Windows 8

Get the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free - but be prepared to wait

Greg Shultz explains how to download and install the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack in Windows 8 Pro, including some caveats.

As you may recall, when Microsoft was preparing Windows 8, the company announced that it had decided not to include Windows Media Center in the operating system anymore and instead would make it available as a separate download for a nominal fee once Windows 8 was released. While this raised the ire of quite a few long time Windows Media Center users, Microsoft made a fairly reasonable case for removing the application from the operating system in this blog post on the Building Windows 8 web site. After reading this post, many folks that I spoke with at the time shifted their point of contention from the removal to the cost of the add-on pack, which Microsoft vaguely described as in line with marginal costs.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery.

Fortunately, Microsoft did remain true to their word. If you go to the Add features to Windows 8 tool in Windows 8 Pro, you'll see that the Windows 8 Media Center Pack will cost $9.99, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Under normal circumstances, the Windows 8 Media Center Pack will cost $9.99.

However, between now and January 31, 2013, if you are running Windows 8 Pro, you can download and install the Windows 8 Media Center Pack for FREE. While you won't have to spend a penny to get the Windows 8 Media Center Pack during this period, you will have to spend some time waiting.

In this post, I will show you the steps involved in downloading and installing the Windows 8 Media Center Pack in Windows 8 Pro. As I do, I'll explain why you must be prepared to wait.

Windows 8

Just in case you are wondering, if you have the Base edition of Windows 8, you can get Windows Media Center by getting the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which will upgrade your operating system to Windows 8 Pro and add Windows Media Center. You can get the Windows 8 Pro Pack for the discounted price of $69.99. (It normally would sell for $99.99) This is also a limited time offer that expires on January 31, 2013.

Get your product key

Getting your free copy of the Windows 8 Media Center Pack is pretty straightforward procedure. On your Windows 8 system, launch Internet Explorer and point it to the Add features page on the Microsoft Windows 8 site. When you arrive at the page, read the introductory information and then scroll down to the Windows 8 Pro section as shown in Figure B. Then, enter your email address, type the BotDetect CAPTCHA characters, and click the Send my product key button.

Figure B

Just provide your email address and type in the BotDetect CAPTCHA characters.
Once you click the button, you'll see the message shown in Figure C appear on the screen. (I've magnified the message so you could read it.) When I first read the message, I was confused. Thinking that it must be a just in case disclaimer type of message, I went directly to my email and clicked Send/Receive a couple of times, sure that the email would appear. But it didn't. In fact, I didn't receive the email containing the product key for close to 48 hours.

Figure C

The message informs you that you will have to wait 24 hours to receive the product key.

I found this extremely annoying! I've never had to wait 48 hours just to get a verification email message - they always appear within the few minutes. For instance, when I filled out the request for the $15 Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Offer, I received the email containing the Promo Code almost immediately.

So, my advice to you is to plan ahead. If you want to install the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack on a Saturday when you have time to play around with it, make sure that you order the pack on a Wednesday to allow plenty of time for the email to arrive.

All griping aside, I must admit that being able to get Windows 8 Media Center Pack for free is a very nice little perk.

Using the Add features wizard

When you do receive the email, you'll find your Windows 8 Media Center Pack product key, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The email message will contain your product key.
You'll use the Add features to Windows 8 tool in the Control Panel to download and install it. To do so, just press the [Windows] key, type Add features, select Settings, and click Add features to Windows 8, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Accessing Add features to Windows 8 from the Start screen is easy when you use the [Windows] key.
When you do, you'll encounter a UAC, as shown in Figure F. To continue, just click the Yes button.

Figure F

Just click Yes to work through the UAC.
You'll then see the first screen in the Add features to Windows 8 wizard, as shown in Figure G, which asks you whether you need to purchase a product key or you already have one. Just click the "I already have a product key button" to continue.

Figure G

You can just click I already have a product key.
You'll then enter the product key on the next screen, as shown in Figure H. Then, click Next.

Figure H

Enter the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack product key and click Next.
On the next screen, you have to accept the license terms, as shown in Figure I, and then click Add features button.

