What is UPnP and how does it work? (2024)

UPnP facilitates the networking of network or multifunction devices such as computers, smartphones, hard drives, or smart TVs. However, if you activate UPnP in a network, you should also be aware of the risks.

What is UPnP?

Plug and play everywhere - that’s the best description of Universal Plug and Play we can think of, abbreviated as UPnP. Anyone who uses devices with an assigned IP at home can connect them with UPnP regardless of the manufacturer, retrieve media from a UPnP server effortlessly, and access files across devices. UPnP was originally developed as a bundle of protocols by Microsoft and has been under development by the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) since 2016. The standard includes multicast addresses and protocols such as IP, UDP, HTTP, XML, TCP, and SOAP.

How does UPnP work?

The way UPnP works is simple. The activated UPnP standard makes it possible to automatically identify network-compatible devices with their own IP address via control software and to access them from other devices. The control software is either pre-installed in the network device or downloaded afterwards. You no longer need to actively connect to devices thanks to UPnP, as they offer their services directly and grant access to files. This applies to music and videos on a PC that you access via a cell phone or movies on a computer that you stream via the smart TV.

The sequence and structure of UPnP requests usually looks like this:

  1. Addressing: In an IP network, network-enabled devices usually receive their IP address via the router and can be found and used in the UPnP network.
  2. Discovery: The UPnP device uses the SSDP (Simple Service Discovery Protocol) to identify itself to other devices and control points in the network and is localized via UDP (User Datagram Protocol).
  3. Description: The control point retrieves device descriptions via the HTTP protocol as an XML file containing details of manufacturer, serial number, driver information, and presentation, control, and event URLs.
  4. Control: Cross-device communication takes place via the SOAP protocol, which is used to send messages to the device URLs to enable remote control.
  5. Event Control: To avoid always having to actively query the status of services and other devices, UPnP devices use subscribed event messages by means of GENA (General Event Notification Architecture).
  6. Presentation: The presentation URLs (contained in the description XML file of a device) can be used to access other devices from the web browser as an alternative to UPnP.

UPnP’s distinctive features

A defining feature of UPnP is that each associated device must have an IP address and control software. In addition, a device in the network can only offer access to data if it acts as a UPnP server with an active UPnP function or software. The control software enables cross-device UPnP communication and data transfer via TCP, HTTP, or DLNA protocols. Since not every device has pre-installed control software, it may be necessary to install appropriate apps on the smartphone that can access UPnP servers and load media from a PC or network hard drive.

To set up a Windows computer as a UPnP server, it is also necessary to install control software such as Universal Media Server. Meanwhile, Windows Media Player also has the function to make the computer a UPnP server. As a UPnP server, the device enables access to files from the PC from other end devices, e.g. via the VLC Media Player on smartphones or certain smart TVs. UPnP also ensures that associated USB devices and hard drives are automatically detected when you plug them into a device.


The UPnP function is disabled by default on Windows for security reasons and must first be enabled in the system settings.

Here’s how to enable UPnP in Windows

It takes only a few steps to enable UPnP in Windows and make files available externally. To do this, enter the search term “Media streaming options” in the Windows search, open the search result and then click “Enable media streaming”. You may still need to confirm the process as an administrator. If special software such as the Universal Media Server is already installed, the UPnP function is automatically taken over by the control software.

Risks of UPnP at a glance

The UPnP function is disabled on Windows by default for a reason. The free and device-independent access to files from a UPnP server also poses dangers. These include:

  • DSL routers with the UPnP function enabled allow instant messengers and file-sharing apps to forward files to the local network without authentication.
  • Port sharing by UPnP devices may allow devices to be accessed from the Internet.
  • Ports that are open to the outside world are quickly exploited by malware or botnets for DDoS attacks.

It is generally advised to disable the UPnP function, especially on routers, and to ensure that port sharing via UPnP is not possible.

UPnP Media Players for Windows at a glance

Various media players, including UPnP players, make it possible to access playable media such as music, videos or even pictures from smartphones, tablets, or laptops. However, to access the files of another device, it must already function as a UPnP server. Among the best-known UPnP-enabled media players, which are available as apps for smartphones, desktops, or smart TVs, is the VLC Media Player. Other UPnP media players are:

  • Plex (Windows, macOS, Linux)
  • MusPnP (Windows, macOS, Linux)
  • MediaMonkey (Windows, Android)
  • Kodi (Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS)
  • Banshee (Windows, macOS, Linux)

To turn a device into a UPnP server, programs such as Universal Media Server or Wild Media Server are suitable. Windows systems from Windows Media Player 11 onwards have a built-in UPnP server function.

