Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building Your HTPC - Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
Running Windows Media Center for the First Time
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options
We’ve finished tweaking our Windows 7 Home Premium installation in preparation for Media Center in our previous installment and now it’s time to get down to the core of our project and finally roll our sleeves up and dive into Media Center itself. Windows Media Center is an excellent product with an extremely passionate group of fans and one simply needs to check out the Green Button forums or the DTVUSA Forums to find like-minded Cord Cutters. Considering how well thought out and excellent Media Center is for most ‘set top box’ type tasks, I never understood why Microsoft didn’t put more effort behind pushing it and yet they worked double time to try and push projects like Clippy and the Kin. Unfortunately, not only has Microsoft not supported Media Center, some of their actions with Windows 8 make it feel like they’re actively working to kill it off.
Regardless, Windows Media Center is still the product to beat for an all in one Cord Cutting solution in my opinion. While I’m building my media center in Windows 7 Home Premium, if you are building a Windows 8 Media Center, many of the steps will be very similar, if not the same, to what I’m doing here. Many of the setup screens are mirror images between the two versions of Windows and you should be able to follow along with this guide for Windows 8 as well. Unless you just absolutely must use Windows 8 for some reason, I highly suggest using Windows 7 for your Media Center as Microsoft has decided to leave some key features out of the Windows 8 version that makes Windows 7 superior in my opinion.
My Experience: Working through the Windows Media Center setup is much easier to do on a computer monitor as opposed to trying to do it while hooked up to your Television. We’ll hook our HTPC up to a television when we’re wrapping things up, but in the meantime, save yourself some hassle and just do everything on a monitor.
Before we begin, if have a television tuner card in your HTPC, be sure to have your antenna and cabling hooked up and attached to the tuner as we’ll be scanning for channels later during setup. To launch Windows Media Center, you simply need to click on your Start button and you should see “Windows Media Center” sitting smack in the middle of your program list. Click on it and off we go.
After a few moments Media Center will launch. Clicking on the right or left arrows will show you a few brief highlights of Media Center. When you’re ready to start the setup, click on the “Continue” button on the bottom of the screen.
To save some time, you can hit the big “Express” button and Windows Media Center will automatically configure some settings, but I generally like to see what settings are available, so I prefer to do Custom installs. Mouse over the “Custom” button and select it, or better yet, give your remote a try and see if you can scroll over to the Custom button and select it.