Figure I

You have to accept the license terms to continue.

The installation

In a moment, you'll see a progress bar in the Add features to Windows 8 wizard screen, as shown in Figure J.

Figure J

You can sit back for a few minutes while the installation occurs.
As the installation progresses, Windows 8 will shut down the user interface and display a screen like the one shown in Figure K, before it restarts. You can sit back for a few minutes while the download, installation and several of these restarts occur.

Figure K

Windows 8 will restart several times as the installation progresses.
After the last restart, you'll logon normally and will see that Windows Media Center appears as a tile on the Start screen, as shown in Figure L.

Figure L

Windows Media Center appears on the Windows 8 Start screen.
Once you return to the Desktop, you'll see the last screen in the Windows Media Center installation wizard is waiting for you to click Close, as shown in Figure M.

Figure M

Click Close to complete the Windows Media Center installation wizard.
When you launch Windows Media Center in Windows 8, as shown in Figure N, you'll find that it works exactly as you would expect and you can begin recording TV programs or watching DVD movies.

Figure N

Windows Media Center works just like you would expect.
I immediately inserted one of my favorite DVD movies, as shown in Figure O, and sat back and enjoyed the show.

Figure O

The DVD codec allows you to immediately begin in watching movies.

Things to keep in mind

When you download and install your free copy of the Windows 8 Media Center Pack, there are a few things that you will need to keep in mind.

  • Just like the offer expires on January 31, 2013, so too does the product key. So, if you download it today, make sure that you install the Windows 8 Media Center Pack before the expiration date.
  • The Windows 8 Media Center Pack adds all Windows Media Center functionality back to Windows 8 Pro including broadcast TV recording and playback and DVD playback. This means that the Windows 8 Media Center pack comes with a codec for DVD, but not Blu-ray. If you want to play Blu-ray in Windows Media Center, you will need to get the appropriate codec from a third-party.
  • The DVD codec that comes with Windows 8 Media Center pack only works with Windows Media Center, it does not work with Windows Media Player.
  • This free promotion is limited to one product key per email address. So if you have more than one Windows 8 Pro system on which you want to install Windows 8 Media Center Pack, you will need to fill in the form again with different email addresses.

What's your take?

Will you be downloading a free copy of the Windows 8 Media Center Pack? Have you done so already? If so, what has been your experience? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

59 comments
wouter1984
wouter1984

I would advice not to install Windows Media Center, but to install XBMC: - It has tons of good add-ons like a subtitle scraper that downloads subtitles from the internet during video playback. - it is free - it can build a media library from your movies / tv shows!

MrBills
MrBills

Love to have one. I updated 2 different PC's and got the code for one. In my haste to get all the updates and checking things out, I forgot to get one for the other PC. If you could PM me one if you still have one and it isn't to late with MS I would appreciate it. Thanks Bill

mijcar
mijcar

I also was confused by the delay in getting the key to the Media Center, so I requested another. I now have a couple of spare keys. Any idea of what I should do with them. Michael

erickqc
erickqc

I have not received mine neither and when I try to get a second one for another computer that I upgraded too, I get an error message: "We couldnt process your order" . I spent a couple of hours with Microsoft yesterday. Volume of transactions seems to be the problem. Nobody is able to provide a solution and you need to activate the MC by today, when the offer also expires.

cdmock
cdmock

Installed Windows 8 Pro last night and tried several times today to get a Media Center code without success. I get the following message, "We couldn't process your order. If you think you have received this message in error, contact a Microsoft Customer Support representative." Tried calling but it's after hours...

Bill_Ross
Bill_Ross

I have win8 pro from an MSDN subscription. I don't see the option to add my product key and the only thing in the media section is media features, with media player underneath that. ???

baluma
baluma

Yes. I suppose MS have sorted out all those irritating delays now. I got my product key almost instantaneously and went through the process of adding the Media Center without any hitch whatsoever. At least I have no reason to curse MS.

