All computers running Windows come equipped with Windows Media Center. There is no reason not to take advantage of the multi-media capabilities of this free program. It works very well out of the box, but by giving it extended functionality- you can turn your computer into a full blown media center. With DVR media center software, already packaged with the media player, it would be a shame to not take advantage of the possibilities this can bring. It only takes a few freeware programs and a capture card that will cost less than $100, to fully appreciate what this program is capable of. All tools needed to record television, play video, and listen to music is already available to you, to create the perfect home theater personal computer.
Capture Card Installation
It’s very easy to record television on from your PC. It will only require the ability to plug in a coax cable into your machine. This will require a simple capture card. A capture card is simply a piece of hardware that will handle all of your video recording once installed; and installation is painless. In most situations, many PCs will already have a capture card installed. But if your machine does not have one, you will need to purchase one. This is a very small obstacle as they are very inexpensive; it is likely to be less than $100. And once it is installed, no further money will need to be spent to have your media center completely set up. Thankfully, capture cards are pretty cheap, especially when compared to other hardware of recording devices.
Installation will mean you will need to open up your PC or have a professional install the capture card for you. But if you wish, it’s also possible to purchase an external USB capture card for a few more dollars. The USB card can simply be plugged in to the USB port; no internal installation is required. In any case, once your card is installed, launch Windows Media Player and it will handle the entire set up process for you. It is very simple; you will only need to follow instructions on your screen. When you are finished with installation, you are on way to recording television on your PC. Now it’s time to extend functionality just a bit to be sure your media center will accomplish what is needed.
Extending Your Media Center
Now that your computer is set up for DVR recording, you may be fully aware that your media center is located in your office—which is not very convenient. But these days Xboxes are almost as common as PCs. Most often your Xbox will be sitting in your living room. If your Xbox machine is already connected to your home network, it will take little effort to extend to your Windows Media Center on your PC. Since your Xbox is already integrated into your home theater, extending your Xbox to your PC will turn your home theater system into Windows Media Center running on your Xbox in your living room that is already integrated into your home theater system. The Xbox website has a page that will allow you to download the appropriate software for your Media Center Version. Follow the simple set up instructions and point your Xbox to your Media Center. The Xbox manufacturers have created Universal media remotes for this purpose. These remotes will cost less than $20. But as I said above, no further purchases are needed; it’s also possible to use the game controls that come with Xbox machines.
Unfortunately, one of the only drawbacks to using Xbox to extend your Media center is the lack of ability to support DivX playback. Sadly, it also does not support playback of other popular codecs that are not MS-video related. Luckily, this can be easily remedied with third party software. A quick download of the free program, called Transcode-360 and you will no longer have trouble with any playback on your Xbox 360 machine. From Xbox highlight the video to be played, press info on the controller, choose More, and then select Transcode.
Let’s go one step further before we are finished. The setup is already fully functional and there will be no difficulty with play back or recording, but it’s also possible to add other third party freeware programs to further extend functionality of your media center. There are a number of excellent DVD Ripper software packages that will now allow you to rip DVD images and store them on your hard drive for later viewing. These video files can easily be accessed from your Windows Media Center menu. How cool is that? So you see, it won’t take much at all to have your Media Center completely setup on your PC. With very little effort and very little money, you’ll be up and running in no time at all.