Getting Around Vista's Windows Media Center - dummies

Getting Around Vista’s Windows Media Center

By Andy Rathbone

Vista’s Windows Media Center offers a lot of options and is a big improvement over Media Center XP. Take a few minutes to Explore Vista’s Windows Media Center to ensure that you know all of its bells and whistles.

Windows Media Center lets you watch and record shows, play your music, and view your videos.
Windows Media Center lets you watch and record shows, play your music, and view your videos.
  • TV and Movies: Media Center opens to this menu option, which lets you choose from several options: Record a TV show or movie, watch live or recorded TV, play a DVD, or Set Up TV — a must if you want to begin recording live TV shows. Once you’ve set up your TV, you can browse for movies and shows through a TV Guide–style menu.

    To move from one menu to another, use the remote control that came with your TV tuner. No remote? Then point your mouse where you want to go; right clicking also brings up menus. Your keyboard’s arrow keys also work well for menu hopping.

  • Music: Media Center can play your music, just like Media Player. Unlike Media Player’s dizzying array of options, Media Center offers three choices. The Music Library option displays every album cover in your Music folder for you to choose from. The Radio option tunes in FM stations that may piggyback on your TV signal. Finally, the More Music option displays a selection of Internet radio services that you can choose from, such as NPR and 365.

  • Tools: Enter here to tweak everything from your TV reception to how Media Center displays your album art.

  • Pictures + Videos: Just as you’d expect, this setting displays pictures from your Pictures folder, complete with slide shows. Videos from your Videos folder appear here as well.

  • Tasks: This section lets you burn CDs from your music collection and DVDs from recorded TV shows — without editing out the commercials, of course.

  • Online Media: The Online Media menu has links to a variety of mainstream media sources, such as NPR, Fox Sports, and such classics as the Home Shopping Network.

  • Sports: You can use this menu to gain instant access to the latest scores and, if you’ve set up the TV viewing aspects of Media Center, you can even see what sports are on now or set up a game to record later.

To return to a previous menu, use the remote’s Back key, use the mouse to click the Back arrow in the screen’s upper-left corner, or press the keyboard’s Backspace key.