DrJas888
DrJas888

Just finished updating to Windows 8 and Media Centre build: Ferfucksake, my remote control - Acer Z5761 - no longer works... What Genious at Microsoft overlooked something like That??? And, Acer, being the useless scum that they are, retroactively offer "fixes" prior to said upgrade to Windows 8: what a joke... It's like these companies actively conspire to torment people and F@#@ with our lives... Does anyone else feel that way???

DrJas888
DrJas888

I have no idea what you're referring to regarding excessive wait time for email response - you had me nervous for no reason - my email reply was virtually immediate... There may have been issues when you went through, however, it seems to be all good now... Cheers

cubanico
cubanico

received key, entered key, system rebooted. windows now lost activation. Unable to activate. for some reason, my system restore doesn't have any restore points, even though system restore is still ON. This came up after trying to activate: Unable to activate Windows 8 Pro with Media Center. (Error code: 0xC004C4AA) You might see this error after you used the Add Features to Windows 8 app to upgrade your current edition of Windows. The Windows 8 Pro with Media Center edition can only be activated on PCs that had Windows preinstalled, or Windows was purchased on the Windows website or at a retail store. To fix the problem, you need to install Windows with the product key provided to you in an email or with the DVD. If you think you have received this message in error, contact a Microsoft Customer Support representative

captainbligh
captainbligh

I purchased Win8 through the MS $15 offer. To beat the Jan 31 deadline I thought I better get Media Center. I got license key within 4 minutes of sending the Add Features request following Greg's procedures.

brainout
brainout

Just finished buying the Win8 Pro upgrade from Amazon. Just finished ordering my dippy Media center Product Key so both will be here in time. Am now buying used Dell laptops for testing it, ones which users who installed Win8, said worked well. Will try one and then the next. Of course, since your DVD -- needed to install Win8, lol -- is disabled after installation, I'll have to do the first test on the one with the DVD, then clone back the prior drive. What insanity. HOW TO MAKE THE CUSTOMER HATE YOU: destroy the mechanism of installation immediately after installation, so in case the power goes out or the installation is glitchy, he can't start his computer again. They must be drinking Jim Jones' Koolaid in Redmond... Worse: this was the only article I could find which told me what the Media Center in Win8 would DO. MS doesn't have ANYTHING on what it DOES in its site for purchasing. You can't even purchase the Pro pack on its own page! Now, thanks to this article, I see the schizoid formerly-Metro now just nameless Start Screen can't read the codecs for the Media player, but those codecs only work in the Media Center?Which I MUST install before January 31, lest even the product key fail? Thanks to pradichaya's comment above, at least I know what to do IF IF IF I get the dang key and (as is likely) it will fail. Hope I remember where I bookmarked this page with her comment. :) WHY am I even trying Win8? Masochism. Gotta be, masochism.

Magnus7149
Magnus7149

on the pricing: $99 to upgrade Win8 to Pro and add Media Center OR about $139 to just buy a Win7 Pro license (that includes Media Center and NO START SCREEN). Is Microsoft trying to kill Win8?? I know there is a large set of technical reasons why Win8 should be chosen, but when the average user sees the above, they are probably going to just go with the Win7 Pro choice.

pradichaya
pradichaya

Thank you! I followed your suggestion to request for media center license and received the license within four hours. No, kidding, lucky me, I guess. :-) I added it to windows -which took several minutes. All went well and I got the media center. Then I saw a red flag on the task bar at the action center saying that my activation key had changed and it was something something not acceptable. I followed the link to customer support and click on it, a window popped up with a toll free number so I called. It turned out to be an automated key activation center. All I had to do was to say a bunch of numbers -also on the same window- and it gave me my verification numbers. then it said that my windows was activated and good to go. I don't know if everyone had to do what I did, but I'd thought I put it here, just in case. -Because when I saw that my activation key was not acceptable I freaked out. :-)

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...are encountering difficulties. I am sure that there are others out there that have indeed received the Media Center Product Key email. If you have, please let us know how long it took to get your email.

yzerken_z
yzerken_z

I have waited eight days since the 72 hour notice and received zero in my email. After the 72 hours I processed another request with a different email address and five days later........zip. Do you think there's a problem? :-)

