I have a ZOTAC ZBOX Mini-PC connected to the TV in my den and use Windows Media Center in Windows 7 Ultimate to access movies, pictures, music, and Netflix. Recently, I decided to connect the laptop I have running Windows 8 to the TV, but then remembered that the Release Preview edition of Windows 8 doesn't come with Windows Media Center installed. You have to download and install it separately.
Windows Media Center was available in the Consumer Preview and I had always figured that Windows Media Center would be a part of the final release of the new operating system. But when Microsoft announced the Windows 8 editions in the Windows Blog back in April, they also sketchily announced that Windows Media Center will be available as a separate download to Windows 8 Pro. Then in a May 3rd blog post on the Building Windows 8 page, Microsoft clarified exactly why Windows Media Center will be available as an Add-on for Windows 8.
Well I finally got around to installing Windows Media Center in the Release Preview edition of Windows 8 and thought that I would write about the process in this edition of the Windows Desktop Report. I'll also provide an overview of why Windows Media Center will only be available as an Add-on for Windows 8.
Making Windows Media Center an Add-on
As you may know, Windows Media Center has been available since the Windows XP days where it went through several versions as Windows XP Media Center Edition. It was then available in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate. Then, in Windows 7 it was available in all editions of except for Starter and Home Basic. And while it was a great piece of software for many years, Microsoft claims that it has been steadily losing ground to other forms of online entertainment delivery systems, such as YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix, just to name a few. Yes, many people do use Windows Media Center, but not enough for Microsoft to justify including it in the operating system anymore.
In addition to a drop in interest, at several spots in the May 3rd post, Microsoft mentions the word cost in reference to codec licensing. So it would appear that by not including Windows Media Center and its expensive codec as a part of the Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft is saying that doing so will allow them to cut the cost of Windows 8 down a bit for those folks who don't use Windows Media Center. Those folks who do want to use Windows Media Center will then have to pay a little extra to get it as an Add-on to Windows 8 Pro. How much extra is unknown at this point in time - Microsoft only says marginal costs.
Using the Add features wizardTo install Windows Media Center in Windows 8, just press the [Windows] key, type Add features, select Settings, and click Add features to Windows 8, as illustrated in Figure A. When you do, you'll have to work through the UAC that appears.
Accessing Add features to Windows 8 from the Start screen is easy.You'll then see the first screen in the Add features to Windows 8 wizard, as shown in Figure B, which asks you whether you need to purchase a product key or you already have one. In the case of the Release Preview, Microsoft has provided the Windows Media Center product key free of charge in the Windows 8 Release Preview FAQ. For your convenience, that product key is shown here:
Therefore, you can just click I already have a product key.
You can just click I already have a product key.On the next screen, you can then enter the product key, as shown in Figure C, and click Next. On the next screen, you have to accept the license terms, as shown in Figure D, and then click Add Features.
Enter the Windows Media Center product key and click Next.
You have to accept the license terms to continue.
The installationIn a moment, you'll see a progress bar in the Add features to Windows 8 wizard screen, as shown in Figure E. At this point, you can sit back for a few minutes while the download, installation, and system restart occur.
You can sit back for a few minutes while the installation occurs.After the restart, you'll see that Windows Media Center appears as a tile on the main part of Windows 8's Start screen, as shown in Figure F.
Windows Media Center appears on the Windows 8 Start screen.When 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 G.
Click Close to complete the Windows Media Center installation wizard.When you launch Windows Media Center in Windows 8, as shown in Figure H, you'll find that it looks, feels, and works exactly like in Windows 7. I connected it to my Pictures and Music libraries and even installed Netflix and watched an episode of Psych. It works perfectly.
Windows Media Center in Windows 8 - very familiar.
What's your take?
Do you use Windows Media Center? If and when you upgrade to Windows 8, will you be willing to pay extra for Windows Media Center? 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.
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.