A Close Look At Windows 7 Media Center

start-menuI’m a big user of Windows Vista Media Center. In my home I have 2 custom HTPCs and an old laptop all running VMC and capable of playing Full HD (1080p) files. All of music, photos and videos are stored on Windows Home server, so my girlfriend and I use these machines to access all of our media.

Windows 7 Media Center adds to the impressive changes that VMC made to the XP release, that made it far easier to use and vastly improved the 10ft interface. Below are the key changes that I have spotted.

Start Menu

The first thing that’s changed dramatically in Windows 7 Media Center is the font size of the top level menu options. I’m not sure if I like the new bigger fonts which look a bit thin too me. I do like how the location strip remembers what menu you used last and doesn’t just default to the TV + Movies strip in VMC. So, if like me you spend most of your time in Pictures + Videos, or another strip, then Windows 7 Media Center will default to that strip the next time you start it.


The library pages are where the Windows Media Center team have made the really cool changes. Some of the changes on paper are really small, but they make a big difference. For instance, when an album doesn’t have an album art image then rather than displaying a boring default image, a random placeholder is used.

When a title is selected then Details have been added to increase the amount of information displayed for the album or video. Details introduces multiple layers of information for each library

Windows 7 Media Center Details

Rating Shortcuts

item that are accessed by using the left and right buttons.

Adding ratings to media files is quite difficult in VMC and requires a number of key presses. Within Windows 7 Media Center Rating Shortcuts can be enabled that allow ratings of 1-5 to be added just by using the 1,2,3,4 and 5 buttons.

Shared Libraries

Although shared folders from other PCs can be added in VMC, they are just merged into one overall library and it’s not possible to see other user’s collections. This is a significant drawback in households with multiple computers. For instance in my home I have all my files on a Windows Home Server which is accessed by all the PCs, but it’s hard for each user to keep their own playlists and ratings on their laptops that can then be accessed via the media centers. With Windows 7 Shared Libarires are supported, so within Media Center you can browse libraries from multiple computers.

For more screenshots of Windows 7 Media Center visit the Windows 7 Screenshots Section.

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One Response to A Close Look At Windows 7 Media Center

  1. Brian June 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Media Center shuts down as soon as it tries to open. Whether I run the search for an answer tool or not, it still shutsdown without any explanation!
    Any help please?

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