CRand
CRand

So, to say they have a process is a significant overstatement. I've registered 3x, waited 72 hours 3x, never gotten key. I've talked or texted with 3 different tech support people, gotten 3 different answers (to include a promised return call within 72 hours which also didn't happen). I've paid the $40 for the pro upgrade (which I didn't need except I need the media center so pro is a requirement). No, they can't give me a product key over the phone (though I know of others including the post above where they have done that). You see, "they ran out of product keys"--I guess Microsoft's random number generator is broken. They don't know when it will be fixed. But they have promised to call me again--I'm not holding my breath. Yes, the only process here is to try their best to insure we all switch platforms. It would be very nice to actually see them post something that said "We have a significant bug, we cannot release now but will keep you informed as to when a product release will be ready." Or, "We are sorry, but we have run out of DVD Codec licenses and are unable to renegotiate that contract. We are sorry but we will not be able to fultill our promise of delivering Windows Media Center and will refund any purchases of Pro licenses." At least then I could quite talking with India on the phone.

bnaughty18
bnaughty18

Greg Shultz, you're a snitch, you know that! bleeeeeh! :p

b_hagerty
b_hagerty

Like another commenter, when I filled out Microsoft's online form to get Media Center, the acknowledgment form said to wait 72 hours for an email with a link and a registration key. Well, twice that time has come and gone, and I didn't get any email. So today I called Microsoft customer service to get the email I was promised, and guess what? They say they can't send me the key. Instead, I have to be sitting at my computer, and they have to walk me through the entire unlocking process while I'm there. Apparently they'll give me the key over the phone, but they won't email it to me. I got the impression that a lot of people are not getting their promised emails from Microsoft, because when I insisted to customer service that they should be able to email me the key (like they were supposed to in the first place), they said that they had a "process" they had to follow with customers who didn't get product keys as promised. They would only need to have this "process" if they regularly don't send out the keys. This is shabby, shabby behavior from Microsoft, showing what contempt this dying monopolist has for its customers. Are they trying to make the process of getting Media Center for free so painful that people will end up paying for it? For what, to make a measly $10? Or are they just so incredibly stupid and incompetent that they can't figure out how to get Media Center to their customers. By the way, I bought my copy of Windows 8 directly from Microsoft, so there's no issue with the legitimacy of my software, and Microsoft knows it.

tonimee2006_mcr
tonimee2006_mcr

I have two windows 8 pro when I registered one of the upgrade pack, it has been accepted but when the second pro pack I had attempted to register it only reply cannot process you order and the second paragraph it says terms and condition nothing happen. My question is only once they gave a give aways

demotricus
demotricus

"Will you be downloading and installing the Windows 8 Media Center Pack? Will you pay for it or will you take advantage of this limited-time free offer? " --let me highlight a few letters to help you make up your mind... "Will you be downloading and installing the Windows 8 Media Center Pack? Will you PAY for it or will you take advantage of this limited-time FREE offer? " :-( -------------------------------------------------------------------- :-)

Grimbarian
Grimbarian

Are people receiving their product keys? On Sunday I requested 3 product keys with three different email addresses (to cover our 3 home PCs which have windows 8) and now it's Friday and not a peep? Edit: Spoke to MS support via chat: Orders are being processed and you should get your free product key very soon. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Orders are being processed and you should get your product key in the next 24-48 hours. Please provide me with your phone number for following up with the issue.

Stephena12
Stephena12

Has anyone tried to install it on a Surface RT system? If so, what was your result? Thanks, Stephen

jimfarquhar23
jimfarquhar23

thanks for the tip on the free media player d/load unfortunately the waiting time has now gone up to 72 hrs. is this a reflection on how busy Microsoft is, or just to make you wait for your freebee

adrich
adrich

I've got the media pack key but i don't get the add features to windows 8 option. Only get turn on/off features.

colin.reed1
colin.reed1

Over here in the UK I have been given the message I have to wait 72 hours for the key so you are lucky only having to wait 24 hours!!!

