Understanding the Media Options in Windows 8 - dummies

Understanding the Media Options in Windows 8

If you’ve used Windows for a while, you might be in for a little surprise when you begin using Windows 8. Along with many other features that have been around for some time, the media options in Windows 8 may look familiar, but they have a number of important changes compared to those same options in earlier versions of Windows.

First, here’s a subject that’s bound to cause confusion: There are actually two quite different Windows 8 media apps which have very similar sounding names. Windows Media Player is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about playing music on your Windows PC. Windows Media Player has been around through many versions of Windows and is a great app for playing audio CDs and other types of music. You may be less familiar with Windows Media Center, an app that was quietly added to Windows Vista with the idea of enabling the PC to become a full-fledged home entertainment system. Windows Media Center enables you to use a TV tuner device to watch and record video on your Windows PC.

The Windows 8 version of Windows Media Player looks very much like the previous versions, but two features have been removed from the Windows 8 version. Video playback is no longer supported, so you’ll need a different media player or the Windows 8 version of Windows Media Center if you want to play DVD movies. In addition, the Windows 8 version of Media Player no longer supports media streams such as Internet radio. Note that some versions of Windows 8, notably Windows 8 N and KN versions, don’t automatically include Windows Media Player. But don’t worry, you can get it for free (see below).

As of this writing, the Windows 8 version of Windows Media Center has yet to be released, but Microsoft assures us that it will still enable you to watch TV through your TV tuner device as well as playing DVD movies. Windows Media Center will not, however, come standard in Windows 8; it will be an add-on that you can purchase from the Windows store. Early adopters will be able to get Windows Media Center for free through the end of January 2013, but only if you have Windows 8 Pro (because Windows Media Center isn’t going to be supported in the standard version of Windows 8).

If your version of Windows 8 doesn’t include Windows media player, you can download the free Media Feature Pack as follows:

  1. Open the Windows Download Center.

    You’ll need to use the desktop version of Internet Explorer in order to download the file.


  2. Click the download link.

    You’ll need to select the x64 version if you are running a 64-bit version of Windows 8 or the x86 version if you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows 8.

  3. Click Save to begin the download.


  4. Click Open to begin the installation.

    In a few minutes Windows Media Player will be installed and you can play your music.