Windows 7 : Fine-Tuning the Settings for Windows Media Center

2/8/2011 9:31:20 AM
Selecting the Tasks list, clicking Settings, and then clicking General brings you to Windows Media Center’s main configuration section (see Figure 1). You should take advantage of the ability to customize Windows Media Center so that you can optimize its use, as well as optimize the settings of your sound, display, and video.
Figure 1. Using the General options to configure Windows Media Center

1. Configuring Window Behavior

When you click Tasks→Settings→General→Startup and Window Behavior, you will see the Startup and Window Behavior screen shown in Figure 2. From this screen, you can choose how your Windows Media Center windows behave in conjunction with other windows. You can tell Windows Media Center to always be on top of other windows on your desktop by checking the box next to this setting. You can also have Windows Media Center display a warning before displaying web pages that are not designed for Windows Media Center by checking the box next to this setting.

Figure 2. Configuring startup and window behavior

Selecting the checkbox next to “Start Windows Media Center when Windows starts” will allow Windows Media Center to open on the desktop display before anything else opens. This enables you to work with Windows Media Center as the main focal point of the operating system, and controlling it via a remote control allows you to use it like you would use your TV.

The last setting available, “Show taskbar notifications,” allows Windows Media Center to notify you with issues or settings you need to look at in Windows Media Center. Once you have made your desired selections, click or select Save to save the settings into your profile.

2. Configuring Visual and Sound Effects

When you click Tasks→Settings→General→Visual and Sound Effects, you’ll see the Visual and Sound Effects screen shown in Figure 3. From this screen, you can control the visual and sound behavior of Windows Media Center. You can customize the behaviors of transition animations by selecting the “Use transition animations” checkbox. Checking the “Play sounds when navigating Windows Media Center” checkbox allows you to control how sound is used with Windows Media Center. If you want to hear sounds when you select menus or files, you should leave this setting checked, as it is a default setting.

Figure 3. Configuring visual and sound effects

Selecting the best color scheme for Windows Media Center is simple. Leave the “Windows Media Center standard” checkbox selected if you do not want to change the color scheme. If you want a higher-contrast color scheme so that you can view Windows Media Center better, select either “High contrast white” or “High contrast black” from the menu.

Additionally, you can change the video background color by selecting the – sign or the + sign available under “Video background color.” This changes the black settings from 100 percent black to different shades of gray. This can help with specific types of eyestrain. Once you have made your desired selections, select or click the Save button to update the settings in your profile.

3. Configuring Parental Controls

Selecting Tasks→Settings→General→Parental Controls allows you to customize how you view specific content within Windows Media Center. These settings work similarly to adding access codes to your TV, cable, or satellite device. Once you have selected the Parental Controls option, you must enter a new four-digit access code to begin the process, and then confirm the access code to ensure that you did not mistype it. Make sure you write down and memorize this code. After completing this step, you are allowed access to the content menu, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Setting parental controls to restrict usage

The content menu allows you to control specific content related to TV ratings and movie/DVD ratings, manage and reset the access code, and reset the default parental controls. For example, select TV Ratings to turn on the TV blocking attributes based on standard TV rating scales. You can select from the following choices: TV-MA, TV-14, TV-PG, TV-G, TV-Y7, TV-Y, and None. Table 1 provides more information concerning these settings.

Table 1. TV ratings
TV ratingDescription
TV-MAMature audience only. This program selection is designed specifically to be viewed by adults and, therefore, may be unsuitable for children under 17.
TV-14Parents strongly cautioned. This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children less than 14 years of age.
TV-PGParental guidance suggested. This program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children.
TV-GGeneral audience. Most parents would find this program suitable for all ages.
TV-Y7Directed to older children. This program selection is designed for children ages 7 and older.
TV-YAll children. This program selection is designed to be appropriate for all children.
NoneAll rated programs will be blocked.

Within the selection of each setting, you can use the Advanced Options button to configure your system further. The available options are:

  • Fantasy Violence

  • Suggestive Dialogue

  • Offensive Language

  • Sexual Content

  • Violence

This allows parents even greater flexibility in rating content specific to their children’s needs or desires.

You can select the Movie/DVD Ratings option to control viewing of specific movie and DVD content. By turning on movie blocking, you can control movies available for viewing based on their ratings. Selections include NC-17, R, PG-13, PG, G, and None. Table 2 summarizes these settings and their meanings.

Table 2. Movie ratings
Movie ratingDescription
NC-17Not intended for anyone 17 and under.
RRestricted. Children under 17 require an accompanying parent or adult guardian.
PG-13Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
PGParental guidance suggested. Some material may not be appropriate for children.
GGeneral audience. Appropriate for all ages.
NoneAll rated movies will be blocked.

After you have selected the settings you feel are appropriate for viewing on your system, click or select the Save button to save your settings into your profile. Failure to save the settings will leave the previous settings selected and saved to your profile.

You can change the access code for parental controls by clicking the Change Access code option, typing and confirming a new access code. You can reset the parental controls at any time and remove the access code as well as any restrictions by selecting the Reset Parental Controls option. As both options are available only when you type in the current access code, don’t lose your access code.

