Using Windows Media Player as a Media Center

March 21, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Beyond providing a means for watching and enjoying video clips and recorded TV on your PC, you can also enjoy these things and even your pictures and music library from other devices in your home thanks to the network streaming capabilities of Windows Media Player 12.

This is made easier than ever in the latest version of Windows Media Player, meaning you can effortlessly stream content from your PC to your Xbox 360 (just as you can with Zune), for instance, across your home network.

Other devices can also be used to view content, depending on their type and suitability. For this tutorial, we’ll concentrate on streaming content to an Xbox 360, however, and how to view movies and listen to music.

Use Windows Media Playe as a Media Center

Easy Streaming with Windows Media Player 12

Compared with previous versions of Windows Media Player it is very easy to configure the application to stream your library to an Xbox 360.

The first thing you need to do is make sure your PC and Xbox 360 are both on the same network; if you use your Xbox 360 to connect to Xbox LIVE Arcade then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Next, on your PC open Windows Media Player 12 and find the Stream option. This can be used to:

  • Allow Internet access to home media…
  • Allow remote control of my Player…
  • Automatically allow devices to play my media…

We’re currently most interested in the third option, as well as More streaming options… (which we will come to below). Click Automatically allow devices to play my media… and select Automatically allow all computers and media devices to enable streaming to any suitable device on your network.

Viewing Your Library on Your Xbox 360

With streaming enabled and setup, head to your Xbox 360 and go to My Xbox.

From here, view Video Library, where you should be able to see your PC listed. Click this, and start browsing your video clips, pressing the A button to view them. Meanwhile in Music Library you can sort your MP3s alphabetically by song title, artist and album.

Problems connecting your Xbox 360 to your PC will likely be due to firewall issues on your PC or with your router; the Xbox 360 offers a tool to help you determine the cause of the problem.

Media Streaming Options

With content streamed to your TV via your Xbox 360, you might wish to only allow certain content from being viewed. This is best done by taking advantage of the Windows Media Player star Ratings system, which can be used to prevent certain files from being streamed.

Begin by going to Stream > More streaming options…; here you can decide whether to allow or block devices on your network – such as an Xbox 360 – from access your Windows Media Player library. You might block access when your kids are awake, for instance.

Against the Xbox 360 entry, click Customize…, where you will find that Use default settings is automatically selected. Clear the checkbox for this option to continue, and under Choose star ratings select Only:, then from the drop-down menu choose a star rating. For instance you might wish to only watch your favourite movies which you have rated in the Windows Media Player with 5 stars. If this is the case, select Rated 5 Stars and only these video clips will be viewed. Note that items with no rating will still be visible.

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