How To HTPC Windows Media Center

Booting into Windows Media Center in Windows 8.1

There were a couple of aspects of Windows 8 that seemed to doom it as an operating system for home theater PCs. The first was that Microsoft removed the options for starting Windows Media Center when the system boots. The other problem was that with Windows 8 it would not boot to the desktop, where Windows Media Center runs. It would only boot to the new Start screen. However, that second problem has been solved with Windows 8.1, and the first one is fairly simple to work around.

Step 1 – Boot to Desktop

Booting into Windows Media Center in Windows 8.1

Forcing Windows 8.1 to boot to the desktop is actually really simple, but it’s not easy to find the option. First, go to the desktop, then right-click on the task bar and click Properties. In the Taskbar and Navigation properties dialog that appears go to the Navigation tab. From there all you need to do is click the unnecessarily verbose option “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.” Click the OK button to close the dialog. That’s it! Your PC will now boot straight to the desktop.

Step 2 – Launch Windows Media Center on Boot

This process takes a little more effort, but it’s still very simple. Microsoft hasn’t brought back the option within Windows Media Center to automatically launch, so you’ll need to set it up on your own. The easiest way we’ve found to do it is to create a shortcut for Media Center, and place it in the Startup folder of the “Start Menu”. We know what you’re thinking, “but the Start Menu doesn’t exist anymore!” While the Start Menu may be gone, its folder structure remains! Go to your Start screen and right-click on Windows Media Center. In the app bar, at the bottom of the screen, click on the option “Open file location.” That will open a File Explorer window right to the Windows Accessories folder. Copy the shortcut for Windows Media Center. Now, you’ll notice that you’re in the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories folder. Go up one folder level, and then go into the Startup folder (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\StartUp). Paste the Windows Media Center shortcut.

That’s it! Don’t believe us? Reboot your computer and see for yourself!


About the author

Josh Pollard

Josh has been writing software since his parents brought home their first computer. His love for gadgets and technology eventually spurred a passion for home theater technology. After starting the DMZ, he received Microsoft’s MVP award for Windows Media Center. Even though the beloved home theater PC platform is all but dead he continues to tinker with consumer entertainment technology. He’s a life-long gamer and DIY smart home enthusiast. He co-hosts the Entertainment 2.0 podcast with Richard Gunther and the DMZ’s gaming podcast, Story Players, with Joe DeStazio.