Windows Media Center: An Overview and Complete Guide

Windows Media Center (WMC) is a digital video recorder and media player created by Microsoft. Windows Media Center launched in 2002 on a special edition of Windows XP, designed for computers with functions for receiving / recording TV and DVD, accompanied by a remote control with the classic Windows icon. With the arrival of Vista, Media Center happened to be offered as a separate feature included in the premium edition of consumer editions:Windows Home Premium and Windows Ultimate as well as all versions of Windows 7 except Starter and Home Basic. It is available on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 as a paid add-on.

Features

Media Center can play slideshows, videos and music from local hard drives, optical drives and network locations. Users can stream television programs and films through selected services such as Netflix. Content can be played on computer monitors or on television sets through the use of devices called Windows Media Center Extenders. It is also possible to watch and pause live TV.

Discontinuation

Finally, in 2009 Microsoft launched what would be the last stable version of Windows Media Center, included in the Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7. At this point, Media Center already offered integration with Netflix and other online services through add-ons, integration with the Xbox 360, and other interesting features.

In the recently concluded Windows 10 release we learned many new and useful changes come with Windows 10. But with all these new features that come, there are some that left. That is the case of Windows Media Center, the Microsoft interface / application for multimedia PCs, which no longer installs with Windows, even as a paid add-on (which is offered in Windows 8 / 8.1).

Owed to the low use by users (according to Microsoft), and the cost to the company to license the codecs needed for running Media Center in Windows 8 the company decided to include it, offered as an add-on charge, available for $ 9.99 for users of the Pro edition, and $ 99.99 for the Standard Edition users.

That is why, although none of the builds of Windows 10 released so far came with the built-in Media Center, some enthusiasts cherished the hope that it might be available through installing a paid extension. This hope vanished  after Redmond confirmed in a private meeting during in San Francisco, that they will not release any add-on to restore the functionality of Media Center in Windows 10.

Not to worry though, you can still install Windows Media Center on Windows 10 devices. For now this is how to set up Windows Media Center on Windows 8.1 devices.

Learn how to use Windows Media Center

You can use Windows Media Center, a home entertainment center on Windows, to watch and record live TV, create slideshows of your photos slides, listen to songs in your music library and play CDs and DVDs.

Some editions of Windows include Windows Media Center. If you do not have Windows Media Center, follow these steps to get Windows Media Center Pack. Note that you need a tuner for analog or digital TV to play and record live TV programs. The TV tuner is a hardware device that allows you to connect a TV signal to your computer. If your computer did not come with a TV tuner, you can probably add one.

Set up Windows Media Center

Connect your computer to a television or a monitor, and the first time you start Media Center, you'll see a setup page with information about various features, as well as two different installation options. If you want a faster installation, choose the Express option. You can set up Media Center with more options, choose a Custom installation.

To open Windows Media Center

  1. Swipe from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you are using a mouse, point to the lower right of the screen, move the mouse pointer up and click Search.)

  2. Insert Windows Media Center in the search box and tap or click Windows Media Center.

Customize Windows Media Center appearance on your screen

  1. On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, tap or click Settings, tap or click General, tap or click Windows Media Center Setup, and then tap or click Configure Your TV or Monitor.

  2. Choose the display settings you want to change, such as aspect ratio, brightness or contrast.

Set up your speakers

  1. On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, tap or click Settings, tap or click General, tap or click Windows Media Center Setup, and then tap or click Install Speakers.

  2. Select the speaker setup and perform a sound chimes to test it. Listen carefully to each speaker to make sure it is receiving a signal.

Troubleshoot speaker/sound issues
  • If you are not hearing any sound, check that all cables are properly connected and the volume of both speakers and the computer is turned on.

  • If your computer is connected to a TV, the video card or the type of cable you are using may not support audio signals. You may need to connect the computer's sound card directly to speakers.

Setup a TV signal

If you have a compatible TV tuner, you can connect a TV signal to your computer to watch and record live TV.

  • On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, tap or click Settings, tap or click General, tap or click Windows Media Center Setup, and then tap or click Set Up TV Signal.

Make sure that the TV programs are being recorded

These are some actions you can take to help ensure that their programs are recorded successfully.

  • Set recording priorities. The Media Center will select which programs to record when there are scheduling conflicts based on the priorities you set. If the recording conflicts occur frequently, try adding another TV tuner to your computer so you can record two programs on different channels at the same time. For how to set priorities:

    1. From the home screen of Windows Media Center, open TV.

    2. Tap or click Recorded TV, tap or click View scheduled, tap or click Series and select Change Priorities.

    3. Use the arrow keys up and down to move a scheduled series up or down in the series priority list.

    4. Tap or click Done.

    Note
    • When you schedule a new series, it is automatically added to the end of the list with the lowest priority; so you may want to move it to a higher position on the priority list if it is important.

  • Make sure there is enough space on your drive. You must have enough space on the computer drive to store your recorded programs. If there is not enough space, you can not record everything you want. To create more space, you can delete previously recorded programs, add more storage (as an external drive) or increase the amount of space used by Media Center. Here's how:

    1. On the Windows Media Center home screen, open Tasks, tap or click Settings, tap or click TV, tap or click Recorder, tap or click Recording Storage and then in Maximum TV limit, touch or click the plus sign plus (+) or minus (-) to increase or decrease the limit for recorded TV on the drive.

    2. Tap or click Save.

      Note
      • Media Center can monitor multiple drives in search of the recorded TV programs, but can only save programs on the drive specified in Recording Storage.

  • . Make sure the TV signal is available if you're not getting a TV signal in Media Center, check the following:

    • All cables are connected

    • The TV signal provider is running (contact your ISP)

    • Your TV tuner is working (get the latest driver)

    You can also try restarting your computer.

  • Make sure the computer is on or if the laptop battery is fully charged. The Media Center can record a program while the computer is in standby or hibernation, but will not record anything if the computer is off.

  • Check the recording history to see why a program was not recorded. Here's how:

    1. On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to TV, tap or click Recorded TV, tap or click View scheduled, and then tap or click History.

    2. Tap or click Sort by Date, Sort By Status, or Sort by Title to organize the list.

      The status of each program appears next to the title.

      Tap or click on the program title for details on the recording status.

     

Video: Setting up Media Center

A very short and precise video showing you how to enable and set up Windows Media Center on Windows 8 devices.

Video: How to watch TV with Windows Media Center

This video shows you how to watch TV/TV shows on Windows using Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center Alternatives

According to Microsoft, mostly to those who used Media Center to play DVDs, there will be an alternative soon. If this is your case, the market is rife with free and paid apps that can perform the same task, such as CyberLink PowerDVD, VLC or ALLPlayer.

For those who used Media Center to play and record TV, perhaps you can switch to MediaPortal, a free and comprehensive equivalent including DVR functionality, and also has an interesting ecosystem of extensions. The same applies to XBMC (now called Kodi).

Another idea is to buy an Xbox One console which  is able to completely replace Windows Media Center multimedia playback and TV functions (even offering to stream content to phones and tablets inside the same house - on the same network connection).

And for those who, despite all this, want to continue using Media Center, the only solution left is to reject the free upgrade to Windows 10 and continue using Windows 7 (or Windows 8.1 with the Media Center Pack). This is not such a bad idea considering that both operating systems will have extended support until 2020 and 2023 respectively.

And of course there is the alternative of installing Windows Media Center on your Windows 10 computer and using it to your liking.

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