Recently there have been some hacks to get Windows Media Center onto Windows 10 involving downloading files from unverified sources and putting them onto your Windows 10 machine. It’s not a good idea and could leave you exposed you to malware and other problems. Rather than going down this path why not look at some of the alternative solutions for Windows which offer a lot of extra functionally over Windows Media Center and continue to be developed.
Here are a selection of system in no particular order.
Emby Server started life as a Windows Media Center addin but now has grown into a media platform in its own right. It is designed for you to be able to store and manage your media collection on an Emby Server and then access your media from Windows PCs and tablets, Android, iOS, Roku, Chromecast, the web and other devices. You can use it for storing movies, TV shows, music and pictures so in that respect it is a direct replacement for Windows Media Center. It has great metadata support and you can use it as a media server for other systems like Emby and rich DLNA support.
For TV feature Emby have recently added native support for HDHomeRun tuners so you get full live TV with EPG and recording features. You can also use Emby Server with other services for recorded and live TV including MediaPortal (more on that later) and NextPVR so you have plenty of options if you need TV features. Emby also has something called Emby Connect where you can sign up for a free Emby account and access media stored on your home media server anywhere over the internet either via a web browser or any of the support Emby apps.
Emby server is free and the Emby apps usually cost around between £2 and £4. The server can run on Windows, Mac, Linux and many NAS devices. It’s a great solution and brings a lot of functionality that Windows Media Center doesn’t have. Emby has a great community around it and is my preferred solution with it installed on my Windows Home Server. You can find the download and more information at Emby.media.
Plex is a media server that is designed to for storing and organising all your personal media collection and for serving it to Plex clients. You install Plex Media Server on a PC where your music and videos collection is located and then you can access your collection from various devices including Windows, iOS, Xbox, the browser and Android devices. You can stream movies, TV shows, music and pictures from the server and Plex has internet streaming options so you can stream your media collection anywhere over the internet. The server runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and NAS devices and is free and you pay for the client apps, some apps like the Xbox One Plex app require you to subscribe to a Plex Pass to user it. It support multiple users, cloud syncing, music videos and has lots of other features.
It doesn’t have any native TV features, there are some 3rd party solution like NetPVR that you could get to work with Plex but I would say TV is not its strong point, its main features are media management and streaming. Plex is a great system but can work out more expensive than some of the other solution (£31 per year for a Plex Pass).
You can find out more at Plex.tv
MediaPortal is a Windows based open sourced Media Center system designed as an alternative to WMC. It’s focuses on live and recorded TV and is probably the strongest direct replacement for Windows Media Center’s TV features. It based on a client server architecture so you have multiple clients connected to a single server. It supports the WMC remote and has many plugin and skins available. It also has an optional web UI. there is an Android app and there are also various remote control apps available. As mentioned in the Emby section you can use MediaPortal as a TV engine for Emby and the combination of both makes a very powerful solution.
MediaPortal is free and available from team-mediaportal.com
Kodi probably best known as its former name of XBMC is an option source media solution that is available for Linux, Windows, Mac, Raspberry Pi and Android. You can use it for watching videos, listening to music and viewing photos. It has a vast library of 3rd party addins including PVR and live TV solutions as well as weather apps, internet tv and remote control addins. It used by lots enthusiasts for homebrew projects, I have made a TV server using a HDHomeRun and a Raspberry Pi using Kodi, people have made Jukeboxes, video walls and all sorts out of Kodi.
It supports a wide range of video formats and has really good metadata support, it doesn’t have the remote web viewing built in like Plex and Emby but it is possible to set it up with a bit of work, the great thing about Kodi is there is almost always a solution available if you are prepared to do a bit of research. Kodi is probably the most complex system on this list but also the most flexible, head to Kodi.tv for more details.
We shouldn’t forget that Windows Media Center still works in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 so if you could continue running the older OS or even run Windows 8.1 in a virtual machine in Windows 10 if you really want both. You are not going to get any new features and there may be issues with the EPG currently but it is tried and tested.
As you can see there are plenty of options and others I haven’t talked about like VLC, using Windows 10’s built in apps and the Xbox One (in conjunction with a media server). You should have a look at some of these solution and see which one is going to work for you the best. Please leave your comments below and let us know your favourite media solution.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.