10 improvements in Windows 7 Media Center

Launch WMC tasks from the Start menu

Windows Media Center was first introduced in a special edition of Windows XP, but it remained a niche product -- in large part because the OS was available only to OEMs. The major hardware vendors marketed media center PCs, but they didn't always implement them well, and prices were generally much higher than a comparable Windows XP Home or Pro computer.

With Vista, Microsoft decided to include the Media Center application in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of the operating system. Consequently, many more people were exposed to this feature, and it has gained considerably in popularity.

Windows 7 keeps WMC and adds it to the Business and Enterprise editions, as well (although IT administrators can easily turn off the feature, which may not be desirable in a business environment). In addition, Microsoft has made a number of changes to WMC in Windows 7, giving it a different look and adding some new functionality. Let's look at the top 10 improvements.

Note: This gallery is also available as an entry in our 10 Things blog and as a PDF download.

In previous versions of WMC, you had to start the Media Center application and then navigate to the task you wanted (such as watching Live TV, watching Recorded TV, or viewing the Program Guide). Windows 7 has cut some steps off the process, enabling you to choose a task right from the Windows Start menu. Just click the arrow next to the Windows Media Center selection on the Start menu and you'll be presented with a list of the tasks that you frequently perform as well as those that are pinned to the submenu.

By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...