4. Configuring Automatic Download Options

Selecting Tasks→Settings→General→Automatic Download Options allows you to turn on or off the capability of Windows Media Center to connect to the Internet to retrieve information as it pertains to your CDs, DVDs, and movies. If you do not want Windows Media Center to connect to the Internet to retrieve this information, you need to uncheck the box next to the “Retrieve CD album art, media information for DVDs and movies, and Internet Services from the Internet” checkbox (see Figure 5). To restrict the times when Windows Media Center can download information, select the “Automatically download Windows Media Center data between the following times” checkbox and then set start and stop times.

By default, Windows Media Center will always automatically try to connect to the Internet to retrieve information, in the belief that it gives you a better user experience within Windows Media Center. Once you have made your desired selection, click or select the Save button to save these settings to your profile. If you want to use manual downloads, you must remember to access this screen periodically and then click “Download now” to retrieve media information.

Figure 5. Setting download options

5. Configuring Optimization

Selecting Tasks→Settings→General→Optimization allows you to turn on and configure automatic optimization (see Figure 6). When optimization is enabled, your computer will periodically optimize your media to work more smoothly with Windows Media Center. Windows Media Center will perform specific optimization tasks that make it easier to use, such as reindexing your media content for faster content retrieval.

Figure 6. Optimizing Windows Media Center automatically

When you select the “Perform optimization” checkbox, you must choose a time for optimization to start. You can select any time during a 24-hour period, but keep in mind that during the optimization process, you will be unable to use Windows Media Center. Standard times are after 11:00 p.m., for most people, but if you require a different time, you can select it here. Once you have made the desired selection, click or select the Save button to save your configuration settings into your profile.

6. Using the About Windows Media Center Menu

Selecting Tasks→Settings→General→About Windows Media Center provides you with critical information concerning Windows Media Center. Within this section, you can view the software version of the application by selecting the Software Version button. The About Windows Media Center menu also allows you to view the terms of service when using the program. Finally, you can select Data Provider Credits to open a listing of the content providers for media information, allowing you to see where Windows Media Center retrieves its online content.

7. Viewing Privacy Information in Windows Media Center

Selecting Tasks→Settings→General→Privacy allows you to view the online Windows Media Center privacy statement, privacy settings, and customer experience settings. Clicking on the Online Windows Media Center Privacy Statement opens a window showing you the updated privacy available from Microsoft’s website. To view the specific content from your browser, go to

From the Privacy Settings option, you can change the Guide and Most Viewed settings available in Windows Media Center. The Guide selection allows you to turn on or off the ability for Windows Media Center to send anonymous information to Microsoft, which helps Microsoft improve the quality and accuracy of the services available within Windows Media Center. The Most Viewed selection turns on or off the favorites filter in the Windows Media Center guide. Once you have made your selections, click or select the Save button to update your local profile.

The Customer Experience Settings option lets you select whether you want to send anonymous usage and reliability information to Microsoft. When you experience an error within the program, you are asked whether to send a report to Microsoft, which helps Microsoft determine specific problems with the product and its interaction with additional programs. If you want to send this information to Microsoft, leave the checkbox selected, as it is a default setting within Windows Media Center. After you have completed your selection, click or select the Save button to save your preferences.

8. Using Windows Media Center Setup

If you did not use the Startup Wizard to configure your hardware and customized settings in the initial startup screen, you can select Tasks→Settings→General→Windows Media Center Setup to configure your hardware and network settings. You also can run the entire Setup Wizard again. Even if you did use the wizard to set up Windows Media Center, you can use these menu options to add new hardware or change the configuration settings.

When you select Tasks→Settings→General→Windows Media Center Setup, you will have these additional options, discussed in the following sections:

8.1. Configuring your Internet connection

If you have not previously configured an Internet connection for your computer, the Set Up Internet Connection option allows you to configure an Internet connection. Click Next on the first screen of the wizard. When prompted as to whether you have an always-on connection, click Yes or No as appropriate. If you are using a cable modem or DSL, select Yes and then click Next. If you are using dial-up, click No, click Next, select the dial-up connection to use with Windows Media Center, and then click Next again. If you choose a wrong selection, you can always select the Back button to change your settings.

Click the Test button to see whether you can connect to the Internet. If you can successfully connect to the Internet, you will see Connection Working listed under the test button. If you are unsuccessful, click the Back button to change your settings.

Once you have resolved any problems and can successfully complete the connection, click the Next button to proceed to the “Setup Finished” window. Click the Finish button to complete setup of your Internet connection.

8.2. Configuring your TV signal

The Set Up TV Signal option allows you to configure your TV tuner card. Click Next on the first screen in the wizard, and then confirm your respective region. If the region selected matches your desired region, click the “Yes, use this region to configure TV services” radio button. If the settings listed do not match your region, click the “No, I want to select a different region” radio button. After making your selection, click the Next button to proceed. This section moves forward on the assumption that your region is now correct. Next, you see the Download TV Setup Options screen. Windows Media Center will download the TV options available for your region. Once this section completes, click the Next button to proceed.

