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August 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center Program Manager Charlie Owen highlights that this year Windows Media Center celebrates its 5th anniversary on September 3rd. With Windows Media Center’s upcoming birthday, Ed Bott decided to take the opportunity to celebrate the event by writing about how Windows Media Center has taken over his living room.  Ed takes three pages to describe setting up Windows Media Center in his living room and his experiences using it. Ed’s goal was to turn Windows Media Center into a centralized hub for all his digital photos, music and video – consolidating his data into a single digital entertainment point within his house. Those interested in Ed’s specs and pricing for his Windows Media Center set up – he’s posted them here. I’m going to follow in celebrating Windows Media Center’s 5 year anniversary just like Ed by posting about my very own Windows Media Center set-up I have in my living room.

My Windows Media Center PC is a custom PC by Velocity Micro called CineMagix Grand Theater Entertainment System specifically for Windows Media Center. It is currently running Windows Vista Home Premium with the following specs:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2.13GHz
  • 2 GB DDR2 PC5300 DDR667
  • ATI Radeon X1950
  • ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner (for Digital CableCard features)
  • Integrated Intel High Definition 7.1 Channel Sound, with Optical and Coaxial Digital Outputs
  • 2 x 250GB Seagate 7200.10 16MB Cache SATA/300
  • Integrated 10/100/1000MBps Gigabit Ethernet Network Adapter

The PC cost $2,215 and currently rates a 5.1 on the Windows Experience Index. As noted above, my Windows Media Center PC has CableCard abilities. Through Comcast (who supplies me with the CableCard), I have ability to watch and record HD content through my ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner. I plan on covering my experience with CableCard and recording HD content through Windows Media Center in a later post but it is absolutely amazing. I was able to completely ditch the digital cable box supplied by Comcast replacing it with my Windows Media Center PC.


Connected to my Windows Media Center PC is my 42-inch LG HDTV. It fully supports 1080p (1920×1080 screen resolutions) which is what my Windows Media Center PC is running at. The HDTV essentially is the monitor for my Windows Media Center PC.

Just like Ed, I use the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000. This keyboard is perfect for Windows Media Center. It is light, thin, and has some great quick-access buttons for launching essential Windows Media Center features like the Guide and play controls. For a complete review of the Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 – Andre Da Costa has an excellent review on his blog.

I also have a second Windows Media Center PC – my main desktop PC in my office (the one with the dual monitors you’ve seen in all my videos). It currently runs with an ATI TV Wonder 650. When I’m working, I have Windows Media Center running on the second monitor. The ATI TV Wonder 650 is capable of over-the-air HDTV but unfortunately I don’t have the proper antenna to get this capability. But I have the ability to watch and record standard definition TV.

So to continue the celebration of Windows Media Center’s upcoming birthday – tell me about your Windows Media Center set-up. How do you have Windows Media Center running in your home? I’m really interested in hearing about other people’s set-ups.