll need an i5-4xxx quad-core processor or better, and a fairly decent graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 600 or better). And you’ll need a USB 3.0 port.
So once you have that, you’re set, right? Alas, no.
The problem is that the Fire TV Stick sends out an HDMI signal that uses HDCP. I’m not going to go deep into the weeds on what HDCP is, but basically it’s an encryption protocol that is used to protect digital content from being illegally copied. It’s a bit of a crap technology but that’s off-topic so we won’t go into it. And unfortunately, the Elgato HD 60 S doesn’t work with HDCP.
However, there is a way to strip that HDCP encryption out, by routing the signal through a View HD HDMI splitter. This is a simple little device that is used to split HDMI signals, but for our purposes all we care about is that in doing so, it “breaks” HDCP and sends just the basic HDMI signal through. Once your Fire TV Stick’s output is passed through the splitter, the signal ought to go through the Elgato, through the USB 3.0 port on your laptop, through the Elgato streaming/recording software, and finally, at long last, to your laptop’s screen.
There are obviously some downsides to this method. For one thing, you’re going to have about five hundred HDMI cables and power cables to contend with. For another, and this one is kind of critical, nobody has yet tested this configuration. We’re going based off what OUGHT to work, not what has been proven to work. So if you try this, be aware that (a) we don’t promise that it will work, we just think that it ought to work, and (b) you can leave us a comment below to tell us that either this was a genius method or a total disaster.
If you prefer a bit more certainty, read on.
Method 2: Buy an Alienware m17x R4 laptop
Remember what I said above about there not being a hardware pathway between the HDMI port and the screen? Well, there is one laptop where that is not true – the Alienware m17x R4, and ONLY the Alienware m17x R4, has a dual-direction HDMI port with the necessary hardware to put outside video input onto the laptop’s screen. This was a gaming laptop and since gamers are one of the groups of users that want to do weird things with their inputs, Alienware gave them the option with this model. There’s a software switch that changes the port from HDMI in to HDMI out, and it should work just fine with your Fire TV Stick.
I’m not buying anything
I don’t blame you. The above methods are a lot of trouble to go to just to use your laptop to watch movies. However, there are some other options for you, entertainment-wise.
Watching Amazon TV on your laptop
If you’re an Amazon Prime Video subscriber you can watch it anywhere, including on a laptop. Whether you’re on Windows or Mac, you can watch whatever you want, wherever you want. You can access Prime Video or Prime Instant Video directly from a web browser or app and don’t need the Fire TV Stick to access it.
This works for those readers who travel a lot. As long as you have wireless access where you’re staying you can watch as much Amazon TV as you like. If you don’t have wireless, you can download some titles onto your laptop before you travel so you’re not marooned somewhere with only local OTA channels to contend with.
Casting from a laptop to an Amazon Fire Stick
If you want to do things the other way round and watch movies saved on your laptop on a TV, you can do that using your Amazon Fire Stick. There are two ways to do this, one is Windows 10 screen mirroring and the other is to use Plex.
First the Windows screen mirroring method as it is easier to set up:
- Make sure your laptop and Amazon Fire Stick are on the same WiFi network.
- Hold down the Home button on your Amazon remote to access Settings.
- Select Mirroring.
- Select the notification bubble in the bottom right of your Windows 10 taskbar.
- Select the Connect icon from the tiles at the bottom of the slider.
- Select your Amazon Fire Stick when Windows detects it.
Your laptop screen should now appear on the TV that you have connected your Amazon Fire Stick to. If it doesn’t look very good, change the screen resolution on your laptop until it does. Right click an empty part of the laptop desktop and select Display Settings.
Using Plex to cast from a laptop to an Amazon Fire Stick
Plex requires a little forward planning to set up but once done you can watch whatever you want from your laptop. You will be using Plex Media Server which is another favorite of TechJunkie. It’s free and very easy to use once set up.
A laptop isn’t the ideal device to run a media server but if this is your only option it can work. Plex can play content from your laptop and send it wirelessly to your Amazon Fire Stick. If this is of interest, here’s how to do it.
- Download and install Plex on your laptop.
- Follow the installation wizard to set up Plex, add media and configure the server.
- Download and install the Plex app onto your Amazon Fire Stick.
- Leave Plex running on your laptop and open the app on the Firestick.
As long as Plex is running on the laptop and both devices are accessible on the network, the app on the Firestick should automatically detect Plex and list all the media you added during setup. Now you can stream as much as you like!
It’s a shame you cannot easily use the Amazon Fire TV Stick on a laptop but you do have options. Do you know of any others? Tell us below if you do!
Want more information about using your Amazon Fire TV Stick?
You can fix performance issues with our guide to resolving buffering/freezing problems on your Fire TV Stick.
Use Showbox for your streaming needs? Learn how to install Showbox to your Fire TV Stick.
We’ll show you how to use your Fire TV Stick with a computer monitor.
You can even use the Fire TV Stick to mirror your iPhone!
Be sure to read our tutorial on unlocking your Fire TV Stick.