Microsoft has announced that after a dozen years, it would no longer include support for Windows Media Center (WMC) in Windows 8/10. To get it, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro and purchase the Media Center Pack. And Windows 10 doesn’t have it at all.If you’re using Windows 8 or 10 and don’t want to buy two separate upgrades just to use a program that once came standard with Windows, you can try one of these alternative media center applications for your HTPC.
PC-based WMC alternatives
Kodi/XBMC now runs on a great variety of operating systems and hardware. It supports ARM and Intel processors, Windows, OS X, and several shades of Linux. There’s even the Linux variant OpenElec, a purpose-built version of Linux for running Kodi that’s light enough to run on a Raspberry Pi. With all the ports available, Kodi can run on old hardware (with some limitations on performance), like the first generation Apple TV, and newer boxes like Amazon Fire TV and the current Apple TV. Part of the beauty of Kodi is that it can run in this hardware while coexisting with the original software. Among its long feature set, Kodi even supports Apple’s AirPlay, albeit in a reverse-engineered way that doesn’t work with protected content like Netflix.
Plex is a fork of the original XBMC open source project that first became available in 2009. Originally finding traction on the Mac as a media server, it has since been extended to Windows and Linux. It consists of the free Plex Media Center, and various clients that now include Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Xbox, Roku, and Smart TVs from Vizio, LG, and Samsung. Like Kodi, the Plex Media Center automatically organizes photos, movies, and TV shows, and can present media on various clients with a 10-foot interface – and mobile devices too. It does not support DVR or live TV capability. Despite the product’s original open-source roots, Plex is a commercial startup that raised $10 million in 2014 from Kleiner Perkins. While very useful parts of it are free, there are paid features that extend the functionality to mobile and other devices. Among the Plex Pass features ($39.99 annually or $149.99 for life) are cloud syncing, free apps, multiple user account management, Gracenote music metadata, and Vevo music videos.
MediaPortal is another free open source media center, but this one is exclusively for Windows. It is designed to be a relatively lightweight application that can run on lower powered Windows machines. It has a clean 10 foot interface and works out of the box with remote controls designed for Windows Media Center. If you bought a Windows media PC in the past decade, you may have one floating around your house. Similar to Kodi, MediaPortal organizes all your music, video, and photo content and can add metadata for commercial content. It can play DVDs and Blu-rays, and virtually any content format. It also has built-in DVR functionality when paired with a PC tuner. It also has a plug-in architecture and skins, but there is not as much available in this regard as there is for Kodi.
JRiver MC is a mature media player that has a long history. Like the others, it can play and organize all kinds of media formats. It distinguishes itself in a few ways from others. MC has very extensive tweaking capability for audio, and is prized by audiophiles for the ability to extract the best sound quality from music on Windows, usually feeding an external DAC or a high-end sound card. It is paid software, but does have a free trial period. Unlike some others, JRiver has a normal full desktop Windows interface along with a 10foot interface that works with WMC remotes. On the video side, they have also curated the codecs to make it easy to play just about any combination of stereo and surround audio with movies. It also supports TV tuners and DVR capability.
WMC Replacement on Game Consoles
Both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One have a large amount of the mainstream media streaming services like Netflix and Hulu built in. While they can stream local content over the network or play it from an attached drive, they are more limited in the audio and video formats they support directly. However, if you run a DLNA server on your network, these devices can handle content formats they may not support through server transcoding. Kodi and Plex offer that, and there are many more specific DLNA servers, free and paid.Or you can transcode the video to PS4/PS3 and Xbox One/360 supported video and audio format with some video converters and then stream the video on game console via USB.
Have you tried any these Windows Media Center replacements? Perhaps you know of another? Tell us all about it in the comments.
Note: For media entertainment users, the media players with Windows 10 is still not powerful enough to play every media files we throw to it, you can use Video Player for Windows – Pavtube Video Converter Ultimate to convert all SD, HD, 4K video, H.265, even Blu-ray and DVD video to Windows 10 compatible file formats. If you want to learn more functions of Pavtube Video Converter Ultimate, please read its review.