How to Jailbreak a Roku Box or Streaming Stick

Is it even possible?

Jailbreaking a smartphone or select media streamers to add apps or features that are normally restricted by the manufacturer is popular with many users. However, you can't jailbreak a Roku box, stick, or TV as they employ a closed operating system that is only accessible by approved developers.

However, in lieu of jailbreaking, there are ways to play content using a Roku from selected apps, such as KODI, that isn't directly offered through the Roku Channel Store or Private/Non-Certified Channel adding features.

The alternatives are:

  • Screen Mirroring
  • Screen Casting
  • The Play On Roku feature via the Roku Mobile App
  • Play Content from a Local Network or USB via the Roku Media Player App

The terms Screen Mirroring and Screen Casting are often used interchangeably and Roku is also guilty of this. However, they are different and will be discussed separately.

Screen Mirroring

If you have an Android smartphone or Windows PC, you can use Screen Mirroring with Roku boxes and streaming sticks. No network connection is required.

KODI – Screen Mirroring with Roku
Roku

This option is usually referred to as Miracast, but other names such as Display Mirroring, Quick Connect, Wireless Display, or HTC connect, may be used.

With Screen Mirroring, everything you see on a smartphone, such as app screens from KODI, Mobdro, photos, videos, web pages, and other content is displayed on your TV screen after going through your Roku streaming stick or box.

In addition to KODI, etc..., the smartphone's menu and status icons may appear on your TV.

While screen mirroring is active you can't perform other tasks on your phone. If you tap another app or icon on your phone the content will cease playing.

You also have to use your smartphone or device you are mirroring from to control content playback or navigation. This means that you can't use your Roku remote control during mirroring playback.

Screen Mirroring from iPhones to Roku is done differently than from Android phones.

Screen Casting

Another way to bypass Roku jailbreak restrictions is via Casting. This can be performed with Android or iOS devices but only works with compatible apps. Unfortunately, KODI, Mobdro, and many others are not Cast-compatible.

Roku Casting Feature with Streaming Stick and Box
Roku

Apps compatible with casting such as Netflix and YouTube will display the Cast Logo (note the photo above) near the top of your smartphone app screen.

Casted content is displayed without phone menu bars or status icons.

While content plays, you can perform other tasks on your phone at the same time such as searching for other content to cast or making a phone call. You can even turn your phone off and the casted content will still play until you select another app, channel, or setting on your Roku.

Check out the steps needed to Cast to Roku from your Smartphone or compatible device.

Play On Roku

Another Jailbreak workaround is Play On Roku, which is available within the Roku Mobile App and works with both Android and iPhones. Similar to Screen Mirroring and Screen Casting, this feature allows you to display photos and video, and send music stored on your smartphone to a Roku streaming stick or box. However, it can't be used with apps such as Netflix, YouTube, or KODI.

Play On Roku is compatible with these file formats:

  • Photos: JPG, PNG
  • Video: MP4 (MPEG-4 Pt 14), MOV, M4V
  • Music: MP3, M4A, DRM-protected music files, such as M4P, are not supported.

To get started, download and install the Roku Mobile App on your smartphone or tablet, then follow these additional steps:

  1. Open the Roku Mobile App.

    Play On Roku Setup

    

  2. Launch Play On Roku by tapping the Photos+ icon which is located on the navigation bar at the bottom of the Roku mobile app.

  3. Select Music, Photos, or Videos to choose what you want to share from your mobile device. When prompted, grant access to your media library.

  4. Select the photos, videos or music you want to share with your Roku device.

    Play On Roku Feature with Roku Express
    Roku

Play Content Stored on a PC, Media Servers, or USB

You can use a smartphone in conjunction with Roku streaming sticks and boxes to play content stored on a PC or media server through your home network.

To do this, check to see if the Roku Media Player App has been pre-installed on your Roku stick or box. If it isn't, download it from the Roku Channel Store.

This app allows you to play music, photos, and videos from PCs and media servers connected to the same home network.

The app is compatible with several media server software platforms, including PlayOn, Plex, Serviio, Tversity, Twonky, and Windows Meda Player.

To use the Roku Media Player App, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Media Player App.

    Roku Media Player App Icon
    Roku
  2. Select audio, video, or still image categories from Media Type Selection Screen.

    Roku Media Player Menu Example
    Roku Media Player Menu Example. Image provided by Roku
  3. Choose the device that has the content you wish to play.

    Roku Media Player App — Select Media Server Source
    Roku
  4. Find the content in a displayed folder you want to play.

    If the content is in an unsupported file format, it will not be displayed.

    Media Server Folders as Displayed on Roku Media Player App
    Roku 
  5. Press the OK or Play/Pause button on the Roku remote. You can use Play/Pause, Backward/Forward Scan — However, not all file types support fast forward and rewind.

  6. To stop playback from the Media Player App completely, press the back button on the Roku remote.

The Media Player App can also be used to play photo, music, and video content from USB sources.

Roku boxes that provide a USB port for this purpose include the Roku 2 (Model 4210), 3 (Model 4230), Roku 4, and Ultra. Roku TVs also have USB ports.

Roku Streaming Sticks do not have a USB port for media playback.

Roku Media Player - Select USB Drive
Roku Media Player - Select USB Drive. Image via Roku

The Roku Media Player App supports drives formatted with the FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, EXT2, EXT3, and HFS+ file systems.

When a USB drive is detected, you may see a prompt to access it.

You can set Roku to play USB content to play automatically if detected, or manually choose how you want to navigate your USB device by going to Settings > System > USB media.