HTPC Windows Media Center

This is Not the Death of Windows Media Center

xp-media-centerWe’ve finally received the news that we’ve expected for years but had hoped wouldn’t come. It’s now being reported by Ed Bott of ZDNet, and we can confirm, that Windows Media Center will not be available in Windows 10. To be clear, that means it won’t be available at all. There won’t be any SKUs that include it, and you won’t be able to purchase it as a separate add-on (like you can with Windows 8.1.)

While this  marks the end of an era, we’re not calling it the death of Windows Media Center. Sure, it won’t be available in the next version of Windows, but that doesn’t mean that current installations will cease functioning. If you have a Windows 7 or Windows 8.x Media Center computer setup, it will continue to work the way it has for years. That being said, it’s important to know that if you were to upgrade an existing Windows Media Center machine to Windows 10 you will lose Media Center. On the flip side, why would you even want to upgrade a perfectly functioning HTPC? Many Media Center users are still using Windows 7 as their HTPC’s base operating system, because Windows 8 offered few compelling reasons to upgrade an HTPC.

So if Windows Media Center isn’t dead, when will it be? We’ve said for years that we’re going to keep on using Media Center until something that is far more compelling becomes available or until Microsoft stops providing electronic program guide data. After all, Media Center wouldn’t be a very useful DVR solution without TV listings. While we don’t have any inside information to rely on, we don’t expect that Microsoft will stop providing that guide data anytime soon. If we had to put money on it, we’d guess that the Xbox OneGuide uses the exact same data feed. We’re assuming that as long as the Xbox One is getting guide data that Windows Media Center users will too.

What’s Next?

So what should you do? Is now the right time to abandon Windows Media Center? As with most difficult questions, that depends. If you’re using the TV functionality, and you’re using a CableCARD tuner with copy-protected channels, you don’t have many options. Windows Media Center is still the only PC-based DVR solution to support copy-protected CableCARD usage. If you fit into this category, your only other options are to use your cable provider’s DVR or switch to TiVo. SiliconDust’s forthcoming HDHomeRun DVR is hoping to support copy-protected content too, but we’ll most likely be waiting a few months before we know for sure.

If your TV viewing is limited to over-the-air content, then you actually have a lot of options. Again, TiVo has an offering. ChannelMaster and Tablo also have interesting products for those seeking over-the-air service. If you’d like to stay in the Microsoft camp, you can even use the Xbox One to view over-the-air TV, but you can’t use it to record. We’re hoping that will change soon.

So while there are obviously other options on the market for fans of Windows Media Center, we don’t feel that any of them offer the total solution that Media Center does. There’s no doubt that many have already moved away from Windows Media Center. It’s definitely hard to see Windows Media Center taking one more step toward extinction. But as long as Microsoft keeps the guide data flowing, we’ll keep talking about it and writing about it to support its enthusiastic community of users. And many of us at the Digital Media Zone will continue to use it in our homes and with our families.

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About the author

Josh Pollard

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.