The little-known-secret of Windows XP Media Center Edition, Vista, and Windows 7 is a program called “Windows Media Center.” I’m sure that many have of you have seen it on the Start menu, but few have ventured to click on it and explore it, or have used it briefly but were confused about its intended use.
HTPC’s (Home Theater PC’s) are becoming very popular, especially now that HDTV’s are dropping in price faster than the stock market. Like anything else, an HTPC is only as good as the software it runs to get the job done. Before Microsoft made great improvements in Media Center 7, third-party or open-source solutions have been popular. Some of the more common ones are: Beyond TV, Boxee, MediaPortal, and MythTV. However, we feel that all of these solutions lack the overall functionality and features of Windows Media Center.
Windows Media Center’s oustanding features:
- Easy to use and clean interface.
- Support for just about every music/video format. (codec pack and hacks may be required)
- Excellent TV tuner support, including full HDTV with HD CableCard tuners such as those offered by ATI.
- DRM-free DVR recordings which can be shared between computers. (after recent update)
- Great third-party support. (see the next section)