With Windows 7, Microsoft has made a commitment to be a part of the living room. Its solution is a media center, which can do anything from streaming your media to recording and storing live television shows.
With access to the Web from any browser, it’s no wonder a growing number of consumers are cutting the cord and transitioning to a PC for the bulk of their media consumption. Set up is simple, with a few cords running from your stereo to your computer, and then your television. Once you have your devices connected, Windows Media Player can act as a hub for all of your files.
Locate the ports at the back of your computer if you own a desktop, or the side if you own a laptop. Run a hook-up wire from the headphone jack on your computer to a stereo receiver. Locate the HDMI port on your video card, and run an HDMI cable from that port to your television. With a few adjustments to your computer’s resolution, you will be successfully connected to your desktop.
For Windows 8 users, press the Windows key and type “resolution” into the search charm. For Windows 7 users, right-click on your desktop and select “Screen Resolution.” Once the screen resolution window appears, select your television as the monitor (it should be a named device in the dropdown menu) and then choose the resolution that presents your desktop best on the television screen. Depending on the hardware of your device, you may have better results if you lower screen resolution, but testing will confirm the best settings for you.
Open Windows Media Player and select the files you want to play. If the video is encoded for HD, you could have high definition quality television shows and films on your computer. You can purchase these shows from places like Amazon or iTunes, or you can just watch what’s available on Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services.
This computer acts like your media server, storing and streaming media to all devices in your home. If you want to stream music from this server to your office laptop, you will need to configure your network preferences. Once again this is made simple by clicking on the “streaming” button inside of Windows Media Player. If you already have a homegroup established, you can select whether to allow the members of that homegroup access to your files.
Media streaming is a great solution for a small family that wants to be able to watch multiple programs from different locations or devices in a home. However, be aware that you may be subject to license limits on the media that you stream. Certain services will restrict the number of devices you can use to access your media, or will require authorization before you use those devices. It’s important that you read the terms of service carefully before sharing your music to be sure you are complying with the rights you have been granted with the license.
Windows Media Player also has the capability to rip music from compact discs, so you can digitize your old music library and stream it throughout your house. High-end PCs can be expensive, but a good media server can cost you less than a modern day gaming console.
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