Tiger-Pa
Tiger-Pa

I too did my Windows 8 and Media Center upgrades the first day. It took about 36 hours to get my first Media Center license due to the heavy access initially. The trick was you can only get one license string per email address. It was necessary to request the others using my gmail and yahoo addresses to get the licenses for my other two computers. All in all, everything went well considering the new launch. It will be necessary for you to retain both your Win8 key and your MC key if reloads are needed. If you're having any problems, call Microsoft. They were very helpful even during the beginning of the Windows 8 launch. My recommendation is to Custom install Windows 8 into a new partition, keeping your old partition available to browse for earlier drivers if needed for some older hardware. My Windows 8 boot times after removing the dual boot configurations is less than 15 seconds on all three of my computers.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Is that key then tied to the Windows 8 key so you can reinstall it easily?

istvanpal
istvanpal

You state "Just like the offer expires on January 31, 2013, so too does the product key. So, if you download it today, make sure that you install the Windows 8 Media Center Pack before the expiration date." What happens if I have to reinstall the OS at a later date?

phasespace
phasespace

I downloaded windows 8 pro after Jan 31 and I don't have media center product key. If you still have one and you could mail me I would really appreciate it. Thanks Akshay

tonimee2006_mcr
tonimee2006_mcr

It is very simple go to start charm and select search then type add features after a click on add features it will prompt you to buy a product key or if you have a product key just enter the number then after a few minutes it will inform you that media center is already installed that's it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

They give you a Phone Number and you should call it. ;) Personally I just love the way that Unknowing Beta Testers Complain that the cheap things just don't work right as if any Beta Product ever does. :^0 Col

brainout
brainout

So the 72 hours is no longer a choking point, guys.

mbh3107
mbh3107

I, too, got a message saying 72 hours. After 7 days, I received my key today.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...you would have had a better experience. Did you finally get Media Center?

grizlyadams
grizlyadams

yes, I'm in the UK; Nice to get it free, but 72 hours wait in 2012? I renewed my Action Pack and that took a similar length of time - and MS was processing that, not a 3rd party. . .

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... is only for Windows 8 Pro. So, you can't install it in Windows RT on the Surface.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...in the UK and I have heard from others that overseas orders are taking longer than US orders. However, I agree that 72 hours is an even more outrageously long time to wait for electronic processing--especially in this day and age. Something that I didn't point out in the article, but after reading the fine print, I discovered that Microsoft isn't processing these orders. Instead MS states that "Catalysis Corporation is a third-party company we use to collect subscription information and process the delivery of these emails." If you check out the company Web site (http://www.catalysis.com/) it doesn't appear that this is their specialty and that they are either overwhelmed or extremely slow in their processing methods

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Windows Media Center, the Add features to Windows 8 option will be unavailable because there is nothing left to install. Thus, I can only assume that you have already downloaded and installed Windows Media Center or it was installed by he OEM.

brainout
brainout

I just asked for mine today, 1/9/2013. Now am dreading it. January 31 is a big deadline for payroll records in the US.

horiatu
horiatu

I have wait just 72 hours as the confirmation message has said, than I've tried other two (even created a new hotmail one!) Every time, it says "sorry cannot process your request" and gives a link for the terms and conditions, that - of course - does not put any light on the cause of the error!

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

... before Jan 31, it will be registered to your system and you can use it again in case you need to reinstall. If you don't use the key before that date, it will not be registered and you will not be able to register it after that date.

CETanner
CETanner

I'm thinking that if you keep you key in a safe place as you should your windows 8 key you can simply re-enter it.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Doesn't allow me to *add* any features - not just this one [don't get the "G" screen above]. In Features all I see remotely related is Windows Media Player under Media Features. Nothing yes. And I'm using the final build 9200.

cubanico
cubanico

I have the same issue as you. I wasn't even thinking about Media Center till I heard about this, now I'm all fidgety because I still haven't received my key. MS still has the gift...

cubanico
cubanico

so, hopefully, since I did request the key with enough time to beat the deadline, I will be able to register BEFORE the deadline. . Now I remember why I switched my drug of preference over to Apple for a while.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...Volume Licensing Key version of Windows 8. Because adding Windows Media Center via the Add features to Windows 8 option essentially changes the Licensing agreement, it is not available for installation in a VLK version of Windows 8.