Windows 7 users interested in building a home media centre might be interested to learn that their operating system is already equipped with Windows Media Center.
Assuming you the right version of Windows 7, this means that you can either utilise your PC as a full-blown media center (or home theater PC/HTPC) or you can buy a second copy of the OS to take advantage. The following versions of Windows 7 are equipped with Windows Media Center:
• Home Premium
Windows Media Center features the ability to watch and record TV on your computer with a suitable adaptor as well as enjoy video, music and photos that you have stored on your hard disk drive. It’s easy to setup and easy to use!
Getting Started with Windows Media Center
To start using Windows Media Center, go to Start > All Programs > Windows Media Center and launch the application.
On the first run it will launch in a small window – this can be resolved later – and offers you the choice of the default configuration or making changes to the setup. Take the central option in order to proceed to the full media center program, and you’re ready to run!
If you have a TV card or USB TV adaptor with a signal-carrying cable connected to it you can configure Windows Media Center to display TV channels using the TV > Live TV setup option, which should be one of the first menu items you see when you run the software. If a TV signal is detected the software will then enable you view and record any channels it finds.
Watching Recorded TV on Windows Media Center
You will notice that Windows Media Center includes the ability to enjoy recorded TV as well, via the TV > Recorded TV menu item.
By selecting this option you can browse through your list of recorded TV shows, sorting them by date recorded, title and original air date, and when highlighted each recording will display a synopsis as well as two further options – Delete and Play.
Clicking Play will open the recording, which will feature a progress bar displayed on screen while the clip is playing (and you input device is active; controls will fade from view when you stop accessing them) along with the standard play/pause, back/forwards and volume controls.
All of the steps above should be performed as part of your basic setup and configuration of Windows Media Center, something that should be done before using the software “in anger”. Something else that you might like to test is the appearance of the media center software in full screen mode.
This is easily done by clicking the Windows Media Center button in the top-left corner of your display, which will maximise the application into full screen mode. You will now see how the software can be used to watch and record live TV in full-screen mode and how you can enjoy recorded TV shows.