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Windows Media Center

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Windows Media Center on Windows Vista
Windows Media Center on Windows Vista

Windows Media Center is an application designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub. It is included in Windows XP Media Center Edition and higher-end editions of Windows Vista. It is designed to be viewed from a distance up to 3 meters (~10 feet) and is controlled by specially designed remote controls which prominently feature the Green Button. This button is used to either launch Media Center from Windows or to return to the Start Menu from within the application. Media Center visualizes the computer user's pictures, videos, and music from local hard drives, optical drives, and network locations. It then categorizes them by name, date, tags, and other file attributes. Media managed through Media Center can also be relayed via a home network to standard TV sets via specially designed Windows Media Center Extender or the Xbox 360. The original Xbox requires an additional kit to function as an Extender and no longer works with Windows Vista.


With the addition of TV tuner cards, Media Center can record and schedule TV shows in either over-the-air High-definition TV or standard antenna, cable, or satellite signal. After recording, it can then burn the shows to DVD or transfer them to a portable media player. Media Center originally had a limitation of 2 analog tuners. With Update Rollup 1 for Media Center 2005, support for a digital tuner was added, but an analog tuner must still be present for the digital tuner to function. With Rollup 2, up to 4 TV tuners can be configured (2 analog & 2 HDTV).

Media Center can stream live and pre-recorded television to Windows Media Center Extenders. However, Media Center can only stream live TV to media center extenders and to the Xbox consoles, not to other computers. Media Center creates a buffer to enable the user to rewind or skip backwards when viewing TV, known as timeshifting. This buffer cannot be transferred from one instance of TV to another on a different device. The buffer is deleted when the user changes the channel or closes Media Center, although the buffer is not deleted if the user only presses "Stop" on the remote. If that is the case, Media Center will continue recording until the buffer is full, then it will delete TV off the end of the buffer to enable more TV to be recorded. Also, the size of the buffer limits the length of time the user can pause TV.


Connectivity features of Media Center include various inputs and outputs, for example for RCA type cables (e.g., from cassette players or analog videocassette recorders), microphones, digital video signals and other inputs. Analog to digital conversion within the tuner card enables users to convert older type media to digital media.

Windows Media Center organizes and displays music found on the computer. Music can then be played by selecting "My Music" from the Start Menu. In the default view, albums are arranged in alphabetical order with accompanying album art. Album art can be downloaded off the internet automatically, or it can be added manually into Media Center. The user can create playlists of different songs or albums, but once created, playlists cannot be edited.

When playing music, the user can pause and fast forward music, as long as Media Center is not in the “View Queue” mode. The user also has the option to shuffle or repeat music in the queue. Visualizations, as in Windows Media Player, can also be viewed, although Extenders do not have this option.

Media Center in Windows Vista

Sports scores in Windows Media Center on Windows Vista
Sports scores in Windows Media Center on Windows Vista

Windows Media Center in Windows Vista includes a redesigned menu system that takes advantage of the graphics capabilities of the operating system as well as the common 16:9 aspect ratio. Each button in the main menu, which contains sections such as "Music", "Videos", and "TV", gets encased in a box when selected, and for each selection, a submenu comes up, extending horizontally. When any of the options is selected, the entries for each are presented in a grid-like structure, with each item being identified by album art, if its an audio file, or a thumbnail image if it is a picture, a video or a TV recording, and other related options, such as different views for the music collection if "Music" is selected, extend horizontally along the top of the grid. Similarly, other items are identified by suggestive artwork. The grid displaying the items is also extended horizontally, and the selected item is enlarged compared to the rest.

Other features of Windows Vista Media Center include:

  • Support for two dual-tuner cards
  • Native DVD/MPEG-2 support
  • Addition of Movies and DVD button which lists all the movies on the hard drive and DVD.
  • Tasks button that provides access to jobs such as setting up and configuring a media center extender device.
  • Any video playing is overlaid on the background of the user interface, if the UI is navigated while the video is still playing.
  • Support for high-definition (HD) content, and CableCARD support.
  • Ability for a digital tuner to function without an analog tuner present.
  • New "Sports" section which gives real-time access to sports scores, as well as free broadcasts of games over the Internet.

Microsoft partnered with Fox Sports and NASCAR to provide these services. Support for fantasy sport-style player tracking has also been demonstrated.[1]


  1. ^ TV partnerships key to Vista's Windows Media Center. CBC (January 9, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-01-21.

External links

  • Windows Media Center Main Page
  • Information about Windows Media Center in Windows Vista
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