Media Player and Media Center in Vista

Before you start

Objectives: familiarize yourself with the look and feel of Media Player and Media Center in Vista.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: media, tv, center, player, windows, content, setup, extender, play, wmc, options

Windows Media Player

Windows media player allow us to download and play digital music, play audio CDs, rip music from CDs, burn audio CDs, listen to Internet radio, watch digital video, sync with portable devices, organize media content and play lists. We should be careful with security settings because Windows media player can download and run scripts and read media streams from websites. Windows media player can also play enhanced contents. We can also control security based on Internet Explorer zone settings. To run WMP we can go to Start > All Programs > Windows Media Player.

 Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player

Notice that when we open WMP, we see our library with all our music by default. The media library organizes digital media on our computer. WMP can go to the Internet and get album covers, song names and other information about our music. We can enable media sharing in the Media Player properties. We can do the same thing through the Network and Sharing Center. Once the sharing is enabled, we can share media with users on the same computer or with users on the same network. Media Player can monitor specific folders on our computer, so when we add media content to any of the monitored folders, the content is added to the library automatically. By default, Media Player will monitor all of our personal folders. We can select other types of media in our library by clicking on the down arrow on the Library tab.


Library Tab

Notice that we can see video files, pictures, recorded TV, and play lists.

Using WMP we can also rip audio CDs which we have purchased.

 Rip Tab

Rip Tab

We can also change some advanced rip options.

 Rip Options

Rip Options

With WMP we can also burn audio CDs and DVDs. CD burning is available in all versions of Vista, and DVD burning is only available in Home Premium and Ultimate editions. We can also sync our media with removable devices. There are also a bunch of other options to play with in WMP. One of the important ones are privacy and security options. We can use the settings on the Privacy tab to control how Media Player uses the Internet, which includes cookie settings, problem reporting, sending the player ID, etc. On the Security tab we can allow scripts embedded in media, enable rich media streams and change Internet zone settings.

 Security Options

Security Options

Interesting options are also on the DVD tab. From here we can set playback restrictions and set default languages to use when playing DVDs.

DVD Options

DVD Options

Protected Content

Protected content or protected media uses licences or usage rights, also known as Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent playback and distribution of media. Without proper media rights protected media can not be played on our computer. When we purchase protected media, media rights are downloaded automatically with the content but are stored on our computer separately from the audio and video files. To view the rights on some media we can open its properties and view the Media Usage Rights tab. If there is nothing in the box, the media is not protected or we don’t have usage rights on our computer.The downside of usage rights is that there is no way to back them up. Because of that there is always a chance that we lose usage right. Common way to retrieve them is to go back to the store where we purchased media in the first place.

Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center includes extra features. It is only available in Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate editions. It provides additional support for the online media portal where we can take a look at free, premium and subscription-based online content. We can also download movies on demand. Windows Media Center also has a live TV support. We can watch live TV if we have a tuner card installed. We can also record and playback TV. We get one TV stream per one TV tuner card. For example, if we have one TV tuner card, we can record a TV show while watching another previously recorded video. To record one TV program while watching another live TV program, we must have two TV tuner cards (one for each live TV channel feed). In Windows Media Center we also have better support for DVD (we can burn DVDs). DVDs are manufactured to play only in certain countries or regions. We can change the region of our DVD drive properties, but we can do that only a certain number of times before the setting becomes permanent. If we would like to play and burn DVDs, but we don’t have Windows Media Center, we can purchase a separate MPEG-2 decoder.


The extender accesses digital media on our PC through a network connection and plays that content on the TV. If we have a PC running Windows Media Center, we can get media content from that PC to other devices such as TVs, by using extenders feature. In that case, extender is a TV configured to accept media from Windows Media Center. To send media to other devices we have to go to the extender (the TV), and run a setup program which will connect back to the PC running Windows Media Center. Then we will have to enter eight digit code which will be provided by the extender and enter that digit code in the Windows Media Center, where we will continue the installation of the extender. Because of the availability of wireless networks, we can port our media files using wireless connection to the extender and have our media content available on any supporting device. We can also use wired network if necessary. Each TV requires its own extender. We can connect up five extenders to our PC. Also, we have to ensure that Media Center Extenders is allowed to go trough our firewall. When using wireless connections, we must use an infrastructure wireless setup. Ad hoc wireless networks are not supported. Media Center includes a Network Performance Monitor that tests the network to see if it can support media playback.

To open WMC we can go to all programs and then Windows Media Center. The first time we run it, we will see a welcome screen in which we can choose to run setup now or to run it later. In our case we will selest “Custom setup” option.

 WMC Run

WMC Setup

When we click next, we will be warned that we will need to complete required setup and optional setup in order to fully utilize Windows Media Center.

 Setup Steps


On the next screen we will be asked to view privacy statement. When we click next again we will be asked to help improve WMC by sending anonymous reports about WMCs performance. In our case we will choose not to join this program. When we click next after that, we will have an option to connect to the Internet to download content like cover art for albums and DVDs, music and movie information, TV Program Guide listings and other Internet services. In our case we will choose “Yes” for that feature.

 Connect Internet

Connect to the Internet

That are all the required components to set up our Windows Media Center. When we click Next, we will get to the optional setup. Optional setup includes setting up our speakers, music, pictures, and video libraries. In our case we will not configure this, we will select the “I am finished” option. After that we will get to the WMC interface.

 Optional Setup

Optional Setup

WMC interface is designed for remote control, but we can easily move trough menu by using the arrow keys on our keyboard. You will notice that you can go up and down, but you can also go right and left on particular section. When we enter some menu item, we can hit the backspace key if we want to go back.

To fully utilize WMC we have to have TV tuner card. This will enable us to watch and record TV signal on our computer by using WMC. To add an extender device we can go to the Tasks > add extender. There are a bunch of other options to play with in WMC. We will not cover them here since it is not not of crucial importance for computer administrators to know how to configure WMC.