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October 7, 2009

7 Great Things About Windows Media Center in Windows 7

Today, Windows 7 controls my home entertainment experience in my living room. It does so through Windows Media Center. I am using the same setup I blogged about here in 2007 with Windows 7 and it’s an amazing experience. Because of how well it works for me, I wanted to highlight 7 great things you can do with Windows Media Center in Windows 7. Windows 7 can easily be the center of your home entertainment experience just like it is with mine.

#1: Watch Live TV on your Windows 7 PC.

If your Windows 7 PC has a TV tuner, you can use Windows Media Center to watch, pause, and rewind live TV directly on your PC! If you’re Windows 7 PC doesn’t have a TV tuner, you can always add one – they are quite inexpensive.

Windows Media Center in Windows 7 supports High Definition TV (HDTV) capabilities as well. Earlier last month, we announced support for Switched Digital Video (SDV). We also announced that customers will now be able to add a digital cable tuner with CableCARD support to their PC. Previously, digital cable tuners with CableCARD support were only available on new PCs from OEMs that supported the configuration. Digital cable tuners with CableCARD support differ from standard TV tuner cards as they support digital cable through “CableCARDs” rented from your cable provider for digital cable channels. Assuming you have the right subscription, this enables you to access the full line-up of channels offered by your cable provider, including the premium channels.

There are also TV tuner cards that support “over-the-air” HDTV (ATSC) with an antenna as well as Clear QAM.

#2: Turn your Windows 7 PC into a DVR (Digital Video Recorder)!

Recording TV Shows in Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center lets you schedule recordings of TV shows and movies. You can even schedule to record all instances (new episodes) of your favorite TV show! Windows Media Center also makes it very easy to view all your recorded content.

Recorded TV Shows in Windows Media Center

I talked about HDTV and the use of digital cable tuners with CableCARD support above. Microsoft and CableLabs are working together to allow people with digital cable tuners with CableCARD support more portability with their recorded digital cable TV. Recordings that are marked as “copy freely” (CF) will now be able to play on other PCs and portable devices.

#3: Easily find the TV shows and movies that you want to watch.

Searching in Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center has great search capabilities built-in so you can easily find all your favorite TV shows and movies. This makes it easier to schedule recordings.

#4: Access all your personal media in one place – no matter where it is.

Windows Media Center brings in all your digital media– photos, movies, music, and recorded TV shows – into one place. Windows Media Center also takes advantage of HomeGroup in Windows 7 and allows you to access digital media content from other PCs!

With recorded digital cable TV content marked as CF – you can share this content throughout your home network of Windows 7 PCs using HomeGroup (see #2 above). You can even access it when you are away from home with Remote Media Streaming in Windows 7.

#5: Track your favorite sports, players, and leagues.

If you’re a sports nut, you can use Windows Media Center to track your favorite teams and leagues. Windows Media Center lets you track scores, players, and leagues natively within Windows Media Center. You can also see quickly jump to sports on “now” and check sports coming on “later” in Windows Media Center too.

Sports Scores in Windows Media Center

#6: Access your recorded TV and digital media where you want: on the PC or on the TV.

Windows 7 supports a variety of high end displays including HDTVs. You can connect your PC to your HDTV and use Windows Media Center to watch and view all your media. Of course this works with a standard PC monitor too. But because Windows 7 makes it easy to share your digital media, you can have 1 PC connected to your HDTV in your home for Windows Media Center and bring in content from all PCs on your home network to that single PC connected to your HDTV. You could also use the Extender for Windows Media Center technology built into your Xbox 360 to access the same Windows Media Center menu you are used to using on your PC.

#7: Watch movies and TV episodes instantly from Netflix in Windows Media Center in Windows 7.

Netflix in Windows Media Center

Watch streaming “Instant Play” movies and TV shows from Netflix! Also add movies to your DVD queue if “Instant Play” is not available. Full control of your Netflix account right from Windows Media Center!

I hope these 7 great things about Windows Media Center give you some great ideas on how to bring your home entertainment together using Windows 7!