Windows Media Center

What is it?

Windows Media Center is a program that provides an integrated way of accessing your music, photos and videos stored on your PC. It is specifically designed for viewing from 10 foot distance i.e. from your sofa to the TV, although it works equally well when hunched over your PC. If you have the hardware, WMC also provides the interface for listening to radio and viewing TV, with recording facilities. Windows Media Center is available on Windows XP and integrated as part of Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Windows 10 does not have Windows Media Center. The upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (free until 29th July 2016) removes Media Center from your PC. Alternatives to Windows Media Center include NextPVR and Kodi, both support the Windows Media Center remote control out of the box. See how to setup NextPVR for accessing the internet.

How to hook it up (TV, internet)?

The pre-built WMC PCs will come with the standard TV outputs (s-video, HDMI etc) so it is an easy matter to plug into your TV.

If you are going to place your standard PC in the living room then make sure it has a TV output. S-video does not a have an audio channel so the cable will need to connect the s-video socket and speaker sockets of your PC, sometimes (e.g. with laptops) these sockets are not close to each other. Some TVs a socket for direct VGA input, this will give the best quality of image onto your TV but again you will need to connect the audio by a separate means. You will need a Windows Media Center remote control which can be purchased separately.

With the Microsoft XBox you can use the "WMC Xbox extender" to stream the content from a PC elsewhere in your house to the XBox connected to the TV.

Consider how you will be accessing the internet, have you cabled your living room or will you use wireless?.

How to access internet content?

Windows Media Center comes pre-packaged with links to internet content from Sky, MSN etc., this content is designed to be viewed through your TV and navigated using the WMC remote (Sky content will need a SkyId, free to existing Sky dish subscribers). Depending on your country this pre-packaged content may not be available to you. Additional restricted content can be obtained through WMC plugins (specially written software you can load into WMC). See the resource links below for websites where you can find information about WMC plugins.

With a small amount of effort configuring WMC, you can get access to the whole of the internet. WMC has a built-in web browser but it can be slow and get stuck accessing websites. However the most serious flaw of the built-in browser is that website links cannot be selected using the WMC remote control (only mouse or keyboard). For this reason the built-in browser cannot be recommended for tv-true access. If your are looking for accessing websites whilst on your sofa the follwoing options are available

tv-true rating

Positive: Windows Media Center is designed for the 10 foot viewing experience, the large menu text and animated menus have a very polished look and feel that work well on a TV.

Negative: The only way to successfully integrate with non-walled garden internet content is by installing additional plugin or standalone software.

Resource links

Some Media Center plugins for Vista (unknown how well these will play with Windows 7)

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