It is recommended that you use the “Configure my TV signal automatically” selection, which will load the most common default settings available for your TV settings. You do have the option to configure your TV signal manually, but you will have to have specific information to provide to the wizard, including region and local information. Next, you are brought to the “Examining your TV signal setup” window. Windows Media Center scans your TV antenna signal to find the relevant TV information available to your hardware. Once this section completes, select the Next button to begin setting up your TV program guide.

You are presented with a menu selection asking you to agree to the licensing information provided to you. To proceed, you must select “I agree” and the Next button. Then enter your zip code in the text box provided, and click Next. Windows Media Center will download the guide information and show you a status of either Downloading or Download Complete. Once you see the Download Complete status, click the Next button to proceed. Congratulations, you have successfully installed and configured your TV signal and guide options.

8.3. Configuring your speakers

Use the Set Up Your Speakers option to configure your speakers within Windows Media Center. Click Next on the first screen of the wizard to proceed to the Speaker Connection Type window.

In this window, you need to select the type of connection you use to connect your speaker to the system. Table 3 lists the types of connections available for use in Windows Media Center.

Table 3. Cable connection types in Windows Media Center
Mini-plugA single stereo jack connected to your computer
Dual RCATwo RCA connectors colored red and white
Single RCAA single RCA connector colored yellow
ToslinkA single fiber-optic connector with a predominantly square connector and a shaft containing the filament for light connectivity on the end, usually colored white
HDMI/DisplayPortAn HDMI or DisplayPort connector that delivers high-definition video and up to 7.1 channels of surround sound in one cable
Built-inLaptop-integrated speakers

After you have chosen the correct cable connection type for your system, click the Next button to proceed to the Speaker Setup window. Select the proper speaker configuration for Windows Media Center to test. Selections available include two speakers, 5.1 surround speakers, and 7.1 surround speakers. Table 4 provides more information concerning these configurations.

Table 4. Speaker selections available in Windows Media Center
Speaker settingDescription
Two speakersTwo individual speakers connected via a single cable to your system. The main speaker has the master volume, and the other connects to the main speaker.
5.1 surround soundA subwoofer, center channel, and four satellite speakers connected to your system via a single connection managed through the subwoofer.
7.1 surround soundA subwoofer, center channel, and six satellite speakers connected to your system via a single connector managed through the subwoofer.

Once you have selected the correct speaker type, click the Next button to proceed, and then click the Test button to test your settings. If you heard the sound provided by Windows Media Center, select the “I heard sound from all of my speakers” option. If you did not hear the sound, select the “I do not hear sound from all of my speakers” option, or click the Back button to change your speaker selection.

8.4. Configuring your TV or monitor

Selecting the Configuring Your TV or Monitor option runs the Display Wizard. Click Next on the first screen to begin your configuration. You need to tell Windows Media Center whether your preferred display is connected to your system. Make sure you are watching the wizard from your preferred display to configure the correct settings. If you are viewing on your desired display, click the “Yes, I see the wizard on my preferred display” selection. If you are not, select “No, I want to use a different display” option. Click Next to proceed to the next screen, where you are asked to identify the correct display device connected to your system. Choices include Monitor, Built-in display, Flat panel, Television, and Projector. Table 5 provides information about each device type.

Table 5. Display types available in Windows Media Center
Display typeDescription
MonitorA single CRT-type monitor with an SVGA connector connected to your video card
Built-In DisplayA laptop screen or all-in-one PC unit
Flat PanelA flat-panel screen with a digital connector connected to your video card
TelevisionA television set connected to your system, usually with component, HDMI, or DVI cable
ProjectorA device with a lens and separate lighting source used to project a picture onto a wall or screen, connected to your system with an SVGA connection, S-Video connection, HDMI connection, or additional connectors

Once you have selected the correct display type for use on your system, click the Next button to proceed. You need to tell Windows Media Center the connection type for the display. You have four options to choose from: Composite or S-Video; DVI, VGA, or DisplayPort; HDMI; and Component cable. Selecting the proper connection helps Windows Media Center optimize itself to your system by using the best settings for each type of cable and device connected to your system. If you have a digital connection such as HDMI, choose it over composite or S-Video.

Click next and then specify the width of your display. Only two formats are available: standard (4:3) and widescreen (16:9). Select the appropriate display ratio for your display and click Next. The next screen asks you to confirm your display resolution, and asks you to either keep or discard your current settings. Click the desired selection and then click the Next button. Once you have completed this task, you are finished setting up your display device.

8.5. Running the Windows Media Center Setup Wizard again

The next-to-last menu selection under Tasks→Settings is “Run Windows Media Center setup again.” This selection will actually run the original Setup Wizard again, allowing you to reconfigure your system using the wizard. If you either did not initially run the wizard or did not feel comfortable going through the different setup menus, this option will help you add new hardware and change specific settings relevant to your system.

Before running the Setup Wizard again, Windows Media Center prompts you to confirm that you really want to do this. If you click Yes to continue, you will lose all current preferences and settings. If you click No, you will exit Setup.

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