What is UPnP and how does it work? (2024)


What is UPnP and how does it work? ›

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a standard that lets network devices automatically find, communicate with and control each other. It is used by routers, computers, printers, game consoles and IoT devices. It uses industry standard protocols such as IP, HTTP and Extensible Markup Language.

Should I have UPnP on or off? ›

Should You Disable UPnP? Ultimately, it is a matter of opinion. UPnP is convenient but does bring with it some quite serious security flaws, some of which cannot be mitigated by security solutions. It's our recommendation that if you don't use port forwarding at all, then you should disable UPnP.

What does UPnP do on a router? ›

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is the system that automates device discovery on a local network, allowing different devices on the same network to automatically identify and connect with one another. Although quick and convenient, UPnP can also leave networks vulnerable to cyberattacks and hacking.

What are the risks of having UPnP enabled? ›

If a vulnerable UPnP-enabled device is discovered by an attacker, they could exploit it to gain control over the device, access sensitive data, or perform malicious actions. Port Forwarding: UPnP can automatically set up port forwarding on the router to allow external access to devices within the local network.

Is UPnP automatically enabled? ›

UPnP is enabled by default.

What happens if UPnP is turned off? ›

What happens if I turn off UPnP on my router? If you turn off UPnP altogether, your router will ignore all incoming requests so you'll have to set up devices manually. This means that the router will no longer automatically open ports on your LAN, ignoring even legitimate requests.

Does UPnP improve speed? ›

Enabling UPnP is simple as it can be enabled through your router. Is UPnP needed for gaming? Yes, it can be beneficial for gaming. It can help enhance your connection speed and reduce lag.

Is UPnP the same as NAT? ›

UPnP and NAT-PMP are simply different implementations of the same concept, automated NAT port mapping. These protocols are designed to allow clients to automatically configure the port-forwarding rules of a router/firewall.

Do I need port forwarding with UPnP? ›

Port Forwarding is a way to manually limit connections, allowing only approved connection requests to gain access. Players who do not use UPnP will likely need to use Port Forwarding to allow all the connections Destiny needs. This is a technical process that can be slightly different for each type of router/modem.

How do I get my UPnP to work? ›

Q-4) How can I turn on UPnP?
  1. Open a web browser from a computer or mobile device linked to your router's network.
  2. The username and password for the router. Administrative is the user name.
  3. To enable UPnP, choose ADVANCED > Advanced Setup. The UPnP page is visible.
  4. Turn UPnP On can be turned on or off.
Jun 29, 2023

What remote feature should you disable on your router? ›

Turn off “remote management,” Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) features. Some routers have features that can be convenient but weaken your network security. For example, enabling remote access to your router's controls allows you to change settings over the internet.

What is the weakness of UPnP? ›

The UPnP service becomes dangerous if it establishes connections with devices that are infected with malware. Such connections make DDoS attacks possible. But when UPnP allows safedevices to connect, the established network is safe.

How do I make my UPnP successful? ›

If your router has the latest manufacturer update:
  1. Sign in to your router's setup webpage, and make sure the router's UPnP setting is turned on. ...
  2. Turn the UPnP setting off and save your changes.
  3. Restart your console, your modem, and your router.
  4. Turn the UPnP setting back on and save your changes.

Who uses UPnP? ›

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a standard that lets network devices automatically find, communicate with and control each other. It is used by routers, computers, printers, game consoles and IoT devices. It uses industry standard protocols such as IP, HTTP and Extensible Markup Language.

Can you play online without UPnP? ›

If you don't have UPnP enabled on one of the consoles, you'll see issues like being unable to join some games or being unable to do voice chat with certain players.

Do I need UPnP for Xbox? ›

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is what your Xbox uses to set up your router for multiplayer gaming and chat. If you see “UPnP Not Successful” in your console's Network settings, first see if your router needs an update.

Is UPnP needed for PS5? ›

The PS5 uses UPnP to open ports it needs to connect online. While convenient, UPnP also introduces risks since it opens ports without your direct control or permission. It's best to disable UPnP on your router and manually forward only the ports the PS5 requires.

Does UPnP affect NAT? ›

UPnP is a feature that allows applications and devices to automatically open the required ports in the NAT, without the need to manually configure port-forwarding rules. Because every service requires a different set of ports to be opened, this is the easiest way to ensure a properly opened NAT for gaming.

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